My Mom Doesn’t Think My Fiance Is Enough. Help!

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Speaker A: It.

Speaker A: Welcome to dear Prudence.

Speaker A: I’m your prudence, janae Desmond Harris.

Speaker A: Today I’ll be answering questions from people dealing with judgmental parents, homophobic in laws, and neighbors who throw dog poop over the fence.

Speaker A: Here to help me out because clearly I’m going to need help with this is fellow Slatester Mark Joseph Earn.

Speaker A: He’s a senior writer covering courts and the law for Slate magazine.


Speaker A: Based in Washington, DC.

Speaker A: He’s covered the US.

Speaker A: Supreme Court, federal, appellate and district courts, and state and local courts since 2013.

Speaker A: He is a member of the Maryland Bar, and his areas of expertise include LGBTQ equality, reproductive rights, criminal justice, and the Supreme Court jurisprudence.

Speaker A: So for a little more personal introduction, three more things about him.

Speaker A: He’s another one who’s really professional on Twitter, so I had to ask him for the three fun facts that people are typically asked to share at Slate when they’re hired.

Speaker A: So one, he has an adopted parrot named Toro.

Speaker A: Toro is four years old and asks if he’s a good boy several dozen times a day.


Speaker A: I was hoping Toro would be around, but he’s upstairs right now, so we will not hear him.

Speaker A: Two, he met Tom Hanks while he emerged from a Porta Potty just before Obama’s first inauguration.


Speaker A: Tom Graciously took a picture with him directly in front of the Porta Potty.

Speaker A: Hopefully, it’s framed in there somewhere.

Speaker A: And number three, he played a starring role in a training video for supervised visitation centers in Florida when he was five years old.

Speaker A: Mark and I will dive into your questions after a short break.

Speaker A: Welcome back.

Speaker A: You’re listening to dear Prudence, and I’m here with Mark Joseph Stern.


Speaker A: Hey, Mark.

Speaker B: Hi.

Speaker B: I’m so incredibly happy to be here answering questions with you.

Speaker A: I’m so happy to have you with or without Toro.

Speaker B: Yeah, I honestly feel like when I got the call to come on Dear Prudence, it was such a moment of the clouds parting and the sun shining through.

Speaker B: I’ve been waiting for this call for ten years.

Speaker A: No way.

Speaker B: And so it’s hard to overstate how delighted I am to be here.

Speaker B: I’ll try not to sound too nerdy, but, I mean, obviously, if you work at Slate, dear Prudence becomes a part of you.


Speaker B: And so for me to be a part of it, it’s just a magical moment.

Speaker A: Well, you are one of the very first people we thought of, so I actually need your help on these questions, and I can’t wait to hear what you think.

Speaker A: So with that, let’s dive right into our first letter.

Speaker A: It is called betrayed by Blabbermouth.

Speaker B: I am a straight, autistic male who, despite being fairly conventionally attractive and having a high paying job, was a virgin until I met my girlfriend at age 31.


Speaker B: We’ve been dating for almost a year and recently got engaged upon finding out that she is pregnant with our child.


Speaker B: My parents were completely pleasant toward both of us when we told them.

Speaker B: But a few days later, my Aunt Angela, my mom’s twin sister, called me up and told me that my mom had told her that she, my mom was heartbroken that I’m marrying a woman she does not think is thin, attractive, or intelligent enough for me.

Speaker B: According to Aunt Angela, my mom said she was afraid I was only marrying my girlfriend because she’s pregnant and because I had so much trouble with dating and didn’t think I could get anyone better.

Speaker B: Aunt Angela said that my mom suspected my girlfriend of getting pregnant on purpose in order to snag me.


Speaker B: My girlfriend unfortunately happened to overhear this entire call because we were driving and I had to take it on speaker.

Speaker B: By the time I hung up, she was crying and said she didn’t want to have anything to do with my parents or ever let them see the baby.

Speaker B: I told her it probably wasn’t even true that my mom seemed to like her and would never say those things.

Speaker B: But she made me call my mom without telling her.

Speaker B: She, my girlfriend, was listening and ask if it was true.

Speaker B: My mom admitted that yes, she had said all that, but she had told Aunt Angela in confidence and was extremely angry that Aunt Angela had told me.


Speaker B: She still doesn’t know.

Speaker B: My girlfriend knows.

Speaker B: My girlfriend is determined to never forgive my mom or let her or my dad see our child.


Speaker B: I understand how hurt she is, but I can’t help feeling it’s unfair to punish both my parents forever for something my mom might have secretly thought but never intended to let on.

Speaker B: If anything, I think she should be mad at Aunt Angela as I am.

Speaker B: What can I do to rebuild a good relationship between my future wife and my parents for my child’s sake?

