The “Chicken in the Middle” Edition

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S1: Hello. Slate Plus members. We wanted to take a moment and say thank you once again for your membership and support, which has become more important than ever, especially in times like these. You’re helping everyone at Slate do the work that we do and we’re doing our best to put out the best work for you. Now, if you’re a reader at Slate as well as a listener, you may have heard that Slate.com recently installed a paywall. But as Slate Plus members, you have access to everything on the site. As long as you’re a member, you will not hit a paywall. All you have to do is sign in at Slate, dot com slash log in that slate, dot com slash log in. And if you have any questions about your account, you can send an email to plus at slate.com.

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S2: Oh, hey, pretty listeners. This episode you’re about to hear was the very last one recorded at Slate Studios before the shelter in place, orders went out. There’s no talk about a global pandemic, but there are plenty of universal themes nonetheless. Enjoy the show and I’ll be back next week from my own personal home studio.

S3: You produce your prudence here, prudence. You sit in your proof. Here, prove these things that I should contact him again. No help. Thanks. Thanks. Thank you.

S4: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again. And as always, I’m your host, Dear Prudence, also known as Daniel M. Lavery.

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S5: With me in the studio this week are Tony Goaland Villeda, who helps nonprofits get what they need out of software, and Lizzie Marman, who secures grants and donor relationships for cultural institutions together. They live in Brooklyn. Tony, Lizzie, welcome. Thank you. Thanks so much. Thanks for being on the show. I love it when I have two people on the show because I get to talk a third less. We love we love the sharing. We love. I mean, we are also cold listeners together. So it just kind of feels like the right space. Yeah. Always feels like the right space when there’s three guests on the show. Do either of you feel like you have a particular vibe or like rubric that you’re carrying into the space today where you’re like, this is what I want everyone to get out of my my deal today? I’m sorry for saying vibe, energy and deal, all of that. We all love we love all of the general crowd.

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S6: Yes. Anything. I think honestly, we had this moment when we were reading the letters to each other where we were trying to figure out how we wanted to avoid saying the same thing, because we do often run into this circle where because we’ve been talking out our own relationship so much and we all have these very involved friend groups and extensive Jewish families. Like there’s this there’s this habit that we get of like getting into the same tones of rhetoric. And so one thing that was actually really nice for us was just sort of giving each other permission to, like, go first. And so the way we actually read the questions to each other was we read it and then got your read. And then I was able to sort of up the alley. And so I think that that that helped us a lot. But honestly, I mean, we’re sort of from that people who’ve been going to therapy for slightly too long and going to therapy long enough to realize that we needed therapy for different things. So we’ve got that. That’s the the vibe, the deal.

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S4: Just out of curiosity. Would you let us know how long as a slightly too long for therapy?

S7: A third grade?

S4: Like since the third grade. Yeah. OK.

S6: So a solid. In my case, like a solid C 15 years. 17 years.

S8: Congratulations on being so youthful. Right. Also, like trading off and finding new specialists and new care. Like you think you can measure your life in the therapist you’re with? Maybe. Yeah. I mean, I know. Rings of a tree. Exactly. Exactly. And like I was sent to therapy as a kid when my parents divorced and I walked in there and told them how my parents versus the best thing that’s ever happened to us as a group like I was here at this age, a little like Ethel Merman, mom. Indeed. Yeah. Yeah. And like not realizing that, like queer non-sense and family that would come from that lake from that distance. I don’t know. It’s it’s a good thing. But yeah, we want to be separate voices. I’m very excited about that.

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S5: Especially I think, because our first letter has to do with dealing with the person who I am willing to go out on a limb and say I think has perhaps never been in therapy and perhaps would not be interested in it or also interested in seeing how three highly therapist people can deal with someone who’s like therapy. Never. Tony, would you read our first letter?

S9: Yeah. So our subject here is quite right wing. And it starts, Dear Prudence. I’ve come to realize that my husband actually hold some quite right wing views that do not align with my values. For example, if I’m reading an article about feminism, LGBTQ plus diversity and equality and trying to talk to him about it, he’s either insulting of the article, questioning of the analysis or methods, even awe of me for falling for crap like that. I’ve tried to talk to him about his reaction and our apparent disconnect in values, but he’ll reply with something along the lines of. But you’re too smart to think that there’s really such thing as a gender pay gap. There’s nothing to discuss. So there’s no point in even trying two things. Then one. What do I do about this? His behavior is creating a toxic atmosphere at home and two were raising a son together. And I want my son to learn that it’s okay to disagree with one another. But it’s not okay to insult others for disagreeing.

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S10: So I don’t wanna get too drawn into the trap of like proving things because part of what he’s demonstrating here is a real commitment to not listening. But I do want to point out that numbers about the gender pay gap are drawn from people’s reported incomes on the U.S. Census. It’s simply an actual look at the numbers of what actual men and women make and then just adding it up and looking for averages. So, you know, it’s not a question of like belief or faith or theorizing. It’s simply, well, we asked all the men and all the women what they make. And I’d be very surprised if your husband, in fact, claimed that women on average make more money than men. I would be surprised if he made that claim. So realizing that I’ve already fallen into a trap by going there, I would like to step into that trap.

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S11: I you know, I think we we often feel this like, all right, that’s bad vibes. Just go just go. Like that was the gut impulse when we first read this. We want to protect this person. We want to protect this kid. You know, this is one of the situations standing, like you said, like this isn’t someone who’s going to consider therapy. And also, I don’t think even offering it would be a positive or safe thing for this for this couple, for this family. Like, I want to make sure that this partner is being supported maybe by therapy or hopefully by friends.

