S1: You produce your prudence here, prudence. If it is your proof here pre these things that I should contact him again. Help, help. Thank you. Thank you.
S2: Hello and welcome to another mini episode of Dear Prudence. I’m your host, Danny M. Lavery, and the show is for you are plus subscribers. Our guest this week is Josh Gandelman, a comedian who has written for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and now writes for DS and Merill. And now here’s our first letter. All right. This next letter, I think, is your turn.
S3: I think, you know, I read the last one because I screwed up. Oh, she said.
S4: That’s right. Yes. OK. This next one is me. So the subject of this one is running for office. Question mark. Dear Prudence, after years of work in my city and leadership with activist organizations, I’ve been told that I’m probably in the best position of anybody in my midsize city to make a progressive run for city council in the next few years. The idea of being in office is exciting to me. I think I could really help people. And I genuinely love the work and all the headaches of Parks and Rec style local government that others dislike. However, the idea of running for office is terrifying. I’m not actually combative. I’m more driven by my morals and experiences. Like many women, I feel I’ve been socialized to want to be liked. At first when I was just some lowly activist, nobody seemed to care when I pushed and called for change. But as I’ve made a name for myself, I hear more and more about how disliked I am within City Hall. As the responses have gotten nastier and more personal, I have periods where I get anxious and think about running away to another town where nobody knows me. Part of me that thinks I’m just not cut out to do political work. That my temperament isn’t right for running for office. My mental health will suffer. Another part of me thinks this is the internalized patriarchy talking. But how do I sort out what is what? How do I know if I should fight my feelings of anxiety and run for office? Or if I should listen to the voice that tells me it’s not a good idea for me?
S3: There’s so much there. It’s. First of all, I really commend your, like, activism and leadership in your mid-sized a mid-sized city that. Yeah. Mid-sized city. I think that’s good.
S5: I mean, unless you’re like I’m turning point to campus deniers or whatever. But it sounds like you’re reading your progress. You’d be making a progressive run for city council, you said. And that’s really exciting. And that the work you’re doing is in itself, even if it does not require like an elected office are running for office is really important and really valuable right time.
S3: So I wanted. I wanted to start there. This ends this really tough. And my like impulse is to say that it’s okay to like that.
S5: If you have a concern that this position would be bad for you or are trying to achieve this position would be bad for you. You have to. You’re the only one that has to live your life. And so if you think it will destroy your life to try to attain this position, even if you could be helpful to others, then it’s not worth tearing your own life apart.
S2: Right. I think especially that line about I’ve been told I’m probably in the best position of anybody. You don’t say who told you that? You don’t say how qualified they were to make that assessment. And you don’t say like, were you aggressively headhunted by a council of kingmakers? Or was this just a couple of people within your organization? Like how how knowledgeable are these people? How involved have they been in getting Progressive’s elected before? So that’s one thing is consider like where did that advice come from and how much weight do you want to give it? Another is to maybe ask some of your close friends and some of your close colleagues for their advice. And that’s not to say just do what the most of your friends tell you to do, but certainly take into account the judgment of people who know you really well. And if they say, yeah, actually you do seem like you would be really torn apart by people being unkind to you. This might be really hard on you. You know, take that under advisement.
S3: I I’m not and not to say that it couldn’t hurt to try. I think it could. And I think as previous letters we’ve seen today is that like it things can go wrong even when you don’t suspect.
S5: But like, it is the kind of thing where if you personally feel really pulled to do this work by a desire to be in this position and take on those responsibilities and not just someone telling you that, like you’re in a good position to do it and having to, you know, not wanting to let other people down. Right. This is if this is coming from internally. It seems like, you know, taking the step of whatever the first OP is getting into a petition to get signatures. Right. And seeing how that feels. It’s not. Maybe it is. Maybe it’s your inner you’re out with whatever electoral system you’re in your city has. But maybe there are ways to kind of put out feelers that will give you the first taste of how this is going to feel as it increases. And and if you if you don’t like it, if it’s if it takes you too far away from the work or if it causes too much anxiety, then like maybe it’s not right for you. But if you go, oh, this this part wasn’t as bad as I thought, maybe you can take the next time.
S2: Right. I think that’s an excellent kind of incremental approach. And I’ll just. There were a couple of little lines that I have little responses to that don’t necessarily guide either do it or don’t do it, but I think are worth reflecting on. One of which is, you know, you say you’re not naturally combative. You’re more driven by morals and experiences. Those don’t strike me as contradictory at all. It’s also fine to not thrive on conflict. I get it. I also don’t thrive on interpersonal conflict. I’m willing to do it. But I would have a hard time like running for any kind of an office. I don’t believe I would ever want to do that. I would fall apart. But I don’t know quite why you think being driven by your experience means you’re not naturally combat if those don’t strike me at all as being in intention with one another and that bit about it. Obviously, I sometimes have feelings about people casually talking about something like female socialization as if it’s something that happens to you one time and you are then powerless. Oh, sure. And that’s again, that’s not to say that that pressure isn’t real and doesn’t exist. But if you’re aware enough of the effect that it has upon you, there are ways that you can make decisions that go against that internal impulse. So I don’t think you need to resign yourself to saying, like, maybe if someone had gotten to me when I was 7, I could’ve developed a combative personality. But unfortunately, my permanent female socialization has undone any part of me that was once a scrapper. And now there’s nothing I can do but like try to be a party planner. I don’t want to say that by demeaning party planning either. I just mean that kind of like the implication of that kind of a sentence is like my my drive to compete has been taken from me and I can’t do anything about that. Yeah. And so just beyond that, you may not be cut out, do political work. There’s lots of other good ways to help progressive causes. I don’t believe that you are the only person in your midsize city to. Take a progressive run for city council. So if part of you feels the pressure, if like if I don’t do it, no one will. And not to be all like, not me, us about it. Men like, you know, the whole point of the progressive platform is it’s a lot of people. Yeah. It’s what’s best for the money.
