S1: Your freedom, your prudence here, prudence here, put into your proof here. Do you think that I should contact him again? No. How? Thank you. Thank you.
S2: Hello and welcome to another mini episode of Dear Prudence. I’m your host, Danny and Claverie, and the show is for you are plus subscribers. Our guest this week is Melissa Burke, a Brooklyn based tech worker and part of the program committee for New York’s Asian-American International Film Festival. And now here’s our first letter.
S3: Would you read our next letter? Certainly. The subject is how do I decline being a bridesmaid in a wedding? I agreed to be in pre pandemic. Dear Prudence. I live in a state that has been playing it relatively safe when it comes to Kofod 19. And we’ve managed to keep our infections and deaths both low. But now they’re rolling back all of our restrictions and my friends expect to still have their summer weddings as planned originally. I’ve been blunt with a couple people that I will not be attending any events. If they can even occur in another one to two months for my own health and the health of others. However, I agreed to be in a wedding this August pre pandemic and the bride to be is still pushing forward so long as restrictions allow for her gatherings. I don’t want to come off as a bad friend and a bad bridesmaid, but I also don’t want to risk getting or spreading Kofod 19. How do I tell her that I’d rather play it safe? This is important to her and I want to be supportive of her big day, but I don’t think I can or should do it in person given the current state of the world. I support you in declining. Yeah. Yeah.
S4: I’m just gonna say this one feels pretty straightforward to me. Do you want to tell her as soon as possible. So, like, whatever arrangements she needs to make can be made. But also, I’m assuming that you’re close enough to each other that you were asked to be a bridesmaid. This could should be the sort of person that you feel comfortable and just being upfront. Being like, look, I don’t feel comfortable with this. I don’t want to possibly infect others or be infected. And I need to bow out. I’m very sorry. You know, is there something I can do on the other side? Can I, like, make some sort of arrangements that will help use which things that need might need to happen for your wedding? Will you end up having a stupe wedding instead of it being at a hall? Do you need to get things together for like a Zoome wedding ceremony or anything like that? If you could. Like, if you want to switch how you were helping out. That would be just as helpful. But you need to tell her as soon as possible.
S3: Yeah. These are friends who are close enough that they asked you to be a bridesmaid. So it’s not like just a work acquaintance where you’re worried about offending someone.
S5: And, you know, to that end, they would encourage you if if you’re this concerned about your own health, I think it would also maybe be an opportunity to at least say, I hope you will reconsider having a gathering this big because a lot of, you know, and maybe have like a little bit prepared about like the ways in which a lot of state guidelines have been pressured to reopen, like, so that people can’t get unemployment or to protect business interests rather than because that’s what like health experts have recommended. That might be helpful because a lot of people might just hear like, well, the state says it’s safe. That’s a big authority. They wouldn’t want us doing things that weren’t safe for us. So it might be helpful to have a little talking point ready in your own particular like location. So you kind of say like, here’s why I think the states being premature. And the worst thing that I could think of is, is somebody getting sick or many people getting sick as a result of what should just be a wonderful thing. You can also, I think, take a moment to express you realize that it’s difficult, it’s frustrating, it’s probably expensive and that you know something that makes it clear both. I hope you’ll reconsider it. And here’s why. But it also stresses I’m not saying you’re like a cavalier jerk who doesn’t care about public health and, you know, needs to throw yourself into the sea.
S4: You’re not being cavalier at all, you’re clearly thinking about the community and people beyond yourself and just being hesitant to join the wedding in the first place.
S5: Oh, yes. Sorry to be clear. I mean, I don’t want the letter. If the letter writers worried that saying that would make the bride think that they thought she was being cavalier, it’s it’s more of like a sort of massaging way of saying, like, I’m not accusing you of being cavalier. But I do hope you’ll reconsider because I think these things are really important, because that’s, I think, kind of the difficult line to walk when it comes to talking about friends, especially about restrictions in a pandemic, is it’s people can often quickly get defensive. I think of like, oh, are you saying that I don’t care or are you saying that I am being thoughtless? And then the conversation kind of gets misdirected from the original point, which is how do we seriously weigh these various concerns and health implications into. You’re saying I’m a thoughtless person, Lester. But yeah, I just think you should do it. I think you should say it. I don’t think you should try to push it off to the last minute in the hopes that the state will change its mind. I think you should assume that this is a conversation you’re going to have to have with your friends and while you can be kind and nonjudgmental in your language. I don’t think that means you should back down and saying, like, I don’t think it’s safe yet for gathering of this size.
S2: And I hope you’ll reconsider and hopefully your friend can hear it. Maybe she’ll be defensive at first. Definitely have the conversation as high as possible. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s just how you tell her. Like, you don’t massage it any further than that. You just tell her. And I hope that she will listen.