S12: And they clearly know where those lines are, where those values are. And like holding on to that, I think is such a critical thing. And being able to say, like, you know, to your child, we’re not parents ourselves, but, you know, this is how you disagree.

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S11: And it and to add in that extra time with your kid of, okay, maybe we can have a conversation about something that, you know, doesn’t feel so easy to talk about. I don’t know. This is from my like background in Nanyang, which has its own saga. But, you know, adding that time in with kids, they they really learn and listen to everything that’s going on around them. And they mimic those behaviors so easily that that’s that I think is where my concern is, is if you’re committed to staying, how are you supporting yourself? How are you supporting your child?

S6: Yeah, I think about conversations where people fall into the trap of like defining the terms of victory, like what they actually want to get out of the conversation. And oftentimes it isn’t that related to what they if they sat down and really thought about what they value in the world would actually want to get out of it. Sometimes it’s based upon like what they think is attainable and what they might expect a sort of person in their position to want and to do. And so you end up ranting at your friends. You end up just like trying to get them to acknowledge that your smart about a particular thing instead of trying to actually have the interesting conversation you want to have. For example, not something I ever do or ever fall into. And so I’m thinking about this. And it would not surprise me terribly if you actually sat these two people down. Their aims that they would state would probably be very similar. Like I would hazard a guess that both of the people in the relationship probably want very similar things for their kid. But I would bet that the husband is manifesting is manifesting this sort of traditional right wing. I’m going to win this rhetorically and end the conversation as the terms of victory. So that essentially, like everybody walks away with slightly salted earth. But you come off having gotten the last word instead of what they actually probably want, which is just to be able to talk sensibly about those things to their kids. So I agree that the vibes are incredibly bad. And there’s a part of me that is tempted to say, like, you should probably just dip. But I also think that there’s probably there might be room for a conversation where you actually talk through. Okay, so this is what you’ve said. What do you want to happen? Like after this thing you’ve said that is dismissive of me and like you have to accept that it’s sort of dismissive of me as a baseline?

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S4: Yeah, I think that’s a useful reframing. I agree that leaving needs to be on the table. I agree that leaving is probably going to end up being your best bet. I also understand that you don’t necessarily want to walk out the door tomorrow. So I want to think of ways that you can try to make this time as productive as possible and feel like I didn’t leave before. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that things were not going to get better. Sometimes that’s just what you need to feel like.

S10: Well, I can’t say I didn’t try. And to that end, I think I would I would I would end the kind of proxy battle of sending articles or talking about articles. I think that’s not working for you.

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S5: And I think that the thing to say at that point was like when I read articles that have to do with feminism or queer people or any kind of diversity. And I try to talk to you about it. You. Accuse me of being a dupe or you insult the article. Let’s let’s leave the articles aside. I’d like to tell you outright that my values include feminism and rights for gay and trans and bisexual people and the concept of diversity of more than one type of person existing in a society and then being of value.

S6: Yeah. Yeah.

S2: These are values of mine. What do you think about that? Do you think that they are stupid? If so, I would like to know. That’s it then. That’s not a trap that’s genuine lately. You can ask that question in a spirit of like let’s let’s discuss it.

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S13: And if that goes in the exact same way. And if he’s like, you are dumb, you are too dumb to know what you really think or you are wrong for believing in these things. Or I’d like to roll my eyes and walk away. Then I think it would be really appropriate to say like this makes me skeptical that the two of us can have any kind of a foundation for a life together. This makes me think that perhaps this marriage is not going to work out if we cannot agree on basic, fundamental truth about the shared equality of, for example, men and women. The two things we happen to be so pretty foundational, pretty significant. You say it creates a toxic environment at home and that you’re raising your son together. I would also like to quibble with your last line. It’s okay to disagree with one another, but it’s not okay to insult others for disagreeing. I really disagree that if your husband thought feminism was stupid and you were a woman, that it would be okay as long as he was polite about it. I think it would still be absolute poison, especially for a child to have to grow up in that kind of a home and be poisonous for you. The woman who would have to like live in that kind of environment. So I agree that the fact that he is insulting on top of it all is additionally bad. But these are not simply views he needs to espouse more politely. Like I hate to be all like as a trans person, but like as a trans person, if someone’s like, I’d like to be very politely transphobic to you. I don’t appreciate it any more than impolite transphobia.

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S8: So we happen to dislike it more usually I think is often the feeling.

S2: So yeah, I know it’s a question of the fox or the wolf like the wolf’s a little bit safer. So I think it’s really important if they don’t share fundamental values about personhood and value and equality with my husband. What the fuck am I doing with him? And not like how did you get yourself in this situation? You. You should blame yourself. I just mean like these are not cosmetic issues not exist around the surface.

S6: No, I won’t. I hope the letter writer like. They probably feel jeopardized, like there has to be something really awful about coming home and knowing that you have a partner, that if asked questions of whether you would deserve acts under these circumstances or whether you would deserve why you would answer in a way that would harm you. And so I hope that they give themselves permission, Lee, as you say, to act in their own self-interest, to act in their kids self-interest and treat it like a real state of jeopardy and not just a nebulous late game of points.

S2: Yeah, I think that kind of covers it. And I think it’s kind of a nice Segway to our next item. Our next letter, because the first one is like foundational issues that you kind of can’t paper over. And then this next one is like, boy, you’re pretty much on the same page here and yet you’re invoking divorce. I wish I could transplant some of the intensity from the second letter to the first. So the subject of this letter is chicken vs. husband. Dear Prudence, my husband refuses to eat at Chick-Fil-A due to their anti LGBT donations. We are both in the LGBT community and his stance has made him cut off relationships far and wide. He has made it clear that eating Chick-Fil-A would result in divorce. The other night I mentioned missing the chicken and said that no other place had chicken quite the same. I talked about the place. I didn’t go there. I didn’t almost go there. I just mentioned it. My husband stormed off and has barely spoken to me since. He tells me that he is upset and can’t get over it. I feel like he’s acting like I cheated. I don’t feel that I did anything wrong. I understand he feels strongly on this one subject, but it’s closing out his spouse for mentioning chicken. Not an overreaction.