Speaker A: So, not to nitpick, but I do want to point out the mom did not, quote unquote, secretly think these things as the letter writer claims.


Speaker A: She didn’t reveal this under hypnosis.

Speaker A: Right?

Speaker B: Right.

Speaker A: She thought them and then she decided to tell Aunt Angela.

Speaker A: Nobody made her do that.

Speaker B: I love that close read.

Speaker B: That’s why you’re the expert.

Speaker A: Yeah.

Speaker A: I mean, it’s important, right?

Speaker A: I’m not saying that’s going to solve the case for us, but I just think it’s an important thing to note.

Speaker B: Right?

Speaker B: So with that in mind, my first reaction here is that Aunt Angela is obviously the malefactor.

Speaker B: She should not have repeated these horrible observations made in confidence.


Speaker B: That does not excuse the mother for saying these things.

Speaker B: It’s absolutely atrocious and we can dig into later how also problematic and offensive it is.

Speaker B: Apparently, the mom has some serious body image issues concerning her son and also possibly herself.

Speaker B: But I also would like to just take a step back and say maybe Aunt Angela has done a favor to the letter writer here.


Speaker B: Because what Aunt Angela has done is put this simmering potential conflict out on the table really early on before it has had time to develop, before it has had time to fester and become an open wound.

Speaker B: And it’s very easy for me to imagine that none of this happens.


Speaker B: This couple gets married, they’re happy, they have a kid, and ten years down the road, this opinion, this horrible opinion by the mother, explodes into view at some drunken New Year’s Eve or overstuffed Thanksgiving, and suddenly everybody has to come to the realization that the last decade, the mom has been holding in these awful views.

Speaker B: And it’s so much harder, I think, to work backward from that point than it is to work forward from the early stage where we are now, where there is really a lot of time to address this, to kind.

Speaker B: Of put all of the family members in their proper orbit and maybe set things up nicely for when this child comes into the world.

Speaker A: That’s so optimistic.

Speaker A: But really, Mark?

Speaker A: Really, you think someone can come back from this?

Speaker A: If someone thought these horrible things about me, I would choose any day of the week to not hear them for a decade and just deal with them later.

Speaker A: I want to enjoy that decade without knowing this and not thinking about this every time I see you, because this isn’t like a conflict or an argument over something that can be resolved.

Speaker A: This is just a horrible truth that’s out there now.

Speaker A: I think you’re unattractive and uneducated and unworthy, and you can apologize for that, but you can never take those words and that truth back.


Speaker B: So that’s absolutely true.

Speaker B: And I think that the fiance has a right to do whatever she wants with this information up to and including saying, I cannot talk to your mother indefinitely.

Speaker B: I will not interact with your mother.

Speaker B: This is incredibly toxic.

Speaker B: It’s bad for me.

Speaker B: It’s going to be bad for a baby.

Speaker B: I think that she has that right, undoubtedly.

Speaker B: But I would also say, if I were in the letter writer’s shoes, what I think I would do is have a conversation with my mom where we get all of this out in the open and we move on from the betrayal by Aunt Angela.

Speaker B: It’s happened.

Speaker B: It doesn’t really matter how it happened.

Speaker B: Let’s talk about this.

Speaker B: And I think the letter writer needs to express to his mother very, very clearly how he feels and why he feels so betrayed and disgusted by this and why it may be upsetting on a lot of different fronts.

Speaker B: And I think that depending on how that conversation goes, he could say, look, I’m not sure if it’ll help, I can’t tell you that.

Speaker B: But you need to apologize to my fiance, and she will decide whether and when to accept that apology, which would shift the power back toward the fiance where it belongs.

Speaker B: She should be in the driver’s seat, but at least gives one path forward for this family to come back together after this terrible incident when a mother’s very cruel but private thoughts became not private at all, became a matter of family gossip.


Speaker A: Yeah, I like what you said about shifting the power back to the fiance because I thought this letter, again, another close read.

Speaker A: I thought it kind of revealed a lack of empathy for her.

Speaker A: The letter writer was sort of centering himself as someone who wanted harmony between his future wife and his mother and wanted his future child to be able to know his mother.

Speaker A: And so he was sort of focusing on the question, does the mom deserve to be cut off?

Speaker A: What’s just here?

Speaker A: And how can I fix this?

Speaker A: And I think a better way to think about it would be how can I help my girlfriend heal from this?

Speaker A: How can I ask her what she needs to get over this?

Speaker A: So maybe it’s time, maybe it’s space, maybe it’s an explanation, maybe it’s a deep apology and maybe it’s daily reassurance from him or other people in the family that all these things aren’t true.

Speaker A: Since like I said, the comments are out there and can’t be taken back.

Speaker A: I would be looking to her to say, is there anything you can think of that would make you feel better?