S5: And if you’re already organizing and doing activist work, it is. It is not to say that like electoral politics is the only or even greatest way to get things done. Right.
S2: Yeah, you might. You might find that you would rather go back to like doing more direct action stuff and that would be really good, too. So I think you have options here. You can investigate more. You can ask yourself more about what you do and don’t want. You can see if there’s areas you might want to push yourself. You can ask trusted friends for their counsel and you can take your time. You don’t have to make a decision in the next five minutes, although this next person. This does seem like a kind of a time sensitive situation. Sure. And I tell means to a kid, I don’t mean to be dismissive. It’s just very like I understand why you feel like if I want to do this, I should probably do it soon.
S3: Yes. Subject. Should I reach out to an old friend who is now a meth dealer? Dear Prudence, I was recently thinking of an old friend and idly wondered what she was up to. I googled her and pretty quickly found a recent news story about how she had been arrested for dealing meth. There was an accompanying mugshot in the article and it was horrifying. It took me a long time to see features. I remembered a bit more googling, revealed several more recent arrests for things like theft. Public intoxication and more meth dealing. We are in her early 40s now and haven’t spoken in a long time. The last time we hung out was nearly 20 years ago. I felt like she was making some bad decisions back then, but I wish I had not been so right. I ended up back in her hometown now, and based on the trail of arrests, she is living in another town in our county. I have no experience with math or meth users. I know it’s not realistic to think I can help her, but this is someone I once considered to be a good friend. Should I reach out to her? So I don’t know that I want to make like a definite ruling here. Are you? I don’t know if you’ve got a strong sense. I don’t. I mean, I guess my question is, what do you want out of this outreach? Right. And that’s like if if the goal is to. Because it sounds like you’re your friend is really or your you know, your former friend is really struggling. And I understand the impulse to reach out to someone who seems to be in pain or in peril, but like to really ask if you’re not trying to be helpful to them. What is this? This outreach about rape.
S2: And I just also like I want to acknowledge I don’t think it’s it’s necessarily wrong that you don’t right away. No, I understand. A part of it is just this sense of this is a person I’ve lost touch with, but is also clearly suffering in part because of addiction and in part because if like we live in a society, we live in a society, but like our society is not really set up to help people deal with addiction, it’s set up to like punish addicts and to make life very difficult. So, you know, as you say, like you felt really sad to see the trajectory of her life now. And you also are aware that you’re not going to be able to single handedly like fix this for her. So I. I also understand just feeling muddled. I get that. Yeah. I think when it comes to asking yourself questions, think about would I be willing to go visit her in jail and would I be willing to just have like a chat where I hear potentially really intense things? And then how would I process that? If if she were in a really bad way and either like lashed out at me or asked me for things that I knew I couldn’t give her, would I be prepared to maintain my composure and to treat her with compassion, but also not to just say like, oh, gosh, your life’s really sad. My life, by comparison, seems a lot easier. I should give in to whatever you ask of me in this moment to fix my guilt. So be prepared for you know, she’s living a very intense life right now. And if she asks you something that you know you can’t give her, would you be prepared to say no? And so, you know, envision some of that stuff. And if you think, yes, I could do that. It would be painful in some ways. But I also want to let her know that I care about her. It might be worth reaching out. And I also understand, you know, you haven’t talked in 20 years. I don’t know if the last time you were with her, you kind of thought, I don’t want to see her anymore or if it was just happenstance that you drifted away. But that might inform your decision now, too, I think.
S3: Yeah, I think this is this is like I wish I had a more like effective rule of thumb because it does sound like they’re your desire is really compassionate and genuine. And that that like Danny said, it’s it’s about figuring out what you want to offer and. You can offer to this person who’s who’s in a really tough situation right now.