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S5: I’m curious. You see, he’s cut off relationships far and wide. And either it’s certainly possible that he knows a lot of very homophobic people who kind of delight in saying like, I’m going to go get this one chicken sandwich because it really drives home how much of a person I don’t think you are, which is absolutely possible, in which case I cannot tell. I also wonder if it’s like a lot of people who just simply weren’t willing to get on board of his like eating at Chick-Fil-A even one time is the worst thing a human being can do. And total grounds for immediate estrangement. And he kind of lost it. I’m curious to know. I wish I had more details about what those estrangements had looked like.

S11: No, I mean, that that level of extreme intensity around it. I mean, it it’s definitely something that has come up for me. I remember one time going through an airport and it being the only open option and having that like, I am so hungry and I don’t want this terrible food and I don’t want to give them my money. And how do I reconcile this and. Okay, I’ll have the, you know, a Hudson bookseller, you know, nuts combo. But it it is not fulfilling and is not sustaining. And there there’s just clearly, clearly some massive hurt going on. Danny, like you say about, you know, these who these other people are and especially I think he needs in the south where Chick-Fil-A is around every corner, like it was a big deal when the first Chick-Fil-A came to New York and everyone was like, oh, line around the corner, you know, but during pride, watching it get taped off. Yeah. I some rebellious fellows was a pretty pleasing sight marching up. And, you know, I I don’t know. I think these kinds of extreme moments in a relationship, you know, the the wish to kind of back away from it and just see if it releases is there. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. Like I think having some more conversation about this and being supportive and, you know, coming up with some kind of plan, like there’s this thought in my mind if like, how are you affirming your community, how, you know, maybe as a couple coming up with ways that you’re supporting local queer businesses or, you know, other parts of our community, like is there some kind of balance that you can achieve together as a couple against these other people who you have estranged and and reaffirm the fact that you’re you’re a team like increase the sample size?

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S6: Totally. Yeah, I. This felt very online. This felt very much like the husband had way too many very long probably Facebook comment or is over this with friends or people that you were once in an improv class with seven years ago and still somehow are in your network and you’re just you’re going back and forth. And I think in those scenarios where its friends or it’s people who are at that level of a move, you can pretty safely when somebody sets a tone like that or not, that’s not a ton like that. Like once somebody sets a line of I really need there to not be discussion of Chick-Fil-A and I need just need everybody to understand that even the concept of regretting the fact that you can or should no longer eat it is a no go. I think that you can pretty safely keep that line. But when it’s somebody that you’re in proximity to for so many hours of so many days, it’s probably not reasonable. Like at some point the topic will come up again. And unless you and it’s too much to expect the person to thread the needle perfectly. So as you often tell me, like you need to increase the sample size, you need it to not be so painful because every time it comes up, it’s a fight or even most the time it comes up, it’s a fight. So I do wonder I do wonder if it’s possible to to raise that, to sort of say, you know, it is impossible that we will be together for years and decades without this emerging again. How can I talk about this in a way that doesn’t hurt you? How can I help you see that, that I need you to prioritize me over your need to win this?

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S5: Yeah, I think that’s really helpful. For whatever it’s worth, I had never even heard of Chick-Fil-A until I had my first serious girlfriend and she was from Missouri and that but her job in high school and she introduced me to it.

S4: I mean, I think part of I want to say a couple of different things, one of which is like giving you the silent treatment or the near silent treatment for a couple of days. Even if this had been over, something big would would not be great. Mm hmm. So I think one thing I really hope you can encourage your husband to do is really reconsider his priorities. The other thing is like I think it’s totally appropriate to have a general policy of not wanting to eat at Chick-Fil-A. I get it. I’m there. I don’t I don’t personally eat a Chick-Fil-A anymore. But it’s also like no fast food chain is a good there’s not really such thing as a good company. And they’re all like in and out doing it, as you know, in California, like, I think something like twenty five thousand dollars. The California Republican. Party back in 2018. They all engage in factory pharmacy farming practices. They all underpay their employees and like don’t give them enough sick pay to be able to stay home and take care of their health. Like, you know, McDonald’s has recently been hit with another one of its huge sexual harassment lawsuits. Like they’re all vile.

S5: It’s it’s not even just like Chick-Fil-A is far and away the worst one. And then the other ones are almost okay, like they are all profound moral compromises.

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S4: And yet, yeah, everyone also has to make those compromises on a regular basis within that system. And I’m not saying just like so just eat a fancy places all the time no matter what. I just mean like it’s a little strange that he’s painting this as the sort of one really important stands to take when it comes to like where a person eats and it’s just like. And again, I don’t see this. You can say to him like so just get over it and eat at Chick-Fil-A. But it’s just like this. This intensity could be spread over, you know, take more stances.

S2: Yeah. Yeah, many more, but less intensity. I think, too, one thing that your husband’s doing here, though, would really encourage him to reconsider is attempting to conflate morality and desire and choices all being the same thing. And it’s just like it’s not that he’s just saying like, don’t eat at Chick-Fil-A. It’s like don’t enjoy the thought of their chicken, which is like. Well, now you’re just telling me how to feel and like I’ll give you a how to act like I’m on that same page. But like suggesting that is in fact good not to want something you’ve decided not to do is like there’s a little bleak. Yeah.

