The “Accidentally on Purpose” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Lucky you.

S2: You’re freedom, your prudent Gifford, prudence, dear, dear prudence here pretty. Do you think that I should contact him again? No help. Thank you. Thank you.

S3: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again, and as always, I am your host, Dear Prudence, also known as Daniel M. Lavery. Officially, by the way, I finally got my formal name change approval in the mail this week. And so I am legally state approved. Daniel M. Lavery. And with me this week in the studio is Elizabeth Sampat, a game developer, writer and troublemaker whose work has been covered and vice polygon in the L.A. Times. You can find her work at Elizabeth Sampath dot com. Elizabeth, welcome to the show.

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S4: Thank you so much for having me.

S1: Thank you so much for being here, especially from London. How’s London?

S4: Hot. Very, very hot. It’s not at all what I thought I was signed on for. Is this your first summer in London? No, this is my second. But last summer was not nearly this bad.

S1: I’m truly sorry. And I hope that all of your advice today is inflected mostly by a desire to help everyone cool down. Yes. Just like it’s too hot out to be this agitated. Just go lie down on the floor.

S4: Exactly. Or in in an empty bathtub. That’s nice and cool.

S1: Usually empty bathtub with some ice behind your knees. Yes. All the time tested ways of cooling down when you don’t have air conditioning, all of which I am miserably acquainted with but no longer have to suffer through because I have an air conditioner. Wonderful. I’m looking at it right now and Phil asked me to turn it off, but I won’t do it. Good for you. I’m sorry. That’s unfair to Phil. Phil asked if I would be comfortable turning it off and I said never. And Phil said, that’s fine. So Phil’s doing great. You’re doing great. I’m doing great. Would you please read our first letter?

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S4: I would be happy to. OK, subject. Am I being dramatic? Dear Prudence, I’m adopted.

S5: And while I know my birth mom, we’ve only really kept in touch through my adopted mom who keeps her updated on my life. I visited her three times in my life for about a month each time we’ve had a good rapport and she holds a special place in my heart. She is now dying of cancer. I was going to call her. I’m in a different country, but she friended me on Facebook. First I looked at her page and there wasn’t much there except for posts about her son, my full brother, who is a year older than me and who she raised herself. The posts were about how special the mother and son Bond is, how lucky she is to have him as a son, and how special her grandson is. I’m hurt by this quite a lot. Apparently, I ended up texting her instead just to let her know how much our times together have meant to me and that she held a special place in my heart. She told me she loved me and would always keep in touch. But now that feels like an empty promise. I feel forgotten, even though I know it’s just some stupid Facebook posts.

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S1: This one was really sad and hard and I have found myself kind of going back and forth on am I trying to reassure this person? Because I think now’s not the right time to try to have the conversation. So I want to try to reassure them. Maybe she didn’t mean it like that, or maybe there’s more going on behind it. That means you can just convince yourself that it’s fine. And I don’t actually think that I have to do that. I think I want to separate the possible motivations or possibilities that may be going on behind the scenes from whether or not you should try to have a conversation about this with your mom.

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S4: Yeah, I mean, my gut reaction was was perhaps a little bit of a hot take, which is closure is fake and we all die alone, which by that I mean and not at all to be harsh. But some people say that that closure is impossible to get. And some people say closure is a gift that you give yourself. But I really think closure like gravity, it’s it’s the passage of time and. Like, even for the son who’s getting all of these wonderful Facebook posts, you know, when his mother dies, he’s going to have regrets and he’s going to wish that there were things that they did or things that they said or have complicated feelings. And you never really get. That thing that you thought you wanted. If you’re just hoping for some sort of generic closure and dying is really hard, it takes a lot of selfishness to, for lack of a better word, survive. And and that’s a big factor. She may be focusing on. The less complicated part of her life, I know four adopted friends that I’ve talked to, the biological parent, biological child, bond is something so incredibly intimate. One of my friends wasn’t even really ready to say that he had reconnected with his birth mother for two years on social media. Because it’s such an exquisitely intimate and private and and bittersweet thing, I do want to leave room for the possibility that there’s.

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S1: You know, I don’t want to try to either make a claim about one type of bond over another, not that you were trying to do that. I think I’m just worried I’ll get lost in the weeds if I do. I think mostly, you know, like it’s possible she’s doing all of this in part because she feels conflicted or pain or regret or embarrassment about having raised one of her children and given the other up for adoption. And, you know, I kind of want to just say that’s probably what it is and don’t worry about it and just leave it alone. And I just think I don’t want to give in to that impulse in myself.