Speaker A: Not that would make you forgive my mom.

Speaker A: But first let’s get to make you feel better about yourself and about yourself in this relationship.

Speaker B: That’s really beautiful.

Speaker B: And it actually goes toward another point I was going to raise which is you note here the fiance or girlfriend, I think they’re engaged.

Speaker B: So I’ll just say fiance.

Speaker B: The fiance asked for this guy to call his mom and put it on speakerphone, but not tell his mom that the fiance was there, which indicates that the fiance doesn’t trust him to report back.


Speaker B: Honestly what the mom says to him.

Speaker B: I think that’s a bit of a red flag here regarding their relationship.

Speaker B: And it just goes toward what you were saying that clearly the letter writer needs to do a lot more to build up trust and confidence with his fiance.

Speaker B: And one way to do it is to put her in the driver’s seat to demand an apology from his mom, but also make it clear to his fiance that she doesn’t have to accept it, that it’s up to her how she moves forward.

Speaker B: But also, as you said, to ask, how can I help?

Speaker B: What can I do?

Speaker B: And one of the goals there has to be to restore the trust and confidence in the relationship to the point that the fiance feels she can at least trust him to convey those kinds of conversations.

Speaker A: Honestly, I wonder if we could zoom out because I’m just interested in your thoughts on a broader issue that this letter raises.

Speaker A: How do we feel about the fact that s*** talking is a part of life?

Speaker A: I think what was said here revealed really nasty things about the mom.

Speaker A: But I also know that all of us say petty, negative, unfair things about others to our closest confidants.

Speaker A: In this case, a twin sister.

Speaker A: Maybe it’s our best friend or our spouse behind their backs.

Speaker A: A thing I think about a lot is that it’s absolutely true that people say bad things behind my back because it happens to everyone.

Speaker A: And if you just sit with that thought, it’s terrifying.


Speaker A: It happens to every single person on Earth.

Speaker A: And it doesn’t make you feel any better to know that, well, people talk about Beyonce, people talk about Michelle Obama.

Speaker A: It doesn’t matter.

Speaker A: It’s just absolutely chilling to know that all of us talk about other people and all of us are talked about behind our backs.

Speaker A: And I just don’t know if there’s any way we could integrate that reality into part of the resolution here.

Speaker B: So I think you have to couple the observation you just made with the understanding that often when people say these negative things, they’re really projecting their own insecurities.

Speaker B: And I think that the most troubling part of the mom’s comments was that she said she didn’t think the fiance is thin enough.

Speaker B: Okay, that is hella toxic.

Speaker B: That is really bad on so many levels.

Speaker B: And frankly, it makes me wonder again, does the mother have some body dysmorphia issues, have some eating issues, something that she herself is working through and is projecting onto her fiance, onto her son’s relationship?

Speaker B: And I’m not saying that’s a reason to forgive her at all, but it might bring a little bit more empathy into the son’s perception of all of this and possibly open up a conversation with his mom about why these were the things she was concerned about.

Speaker B: I mean, why was it that she’s going to decide that he could only date women who are skinny enough for his mom?

Speaker B: Where is that coming from?

Speaker B: And hopefully move this outside the realm of s*** talk into a productive conversation.


Speaker B: But I mean, to your original question, there’s nothing you can do about the fact that people are going to talk s*** about you all the time, and.

Speaker A: Eventually you’ll hear it by mistake.

Speaker B: Maybe you will hear it for sure.

Speaker B: I’ve learned that the hard way many times, and I think you have to just decide how thin a skin you want to grow, but also be super open and empathetic to your partner’s needs because they might not have as thin a skin.

Speaker B: They might be especially triggered by something that you don’t find particularly offensive.

Speaker B: It’s not always sort of rational or easy or intuitive to guess what a family member might say about your partner that will really set them off to you.

Speaker B: It’s nothing to them.

Speaker B: It’s a huge thing.

Speaker B: So I think having that dialogue open with the baseline understanding that, yes, s*** talk happens, but also a heightened sensitivity toward the fact that s*** talk hurts people in different ways, and you have every right to be hurt, even if somebody else might say that’s something to just shrug off.

Speaker A: I think that’s such a good point, that this reflects the mom’s issues, not to just be like, oh, I guess she’s just jealous, or I guess she’s not happy with herself.

Speaker A: Hurt people.

Speaker A: Hurt people.

Speaker A: But I actually think when I’m I keep putting myself in the girlfriend fiance’s shoes, thinking, is there any way I could get over this?

Speaker A: What could make me feel better?

Speaker A: And the thing that opens that door just a tiny bit is for me to understand this.


Speaker A: Mom has tons of issues with her body, and she’s someone who’s really in pain and really does not like herself and has adopted this really sad worldview.