S8: Yeah. And my like my Mitali, my first gut reaction to this was to unfortunately bring a small product placement on to your show here. Sure. And to say that there is a cookbook that’s called Top Secret Cookbook where they have all of the recipes for these kind of faux versions of all of the great chains of, you know, whatever. Like, I just happened to remember having a bloomin onion that was created at home. That was a wonderful creation. But the joy of having a queer man create a Chick-Fil-A sandwich from home for a queer community. Now, that was pretty great. And it wasn’t identical, but it was very close. And not everybody has a deep fryer at home, and nor does everybody want to. But if you’re really missing that flavor, maybe you want to sample all of the chicken sandwiches that are available to you at home. And and, you know, the restaurant community, like I you know.

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S5: And it’s also a great opportunity to say, look, we’re not going to be able to keep up this rate of factory farming into the future. Now, let’s all just accept that, like soon we’ll never know what chicken tasted like. No. And it’s probably a good idea to get used to that sooner rather than later. Yeah. We’ll have our yearly chicken. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. It’s gonna be like redwall. You know, you were like twice a year. They have. Goes back to it. Yeah. And then it’s just back to like Bramson pudding when cordial. Yeah. Molly’s Khwaja. So yeah.

S4: I mean I think to say to your husband like I love you, you are more important to me than mass manufactured chicken. Yeah. I hope I’m more important to you than mass manufactured chicken.

S5: We both agree that LGBT rights are good. We’ve both committed ourselves not to going to Chick-Fil-A. I don’t know what’s coming up for you right now, but I would rather hear about it and I’d rather hear about what you’re afraid of, what you’re angry about, what bothers you about my simply acknowledging that I enjoy the taste of something I’ve decided not to eat. Why does that make you so angry and afraid? Why does that make you want to punish me? And it may be that you have like an okay conversation and the like outcome is just like it’s for whatever reason, it’s too volatile a topic. I’m just not going to talk about Chick-Fil-A with him again. That’s fine. It’s not such a big issue that it’s like, oh, no, you’re you’re gonna lose your closeness. Like you may very well just need to say, like, okay, great. Whenever I want to talk about Chick-Fil-A once or twice a year, I will go to a friend. Yeah. But he’s also certainly kind of like creating a situation where like Chick-Fil-A becomes the forbidden measure. That’s like pleasure over like restriction. And definitely. Yeah, like he’s he’s pushing you straight into her arms and the wings that I’m I mean and it was referenced, right.

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S6: It was the husband was like, it’s worse than if you cheated. And in a way, I mean, I’m sure that I’m sure that the structure of the argument was you knew that this was a boundary and the unstated portion of it was and the boundary was supposed to come with a guarantee that we would never discuss this, that this would be a verboten topic. And then that was the nature of the pain, was that you would hurt me. So by discussing this thing that you know, that I hate and that I was asking you implicitly and without words to to never talk about. So, yeah. Time to talk it out. Time to take away some of the mystery.

S4: Yeah. And you know, good luck.

S10: I hope that your husband does not often respond to agreements about what you’re going to do together like this, because this sounds like a real potential area for growth for him.

S12: All right, Lizzie, I think this next one. All Yeah, right. Got it. Subject. Lonely Open Plan Office. Dear Prudence, I’ve recently started a new job, one I love, but I’m having issues acclimating to the office setting. Most everyone at the organization has an office or a cubicle. However, there are a couple of employees who sit in an open desk area in the middle of all of the space. Why? I’m a fairly junior level employee and understand that not every seating arrangement can be equitable. Being in a wide open space with no sense of privacy has been mentally taxing and makes it hard to concentrate. The arrangement leaves it impossible for the three of us out of over 150 employees to put up any personal items or even a calendar things that make me feel at ease. This has made me less productive at work. I’m unsure how to talk to my boss or H.R. about practical solutions to help me navigate these issues without coming off as dramatic or needy. I’d appreciate any advice you may have.

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S6: So we we had a moment when we read this where we just looked at each other and said collective bargaining, which is pretty much how we feel about any work.

S11: Ragman. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That coming together as a coalition of the the three of you at that space, you know, how to how do the others feel about that? Like are they thrilled to be in there? You know, this is my workspace. I go here. Nothing else is there. As someone who I’m not going to say suffers, as someone who works in a open office layout, it can be a can be incredibly taxing. It can be incredibly distracting. And I do agree that having those things that ground you in who you are make it a little bit more manageable. And I think coming together as the three of you, you know, to address these things, as you know, with H.R., your boss together, I think is going to be the most powerful. But also, I just want to celebrate the fact that this person has a job that they love and that, yeah, that just makes me so happy. And I’m you know, I know that it it can be really, really frustrating to, you know, feel that the way that the work setup happens at the office that happens, you know, doesn’t facilitate the best version of you. But clearly, you’re bringing a lot and you deserve them meeting you, you know, and your needs.

S4: My only addition to that is you don’t need to go to H.R. about this is like that’s really not what they do usually unless there’s like an explicit policy that says no. Yeah, personal items. Yes. But this sounds like a pretty easy fix. And I think that you have good reason to think that your boss will want to try to accommodate you in some way.

