The “Klepto Niece” Edition

Listen to this episode

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

S2: Your freedom, your prudent, prudent, your prudent here, pretty, do you think that I should contact him again? No help. Thank thank. 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. Laborie, almost forgot my own name there. With me in the studio this week is Noah Cohen, the co-host of Blowback, a political history podcast. He’s also an associate editor at The Drift and a contributing editor at Jewish Currence Noah. Welcome, Danny.

Advertisement

S4: Thanks for having me. I promised myself that I was going to try to get through this episode without just doing a George Smiley impression at you the whole time. But we’ve already fallen like that, that we’ve long since you’ve been in that pretense, you know, prior to even hitting record. It’s I am so grateful to you for for getting me a copy of Smiley’s people with subtitles, by the way, because I had tried to watch it without and it just was not going to work for me.

S5: I mean, it’s I watched it with somebody who had a similar dilemma. And and, look, now we can all do 1979 patrician British accents at one another, all that like at one another’s command, at our beck and call, etc..

Advertisement
Advertisement

S4: I love to. And I know that was that was verging on Hannibal, unfortunately. Yeah. And yeah, it’s there’s you know, it’s actually a it’s a very famous thing that British impression impression is of British people deal with. It’s called the Hopkins line. At what point do you just like drift I think. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. The tendency of all of my impressions to eventually turn into either Katharine Hepburn or Anthony Hopkins doing Hannibal Lecter is it’s high.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: And they they actually kind of end up turning into each other, too, like, hello, Clarice is is a little Katharine Hepburn already.

S4: Yeah, I it’s for me it’s William F. Buckley and Tony Soprano. Perfect. I mean, who could have I mean, they look they’re good pols like if those are sort of like the like my guiding boundaries in terms of like what I can sound like there. It’s going to make for some great answers today, if nothing else. Yeah. Yeah. I would love to hear what both Tony Soprano and William Buckley have to say to our first letter, which you get to read.

Advertisement

S6: All right. Subject stealing the family piece spelled P a C. Dear Prudence, my niece has been stealing for years. She has, quote, forgotten, unquote, to give back toys, video games and even money from her cousins. My sister in law brushes it off. She is called my own children liars over it. She took money out of my daughter’s wallet. She has been caught shoplifting four times. My sister in law was madder than a wet hen. Wow. When her daughter was banned from the mall. My niece is fourteen now. Last month, my sister in law had to stay in the hospital for a week. My niece came to stay with us. There is a lovely creek that runs behind our neighborhood and no one has fences. My niece went exploring a lot. She would walk the creek, walk up to homes, try the doors and rob the place if the doors were locked. My neighbors have exterior and interior cameras and came to me. They had footage of my niece letting herself inside, taking food from the fridge, books from the shelves and going upstairs. My neighbor told me that jewelry and other expensive items were missing. If they were returned, they wouldn’t press charges. I bitterly told them that they should because my niece probably robbed half the neighborhood. I mentioned the mall banning. My neighbors went to the police and unfortunately the other victims had gone as well. My niece robbed over ten houses. My neighbors just identified her. She is facing massive charges and will be doing jail time. My sister in law blames me and has split our family into because I ruined her poor baby’s life. She also blamed the victims for not locking their doors. I said the only one she has to blame is herself. Reraising a little thief my husband got between us. My in-laws are in poor health and just want peace. My husband is the only son and feels responsible. I am tired. My own children are happy because maybe their cousin will finally learn not to steal. I don’t think I misstepped here, but my in-laws are getting to me help.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: I mean.

S4: I wonder if if your niece will, in fact, be doing jail time like 14 years old. Yeah, she’s she’s 14. She committed some nonviolent burglary. It sounds like everything’s been returned. And her mom sounds like the type of lady who has maybe been used to having a lot of money. My guess is your niece is going to go to exactly zero jail and will be getting probation.

S1: So I realize that not the most important issue here. Like the question here is how do we deal with this as a family? But that sort of like, you know, where it starts out and where it goes in terms of sentencing is like, yeah, she could demographically speaking, it doesn’t sound like she will.