Speaker A: Because just imagine your son finds love and he’s happy about it, and you don’t want him to be with that person who’s really hard to find.

Speaker A: Like, it’s hard to find someone who is compatible with you, and you want them, and they want you, and you both want to commit because of the number of pounds of fat on their body.

Speaker A: It doesn’t make any sense, especially when it comes to someone she claims to love.

Speaker A: Like, it literally doesn’t matter.

Speaker A: So I think sort of painting the mom as someone who’s deeply troubled would probably be, like, my way through this, at least as the girlfriend or the fiance.

Speaker B: Yeah, I mean, he doesn’t have to oversell it.

Speaker B: I don’t want him to put on a whole pity show for the fiance just to restore relations.

Speaker B: But, yeah, I think they can have a discussion about what would prompt his mom to do this.

Speaker B: And maybe, or maybe not, that will encourage the fiance on a path toward forgiveness.

Speaker B: Maybe in a few months, maybe in a few years.

Speaker B: That timeline is totally up to her.

Speaker A: You’re listening to Dear Prudence, and when we come back, more letters from you and hopefully some helpful advice.

Speaker A: Stay tuned.

Speaker A: Welcome back to dear Prudence.

Speaker A: I’m here with my guest Mark Joseph Stern, to answer your letters.


Speaker A: Okay, Mark, here’s our next question.

Speaker A: This letter is titled far from this Tree.

Speaker A: My wonderful partner Sage and I are both 29 year old women.

Speaker A: We’ve been together for four months now, and she’s splitting plans to introduce me to her family.

Speaker A: It would be a big milestone.

Speaker A: I’m Sage’s first female partner, and her mother is historically homophobic.

Speaker A: Mom has only recently started engaging in conversation about LGBTQ plus issues with her daughter.

Speaker A: After repeatedly forgetting the first few times Sage came out to her, the conversations are still decidedly sour, but acknowledgment is a step forward at this point.

Speaker A: She does not yet know Sage and I are dating.

Speaker A: Here’s where it gets complicated.

Speaker A: Sage’s 19 year old sister Tess is trans.

Speaker A: Her mother refuses to recognize this, but Tess is currently stuck living with her parents.

Speaker A: We’ve offered to take her in at Subsidized Rent but we can’t afford to house her for free.

Speaker A: Mom can.

Speaker A: The situation is not great.

Speaker A: Dad plays the soft middle ground by using a feminized version of Tess’s birth name, not her preferred name, but stays quiet.

Speaker A: In the face of Mom’s transphobic rants, tess can’t risk standing up and being kicked out.

Speaker A: My question is what to do when I find myself faced with one of Mom’s tirades at a family event.

Speaker A: Thanksgiving is looking particularly fraught.

Speaker A: My instinct is to confront the bigotry as it happens and then leave the guilty party to yell at the air.


Speaker A: But I wouldn’t be leaving her to yell at the air, would I?

Speaker A: I’d be leaving her wound up to yell at Tess.

Speaker A: That doesn’t seem right.

Speaker A: In the past, Sage has handled these situations by leaving in the moment without confrontation and dealing with the angry fallout in the next phone call with her.

Speaker A: Mom.

Speaker A: Leaving Tess middayatribe that way doesn’t feel great either.

Speaker A: So what to do?

Speaker A: Sit silently, follow Sage’s lead, speak up and trust Tess to handle herself when we leave?

Speaker A: Or stay and take the heat until mom throws us out herself?

Speaker A: I want to believe we can get away without this happening, but it’s less a situation of if and more of when.

Speaker A: So I’ve said this a million times.

Speaker A: There’s nothing that makes me feel more helpless than a letter from or about a young person who is stuck at home with parents who are somewhere on the awful to abusive spectrum.

Speaker A: There just aren’t a lot of great solutions, and it’s so sad, but without sort of solving the underlying problem here, I think I have one insight about just the division of responsibility, I guess.

Speaker A: I think the letter writer is a little too involved for someone who’s not actually in the family.

Speaker A: If I were the letter writer, I would ask Sage what I should do.

Speaker A: And I would hope that Sage would ask Tess, because Tess is the one who’s living there.

Speaker A: Tess is an adult and knows the family dynamics best.

Speaker A: So if you want to be of service to her, I think the two of you, with your partner being the one to take the lead here as a member of the family, should take instructions from Tess.


Speaker B: Yeah, I agree.

Speaker B: I think that just immediately crashes into the question of, well, what exactly are Tess’s options here?

Speaker B: And as you indicated, when a young person is stuck at home with their parents, their options, their freedom is dramatically curtailed.

Speaker B: One of the issues I saw here is not just that Tess is still living at home, but that she’s 19.

Speaker B: So she’s a legal adult.

Speaker B: She’s probably still on her parents health care plan.