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S3: So I really just want to say it makes sense that that would hurt you. Oh, yeah. It makes sense that you don’t know why she posted that, what was going on with her, whether or not she had you in mind when she wrote those things or didn’t. So just the question of the implied question of it’s just stupid Facebook posts. It’s it’s also a look into your mother’s public semipublic social media life. And it doesn’t include you in the way that includes the son that she raised. The hurt makes sense. It doesn’t mean that your mother doesn’t love you, but the hurt makes sense and you’re entitled to feel that way. So then the question of is there anything in between? I never breathe a word of this to her and we just focus on the process of dying. Or I call her up and say, we’ve got to hash this all out now. Do you see room in between those two options? Do you see room for a version of a conversation or do you think it’s too risky?

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S4: I do. And I think that the question that you want to ask or something more similar to to maybe what you’re getting at is less about her or her other child and more about, you know, I I love you. I care about you. We don’t have a lot of time left together. And if you’re comfortable answering this question, I would really love to know in your eyes what to you like. How do you see our relationship? What do I mean? Can can we just talk for a little bit about what we value in each other and and the place that each of us has in each other’s lives? Because that would mean a lot to me. And I think that that’s a conversation you can have without even bringing Facebook into it.

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S1: I think that’s possible. I do want to flag the possibility that she might say something that she intends kindly or unkindly, but that hurts the letter writer. So kind of check in and see where you feel about the possibility of having that conversation and hearing an answer that’s painful.

S3: But so I guess I would say, you know, your mother is both dying and in another country. So while some conversation with her about this may be possible, you are probably not going to be able to process the majority of your complicated feelings about this with her. So before you think about having some version of this conversation with her or even whether you should, I think you should look for other places that you can get support with this. I don’t know if your adoptive parents would be a source of support for you in that or if it would feel too complicated to bring your feelings about your birth mother to them. I don’t know if you’re in a position to see a therapist. I don’t know if you have friends that you can kind of trust to hear you and talk through complicated, sometimes contradictory feelings without saying either. Well, just don’t worry about it. You’ve got your adoptive parents or, you know, something dismissive or that doesn’t understand where you’re coming from. So I would say look for that. And then. I think you can say something to her, I think I would be really careful about either saying, you know, be careful about what you want in terms of outcomes, I suppose, which is not like can you tell me that you love me the same way that you love your other son? Or will you post about me in that way or even can you tell me that you see me as your child, too? But but something like, you know, I notice that you write a lot about your son on Facebook. And I just it brought up some feelings for me. Do you feel up to having a conversation about that? And if she says no, then you’ll have to think about who else can I talk to with this? And again, you know, taking into account the fact that she’s dying and that takes up a lot of time and energy, but doesn’t mean that you can’t ever. Broach a difficult conversation, either if you feel like I can’t do that without fearing that, I’ll say you must not really love me or something that I might regret. I get that. And yeah, I think that just kind of comes back to what you were saying, Elizabeth, which is just that. You may not perfectly resolve this with her either before she dies or even if she were to live a really long time. And so this is something to think about in terms of I’m going to spend a lot of my adult life, at least sometimes thinking about my relationship to my birth mother. And those thoughts and feelings will be complicated.

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S4: Yeah. And I think, you know, the question, am I being dramatic? It really depends on your audience. You know, are you being dramatic to who? Like your you’re entitled to your feelings.

S3: Yeah. You’ve behaved well. You haven’t done or said anything cruel to anyone. So just I feel sad that she posts a lot about how special her son that she raised is. And she tells me she loves our time together and loves keeping in touch.

S5: And that and that she loves the letter writer write.

S3: You know, it may be that she fears being the one to say it, it may be and I get sorry, I’m speculating because I want to soften it. I want to say I’m sure she’s just afraid to say that you’re her child, too, because she’s worried you’ll reject her. So I’m sure there’s going to be a surprise happy ending. And I can’t promise that. I don’t I don’t want to give you false hope when I don’t know the answer.

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S4: Like, but what I read a lot of this is like Facebook stuff aside, the sounds like a very warm relationship like you. You’ve spent three months with her across like in from different countries. And she she tells you that she loves you. I know again from not that I’ve been adopted, but I have a lot of adopted friends that can that can be a really big step in in the adoptive relationship and in the biological relationship. And I think you need to you know, that you need but it’s it’s OK to feel that hurt while also taking her words about how much she loves you at face value. Like people are complicated.