Advertisement

S7: And I also think that, like, you know, a 14 year old who has this many who is, you know, this documented of her record, you know, like like of incidents of this nature, it’s I would wager that there’s probably something going on under the surface that demands a little bit more scrutiny than like the tone of this letter writer is giving. Like, there’s something really a little bit off-putting I’ll admit about, just like how assuming that like a 14 year old, somebody who truthfully is not responsible for themselves, like legally speaking at least, and like they can and sort of not assuming that maybe that there’s something that deserves like a little bit more sympathy. They’re just naturally like that’s something that least is sort of like navigating the family dynamics of this that, you know, I think would be at least, you know, worth keeping in mind is, you know, thinking about like, what is this this minor, this person like what might they be struggling with?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Yeah, yeah. And I feel bad because, like, it feels like the mother is seriously underreacting in one direction. And so the letter writer has tried to overreact in the other direction to try to make up for it. And it’s like it doesn’t do the niece any good to have a mom who says if other people say you stole from them, they’re liars. Like, that’s bad.

S7: And also that like you have your children clearly, like you have, like, rubbed off in a negative way on your kids because they’re now saying something to the effect of like, oh, well, like maybe my kids will learn not to steal now, are they? Or maybe my cousin, like my cousin won’t learn to steal now when it’s like the thing that you should be trying to model for them is like, you know, at least some sort of like compassion. And if this is somebody who is having, like, an enormous amount of difficulty, then, you know, that that’s, again, like that’s what’s warranted. That’s not like figuring out negotiating, like just how much punishment the state should mete out this thing. I did want to mention also, which is like like like if anything, like your obligation should have been to try and figure out what could be done to not involve the police or the legal system at any point. Like that’s the sort of first order concern and test which you feel. Right.

Advertisement

S3: Right. And like I think there might be part of the clue is my sister in law had to stay in the hospital for a week and my niece was like alone a lot when she stayed with us and ended up stealing. And I’m just like, I’m putting two and two together. And it sounds like your niece has been kind of troubled for a while.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Her mom was in the hospital for a week, which usually is not a little thing. So there’s serious problems going on for her at home. And she was then also left on her own a lot. And it doesn’t sound like you really planned ahead, like you knew that she steals. You knew that was an issue she has. She’s fourteen, not thirty. And you didn’t it sounds like either talk it over with your kids in advance or talk to your niece in a way that could have been both loving and clear. Like, I know you steal stuff and I love you and like, I’m not going to you know, I still want you to come here, but I also want you to know, like, I’m going to be paying attention. And if you do, I will make you give it back and apologize. And like part of what she might really be seeking attention right now. And I wonder if some of this could have been prevented by your acknowledging to your niece something before? I’m not going to say anything. And then I’m going to call the cops. And again, I realize your neighbors already called the cops. There’s evidence that that was out of your hands, even though the one neighbors you said like you have my permission, the other neighbors already had. So, like, I don’t think the letter writer can do much about that now. But I would say if you have a fourteen year old family member who’s been stealing a lot and their mom’s in the hospital, even if you feel really frustrated, which I would get talked to the talk to the kid, ask what’s going on. Right.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S7: I mean, that’s what it’s just like the lack of curiosity about like the inner life of this person who’s clearly in like a difficult this like this kid is in a difficult situation. I would like really try and, you know, I would sit with that, like I would I would kind of try and think a little bit about what are the ways that you could, you know, sort of start afresh and really reach this person in a way that will will help them and not just like, you know, teach, quote unquote, some vague lesson about what happens when you steal, which is just that, like you get the same. End of misery that this prison is clearly already experiencing.

Advertisement

S1: And like the idea that my kids are happy because she’ll learn her lesson, it’s just like, man, if you’re teaching your kids that they should be glad they’re cousins going to jail, which, again, like they’re not, they would be sending her to juvenile hall, but still like the kid version of jail, like then I think you are teaching your kids to be really it’s just like the worst combination of like too many people in the family are saying no boundaries.

S3: She doesn’t steal everyone else’s lying. And then the other part of the family overreacts by saying, like, she’s irredeemable, she’s a wicked, you know, like she’s a street urchin who should be cast into the workhouse. And it’s just like somewhere in between those things is like she’s stealing. She shouldn’t be she should give those things back. She should apologize. Consequences should come. But not like call the cops. Ha ha ha. Fuck you. She’s 14.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a yeah, I agree completely.