S2: Right. And and to keep a reasonable assessment of what your goals could be. And that’s good that you’re aware. Like, I cannot fix her life, but I would also say be careful about as I again, I understand why your reaction was what it was. I don’t think it helps her. Feels good when somebody you haven’t seen in 20 years shows up to and like communicates like your life horrifies me. So if you worry that you wouldn’t be able to contain some of that. Hold off on reaching out. And again, holding off doesn’t mean you’ll never, ever do it. And maybe you’ll want to write a letter. Maybe you’ll want to send a brief email that that just kind of tests the waters and expresses warmth. And maybe you’ll want to do a little reading or a little research about like ways that you can care for and care about somebody who deals with meth addiction. That’s not either like horror from a distance or an attempt to go fix the problem or like, you know, a sense of like we’re such different people. What could we ever have in common? Heck, yeah. Yeah. I think this would be a good opportunity to try to learn a little bit more and to figure out could I go spend time with her in a way that was both compassionate, realistic, but that was not like I’m visiting you from on high. Yeah. You poor nightmare. Mm hmm. And again, I want to make it really clear I didn’t get that that was coming out of your letter. I just want you to be aware that that’s something to be avoided.
S4: Not not that I think you’re sanctimonious. Whoo! So good luck. I’d love to hear back from you. That’s something that I would really love to get a follow up on, whether or not you decide to reach out. This next one is nice and quick.
S5: It’s very quick. And I feel like there this one is less murky to me. Yeah, I agree. I agree. There are more action steps there that are lower.
S4: Totally. Totally. So the subject is the ungracious boyfriend, which sometimes feel like it could be the subtitle of his column. Dear Prudence, should I express my displeasure to my daughter about her boyfriend of two years who did not offer to help with anything or bring a standard, I thought hostess gift when he twice stayed with us at our house and also at a vacation weekend rental? He needn’t bring champagne, but heck, you can get decent chocolate for a few bucks at the pharmacy.
S3: I hear you. I hear your complaint. I actually do think that your I think that your initial impulse is like. I mean, maybe you would tone down the the good some ness of a little bit. But I do think the initial impulse to like mention this to your daughter is like kind of a fine way because it seems like you have expectations of this boyfriend that he does not seem to be aware of or is an open defiance of, but maybe just is not aware of. And it is the kind of thing that like seems like a pretty easy. Like, it doesn’t seem like the big deal in either direction, like this email maybe makes it feel like.
S2: Right. I would say when it comes to doesn’t offer to help out. That is irritating, but that’s the most easily fixable one. Because that means the next time he comes over, you tell him you need help. Yep. Just like, oh hey, we need a hand with the dishes. Dirk. Will you come help me scrub? Yes, that’s exactly it.
S5: And I think like it seems like you are dealing with someone who just has a different set of expectations for what visiting your their partners family is like.
S2: And I also think it’s fine to say, like he’s kind of rude. It’s rude to not offer to help when you’re a guest in someone’s house. The hostess gift. I could go either way on, I think, especially if it’s like, well, if it’s your partner’s family and you visit often a hostess gift. Every time might strike me as a bit much. Yes, but yeah, you should be offering to help with the dishes the first time you meet your girlfriend’s mom. Definitely. Just NDB continually. Really? Yeah, exactly.
S3: Absolutely. So it feels like this is a. These are things that your desires, especially this, are for around the house. Not monstrous, but it also is like not a weird breach of etiquette to be like, hey, let’s let’s get on the same page about this.
S4: Yeah, absolutely. When you need help, just like state cheerfully, like, hey, we’re doing this thing. I need some help. Durk, help us out.
S5: And similarly, if you’s if you think like, hey, we would love if you brought a box of chocolates for us to eat after dinner. Yeah. It would take something off off of our plate. I guess that metaphor doesn’t work, but it would take something off our list of responsibility. It’s absolutely it is okay. It is OK to ask for that. And I think like expecting a person who may have had different experience with visitation or maybe this is his first such set of these visits to like note to bring a specific kind of gate is like it’s not necessarily unreasonable, but I think clear communication rather than kind of like the. The hope that someone will be in line with your specific etiquette. Right. Is will yield better results.
S2: Yeah. Because I think again, if you do and I get it, it would also be OK to not invite them on future vacations. You don’t have to take your kids and their partners with you on vacation all the time. If it’s otherwise enjoyable. And this is the one thing that’s been bugging you. Of course you can. Yeah. If you were to have them over for supper, like tell them in advance that like you’d love it if they could bring dessert to the drinks. Yeah. And then beyond that like does your daughter offer to help with stuff when she stays with you. You don’t mention that some kind of curious like are they both doing it or is she saying mama hubby dad’ll help you with the dishes, momma help you the dishes. And he’s conspicuously not because in that case I think. Absolutely. Just say directly to him. We need a hand. But with with both of them, you can maybe bring it up with her.
S5: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, that’s a great point. And with something like a gift, I feel like it is fine to go through her for that. Right. Right. Because it’s like I know when it’s when my wife and I visit family together, I think we take it upon ourselves to give one another that heads up to like this is what my parents will want out to visit.
S6: And so like that I think that is like a not only you’re getting what you want, but it is like a kindness you can do to him and her. Sam is a unit. Yeah, absolutely.
S7: That’s aremany appositive Dear Prudence for this week. Our producer is Phil Circus. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. As always, if you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message at 4 0 1 3 7 1, dear. That’s 3 3 2 7. And you might hear your answer on an episode of the show.
S2: 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.