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S3: Yeah. And I think that’s a good place to kind of close on, which is just that. It’s hard that you can’t have some of the conversations you might otherwise have if your mother was in good health, but it’s also true that. You’re the one who gets to have whatever feelings come up both about your adoptive relationships and your relationships with your family of origin, and I’ll just flag to like, I’m sorry if it’s I don’t know, the biological is necessarily the best word. And so I’ve been using that as a kind of shorthand that I’m going to think a little bit more about whether there’s other better ways to describe a relationship that can entail a lot of different possibilities. But really, I’ll just say it’s not your job to be always grateful or gracious, because sometimes that really gets pushed on people who have been adopted, which is just that everyone is just doing their best. You’re so lucky to have been adopted. You’re so lucky to have this. You should just be grateful to everybody. You are allowed to have complicated, even resentful or sad feelings about any of what you’ve experienced. It sounds like you already have a pretty good handle on being careful and gracious with your mother as she’s dying. So I’m not to worry that you’re going to go off and say something really, really extreme or gratuitously hurtful. So I will just say, give yourself time to collect your thoughts, give yourself time to reflect on what’s really important to you. And maybe the conversation you’ll end up having is, as you said, Elizabeth, less about Facebook and more about I want you to know that although I have other parents, I also think of you as a mother to me, and you can define that however you want and see if there’s room there for her to meet you there and then prepare yourself, too, for if you make that offer, which is lovely and generous and vulnerable. And she does not respond in a way. That matches that or she responds in a way that you find hurtful, you know, find that support from other people in your life, mourn that grief that and give yourself permission to express sadness, anger, hurt, anything else that comes up for you. You’re entitled to that, too. And I think with that, we should move on to another problem, this one from a parent and this one at least not exactly like nice and easy and straightforward, but at least it feels a little bit more like I feel like I have a couple of places that I think I can say, like, well, this is the this is the most important thing and so on and so forth. So with that preamble, I will read our next letter. The subject is what should I do about my teens nudes? And I’ll preface this with good news. There’s no actual nudes in this adult’s possession. So it’s more like conversations about nudes. I’ll stop rambling, Dear Prudence. A few days ago, I came across an old iPad in our basement. It contained a few text messages between our daughter and her friends from four years ago when she was 14. They were mostly about school and homework. But in one text, a friend asked her why she was sending nude photos to boys. I’ve talked with her about the dangers of sexting in the past, but now I realized that was about three years ago. In other words, too late, given that I invaded her privacy by reading those texts and the fact that this was four years ago, do you think I should talk to her about it now? If so, I’d appreciate advice on how to start that conversation. Elizabeth, you’re a parent, I have got kids, I don’t have any thoughts, one of them, one of them’s a girl, in fact.

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S4: So I think that if you want to have this conversation with your with your daughter, because if this was four years ago, she’s now 18 years old, my only real concern, like the only reason I could see to bring up the nudes from when she was 14 is legal. Right, because she was underage. There have been I’ve seen enough law and order as for you to know that sometimes minors have been charged with creation of child pornography, for making nudes and sending them to their similarly underage boyfriends and girlfriends.

S3: To be clear, law and order, Sue is not a documentary. No, that’s it. We can we can say it has occasionally happened in real life. Yes.

S4: Thank you for that, Danny.

S3: Just just always trying to stay honest on the show.

S4: Yes. But really, I think there’s the urge to come at this from a helpful way, like, is there anything I can do to help you with this? But really and I say this with all of the love from that I could possibly muster for for one parent to another having this conversation now. Isn’t going to make you feel like you were a better parent four years ago. This just happened and nothing can be done about it. You did give your child the information when you thought it was appropriate. Obviously, it was a little too late. But hindsight is 20/20. I’m not sure that there’s anything you can do here that would not materially damage your relationship with your daughter.

S3: That all makes sense to me. I think one thing that feels useful is you didn’t find news that your kid was sending or taking. You saw a text from a friend asking about it. And I just want to throw out the possibility that one thing that kids sometimes do is start and spread rumors or ask their friends about it. That’s not to say like, don’t worry, it probably didn’t happen again. I’m trying not to give everybody, like, Pollyanna advice today. But you saw a text from a friend saying, why are you doing this? Which, you know, in high school could often mean. I heard you are doing this. Is it true? So that is also a possibility. You don’t say anything about whether or not your daughter responded or if she responded by saying, like, yes, I did it on the following occasion. So if you do have that conversation, yeah, I think just approach it. As I saw this, I wasn’t out there looking. I found an old iPad in the basement, but I did scroll through your old messages, which I’m sorry that I did. And I think just bring it up, maybe in the sense of it made me realize that I wish I had talked about it like technology and sexting with you a couple of years before. I thought it would become an issue. I think I waited until I thought it might be on the horizon. And, you know, it would have been better to give you advice or talk to you about ways to keep yourself safe, especially legally. Before, I thought you were of an age group where that might be on the horizon. But, yeah, if she if she just is sort of like don’t want to talk to you about this, leave it alone. You can’t force her. She’s 18. I think that’s the most that you could do.