S3: So like in terms of what can happen right now, maybe just continue to take the time and space apart from each other. Don’t say really angry shit to your sister in law. If you get the opportunity to talk to your niece again, maybe ask her how she is doing and you can do that without pretending that stealing is OK or that she didn’t do it. And if your in-laws are trying to get you to do something that’s either not within your power, like get the charges dropped or to say that your sister in law is right, you can push back against that. But I do think you should pay attention to the side of the family that is saying like, hey, don’t be a javor to this fourteen year old.

S5: Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, you said that your husband feels somewhat responsible. I talk with him about it, like maybe the reasons that he feels responsible are pretty persuasive and maybe they could be, you know, sort of like, like offer like an idea of a path forward.

S3: Yeah. And good luck. I’m really sorry. This sounds really difficult. I also hope your sister in law is recovering from whatever put her in the hospital for a week. Sounds like you’re all kind of going through a lot.

S1: This next one has a great subject line, I’m thrilled about it, it’s son of a rodeo clown. Dear Prudence, my father is in his mid 70s.

S3: He was a star athlete in his college days but had innumerable concussions and has spent most of his adult life in and out of, quote, real jobs while unsuccessfully chasing creative pursuits like screenwriting and painting. He’s bankrupt and desperately investing all of his time, along with what little money he has an online advertising for his creative startups.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: My stepmother, with whom I have no relationships and she was emotionally abusive in my youth, has a steady career. So they’re able to live seemingly comfortably, although not lavishly. Their finances are separate. She owns their home and he gets his spending money driving Uber, which he finds humiliating.

S3: My brother works in education and had twins at the start of the pandemic. He’s under a lot of stress, living with his wife in a one bedroom apartment in a big city. I live across the country and flew to visit a few weeks ago to finally meet the twins in place of visiting over the holidays, which I fear will be a more dangerous mass due to a combination of the pandemic flu season and a year and travel rush. My father couldn’t join us because a week before I arrived, he went to a rodeo which he drove 20 hours to get to and which he, quote, needed to attend in order to start his new horse therapy business because he’d crossed state lines. He said it was mandated by state law that he quarantined for 14 days. He still put enormous pressure on me to see him an hour’s drive away from my brother’s place, which I declined to do for everyone’s safety. The icing on the cake was him telling me that I needed to come to him because he had prostate cancer for the past year, which he hasn’t told anyone about. So they, quote, wouldn’t worry. This seemed more reason to me that he stay isolated from visitors. He hasn’t visited his grandkids once during the pandemic out of a fear of covid, but somehow found it sufficiently urgent to attend this rodeo, presumably also joined by people who think the pandemic is made up. He would have canceled, but, quote, didn’t know I was coming to town, even though I’d given everyone advance notice. He’s loving over the phone, but these events fit into a broader pattern of him prioritizing his pursuits above all else. My brother and I are hurt, but perhaps unsurprised and having a hard time finding empathy for our dad, who is obviously struggling. What can we do while this is an emotional hurt, the fact that he’s getting older and starting to have health issues raised, fears that these troubles are going to further spread out in other directions.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Lots here, I found myself slightly surprised by my own response, because often in cases like this one, my allegiance is pretty quickly and immediately on the side of like a kid who’s frustrated with their parents. And maybe it was just that line about the concussions in the beginning. But I feel like what we know at this point about post concussion syndrome is it seems pretty well understood at this point that somebody who has suffered from a lot of concussions at a young formative age. It is going to suffer from really serious side effects for the rest of their life, especially when it comes to impulse control and decision making. Does that feel like widely known? Do you think that that’s a useful assessment? Yeah.