S5: This next one, I’m I’ve been fascinated by this when I’ve been meditating on this one for a little while. It’s such a big question and it’s interesting. Yeah. It also feels kind of loaded, you know, like I’m curious to see what kind of your thoughts were on where some of these people are coming from and whether you felt like this was something that the letter writer maybe needs a lot of help with versus something that the letter writer had to encourage other people to rethink. I’m curious to get your thoughts. Sure. I think it’s my turn to read a letter as I write. It is fantastic that I will read it and then you will tell me your thoughts and then I’ll say my thoughts and we’ll just keep going.
S2: The subject here is how do I make someone feel needed? Dear Prudence, I’m an unmarried woman in my mid thirties. I’ve always been independent and it seems to be both a strength and a weakness. I’ll ask for help if I need it. But for the most part, I’d rather do things myself. And I pride myself in that. There’s been an issue in my relationships, especially my current one. My boyfriend frequently tells me he doesn’t feel, quote, needed by me and things I could just up and leave without a second glance. I do tend to move states often, maybe every five to seven years. I told him I don’t know how to make him feel needed. And with him, because I enjoy being with him and I want to be not because I need him. I know he isn’t looking for dependency, but I honestly don’t know how to make a person feel needed. In the past, he’s gotten upset, more sad, not mad when I’ve had a flat tire and didn’t call him or fell down the stairs and needed to go get x rays and didn’t call him to take me. I did call him when I was at the hospital to let him know what’s going on, but I didn’t need him to come out to change my tire. Someone stopped and helped me. And besides, I know how to change my own. And with the fall, I knew he was watching his kid play soccer and was able to get myself to the hospital easily. It didn’t make sense to call him. Sometimes I’ll ask him to come help out with yard worker things around the house. But then I feel like I’m using him for manual labor. I married friends, say it’s nice to feel needed sometimes and agree that they often feel like I don’t need them and could disappear at any time. I don’t know how to remedy this. What is feeling needed look like? What does it entail? How do I make people in my life feel needed? I thought just by loving them and wanting to be around them was enough and kind of assumed that people were emotionally gaslighting me when they got sad that they didn’t feel needed. But now I’m thinking there’s more to it and I somehow need to alter my habits. What say you? Yeah, I found this one to be interesting because I fall on the side of the letter writer.
S4: I’m like hyper independent and don’t ask for help. But what I liked about this letter is that her boyfriend is straight out saying exactly what he wants, which is a gift I would love for more people. Let’s say exactly what they want so I can give it to them. It’s fantastic. Oh, I ask all the time and they still don’t do it. So it sounds more about on his part. Communication. It’s not necessarily that he needed to rush out and fix the flat tire. Like you had that handled. But while triple A or whoever changed your tires doing it. I think the boyfriend wanted you to reach out and be like, oh, this is a lucky thing happened to me. It’s big handle, but it’s great if you could, like, keep me company on the phone while I deal with it or. Or even when you fell down the stairs and had to get x rays like. I’m going to call an ambulance before I call my best friend to come get me. But you know, Pete, there are people who would love for you to text them while you’re sitting there waiting for your x rays to happen. It’s more about he wants to feel presence in your life. And by doing these things, not contacting him, not letting him know what’s going on, you’re like creating this sort of distancing and that distancing is what doesn’t make him feel needed. I mean, maybe he does want to help you with the yard work, which is great, because he wants to do yard work. I used to date a guy who I had guinea pigs and he would love to come over and change my guinea pig later. And I think that’s what can we do? Well, I loved it. Who wants to shoot for Hitler? The litter is getting changed. Like he can play with the guinea pigs. I don’t have to deal with it. And we’re talking to each other. And if that, like, helps our relationship, great. So, like, have you actually sat down with your boyfriend and talked through this also? You you say he gets upset and it’s a sadness and that he doesn’t feel needed. But has he communicated beyond that? Because it sounds like feeling needed is different for you. Feeling needed for you is a very concrete thing and feeling needed for him is more about a presence.
S3: Yeah. Yeah. So I am with you there and I think there’s yeah. There’s just a real balance to be struck, especially with the boyfriend.