Speaker B: And tragically, health care is one way that anti transparents can try to manipulate their trans children into denying their authentic identities.

Speaker B: Health care is crucial for trans people to access something as basic as just gender affirming talk therapy, something more like cross sex hormones, whatever is necessary to treat Tessa’s gender dysphoria.

Speaker B: When the parents are providing the health insurance and the parents are in the house, probably with an eagle eye on her, they are going to have de facto veto power.

Speaker B: And so my read was, this is a bad situation for Tess that’s probably only going to get worse.

Speaker B: And, yes, the letter writer absolutely needs to ask Sage for guidance.

Speaker B: The letter writer needs to put Sage in the driver’s seat here.

Speaker B: But it seems likely that the end goal should just be getting Tess out of that house.

Speaker B: Whether that means getting her a job, getting her on her own health insurance, getting her into a university, it’s unclear if she’s in school or not.

Speaker B: Moving her beyond where she is in life right now, that could be a major help.


Speaker B: And I don’t know if Tess is struggling with depression.

Speaker B: I wouldn’t be surprised if she is, given that she’s stuck with these terrible parents.

Speaker B: A major life change like that can really help treating even major depressive disorder.

Speaker B: There’s a lot of data that shows that just changing major things about your life can help pull you out of that kind of thing.

Speaker B: So there may be a lot of benefits to just kind of setting aside the exact question of how you script out a future conversation, challenging your parents bigotries, and really zeroing in on how you get tests set up.

Speaker B: As an adult who’s living on her own as her proud, authentic, trans self.

Speaker A: I love that reframing of the question, because it does feel kind of impossible to decide, well, what do I say and when and how aggressively do I say it?

Speaker A: And then do I walk out and slam the door afterwards?

Speaker A: Either way, Tess is left in this really bad situation.

Speaker A: So I think it’s a really great idea to just redirect everyone’s energy to getting her out of there, even if it means just staying on someone’s couch for a while.

Speaker B: Absolutely.

Speaker B: Now, if we want to backtrack and be a little more directly responsive to this question about how you handle the blow up, I think this is the kind of thing that if Test wants and if Sage wants, the three of them do need to script out in advance.

Speaker B: If they’re certain another blow up is going to happen and they’re not going to be able to help test get out before then, it’s something to script so that you’re all on the same page you’re all working from.


Speaker B: The same playbook.

Speaker B: And you can all present a kind of united front against your parents when they do this so that they see very clearly that their kids are on the same page that their kid’s partner is on.

Speaker B: The same page and that they are outnumbered.

Speaker B: And they are not going to be able to convince these individuals that they are wrong, that their identities are inauthentic, that they should feel ashamed of who they are.

Speaker B: And that is easy to express in top line sentences like this, harder to explain in paragraph form.

Speaker B: So I think sitting down and talking through exactly how that conversation would go could be a lot of help.

Speaker A: I liked how you said outnumbered, and that gave me another idea, which absolutely does not address the core issue at all, but invite some other people to these events.

Speaker A: I think we can underestimate the power of buffers at family holidays and family dinners where people can get weird, invite, like, two or three more friends over, just have them show up.

Speaker A: And I think these people’s parents are less likely to act out in front of company.

Speaker B: Yeah, for sure.

Speaker B: And you don’t have to tell your parents they’re coming just on the morning of, oh, my friend’s coming.

Speaker B: She’s a lesbian rollerblader with a Mohawk.

Speaker B: Perfect.

Speaker B: An undercut is more plausible.

Speaker A: Okay, again, good luck.

Speaker A: This is dear Prudence.

Speaker A: We need to take a break, but when we come back, more letters from you and advice from us.

Speaker A: Stay tuned.


Speaker A: Okay, this is our last question for today.

Speaker A: Do you have anything left to give?

Speaker B: I think I do.

Speaker A: Okay.

Speaker A: This letter is titled at least send it in the tupperware.

Speaker A: My neighbor drops his dog poop over the fence between our yards.

Speaker A: I have no evidence, but I am sure it’s him.

Speaker A: Throughout the day, two or three logs end up right by my fence that borders his yard.

Speaker A: He has a dog of corresponding size, large.

Speaker A: He owns a St.

Speaker A: Bernard, and naturally, the leftovers are also of abnormal size.

Speaker A: We have never been on good terms.

Speaker A: Following a few contentious exchanges, when he first moved to the neighborhood brought over a batch of cookies to welcome him to the area.

Speaker A: But when I rang the doorbell, no one answered.

Speaker A: I simply left the tupperware with a note welcoming him and explaining there was no need to return the tupperware.

Speaker A: As I neared the end of his driveway, I heard him shout out from his doorway, are these gluten free?

Speaker A: I responded that, no, they were not, and sorry.