S5: And, you know, I’d go even a little bit further where where it’s you know, the science actually shows that you don’t even need concussions to induce like to develop the brain damage that can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE, that the brain disability that, like many football players, live with later in life. And like you don’t have to have concussions to develop it. You just need repeated hits to the head. And and so, like, that’s the first thing that like, it obviously stuck out to me, too. Like it’s in the first there’s a reason that the letter writer put it in the first sentence, even if it’s not returned to like it’s clearly it’s clearly an important factor. And I would also say that, like, you know, another detail that is not, you know, framed as such in this. But but it’s but the facts are there is that this is a person who’s being described, who is economically dependent on somebody whom the letter writer themselves describes as being emotionally abusive. And so there is like a degree to where you describe somebody who is given time to pursue, you know, who is prone to pursue these, you know, like erratic and dangerous and hazards and flights of fancy. But it doesn’t seem like they’re in a position right now to really do what’s best for themselves. It doesn’t sound like that at all.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Yeah, I think that’s exactly the right thing to focus on, which is just like your emotionally abusive stepmother owns the home that he lives in and he has to earn his own spending money driving, which in addition to you say he finds it humiliating.

S3: Also, I imagine, is a little dangerous given the usual symptoms of post concussion syndrome. And I mean, we’re just covid. It’s also not without risk. Yeah, and in your mid 70s, like it it sounds like he is in a position where if he wants to be able to have any kind of independence from this emotionally abusive woman, he has to work. So I would encourage you to not think of these decisions that he makes as like, oh, he’s consciously thinking I can either go to this rodeo or see my grandkids. I pick the rodeo.

S1: And more about he is he is a desperate person who needs his own money because the woman that he’s dependent on is abusive.

S5: I think that, like, there’s one other small part of this that I think is, you know, like not I think it’s a kind of secondary concern to a lot of what’s going on, but I think it’s something worth fleshing out for listeners, which is also saying that the letter writer says about Uber driving, not feeling like work with dignity for this person. And like to be clear, like uber driving, like all work, like it has dignity, like and that’s not like in the people who do it, like have dignity. I think that like with something in this situation, when somebody does bring up issues with that, though, because it’s like a totally valid feeling, especially if you’ve in the past, like, you know, had like moments and ambitions of success that don’t involve that. Like, it totally makes sense. But I think that, like, you know, it’s something where, you know, a guy at that age, like doing what you can to not make him totally responsible for his own income is really it’s it’s hard, but it seems kind of essential. And then, I mean, just the ability to to the degree that you can, but also that like, you know, if there are things that you could find for him to do that, allow him to feel some dignity and can contribute to that, like, you know, that’s something to consider working toward. It sounds like this. You’re it sounds like your dad, though, has like a tough time, you know, like sort of settling in that way. And I imagine that that would be, you know, pretty tough to pull off.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Yeah. And I also can really imagine that there are probably a lot of ways in which the way that his. Inability to protect you from your stepmother when you were growing up was hard and that you would have every right to resent him for now, I don’t want to say like you have no right to feel frustrated with the ways in which he raised you.

S1: You absolutely do. But I also would just yeah. I would really encourage you to think of your father’s post concussion syndrome as something that seriously inhibits his ability to make careful decisions that he can stick with consistently and to recognize that like dizziness, headaches, pain, bewilderment, fogginess can often be a day in and day out thing that he is contending with on top of prostate cancer, which you kind of just throw in there like he has it, whatever. You know, he wanted you to come see him. He didn’t want you to worry about his cancer. Like, I think there are real signs here that your father is to the best of his ability, trying to connect and keep other people safe, even if he is sometimes limited in his ability to make safe decisions. So I would say. Do whatever you can do to try to find some of that empathy, look for it very, very hard. I would encourage you to send your dad money, which is nothing I think I’ve ever I don’t often recommend that on the show, but like, I would look for ways to send your dad money so he didn’t have to put himself in these situations. And I would talk a lot with your brother about what are ways that we can both, like, lean on each other when we’re frustrated or upset about seeing our father has done. And then what are things we can reasonably expect that this guy in his mid 70s with post concussion syndrome and prostate cancer is going to do to change his life in the next couple of years if he has years left. And then beyond that, if all you can do is say like we’ll do a Zoome call and I’ll be kind of frustrated with him and I will not share that frustration with him. Fine. You know, just try not to make his life worse. I will take our next letter on the subject of this letter is X Religious Impasse. Dear Prudence, I’m recently married. My husband and I both left the Mormon faith while we were dating. We both grew up in the church, although he progressed further in the faith than I did, which meant that he made a commitment to wear sacred undergarments for the rest of his life, although he no longer believes he still holds himself to that commitment he made when he was 18 years old.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: I never made this commitment and I’ve had many negative experiences with men wearing this clothing, particularly with an axe who overrode my sexual boundaries multiple times while wearing them. I also can’t avoid associating the clothing with the church that has caused me pain and that I want to leave. In the past, I’ve asked if he would consider taking them off permanently or at least wear them a lot less often. But he can’t bring himself to do so because of the commitment he made years ago. I often felt physically uneasy when I see him wearing them every day because of the negative associations. Although I don’t want to try to control his choices. He’s made little compromises like wearing boxers when everything else is dirty. But that does very little to alleviate my regular discomfort. And we can’t seem to come to a solution whose cause is more worthy here. His determination to keep his commitment or my deep discomfort? Or do you see a compromise that will leave us both at peace?