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S5: It sounds like you’re in a pretty good working environment, which is great cause I don’t often get letters where that seems to be the case. So I think talking to the other shoe is great. And if they’re both onboard, then you can make, you know, schedule a brief meeting with your boss and just say like we’re wondering if you’d be possible to get even like a kind of temporary, like, cubicle setup on top of the desk. Yeah, that would help to block out some of the sounds and some of the sights of other people. Like if I just am staring directly into somebody else’s workspace, it’s harder to focus. Can’t put up anything personal which would go a long way towards making the desks feel like mine. Is there anything you can do for that? And my guess is if you have a good boss, they’ll be like, Oh, I hadn’t thought about that. That’s possible. Or they’ll say it’s impossible for thus and such a reason. And then you can try to figure out what are accommodations you can make for yourself, like occasionally wearing noise, canceling headphones, or trying to type with like a sleep mask on there. One of those great like nap pod. I’m sorry, dystopian. Not great. Nap pod pillows. They sell in SkyMall. It could be a column and column. Yeah.

S6: Yeah, I. The one thing I was wondering the whole time I was reading this is are all three of you in the same department? Mm hmm. And if all three of you are in the same department, then it’s amazing if you talk to each other because that gives you a lane to start figuring out what all of you need and you get to talk to your boss together, which take some of the pressure off. And if you’re not in the same department, then that’s still great because you’re new at your job and you need friends and you need to know where everything is and you need to know what’s happened at the company before you got there. And that puts you in contact with them. And it means that when you eat, when it’s unfeasible for y’all not to be up in each other’s business, that it’s less painful for you to be in each other’s business because instead of, you know, the eyes of uncaring strangers looking at you, it’s, you know. Gregg.

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S4: Yeah. And just like the language that you use here is all incredibly reasonable. If you approach your boss talking like this and saying, I understand it might not be possible, but if there’s anything we can do, it would make a big difference than you. There’s nothing needy about that. There’s nothing dramatic about, you know, if you if you look through something against the wall, if your boss said no and so that I’m leaving forever, that would be dramatic. But if you just ask the question. No, nothing dramatic about that. A very reasonable question.

S11: Yeah. I do wonder like how this scenario came to be like. Were they told on day one no personal items or was it just when they arrived in this three person setup that there wasn’t anything? And so it it seemed it all happens. But a right comes back to that, like making the implicit explicit, like if you just don’t see anybody else with items, maybe you think you can’t. And I think that, you know, that the fear that comes with a new job and comes with a new space and those kind of like, I don’t want to rock the boat and I don’t want to do anything that, you know, I just want them to pay attention to the work that I’m doing. Like it it just goes to, you know, how we we desperately need better onboarding and retention policies like across the board in any company, because it you know, these these are the things that make you decide, like I want to, you know, invest myself in this place. I want to stay. And, you know, you deserve to have that.

S5: Yeah. I just just Googled. Cubicle divider and a number of results came up for like one hundred dollars, which I just think would probably fit the office supply budget. Yeah, you are not asking for them to give you a corner office. You are asking for them to maybe put up one of those soft felt dividers that you can take a picture on to and that make it so you have to watch somebody else type all day. Super reasonable. All right. Would you take our next letter?

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S12: You got it. Subject accused of being a mean girl for not including everyone. Dear Prudence, I move to a new city two years ago, and for some reason there is a recurring argument and my new friend group about what it means to be a good friend when it comes to inclusivity. On the one side, many people seem to feel that being inclusive means that every event that is not a one on one hang out should be open invitation, or at least that the invitation should be extended to as many people as possible. It has been said to me that small group events like a small group of women going on a hike together or a meet up at a bar with just a few specific people are exclusionary if they are not open to all potentially interested parties. AK Everyone in your extended friend circle, another woman and I have been labelled mean girls by a few folks because we sometimes invite only four or five people at a time to go to shows or out to dinner, etc. My opinion is that this is not exclusionary because I do my best to spend time with everyone that I am friends with. I just do better in small groups and that some people like each other better than others. And I don’t want to force anyone to hang out with a relative stranger or someone they don’t vibe with. The fact that this is happening a second time though, makes me wonder if maybe I’m wrong. I’m in my mid thirties and this isn’t a problem I’ve encountered since college. I thought adults just accepted that sometimes they’re acquaintances or friends hang out without them and it’s ok that they aren’t included in every small gathering all of the time. There are some people that I hang out with less often than others. Absolutely, but from my perspective that was usually either because we weren’t as close or because someone else in the invited group didn’t feel comfortable with that person being there for any one of a host of reasons. Everyone in this rather large friend group seems to have friends, and there doesn’t seem to be any one person who never gets invited to hang out. I need some outside perspective because feelings are running very high about this among several people. I’m prepared to hear that I’m being a bitch, but I just don’t see how I could reasonably be expected to invite 10 to 20 people every time I want to get drinks on a Friday or even that I should be expected to make every event that is more than a one on one.

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S11: An open invitation. Are you really prepared to be called a bitch because it doesn’t seem like you are lying. You are fighting this and and that’s okay. You clearly know what you want, but do you know what you want? Yeah. This one. It stuck with me because I think there’s a lot of that when you have that big, big group that it feels like I need to merge these in, you know? But you seem to be someone where you you don’t necessarily want that. I think maybe stepping away from a planner role or maybe stepping away from this group at large might be beneficial to you.

S4: Yeah. I mean, like I am generally on your side of life.

S5: If there’s a large group of friends and sometimes you only want to hang out with three people. The difference between getting the other three people getting other 20 is significant. I think that’s totally reasonable. But that the dynamic of the group appears to be such that there’s at least a significant minority that feels differently. And so it’s not about convincing me that it’s reasonable. It’s like, what are you prepared to do? Knowing that the other people don’t like it? I think if I were in your shoes, I would probably do something along the lines of if anyone was, bring this to me directly, just saying like, I hear that. I’m sorry you felt excluded. It was something that I was interested in getting together with just a couple of people for can’t invite everybody. I love getting to hang out with the group at large when we do. This is something I’m really comfortable with. It’s not personal. If you don’t like it, I hear that. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to stop it. If they heard that and they said you’re a bitch. I think that would be an indicator that that friendship is not going to continue. And that would be unfortunate because it seems like you have a lot of mutual friends you’d like to keep. Maybe you would be able to keep some of those friends as long as you were just like, well, that other person I’m not going to talk to or hang out with. But it will be a little tricky.