Speaker A: He was frustrated by this and said, oh, well, I can’t eat these.

Speaker A: Under normal circumstances, I would completely understand a dietary restriction and be happy to remake the cookies.

Speaker A: But before I got the chance to offer, he quickly shut his door.

Speaker A: A few weeks later, another woman on the cul de sac and I were setting up for an annual block party our neighborhood does.

Speaker A: I reiterated the story about the cookies to her, perhaps coming off a little miffed that I had not even received my tupperware back, and joked that maybe he was trying to collect a set by pressuring me to make him another batch of cookies.


Speaker A: She laughed at this, but looked uncomfortable.

Speaker A: I didn’t think too much of this, as she is usually pretty quiet and socially a bit awkward.

Speaker A: Later, at the neighborhood event, I saw her and the new neighbor embrace.

Speaker A: I asked one of our mutual friends about this, and she explained that the two had grown up together and dated briefly in high school.

Speaker A: My heart sank a little bit.

Speaker A: A few days later, I started finding the poop by my fence.

Speaker A: My question is, how do I broach this accusative subject with someone who is already somewhat hostile towards me?

Speaker A: Do I get proof?

Speaker A: Should I buy cameras?

Speaker A: What is overkill in this situation?

Speaker A: This letter is funny to me, in part because whenever people ask me of my story of how I got to become an advice columnist, I tell them that when I was offered the job and I was an opinion, editor.

Speaker A: I thought to myself, how will I ever go back to being a serious journalist if I spend all this time telling people how to deal with their neighbor’s dog poop?

Speaker A: And like, literally, this is what we’re handling today.

Speaker A: It is a topic that comes up pretty frequently.

Speaker A: So I did pick this question too, because I was skimming it and I knew that you were a pet owner.

Speaker A: And I was like, okay, it has a pet in it.

Speaker A: And I just grabbed it out of the inbox.

Speaker A: And I now realize there’s absolutely nothing about owning Toro that would help you understand this behavior at all.


Speaker B: I do actually also have a dog, okay?

Speaker B: So the dog, I think, can help me, but she’s a very polite pooper.

Speaker B: She tries to poop in larger fields and spaces and not directly in front of people’s homes.

Speaker B: So I can’t empathize too much with this letter, but I do have a lot of thoughts about it.

Speaker A: Yeah, you know what?

Speaker A: Just take it away with your initial thoughts because I’m honestly a little lost.

Speaker B: Just like right off the top, I want to say let’s take away from this a lesson about gossiping to your neighbors, about other neighbors, right?

Speaker B: Like, you live in what sounds to be like a suburb, some kind of division where you have a cul de sac, where you have standalone homes.

Speaker B: You people are going to be interfacing with each other a great deal.

Speaker B: And those kinds of neighborhoods can sometimes get a little more close knit.

Speaker B: Sometimes people just stay left to their own devices.

Speaker B: But there’s a real chance that these people know each other and that they might be hanging out with each other or that they might have a long standing childhood connection that you didn’t know about.

Speaker B: So maybe let’s just start with be really careful about which neighbors you’re gossiping to about fellow neighbors, because that is very likely to bite you in the a**.

Speaker B: And the only surprise here is that it happened so quickly and did not take a little bit longer.

Speaker A: Such great advice.

Speaker A: I mean, apply that to coworkers friends.

Speaker A: Anyone you may be texting or Dming on Twitter, stuff will just get out.


Speaker A: I need to learn that.

Speaker A: Lesson myself, as I’ve mentioned.

Speaker A: So, I mean, I was going over and over this thinking, does she confront him?

Speaker A: Does she call the police?

Speaker A: But I think my issue is that this isn’t a story of rude behavior by a neighbor that just needs to be addressed.

Speaker A: I think this might be a story about a man who needs some help.

Speaker A: He sounds like he is not really coping with lifelong at this moment.

Speaker A: So first we have the strange interaction where some social cues were missed and there was some kind of like an inappropriate exchange.

Speaker A: And then we have this extra super inappropriate conduct of putting poop over the fence.

Speaker A: And, yeah, I just wonder whether this is someone who needs some resources.

Speaker A: And I say that saying that I know we do not live in a country where there’s like a 1800 number you call and like, a lovely social worker shows up and asks if everything is okay and if someone needs therapy or, like medication or money or friends.

Speaker A: I know that’s not something you can just get, but I am starting to think about this man as someone who is not doing okay.

Speaker B: Yeah.

Speaker B: And for that reason, I would strongly counsel against calling the police, because when you call the police on a person with mental illness with tragic frequency, the police just shoot them before even trying to figure out what’s going on.

Speaker B: So I would definitely not advise getting police involved.

Speaker B: This is barely a crime in the first place.


Speaker B: What this is is antisocial behavior by a guy who seems like a weirdo.