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S4: Yeah. And another thing I would say. Is to make sure that you’re not beating yourself up too much about this happening, like one thing that I’ve noticed over my 17 years as a parent is that. Kids always get to whatever mile marker you’re looking at a little faster than you want them to or faster than you want to believe that they will. And I think that that’s just a really natural thing, and that doesn’t mean just just as I said, you know, it won’t make you feel better about your parenting four years ago. That also doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent. Four years ago.

S3: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the issue there is the possible legal issues and wanting to make sure that she was safe and protected at the time that not oh, my gosh, my 14 year old kid was potentially interested in exploring her sexuality or was talking about it. I mean, maybe the fear is like kids were spreading rumors about her. Again, you don’t know that for a fact, but that would be, I think, more of my concern rather than, oh, my gosh, a 14 year old kid was hypothetically interested in talking about thinking about leading up to sex with other kids her own age. That would not feel. Upsetting in the same way that. Yeah, that’s that’s that’s a milestone, as you say, but, yeah, I’m I’m glad you didn’t find anything worse. I’m glad that your kid is seemingly doing well. You don’t say anything about being worried about her now. So it doesn’t sound like you feel like, oh, my gosh, I really missed something. And she was in great distress and I just totally didn’t see it. So I think you can breathe a little bit easier and bring this up in a way that’s both like I shouldn’t have done this. And also it’s not like I broke into your room and read your diary. It’s it’s not quite on that scale. Right. That’s all I’ve got there. I have no kids, so it’s not my not a problem I have to worry about. I didn’t mean to say that, like, good for me. Like, congratulations. I’m so smart. I just I have other problems. Why don’t you read our next letter and I’ll stare into the middle distance for a minute, that sounds lovely subject.

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S4: How long do we employ a nanny?

S5: Dear Prudence, my wife and I are financially stable couple with two school age children. When our youngest was born, now eight, we hired a nanny. She’s in our late 50s and this is her only source of income outside of federal assistance and a live in partner. We love her. She loves both of our children and she has been a blessing to our family when our son started kindergarten. We continue to employ her for after school care when school shut down and it was no longer safe to have anyone coming into our home. We, of course, continue to pay her. We’ve made time for her to talk to our son over face time and we’ve had drive by visits. They miss each other. It now seems likely our children will be learning from home this fall and both my wife and I will be working at home at some point. We would have reached the natural end to our professional replacement. But we’re wondering if now’s the time we don’t just want to stop paying her. This has been a long, rewarding relationship and we don’t want to discard her. But I also don’t know how long we should spend money on someone who isn’t working for us anymore. We’ve worked hard to achieve financial security, but we’re both educators and not terribly wealthy. My wife and I want to continue to act justly and we want our children to learn from that. What should we do?

S3: First of all, you know, familiarize yourself with any state laws that might apply in terms of both like withholding taxes, offering a severance package, what you need to do in order to be fairly treating this woman as an independent contractor or whatever status she might have in your state. It sounds like you’ve you’ve tried to be pretty thoughtful about how you treat her as an employee, but make sure that you’re following the law. So familiarize yourself with that first and foremost. And then separate from that is the sort of you know, we have a long standing relationship that’s not simply legal. It involves child care. It involves being pretty close. It involves a warm relationship between her and our kid. It seems like they have more than one kid, but this nanny has mostly just worked with one. But I could be misreading that. Right.

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S4: And, you know, as again, a parent, my youngest is 11, who’s also working from home, whose kids are also going to be at home next school year.

S3: It took me a second to realize you didn’t mean that your 11 year old was working from home, which was like I would have thought that the UK had laws about that.