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S6: So, yeah, it’ll be it’s not going to go away. Like as long as you stay involved with any of this friend group, you’re never going to wholly avoid this conversation. It will only re manifest at different intervals based upon what you did or based upon what other people did, which is not the worst thing. There were two things that when we were reading that sorta stuck out to me together or as things to put alongside each other. The first was There’s nobody who never gets hung out with, and the second was that there are people that people are uncomfortable with in this group or uncomfortable with in the context of certain invites for any of a host of reasons. And both of those could probably have been spun off to be their own letter. The first, because I’m sure the letter writer knows that that isn’t the complaint. You know that they’re not writing this letter because specifically, you know, geneen never gets invited to anything. And so it’s a bit of a it’s a bit avoidant to say that. It’s a bit avoidant to say that when it’s entirely true that, you know, of the 10 things that were held in the past month. That’s a very active month of the 10 events that were held geneen maybe gotten e-vites to two and might have some reason to be upset with it, especially if it involves people that know that she would probably want to be included in that.

S10: See there I totally disagree though. Like to that I would just say like, suck it up, Janine. Yeah. Like invite people out on your own. Yeah. Like take responsibility for your own social life. And if you if you have friends who sometimes go and do things that you are like. I would have enjoyed that like.

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S2: That’s life, like, you know, it’s not other people’s responsibility, I say. Anytime you might enjoy something, you got to be included. I would fall slightly more on the side of like that would not be an objection that if someone presented to me, I would be like, Oh, I feel bad. You’re right. Yes, I did go see a movie. You would like to see. But no, free to go see it. Right. Yeah.

S6: I guess knowing that that objection exists though is probably valuable because it seems like the letter writer is like. Categorically denying that such objections actually exist like that. That’s the substance of the issue. And like I think that the letter writer has like a much more plausible case to the extent that they need one. If they’re like appropriately representing what people are getting upset about.

S5: I think that’s a really good point. And yes, find it just like I hear that you would have loved to come. I feel really comfortable with the fact that I didn’t invite you. I don’t say that to be cruel. You know, don’t don’t include the phrase kick rocks, Janine, because that would fall into probably mean girl category. But like mean girl of a sort of like mid-century light kick rocks kid like. Yeah. It’s not really a real thing you girls say. But it always comes back to the Hepburn. Oh no you’re not. I was a tomboy. And. Yeah. So all which is just to say I think it’s reasonable if other people don’t like it. I think you can politely hear them out and then just like I hear that. I don’t agree. And then assuming the people that you do enjoy hanging out with are all like we’re fine with it. Yeah. Keep doing what you’re doing. And if that means some people think that you are rude. Then there can be your friends.

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S6: Yeah. So what did you all think of the. Some friends are uncomfortable with that line.

S11: Mm hmm. The that they’re not comfortable with a particular person being there for any one of a host of reasons. I mean that. Yeah, that makes me uncomfortable, that you have friends that you’re that are uncomfortable with the other possible friends. But it’s it’s so vague that it it feels a little like maybe there are some exes, maybe there are some. I don’t know. We could make up a whole beautiful narrative amongst the three of us that one of those reasons might be and they could range big and small.

S8: But I would hope that if there are concerns about certain people in this larger group that they’re actually being talked about rather than like, oh, we you know, the schedule doesn’t line up or it’s just this particular type of event rather than like, I don’t know.

S5: Right. It’s just like I don’t agree that everything that’s not a one on one hang out should be open invitation. I think that’s the unbelievably unreasonable adaptation to have other people.

S10: And frankly, I find that a little like forceful in such a way that it’s like if if I was getting that energy from someone repeatedly, I’d be like, I don’t want to hang out with you. You don’t seem like a good listener. You don’t seem polite. You don’t seem respectful. I actively want to avoid you now. Yeah.

S5: Speaking of people, we’d like to actively avoid. Tony, I believe this next letter. Another long one.

S9: Yeah. I think this this one definitely fits in the thread of a lot of what we’ve been talking about, too. It sort of tapers subject unwanted friendliness from work subordinate dear prudence. I’m a single woman in my thirties. I have an advanced degree and a decades experience in my field and have been in leadership roles for the past few years. I’ve had a direct report, Steve, for about three years, a married man in his 50s who has struggled to find a career path. He’s criminally disorganized, who regularly fails to get work done. He does have strengths, but that disorganization is a constant source of irritation to me. For some reason, Steve idolizes me. He talks about how wonderful and smart I am, how great I am at my job, and that if he succeeds in life, it’s because of my guidance. But obviously, I’m failing to get him to take responsibility for his own performance. He hovers. He’s clingy, often invites me out hiking, biking and to dinner at his house. I’ve occasionally accepted these invitations only after I’d determined I’d enjoy them and could make the time. Once, after dinner with him and his wife, she invited me to come back the next day. A 45 minute trip just to make cookies. I don’t believe Steve’s interest is romantic. He’s this enthusiastic. A lot of the time with other colleagues. Usually I give Steve honest feedback and say no. Clearly, I don’t accept invitations. I don’t want to. I redirect off-topic comments and I communicate when I’m not available to chat. Purpose, Leslie. I tend to deliver this feedback in a direct way because he does not seem to pick up on subtle social cues. Every few months or so. Steve will escalate this behavior and suggest something totally inappropriate. For example, he recently randomly texted me to say that he wanted to sell me a handmade shirt to thank me for my mentorship. Clothing is a very personal thing and a handmade gift is such an extravagant gift. I did not ask for it. And in the worst case scenario, it would give him something to bug me about. Because of this, I told him I would not be able to accept such an extravagant gift. It’s problematic that Steve idolizes me. It’s problematic that he has poor social boundaries and poor ability to read social cues in general. And it is difficult for me to navigate supervising him and his poor work performance while he has these problems. The social boundaries with me and others I supervise. I feel uncomfortable every time I turn down an invitation or social bid. And I feel a sense of tension from the social contract that says it’s rude to repeatedly refuse invitations. I feel uncomfortable and responsible when Steve displays poor boundaries with others, but I’m concerned that because in the past I’ve accepted invitations even infrequently. This is encouraged his behavior. How do I maintain professionalism and navigate supervising this man? Is there something else I should be doing or a better way to handle this problem? Any advice is well?