Speaker B: And I think you’ve addressed one issue here, which is, like, what should she do in the long run to help this man?

Speaker B: Because helping him will address the root problem, presumably.

Speaker B: But I do think she has a right to focus on the preliminary question first, which is like, how do I get the dog poop to stop coming into my yard?

Speaker B: And I think if we zero in on that first, I think it’s absolutely appropriate to do what she suggested, which is to just get a camera, get a ring cam, get a nest cam.

Speaker B: You don’t have to share any of the footage with the police ever.

Speaker B: It is your private footage.

Speaker B: But position it so that you’ve got a clear view of this guy dropping his dog dung in your yard.

Speaker B: And once you have that irrefutable evidence, I think there’s a couple of different ways you can approach him, depending on whether you think he’s any kind of threat.

Speaker B: You could try to contact him through email, but it might be worth just going to his front door, showing him the video and not being accusatory or cruel, but saying, hey, I’ve noticed that you’re doing this, it’s creating a real nuisance for me and I would appreciate it if you’d stop, but are you okay otherwise?

Speaker B: Is there anything you want to discuss?

Speaker B: Is there anything going on?

Speaker B: Maybe that could lead to him opening the door, inviting her in, them having a great conversation about some services that he can call.


Speaker B: Maybe he slams the door in her face and she never talks to him again.

Speaker B: But I do think that would be the generous and good spirited way to move forward from this.

Speaker B: She also is totally within her rights to show him the video and just say, stop doing this, or I’m going to share this on the neighborhood list.

Speaker B: Serve, and everyone’s going to hate you.

Speaker A: I have one additional thought about her trip over to knock on his door.

Speaker A: Bring gluten free cookies.

Speaker A: I mean, you p***** them off.

Speaker A: You brought the wrong cookies before, so you have to address your part in this.

Speaker B: Yeah, for sure.

Speaker B: You’re not at fault for not realizing that he couldn’t consume gluten, but it’s a very nice gesture to show him that you were listening, that you were holding space for him, and that you’re coming forward to hopefully restart reset the relationship and get it on the right footing.

Speaker B: And it’s perfectly easy for him to come up with an excuse if he wants to save face.

Speaker B: Oh, I didn’t realize that was your yard.

Speaker B: Oh, I didn’t realize it was fine.

Speaker B: Whatever.

Speaker B: And I think if he does that, she should accept it and see if it really does end in him no longer doing this, because if that happens, it’s the best case scenario.

Speaker B: They’re on good terms.

Speaker B: He’s ashamed and realized he did something wrong.

Speaker B: He stopped doing it, and everybody gets cookies.

Speaker A: I’m so glad that you had that idea, because you know what I had written down in my notes before I just came up?


Speaker A: Throw the poop back over the fence.

Speaker A: I like what you came up with more.

Speaker B: That is also within her rights, but.

Speaker A: You got to touch the poop to do that.

Speaker A: It’s, like, huge and heavy from the sounds of it.

Speaker A: Yes.

Speaker B: And also, what if he turns around and accuses you of doing it and say, I didn’t do anything, and she started shoveling all this poop?

Speaker B: And then he calls the cops, and the cops are saying, ma’am, we’ve got this footage from a neighbor showing you shoveling poop onto his lawn.

Speaker B: You don’t want that situation.

Speaker B: You want to stay in the right here.

Speaker B: You do not want to risk getting into trouble.

Speaker A: Good luck.

Speaker A: Okay, those are all the questions we have for this week.

Speaker A: As always, I really hope we’ve been helpful.

Speaker A: Mark, we covered everything from people dealing with homophobic in laws to dog poop, and you handled it all so well.

Speaker A: Thank you.

Speaker B: You are too kind.

Speaker B: A dream come true.

Speaker B: And honestly, just such a pleasure to be here with the true Prudence.

Speaker A: Stay up to date on all things law, politics, and policy with

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Speaker A: The Dear Prudence column publishes every Thursday, and you can join us for the Dear Prudence live chat on Mondays at noon Eastern.


Speaker B: If you’d like to hear your question answered on the podcast, we are looking for letter writers who would be comfortable recording their questions for the show.

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Speaker A: Dear prudence is produced by Sierra Spragley ricks editorial Help from Paula de Verona daisy Rosario is Senior Supervising Producer and Alicia Montgomery is Slate’s VP of Audio.

Speaker A: I’m your dear prudence, janae Desmond Harris.

Speaker A: Until next time, our thank you so much for being a Slate Plus member.

Speaker A: And since you’re a member, you get the awesome perk of a weekly segment where I’ll be answering an extra question.

Speaker A: That’s right, you get even more Prudy.

Speaker A: This week, I’m joined by my awesome friend and friend of the show, John Colin Hill.