S4: Yes, she’s sweeping our chimney as we speak. Oh, my gosh. Sorry. It was the first British child labour I can think of. It was great. You know, I would really be excited about the opportunity to pay somebody for after school care or even during the day care for a couple hours when I have meetings. Is there any opportunity that you could actually invite this caregiver into your your family’s bubble? I don’t know what her living partner does, if that’s even remotely feasible. But, gosh, it would really be a useful answer to everyone’s issues if you were able to to pay her to assist you. But because I know so many parents, myself included, are really struggling with trying to give. Our children are the most effective time and attention and care while also trying to work. Forty hour weeks at our at our salaried positions from home, so if there’s any way that you could, in fact, continue to employ her, I, I noticed that you say that you have a wife. I don’t know what your wife’s opinion is on your your readiness to continue to care for multiple children at home while working full time this fall, especially as educators. I’m sure you know how difficult it is and how much time and attention even an eight year old can need and really getting the most out of their schoolwork. So I don’t want to presume maybe you have other arrangements already, but if you haven’t, I would really encourage you to to take a long look at what it would look like to continue employing her, but actually having her in the house and helping you.

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S3: Right. And then if that’s not possible, either because of her partner’s work, which may put them into contact with too many people or, you know, she’s in her late 50s, that’s not necessarily a high risk category due to age, but it’s not to too far out from it either. So she may also have health risks of her own. That would mean it was not safely possible for her to join your bubble or your pot or whatever people call it. So if that’s not an issue and or rather if that’s not a possibility and you can’t pursue that, yeah, then I think the first thing is you and your wife can talk about, well, when were we thinking about reaching that natural end? Had we put a number on it, like was it when our kids 10, was it when our kid entered junior high school? Like, how far away are we from that? And then once you have a clear sense there, you can start to work backwards a little bit, too. If we’re pretty close, if we’re six months or a year away, could we afford to keep paying her until that point? Without dipping into our retirement savings and if that’s possible, you know, you say she’s been a blessing to you, you’re in the middle of a pandemic. It will not be easy for her to find other child care work in the middle of a pandemic. If you are able to bless her in return, I would encourage you to pursue that if it’s not possible or if you say we can do it for another five months, but not longer. You know, your budget is your budget. And at that point, I would just say start communicating the financial reality to her so she has as much time in advance to start planning and think about what you can offer in terms of a severance package or if you could continue paying her for longer at a slightly reduced rate. You think about at each point, if we can’t do what we were hoping to do, what’s something we could live with, something that we could afford that would be better than just, hey, we’re done and and start communicating that with her once you have at least some sense of what that looks like. And then assuming you give her plenty of fair warning and you’re able to talk through what she needs and what you can afford, you can continue to have like a friendly relationship with her. You know, she’ll still be like a friend of the family honourary. And you can keep doing the occasional FaceTime calls if she’s up for them. Obviously, I don’t mean, like, continue to kind of lean on her for sort of child care work that you don’t pay for anymore. But there are ways that you could still keep that relationship ongoing, I think.

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S4: Absolutely. And I think, you know, especially in this kind of uncomfortable situation, just to really piggy back on something you said, Dani, I think it’s it’s so important to remember that the kind thing is to let her know as soon as possible because. Yeah, just give her as much time as you can. Yeah. It’s really easy to tell yourself. Well, maybe if I just wait another couple of weeks, I’ll have figured out a way to make this work. And you just keep doing that to yourself two weeks at a time until you don’t really have the financial flexibility to give her much warning at all. So in this case, as as confrontational as it might feel or as difficult as it might feel, having the difficult conversation as soon as possible is the kindest thing you could possibly do.

S3: Right? Right. This is not a situation where nobody wants to deliver even kind of bad news. So there’s a lot of internal ways to justify putting it off. But get some clear answers between you and your wife that involve looking at your budget and planning out a couple of options. And once you figure out what you can afford, that takes into account the ways that she’s been a blessing to you and looking for ways to financially bless her back to the extent that you can do so without harming your own savings, you know, do that and then just inform her, keep her informed, ask her what her needs are. That’s the best that you can do. I think. I don’t have any any sort of number of like if you employ her for another eight months, you’re good people. And if it’s only for seven months, your bad. I don’t have a number because I just don’t know your budget, but it sounds like you’re positioned well to do well by her and make sure you you get some legal advice or just a little background information first to make sure that you are paying her over the table and not putting her in a position where suddenly the IRS is like, how much money have you been making as a nanny? They weren’t doing withholding taxes. I’d like to give you a call.

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S4: And just one last thing on that. I noticed that the letter writer said that the nanny is also getting federal assistance. Obviously, we don’t know what kind of federal assistance, but that means makes it even more important that in in figuring out what you want to do, especially if you’re talking about paying her longer term or giving that to her in a lump sum, that she is actively involved in that conversation because there could be a certain if you give her a lump sum severance, that could impact her assistance depending on what kind of assistance she has. So making sure that she is actively involved in figuring out the best way for her to receive this I think is important.