S1: So I’ll start by saying I don’t think this is necessarily about who has the worthier cause and you just like joust it out and one wins. But no one told me what you thought of this, because I’ve known a lot of ex religious people and a lot of sort of religious people and a lot of people that I thought were religious and then later became quite religious. Again, my first thought here was like, I don’t know if he is as out as you are. Like, I don’t know if he’s done in the same way that you are done. And I would not be shocked if in five or 10 years you two were divorced and he was married to a practicing Mormon.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S7: Yeah, I think that, like, you know, to me, the the more straightforward thing is, is, you know, like I would even like set aside like the religious associations, like there is a commitment that he claims to to have to to still possess to this clothing that hurts you. It hurts you because of things that other people did to you that you had no control over and that he’s not willing to make, you know, the sacrifice of that commitment, however, and may persist. You know, however, he may claim it is in the past the religious component of it. Like I think he is sending a signal about where his head is at. And it’s not necessarily one that, like I think, suggests that it’s, you know, his head is with you. And I think that you should kind of talk to him about what commitments really matter to him. Is it is it is it is it the undergarments or is it you? I think that’s like a you know, like I think that’s a fair question to ask if this is how he presents the issue.

S1: Yeah. Especially because there’s just so much missing from like I also got the impression that they are probably both in their relatively early or mid 20s, like I got the impression that they are not that far out from the eighteen year old commitment. So, yeah, like my question is like, do your families know that you’re no longer Mormon? Do your friends know do you have Mormon friends? Do you have non-religious friends? You have secular, atheist, agnostic friends who’s part of your community is most of your community Mormons? And if so, do you two mostly kind of pass as practicing Mormons to them? Is it an unspoken secret like. Yeah, I think the thing that I would say to your husband is, first of all, this is really, really hard for me. I, I definitely affirm your choice to wear whatever clothes that you wear. But I need you to know it really affects my ability to feel relaxed and peaceful around you. And I also don’t understand, is it just because you said something when you were eighteen, is part of you worried? Like, are you afraid of excommunication or hell or being separated in the afterlife from your family? Like, does it feel.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Does it feel safe to wear these garments? Like, are you afraid of what might happen if you take them off? Like what’s underneath this? Because there’s clearly something that he’s not sharing. And I don’t mean to say that he’s keeping something from you on purpose. He may not quite understand it himself, but there’s clearly something beyond just I made a promise. And when you make a promise, you do it no matter what, because he’s clearly changed his mind somewhat about being a part of the church. And so he’s obviously understood some things about promises can be changed when you change your mind. But there’s something still underneath.

S1: And I think when you know more about what that is, you’ll have a better sense of like maybe we both need some therapy to help, like, deprogram us from some stuff around religion and shame or maybe. He’s thinking about going back to church and we need to think about separating or something else, but you got to you’ve got to ask more questions. And again, it’s not about proving who’s the worthiest. It’s about figuring out why he’s doing what he’s doing.

S7: Yeah, I think that there’s a you know, I think that that is like I think that’s what there is to say about it. You know, I just the only other perhaps like small thing that I could add is just that, like, you know, like when I think that the religious choices are at least in some of the faith communities that I’ve been a part of or on the side of, you know, it’s I think that like a really a good kind of heuristic for whether or not like like, you know, like there is a certain kind of religious action where there is, you know, the effect that it has on the people in your life. And, you know, there’s a spectrum from inconvenience to like like harm. And if it becomes real harm, then I think that that’s something that, you know, it shouldn’t it’s that’s not a test of faith. That’s that’s that’s a test of you. And is something like, you know, worthy of like, you know, like like like discussion and compromise because that’s like like that. Or and if it’s not then, you know, it says something about like what that that, that calls into question what is important.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Yeah.