Speaker A: Jq is the host of the Weeds Boxes podcast for politics and policy discussions, and I’m so happy to have her here to help out today.

Speaker A: This letter is titled socially Awkward somewhere in Arkansas.

Speaker B: Am I supposed to be getting people anniversary gifts?

Speaker B: Sporadically friends or my parents will send a gift for mine and my husband’s, but this doesn’t happen often enough for me to feel confident that someone else’s anniversary is a gift giving event.

Speaker B: Nor is it uncommon enough to confidently know it’s not an expectation.

Speaker B: Should I be getting people gifts maybe, like, every few years or something?

Speaker B: Or would it be weird if I did?

Speaker B: Is it weird if I get a theme gift?

Speaker B: What are normal people doing here?

Speaker B: It seems like just a couple’s event before you get married.


Speaker A: Okay.

Speaker A: Absolutely no obligation to get anniversary gifts.

Speaker A: But my bigger theory about gifts and when to give them is you don’t have to be consistent.

Speaker A: So if you sit there and think, oh, my God, every time it’s a friend’s birthday, I have to send flowers, or every time it’s someone’s birthday, I have to do an Instagram story.

Speaker A: Then if you don’t do it once, you’re like, I can’t do it for anyone.

Speaker A: And then you’re super stressed out, and if you miss one, it’s a big deal.

Speaker A: If you see something that you think someone would like, and if you feel celebratory, and if you want to get it for them, and if it reminds you of them as a couple, by all means get it.

Speaker A: But don’t feel an obligation to make a rule for yourself about getting gifts or not getting gifts.

Speaker A: What do you think?

Speaker A: Yeah, I think if you feel like it, you should do it.

Speaker A: If you don’t feel like it, do not do it.

Speaker A: I have friends that are married, and often when I remember their anniversary, a text will suffice.

Speaker A: It’s very nice that people have given you gifts, but even with gift giving, I think it’s this idea like, okay, let’s take the transactional nature out of this.

Speaker A: They gave it to you because they wanted to give it to you, not because they expect something in return.

Speaker A: So it’s okay to sporadically do it as you feel like.

Speaker A: Also, Janae, I’m very glad you brought up the Instagram post thing because I avoid doing birthday Instagram posts just because I fear that I cannot keep up consistently with all my friends through all the years.


Speaker A: Yeah, I’m worried that I’m going to forget a friend.

Speaker A: And two, I’m worried that I cannot keep up with it, and it can be very intimidating.

Speaker A: And now I feel like I have permission to be like, you know what?

Speaker A: If you feel it, do it.

Speaker A: If not, that’s okay, too.

Speaker A: And I feel like that just took a major stress off me.

Speaker A: Yeah, it’s overwhelming, which is so stupid.

Speaker A: Like, everything by this rate.

Speaker A: And I honestly don’t think anyone probably notices or cares that much.

Speaker A: But what I try to do, not to get too far in the weeds, is to do it for people who care about Instagram and not do it for people who don’t care.

Speaker A: But even so, it’s all going to depend on if I have time that day, if I’m feeling creative that day.

Speaker A: So it just may or may not happen evenly.

Speaker A: I even worry about saying people’s babies are cute in the comments under their babies, because then I think, what if some other parent sees it?

Speaker A: And I didn’t say that their baby was cute, or I sounded more enthusiastic about one.

Speaker A: Again, this is insane and no one’s paying attention.

Speaker A: But it’s really easy to overthink these things.

Speaker A: And I would say to the letter writer, just to get back to the actual question, if you want to give a gift randomly, maybe just decide to be a person who gifts randomly.

Speaker A: That if you’re at the farmers market or a cute little art fair or world market and you see something that you think someone would love, just pop it in the mail.

Speaker A: And those gifts, I think, are actually more appreciated because they’re unexpected and they feel more special.

Speaker A: Free yourself of the obligation to have a Google Calendar of all your friends, Anniversaries, and absolutely do not think you need to send gifts on the actual day.

Speaker A: Yeah, I threw a hissy fit.

Speaker A: Not really, but kind of a hissy fit at a white elephant party when I did not get a decanter.

Speaker A: Someone stole a decanter from me that a friend got at a flea market.

Speaker A: It was the hot ticket item.

Speaker A: And randomly, my other friend went to a flea market, came by my house and was like, I found this for you.

Speaker A: I was like, oh, my gosh, thank you.

Speaker A: See, I love that.

Speaker A: That’s absolutely perfect.

Speaker A: I love stuff like that so much.

Speaker A: So, yeah, right?

Speaker A: And look out for decanters or whatever else your friends might love.

Speaker A: Thank you again for being a Slate Plus member.

Speaker A: The Dear Prudence podcast would not be possible without you until next time.

Speaker A: You you.