S3: That’s a really good point. And not in the sense of like, hey, how much money do you think we should give you? Because that would be the, you know, the internal pressures on her part to not seem. I don’t think you could trust that she would not take into account like a fear of stepping on your toes or alienating you. So wait until you have a general sense of what you can afford. And at that point, you can kind of ask her what would make life the easiest for you. Right? That’s a great point. Move on to something a little bit more. It’s complicated, I don’t want to say it’s light hearted, but it’s, you know, real food for thought. It’s there’s a lot going on here. Yeah, as you might say. So I think it’s my turn to read. Yes. The subject is my heterosexual friend is obsessed with calling herself gay. Dear Prudence, a friend I’ve had since about sophomore year of high school. Bryn is cis and heterosexual. I’m bisexual and gender nonconforming as long as I’ve known Bryn. She’s joined LGBT clubs and organizations and tells everyone that she’s, quote, super gay. After we’ve been friends for about six months, she confessed that she was only attracted to men and allowed people to think she was bisexual, to be, quote, interesting. As if that weren’t bad enough, she’s often downright homophobic. When I introduced her to my new girlfriend, she told me she liked me more when I wasn’t a, quote, total lesbian. I don’t know what to do. I appreciate her as a friend. God knows I haven’t got many others. But when I try to tell her that this act is bigoted, she told me that I was infringing on her right to express herself. If I try to explain to people that she’s straight, she tells them, I’m lying, please help me out here. I’m so sick of all of this. When she isn’t doing one of these bits, she’s a genuinely fun person to be around. Mm hmm.

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S4: I really feel like the question of Bryn’s sexuality is a red herring here. Yeah, because regardless of whether she is straight or bi, she’s a shitty friend.

S3: Yeah. I think the key to this letter is I don’t have a lot of other friends. Yes, exactly. Like this sense of I can’t lose brand even though she’s an asshole to me because I don’t have other friends and she’s fun when she’s not being an asshole to me.

S4: Right. And I think that, you know, oftentimes when we feel lonely, we really get into this false dichotomy of, you know, well, is having a friend who’s mean to me better than having no friend at all? I think it is. And, you know, no matter what kind of relationship you have with somebody, there’s a certain amount of energy you put into that friendship and that relationship. And it might be worth just asking yourself, what would it look like to take the time and the energy that I put into my friendship with Bryn and put that out into the world and directed towards meeting new people?

S3: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s the best advice that I have here. I get that you’ve known her for potentially a long time. I get that she has a lot of qualities that are lovely. But, you know, almost nobody is an asshole one hundred percent of the time. Or if they are, they tend to drive people away pretty quickly, which is not to say that she’s only fun out of totally malicious predatory intent and she’s only doing it so she can treat you badly later. But the point is, she treats you very, very badly a significant amount of the time. And when you tell her, she says, fuck you, it’s my right. So I would just say you’re fighting a losing battle if you try to argue with other people about whether or not she’s lying about being bisexual, that is a waste of your time and energy. And I don’t want to give too much. I just don’t care, I guess is what I’m saying. Like, I don’t want to say, like, well, maybe someday later she’ll come out and she’ll realize that that was that acting out was because of her own self-loathing. Maybe she will. Maybe she won’t. The point is, she’s telling you that she’s straight and that she’s lying to these people because she wants them to think she’s interesting. And then when you say that’s fucked up, she says, no, it’s my fundamental right to express myself, which, you know, fundamentally misunderstands things like rights, expression, friendship, kindness, truth, autonomy, you name it. It’s all bad. It’s all very bad. So I think you have a friend who you will maybe be able to remember fondly in some ways and in other ways you should get distance from and you should seek out other people. That’s the place to invest your time and energy, not in convincing Brene to stop or in trying to convince your mutual friends that she’s lying. Absolutely. Yeah. I just this feels like a classic case of with friends like these who needs enemies. Yeah. That’s all I got. I don’t like. I think me either, you know, amount of time that she’s fun aside from this does not make up for the shit that she pulls. And I think that you should hang out with her a lot less and you should look for other cool people and you should spend your time doing that. Yeah, absolutely. And she is homophobic.

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S4: She is. But yeah. And she would not be the first queer person to be homophobic in one way or another, you know.

S3: Yeah. And I just I don’t even want to I don’t want to worry about whether or not she might someday actually be queer in the future. What you know right now is that she tells you that she’s straight and she’s homophobic to you. That’s the salient issue.