S5: I don’t think you need to feel like you’re doing love wrong, frankly, when it comes to your general principle of. I’m with you because I like being with you and it makes me happy. That’s great. I don’t think you need to walk that back. I don’t think you need to apologize for that. I don’t need to think that you’re doing love wrong. I think that’s a statement you can really take pride in. I think that’s really good. And as you say, it doesn’t sound like he’s asking for dependency. It doesn’t sound like he’s saying what I really need is for you to need me all the time. And when you’re independent, you know, that threatens me and I’m threatened by a woman’s independence and just get rid of it. Like, if I if I were getting waves of that from this letter, I would be concerned. But I think maybe what he wants just is a little bit more insight into sometimes like your process. So, you know, if you were to sit him down and say, like, if I’m in an accident or I have a flat tire, my first move is generally going to be to try to handle it myself. That’s kind of how I am. That’s that’s something that I take pride in. That’s not going to change. But I want to, like, hear from you, like, are you not hearing from me often enough? Would you rather I update you? Would you want me to just kind of ask you for emotional support as I was waiting for a doctor or waiting for a tow truck or something? And then if you let it right or feel like, yeah, I could do that relatively easily, that you have found a reasonable compromise. If he says, you know, no, if you fall, I don’t care what I’m doing. I want to be the one who takes you. And you say, I would rather have the person who takes me be the person who’s able to do it that most quickly and easily. You know, you can have a conversation there and that’s OK. But there’s room for compromise on that. A lot of the little things I would say on the essential fact of like I’m with you because I love you and I want to be with you. That’s not a sign that you need to be worried. I’ll abandon you. You can take my commitment and my faithfulness as part of my word because you trust me, not because it’s something that you think I have to have that I think is really worth sticking to your guns on the whole thing about like, you know, you’re in your mid 30s. You’ve moved, you know, every five to seven years. That’s what, like three moves since college. That’s not that many. I’ve done that. And I would never characterize myself as that. Yeah, I don’t think that that’s like, oh, no, you’re too independent. You’re Gary Cooper. At the end of high noon, you’re always rolling out of town. You’re Shane and Shane. I think that’s fine. I think the last thing that I was sort of interested in was, you know, that line about the end of I assumed people were emotionally gaslighting me when they got sad, when they didn’t feel needed. I would encourage you to maybe find another word here. Yeah, that’s not gaslighting. Yeah, I think it’s genuinely possible for lots of different people to have different priorities when it comes to what being needed looks like. And if they disagree with you, it’s not necessarily because they want to convince you that you are insane and can’t be relied upon. It’s because they disagree with you and you’re free to disagree with them right back. But I think it’s important not to mistake that for a campaign of trying to undermine you such that you no longer believe in your own sanity. Those are two pretty different things. Yeah.
S4: I mean, it really sounds like they just experience the world differently than you do. I am definitely somebody who loves disappearing. But the flip side of that is if you need something, I always I’m there immediately. How are you with your relationships? Like, how are you with checking in with people? It’s interesting that so many different people within your life like feel that you could potentially abandon them like one or two. But it’s it everyone. I think it speaks to how you interact with. Your loved ones. And it’s important that everybody’s needs are being met.
S5: Yeah. Yeah. The thought that I had had there, I was curious about what you might have had to say to that. It sounds like the letter writers, married friends are the ones who have said they feel like I could disappear at any time. So it sounds like it’s a particular group of people. It’s not everyone that they know, but it’s a particular group of people who are like, yep, we’re going all in on marriage. That’s our thing. I did want to just throw this out. There are two things I think can be true at the same time. One can absolutely be. It sounds like, especially in moments of crisis or uncertainty or emotional need, you kind of go inward. You turn to your own internal resources. You try to have your first reaction processed internally, then maybe later you take it to other people. And it may be that sometimes that makes people feel a little bit shut out and like they don’t hear about anything when you’re currently dealing with a problem, they only hear about it after you’ve solved it.
S2: Which, again, I don’t think you should say that’s awful. I’m being so sneaky or withholding. You can just maybe think about are there ways in which I might be willing to let somebody I really trust into those more vulnerable moments when I’m still making up my mind? How could I do that? You know, through baby steps, you don’t have to like tomorrow, you know, bring somebody into a big crisis. But just think about are there opportunities for that? And then on the other hand, I think something else that can be true is that sometimes, especially when the person in question is an independent woman, other people can sometimes bring their own issues and baggage to that question.
S5: That doesn’t necessarily have as much to do with you as you might think at first. That can have a little bit to do with like, well, if you’re not in need and if you’re not really vulnerable and if I don’t really know what’s going on in your deepest, most intimate heart all the time, I don’t know that I can trust you. I worry you might abandon me. And those moments I get a little bit more wary. And in those moments I would say I think they can trust you not to disappear because you are a loving and a trustworthy person who shows your dependability.
S2: Right. So, yeah. Yeah. So I would just say that that I think is worth being a little bit skeptical if somebody says I feel sometimes shut out and I wish I knew more about what was going on with you, I would listen to that. If they say, you know, because you don’t have me take you to the hospital, I feel like you might abandon me. I would maybe push back against that idea and say that’s not what our friendship is based on. I love you and with you because you’re part of my life and I care about you. If I chose to be independent sometimes and not to share all of my needs with you, that is not a sign that you can’t trust me. So I’m like 50/50 down the middle. Possible rooms for compromise. Also, there may just be ways in which people resent your independence and want you to compromise it and you get to kind of reflect carefully and thoughtfully. Maybe maybe this will be something you can ask him, your single friends. Right. This might be an opportunity to rope them into a conversation and and not just think of your married friends as the people who know how to love and be needed because they are married, but simply one sample group.
S4: Yeah, everyone, regardless of their marital status, needs love, can love, should love.
S6: That’s Armony. 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 four zero one three seven one, dear. That’s three three, two, seven. And you might hear your answer on that episode of the show.
S5: 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.