S3: And it can be hard, you know, people can walk away a lot from a religious community and then some people will feel like I need to go 100 percent of the way and some people will feel like I need that 10 percent just to keep panic and chaos at bay. And that’s hard to speak to. And I think maybe one other thing you could potentially bring up is like when you made that commitment, it was presumably to wear those garments as part of an outward demonstration of certain values that again, like do you both still hold those values like this might be an opportunity to say, like, what about Mormonism is still important to me is that do I respect the sexual values of the Mormon Church? Do I not like some people leave a religion and they’re like, fuck all of the rules, fuck all of the values. I want nothing to do with it. And some people leave and say, oh, well, lots of it. I actually do still think is worthwhile or meaningful.

S1: I just don’t choose all of it. And it really depends on where you’re at because I think and again, no, I’m sure, you know, some people who are like out of the game and some people are like very out of the game, but like, it really does depend on where you’re at. It’s it’s intense. Yeah. I hope you can look out for, like, exmormon support as well, because I think that might potentially be useful to you if you don’t already have that. Do you know, I have a few minutes to stick around for an extra bonus question? Yes, I do. Fantastic. I will read it because you, I think, have only seen it quite recently. But the subject is just disrespect from both sides. Dear Prudence, I met a guy on Whinge about eighteen months ago, about three months. Then things started to become very one sided and it was clear that he was only interested in having sex. I’d text him to catch up and he wouldn’t answer. Then he’d reach out when he wanted to, quote, hang out.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: We’ve even had this talk a few times and he made it clear that he didn’t see us going anywhere. Even though I wasn’t happy with the situation, we continued to text on and off and sleep together. It’s very clear that this guy sees me as someone he can pull off the shelf and dust off whenever he wants sex, then ignore again. My family doesn’t approve of this guy because of how he’s treated me. If I even mentioned that we texted each other, my family will get annoyed. They make it clear they don’t even want him over at our house. My sister has said that I don’t respect myself and that I’m letting myself, quote, be used like a prostitute because they only see this guy when we have sex and then we don’t talk. I understand where my family is coming from. However, it’s disheartening to have them openly pass judgment for a situation that I’m still having a hard time dealing with. I’ve struggled with asserting myself in many areas in my life, and to have my family judged me while also being disrespected by this guy causes me a lot of stress. I also need an outside opinion on how I should move forward with this guy.

S1: How would you handle this?

S7: So I would sort of immediately kind of slice this into two separate issues, the first issue is like the guy from Hinche who like it sounds like, you know, he’s made his intentions clear. He doesn’t want to pursue something. And so if you want something from him, then you shouldn’t like then you shouldn’t be with him and just like move on. But if you feel like you like him and that there’s some sort of conversation you can have and there’s a possibility there, you know, then maybe try that. But again, it doesn’t sound like after 18 months, you know, it’s a long time. I really would at this point kind of just sort of let it try to try, you know, it’s hard, but try to let it go. And I know that I covered in a pandemic can make all of that like intimacy and new partners like like a really tough thing. But it’s not making you happy. So why why keep with it? And then the other thing is how your family views this thing and how they relate to you. Because as you said, you know, if you struggle to assert yourself in other parts of your life and they, you know, presumably they’re your family and they have some idea of that and your sister, you know, like calls you like, you know, I mean, like attempts to call you an ugly name. Like they like like I think that it’s sort of like that’s a sort of separate issue and that you should, you know, try and, you know, separately and perhaps after the the sort of, I think, smaller task of cutting loose this, the jerk from Whinge is talking to your family and sort of trying to understand, you know, why why they’re like moralizing about this guy that you are seeing when, like, they know that this is exactly the kind of like not the thing that they should do and trying to figure that out. And, you know, like and, you know, there are a lot of like I am sure Danny knows that like and has an idea of like there are a lot of ways, I think probably productive ways that you could, you know, sort of take the steps to do that.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Yeah. I also had that same thought, which is that like whenever anybody reflexively goes to, like, anti sex worker sentiment to insult somebody else, they also like, fundamentally misunderstand just the general sort of like sappiness of sex workers, like a sex worker would not be in this situation because the sex worker would at least be making money like children.