S4: And I think not to protect her anything, but I think maybe one of the things that’s difficult for the letter writer to hear, you know, make new friends is that, you know, they might be thinking, oh, where the LGBT groups where Brent is. Right. Right. Because that’s that’s normally my go to like, hey, you’re queer when I go to to queer group where the person who’s causing you all of the problems is. And I think that, you know, it would be very complicated perhaps to just, you know, tell her I’m never hanging out with you again. But you can you can do the slow fade. You can start spending time with different people in the group, find a different LGBT group, do some volunteering like you, have other options open to you as well.

S3: Yeah. My guess is, by the way, if she’s treating you this way, she’s probably treating other people this way and she will sadly alienate other people in these groups. But again, you don’t have to worry about that anywhere else. Anyone else like a rock that you paint her face on would be a better person to talk to than Bryn Brenna’s is an asshole. Yes. Next letter is a my turn. Is it your turn? I have no idea at this point. I think it might be my turn. I really need to stop outsourcing memory of who read the last letters of my guests. But this is the problem I will never, ever solve. Yeah, you read it.

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S4: OK, subject. I tricked my husband and now I feel guilty.

S5: Dear Prudence, before we got married, my husband and I spoke often about how many children he wanted. We agreed to try for three, two years after the birth of our second child. I mentioned that I wanted to start trying for a third. My husband refused. He’d become extremely eco conscious around that time and thought it would be unethical and selfish to have more than two. I was absolutely devastated. I’d had my heart set on three for as long as I could remember. I messed up. I purposefully stopped taking birth control and got pregnant. He was surprised and had complicated feelings, but of course grew to love our daughter. Now our children are all teenagers. It seems like the world is ending and my husband keeps making little comments and jokes about how it would have been more responsible for us to stop it, too. I can tell this is really needling at him and I in turn feel sick with guilt. I can’t imagine our marriage would survive the sort of betrayal, but I feel horrible for what I did and for lying about it all these years and can’t bear to tell him what should I do?

S3: Part of what feels hard about this. Is. The fact that your husband is right now making jokes about how you shouldn’t have had a third child, presumably around your three children, yeah, that worries me. Does that worry you?

S4: When I read this, my very first thought was this is a classic call for couples counseling simply because. I think you’re right that if you do tell him that this is going on, your relationship is going to be untenable, but. If you tell him you have to have a plan and he has to have a plan for how to react to this in a way that does not irrevocably harm your youngest child. I think that’s the right thing to focus on, like it’s just my of all the people in this in this letter, the person that my heart really goes out to is that youngest daughter.

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S6: Yeah, yeah. I feel exactly the same way. And I think that’s just a really good suggestion. I think you should. Push for couples counseling. I think you should tell him I think what you did was wrong and I think it’s appropriate that you feel very guilty and horrible. You shouldn’t have done it. And I think you should tell him and I agree that he will be angry. And I don’t think that this is a situation where you should say, because his anger would be so unbearable to me, I shouldn’t tell him. I think you should. And I think probably your marriage will. Either end or go through a very rocky period, but I like your suggestion of starting the couples counseling, which will probably have to be remote at this point, but you can do that so that you can can can tell him in a an environment with a mediator and at a time when the kids are at the very least out in the backyard or in another room somewhere that’s not in front of them.

S4: Yeah, because I think that it is incredibly important for him to know. I do not think it is at all. I think it’s important for your youngest child to not know.

S6: Yeah. And I hope that that’s something that he can understand even as he is experiencing shock and anger. Yeah. But, you know, it’s unfortunately at this point, just a side effect of the choice that you made years ago to lie to your husband about taking your birth control and having a third child that he said he didn’t want to try to have. And I get that you love your daughter and I get that he loves her too, but he’s also already treating her in ways that make it really clear that, you know, even as kind of a joke, he sort of thinks she shouldn’t be a person. So the check ins have already started to come home to roost. I’m sorry that you’re going through that pain. I’m sorry that your daughter is going through that pain. And that’s part of why I think it will also benefit you to pursue individual therapy, to sort through whether or not this relationship continues, whether or not you’re in another relationship with someone else in the future, figuring out how can I respond to hearing something from my partner that I really don’t want to hear that doesn’t result in? Well, I’m just going to go ahead and make this decision for both of us. Yeah. And it’s just really sad. And it’s a really good reminder that if your partner changes their mind about how many kids they want or suddenly you really don’t want to hear, it’s totally legitimate to be upset and frustrated and talk about all of your own feelings about it. But man or man is especially when it comes to stuff like having kids, it’s just. It’s not going to be the magic bullet of like I’m sure once the kid gets here, they’ll just be so happy that it’ll all work out. You cannot play with somebody else’s autonomy like that. Exactly.