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S10: At the risk of sounding like a mean girl myself, I do think you should consider supervising this man. You haven’t tried that yet? I don’t think and I think it would be good if you supervised him in the line of like feedback, you mean.

S2: Yeah. She says that she’s given him feedback, which is whether or not it’s been honest, it hasn’t worked. And feedback that’s not working is not sufficiently honest feedback. So like this is not just a question of like, how do I really let Steve know once and for all it’s time to stop asking me to things. And it’s like, how do I let Steve know that he needs to be on a performance improvement plan or he’s gonna lose his job? Because you’ve just described to me a criminally disorganized employee who regularly fails to get work done, apparently wastes a lot of time at work trying to suck up to his boss, claiming that they have a mentorship relationship. You don’t believe that you have trying to offer you homemade gifts and invite you over to bake cookies with his wife.

S14: Like doesn’t listen to colleagues. It doesn’t have good boundaries with others, doesn’t listen. Why does he still have a job? You need to. Like you could have a person who did work in his place. And if Steve, a man in his 50s with plenty of resources available to him. If he’s not able to start doing his job pretty quickly. You should fire him. Is my take here?

S11: I think it’s a good take. It’s a stronger take than I think either of us feel because or necessarily felt at the start, because I think there’s this like, okay, we gotta find a way to make this a caretaking situation and they have to realize that it is a worse situation.

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S13: It’s a job like it was. So words of Don Draper. That’s what the money is for D. And I don’t often quote Don Draper approvingly. This program. Interesting. Usually interesting. Exciting. Yeah. Usually I think he’s a bad example, but this one very, very clearly. This guy’s not your child. No, he’s he’s a grown. He’s older than you. He’s your employee. And he’s terrible at his job. Terrible. And whatever honest feedback you’ve been given him has apparently come with no consequences because it sound like Steve thinks you’re best friends and he’s doing great. Yeah. Which means you’re not doing your job as a man.

S6: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I wonder how much Steve’s rhetoric and the sort of way construction of this relationship is to distract from the fact that he’s really on a baseline level huge not lessening you. Yes, it seems so. It seems so striking that he is attributing all of his success to the letter writer, but not actually following the cues, but not actually but not actually following.

S4: And he doesn’t actually have success to attribute his successfully not been fired. Yeah. Which is a real accomplishment for someone who doesn’t do his work and waste everybody’s time. Yeah. And tries to interrupt like work meetings to talk about sweaters. He’d like to make you. Yeah.

S11: I mean I think there’s so many there. There are many Steves in this world like he’s not the only one. He you know, he may be the only one that does this particular set of behaviors. But like I don’t know if there are other women who are leaders in your company or your field that you feel like you could bounce some of this off of. Like I know at certain, you know, workplaces, they’re very set performance standards and those kinds of things in terms of warnings. Like there is some structure that you can apply to this that can take the pressure off of you feeling like because I once went to dinner, I can now allow him to do whatever he wants professionally, personally, like nothing that you have. Well, nothing that you have done in terms of accepting his invites. I feel like it has made this, you know, bigger or smaller. He would have kept asking. He would have found any, you know, offer that you gave or anything like that. He would have found a way to try and make it work like him. But you weren’t. Maybe you aren’t encouraging him on a personal level to engage with you like this, but you are not supporting him as you should as a as as a supervisor.

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S5: I’m really curious. You say he regularly fails to get work done. Who’s picking up his slack right now? Great question. Who’s doing Steve’s work? Yeah, while also doing their own. I don’t know if it’s you. Some of the time. I don’t know if it’s one of his colleagues. I don’t know if he has subordinates. I don’t know if everybody’s kind of doing 15 percent of Steve’s work at any given time. But like one of the reasons you need to take this seriously is because this affects morale across the board. Yeah. Because I guarantee you somebody is doing the work that he isn’t. And whoever that person or those people are, they don’t like it. If they didn’t take their job hoping they’d be given half of somebody else’s job for no extra money, you’re going to start to lose other employees, especially if you regularly violates other people’s boundaries. And it’s not getting better.

S13: So I don’t care how many times you said, like, Steve, I need to redirect you because that’s not working. So you need to escalate. Yeah. And if you don’t yourself have a mentor or even just somebody that you can kind of ask for advice about this particular situation, I would maybe encourage you to reach out to somebody who’s been in leadership positions for more than a few years in your field. Who manages their people really well. And to talk about this in, you know, you’d often named names, but to ask for their advice, do that, certainly. But like, you need to have a sit down with Steve and say, like, I’m tired of bringing these issues up in the moment. Here’s what needs to happen. You never get your work done on time. You are constantly interrupting people with inappropriate personal conversations. I have not served you well in the past by letting you do this. I need to know right now it needs to stop. And this is serious. If it doesn’t change and, you know, give him like an amount of time and an amount of progress, you need to see for him and say, like, we can check in about this regularly. If it doesn’t get better, I may need to fire you and you again get your ducks in a row with H.R. Whoever else is responsible for signing off on letting somebody go or putting them on a performance improvement plan. Find out what that process is and put Steve on it today. Yeah.