S1: I mean, like and I don’t see that to like. You know, buy into the comparison the sisters trying to make, but it’s just like even as you attempt to insult someone by using sex work as an insult, it’s like. No, the difference is that a sex worker would not do this shit for free.

S7: One thing that I think could be kind of interesting to do, at least, would be to sort of, you know, once you’ve figured out how you feel and where your feelings are out with this guy and what you want to do about it. And once you’ve made that decision, I think I would bet that you will feel a little bit more empowered to talk to your family about it, because you’ll have been able to have moved past that sort of like feeling of like, you know, like that feeling of difficulty. And you’ll be able to talk with your family more straightforwardly about, like, why they treated you in kind of a fucked up way.

S1: Like, I honestly feel like the letter writer does not need to go to their family about this relationship, like, oh, yeah, you have voted on it.

S7: No, no, no. This is like this is entirely this is not for their satisfaction. This is entirely about like making yourself feel like, you know, because they think that, like, the it seems that like being undermined by your family is like the worst thing. And in some sense, I mean, you know, as I read, it feels like the wound, you know, like like feels like a like a wound that needs more serious treatment than like the the the hinge jerk.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Yeah, no. And I do want to address both the ways in which it’s clear that part of what the letter writer needs and is looking for is like, how do I trust myself? How do I ask for what I need even when I fear being hurt? I want that for you. And I also would say that it’s important sometimes to be a little bit more self reliant, even if you are not feeling great about yourself.

S1: So like your family’s made it really clear they don’t want to hear about this repetitive relationship. They don’t want to meet him. They don’t want to know him. It also doesn’t sound like he’s asking to come over to your parents house. So, like, that issue is like I think that’s a nonstarter. Like, it sounds a little bit like their way of trying to, like, feel more in power of their own end of the situation. But like, it really doesn’t sound like he’s trying to come over for family supper. So it’s the kind of rule where it’s sort of like if I say like I won’t allow, like, a duck to live in my ceiling, it’s like, OK, no ducks live in my ceiling. It’s not going to happen. It’s a it’s a made up rule that does not have anything to do with reality. There’s not a great analogy, but I think you get what I mean. You know, it’s like if I’m like my high school boyfriend is not allowed to come over and make out with me and it’s like, yeah, he’s married and has a baby and lives on the other side of the country like. I don’t think he misses me, and that’s just fine, so I guess my real question here is like, do you like just having sex with him, even taking into account the part where you feel disrespected some of the time? Is the sex great? Because if you feel like the sex is great and it makes up for the shittiness, the rest of the time at least, he’s been pretty straightforward about what you can expect from him. And if you want to put up with that for a while longer in exchange for great sex, you are perfectly entitled to do so. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t love yourself or that you’re not going to be available for a date with somebody else. If, however, you are miserable most of the time and if you often find yourself checking your phone to see whether or not he’s texted and if you constantly get your hopes up that he’s about to change his mind, that might be an indicator that it’s not worth the tradeoff. And you don’t have to assert yourself. You could just walk us. No, you don’t even have to say anything. You could just stop responding. You could ask a friend to be an accountability body and say, like, if I’m tempted to text him, I’m going to try to text you instead and see how that goes. You don’t have to say that he’s like an evil monster who doesn’t deserve to be near you. He’s been pretty honest. I’m not that mad at him like he lets you know what he wants. And you are then free to either say, yep, I’m up for that or no, I’m not. And so there’s a limit to how much I want to make a villain out of this guy who’s been pretty upfront about I would like to have sex with you sometimes. And as long as you’re cool with that, let’s keep doing it, you know? Yeah, I don’t think that’s evil of him.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S7: Yeah, I agree. I don’t think it’s evil. But if you feel like there’s just sort of like a mismatch of intentions that, like, you really want something from him that he doesn’t want to give, then like the more time that you spend on this, the more you’re just going to feel like in a place sort of status and a and that is only going to, I think, sort of exacerbate some of the other stuff that you’re going through. So I feel for you letter writer. And it’s like, but but, you know, I also think that, like, you have an opportunity to to make some good decisions.