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S4: That’s that’s 18 plus years of his life. And that’s not a decision that can be made unilaterally.

S6: Yeah, so do what you have to do to get him in a room with a mediator, if he doesn’t agree to couples counseling to try to find somebody who would do a single session or somebody who who works on couples that are talking about separating as a mediator, but find a way to tell him in an environment where your kids are not in the room and where there’s somebody else present, at least remotely so that you can deal with potentially really big or overwhelming responses. But. You need to tell them, yeah.

S4: And then, you know, be be prepared. He may not be. Willing to to talk with you or engage about this anymore more, but. If he happens to hear this, I think continuing to talk to a couples counselor or talking to a counselor solo about how to handle his relationship going forward with his youngest child, I think is going to be really important for him.

S6: Yeah, and the one, you know, the upside and there is one. Is right now you have the maximum pain from shame, secrecy, guilt, secret keeping, and none of the relief that comes with even the worst possible outcome of telling the truth. And that’s not to say I don’t want to dismiss it. It’s like, well, at least you’ll feel better when you’ve gotten it off of your chest. I don’t mean that, but I do mean that it is the first step towards moving in a direction where you don’t make choices like that anymore. It’s the first step towards, at the very least, not falling asleep every night thinking I’m keeping the thing from him that would change our relationship. And so everything that we’re doing right now is founded on lies. That is something that you can do something about. And you will be in a better position, I think, to help your children once you’re no longer wracked with guilt over this. And again, that doesn’t mean the guilt is going to go away or that it’s suddenly going to have become an OK decision, but. It will be the first step in the right direction and you will not have to spend the rest of your life falling asleep, feeling again like I’m the only one in the world who knows this and I can never, ever tell anyone. And I just have to take this to the grave. And I’m totally alone and alienated from everyone else as a result. Yeah. Mm.

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S3: Good luck. I’m sorry that this is the, the final note because it’s so dower and I sometimes like to try to end on a note that’s at least. There’s a potential for optimism, but sometimes things are just really hard. Yeah. How are you doing? How are how are you and your family handling all living together?

S4: Well, we’re very fortunate in that right before, like late January, we moved to a larger place because if we were five of us in our very small three bed apartment that we had earlier, we’d we’d probably all be dead by now.

S3: I’m so glad that you’re all alive.

S4: And with more room, we’re all alive. We’re all happy. We have a garden. My my spouse is has set up weird gymnastics equipment all over the house because they can’t go to the gym. You know, we’re we’re all baking bread and getting through.

S1: That sounds fabulous. I’m really happy right now because it’s red current season and they are the greatest. Oh, veterans are amazing. Greatest fruit in the world. And I only ever can find them for about three weeks out of the year.

S4: So I don’t know if if Grace has ever told you, but at least as far as I can tell in Europe, the fake red flavor that we associate with Cherry has been completely replaced by red currant here.

S1: That sounds like a great idea. I support it. I mean, obviously, I still wish cherry flavors on those who seek them. But for me personally, this is really good news. And I’m not in Europe, so I can’t really benefit from it. But I welcome it. I support it. I’m for it. Right. Elizabeth, thank you so much for coming on the show and wading through this week’s swamp with me. I’m so grateful to you. And I hope that you get to have some great bread later and watch some fabulous gymnastics.

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S7: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence, our producer is Phil Cercas.

S8: Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show had to slate dotcom. Dear Prudence, to subscribe and remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to Slate Dotcom slash. Pretty hard to sign up. If you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message for zero one three seven one, dear. That’s three three to seven. 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.

S6: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. I do think it’s worth talking to your wife about what would it look like if just once you were honest with your family about the way that they treat you, not because you thought it would change their minds, but for your own peace of mind and not like then you have to do it. But you say like what would you imagine that you would need? You know, what kind of support would you need for me? What kind of support you need from a therapist and your friends? Can you imagine doing it in an email? Can you imagine doing it face to face and talk about that? And it may be that she says, I can’t imagine doing that. I would rather block their numbers. And I would say you’re certainly justified in so doing. These are not reasonable people, but it may be that she feels like I would love to do that, but I would need a lot more support than I have right now. And you can set about trying to get it to listen to the rest of that conversation. Joint Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy part.