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S6: If there’s a carrot that’s needed for this like carrot stick model, Steve should probably be aware of the fact that if you left for a better job tomorrow and a new supervisor came in, that this new supervisor would probably let him go. Rowlett in relatively short order.

S4: I mean, I think we know why he’s struggled to find a career path. And it’s not cruel, by the way, like it’s not demeaning or like diminishing of his personhood to say. These are the ways you need to behave at work.

S13: I would like you know, I will help you, Steve, by being incredibly clear with you about what we need from you so that you won’t have to guess. But you do have to do those things. And again, if you don’t fire Steve or demand that this change, you will eventually lose three good employees over him. I absolutely agree.

S6: I think the like the last bit that both of us felt reading this was that this is so inextricably tied to the things that are like additional benefits that you get because of a job and the inaccessibility of social services. So. I’m not sure that this is helpful, but it’s probably helpful to name as an element of this that the unfortunately, because we live in a coercive state and because so many states are coercive, that it’s incredibly likely that Steve has to get better in the ways that allow him to retain a position so that when the next tide change comes, that he isn’t left stranded.

S9: Yeah, there’s a lot of self-recrimination in this letter and I think most of it is unwarranted. And I think we’ve covered why it’s unwarranted that, you know, this person is relatively new in their career and the things that they’re grappling with are not only bigger than they’ll grow to understand over the course of their career, but they’re like. Systemic. And I just I hope that they can give themselves permission to see this as a thing that’s to Steve’s advantage as well as to their advantage, especially in finding mentorship.

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S13: I will say, though, I think this person has an advanced degree. They have over a decades experience. We’ve been a leader for multiple years. I don’t think this is like a young person just getting started. And I actually do think that that a lot of the blame for mismanagement falls at the letter writers feet. It doesn’t mean you can’t get better. It doesn’t mean that it’s your fault that Steve doesn’t have these skills. It doesn’t mean you’re a monster. But this is your fault. You have done a bad job and you can start doing a better job now. I also have a lot of sympathy. I think if I were managing Steve, I would also have a really hard time. And I know that my anxieties are such that I would probably be looking for a lot of really avoidant ways to see if maybe Steve would pick up a hint. I relate to the ways in which you have fucked up. I would probably fuck up in the same way myself. And it’s not outside of the remit of normal fuckups. A person can make it work and still move on. So they say all that with a great deal of patience for you. Letter writer but it really does have to stop. And I also just really relate to the like I’ve I’ve been talking about this with somebody so often. It must be like effectively dealing with it. It’s like, no, no, no, no, no, no, you are. You know, it’s like work smarter, not harder. It’s a classic for a reason. And it will do Steve. Good.

S10: Like if you have this conversation and, you know, I think this will not come as a surprise to you that these issues are serious.

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S5: They’re now going to start coming with consequences. Whatever you need to do on your own time to get help with organization, encourage you to do. I don’t know what that is, but, you know, if you need to seek it out, seek it out. Don’t say more than that, by the way. Don’t like say like I do think you might have executive dysfunction disorder. Like don’t bring any mental health issues or diagnoses or outside treatments into it because as his boss, you can’t bring those things up, but just let him know what he needs at work. He’s he’s a grown man. He should be doing these things. And if he can’t get there pretty fast, he can’t do this job. Good luck, Steve. Seriously, Steve, if you want to write in, I have some advice. Guignol, I think there’s a lot we could do to help you do so. Yeah. If you’re listening and you think this might be you give us a holler. Friends, thank you so much for, you know, just like linking arms and like wading through a bit of a swamp to the other side that felt it felt like a wonderful journey.

S11: And, you know, with our lake thimbles full of beverages and I don’t know, I just wanna go back to the redwall space.

S4: But yeah, it always so. Indeed. It always feels like Salamander’s STRAUGHN is it is with an engine or an M I can’t remember now. And M M salamander’s strahm. I think it’s an N. You think so.

S9: Well because I always heard Assalam and Astrovan, but I also never read any pronunciation guide because I’m a monster.

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S4: This is like the Bernstine Bears thing. I’ll a.D.A. It ends with an N as a Nicholas. Huh? At any rate, you are both intrepid Badgley companions, and I would fight against an army of moniter lizards with you any day. Likewise, Cheryle.

S15: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence, our producers, Phil Circus. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Head to Slate.com Slash. Dear Prudence to subscribe. And remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate.

S16: Plus, go to Slate.com slash pretty pod to sign up. If you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message for 0 1 3 7 1. Dear, that’s 3 3 2 7. And you might hear your answer on an episode of the show. You don’t have to use your real name or location, and at your request we can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short. 30 seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.

S17: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday, one of the things I wonder and worry about is what the relationship is with their own friends. Has the boyfriend come to visit you? Have you hung out with your friends and your boyfriend? Do you have friends? Do you have you say, my friends have called me out on my compartmentalizing behavior before. But is that a is that an alive in person group? And we are big fans of live online groups. But, you know, how would those interactions maybe go if it was you, your boyfriend, and people who you already had a history with where you weren’t adding yourself to your boyfriend’s existing relationships with them?

S2: To listen to the rest of that conversation. Join Slate plus now at Slate, dot com forward slash prudy pod.