S3: Yeah. Yeah. And so just what can you control right now? You can control how much your family passes judgment on this relationship by not going to them with information about the relationship. So don’t ask them for their advice. Don’t give them updates. Don’t let them know. Oh, I texted him last week.

S1: Keepa keep a firewall up there and then think about, you know, he made it clear he didn’t see us going anywhere. I wasn’t happy with the situation, but we continue to text and sleep together. So there’s a disconnect between he’s able to be clear about what he wants and I’m not. And the question there is like, what’s keeping you from that clarity? What’s the fear? What do you want? What do you need? And I don’t say that you, like, identify it, solve that problem, get self actualized, kick him off the face of the planet. I just mean, like, really ask like, what would it have looked like if I was clear with him back and said, I actually do see us going anywhere. I would really like romantic relationship with you. And if that’s not what you want, I’ll be really sad. Like, is it the belief that if you’re vulnerable, no one’s ever going to actually, like, meet you or hold you or pay attention? Is it that, like, I’ll only get stuff if I try to sneak it in against somebody who’s like consciousness and I can only get stuff around the edges? Is it that, like, once I get someone’s attention, if I lose it, it means I’m worthless? Like, I don’t know what the fear is there, but there’s clearly something there keeping you from clarity and you’re not going to get it by trying to get it from him. You do have to get it from you. And so as cliche as that is, I think don’t invite your families judgments because they’re assholes and don’t invite this guys, you know, don’t expect that this guy will change and do a little soul searching internally and elsewhere and outside. And I see all that, by the way, is like I have also certainly like flown to another country in my twenties because I was in love with somebody and was like, if I do your dishes while you’re at work, you will fall in love with me. And then when that didn’t work, I cried in the shower. And then when that didn’t work, I said, everything’s great. So I can certainly relate to, like, it’s so weird. I don’t advocate for my own needs and I’m sad all the time. And yet this other person hasn’t been able to read my mind. Why? Why is this not resulting in personal happiness? You know, go fucking figure. I get it. I’ve done it. It’s very painful. But I got really good at washing dishes and that’s it. No, I’m sure you’ve never made a mistake in the name of love.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: No, I’m my record. Spotless.

S3: That’s fantastic. Congratulations on being so together. Do you have any general advice for people who also want a Spotless Love record?

S7: Well, I’m kidding, of course. But I do say that, you know, trying to being honest with yourself and with your partner is like, well, we’ll never get you in trouble if handled with tax increase and simultaneously trying to be anticipatory about other people’s needs. You know, a little bit of empathy goes a long way. Intentionality, just a dollop.

S1: Noah, thank you so much for bringing your dollop of empathy to this show today.

S3: Will you favor us with one last Alec Guinness as George Smiley impression before you go, please?

S5: He’s a fanatic, and that will be his downfall.

S1: Thank you very, very much. I promise that I will work on my own in the meantime. Thank you. This was fabulous. Your fabulous I go forth and do some good in the world.

S7: Yeah, no, no, no. It’s this is this one way better than the last time I remember suggesting that somebody stay closeted. I think that was like it might have been like for I think like four years ago.

S4: And, you know, it’s always it’s worth considering doing learning and growing and learning and growing. Exactly. Get out of here. I’ll see you again in four years.

S8: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence, our producer is Cercas, 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 dotcoms. 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.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday.

S7: I just have a very hard time believing that there isn’t some sort of response that gets triggered, especially if these are people who are already receiving public assistance. These people who are people who receive public assistance have their lives controlled and monitored in very extreme and aggressive ways. And I think that, like, it’s there’s you know, this literature, I think is a bit more work to do. But like, of course, you know, this is a difficult time.

S3: Yeah. All of that I will add to that is if one of your tenants has a broken window, then my guess is, as the landlord, it’s your responsibility to fix it. So go fix the window. That’s your job. Or like it’s not a job. You know, being a landlord is not really a job, but it’s the job you’ve decided to have. Fix the window. If she is like having parties and people are violating like covid protocols, you know, tell your tenant that they have to go. If this is like they have nowhere else to live, I would say have some compassion. To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy pod.