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Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Ask questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
I have an affinity for a particular breed of dog that is not very rare but also not very common. We didn’t have a dog for many years because the lifestyle didn’t allow it, but people still knew my preference for this breed (my family always had a pair when I was growing up).
There is one woman in our social circle, Lucy, who has always been inexplicably hostile to my partner and I, and she recently had these types of puppies. (I don’t want to assume she got the dog because I like her, but it seems strange that she chose this particular breed even though I try not to think too much about it). After a few weeks, a mutual friend told us that Lucy was fed up with the dog and planned to give it to a local animal shelter. She then told us when Lucy would hand the puppies over to the shelter. Without thinking about the possible effects, we adopted the puppy. We didn’t post about it on social media or tell anyone outside of our parents. Shall we tell Lucy we did this?
– Doggon problem
Dear doggone problem,
No. And more importantly, I think you shouldn’t talk to Lucy at all, beyond what is strictly necessary. It is antagonistic to you at best, and possibly even creepy, by copying your breed of dog. Make them as small as possible a part of your life. If she finds out you’ve adopted her dog, that’s fine. She left it in a shelter! Someone would get it! You owe her no explanation.
I am a mother of four with a husband who doesn’t like going out. Recently, a friend I climbed with a long time ago before my family contacted me invited me to climb again. About twice a month we meet at the gym, do some top ropings and then have a few beers together. I enjoy the infrequent, stress-free trips. The problem is, this guy keeps buying me small gifts – climbing gear, beer or something. Nothing too expensive, but it adds up. Everything else on our evenings is completely kosher, but I don’t think men innocently give gifts. What should I think of that?
– Mothers just want to have fun
Okay, I’m assuming your relationship is monogamous and that there isn’t much room in it for outdoor activities that resemble dating people who have a crush on you. If that’s right, why not stop climbing and skip the beer afterwards? I think this would help sort out the nature of the relationship for you and your climbing partner. That’s not to say that friends can’t have a drink together – but you seem to sense that this man has feelings for you or has an intention beyond climbing. You have to decide how you feel about it. If you are honest with yourself, do you reciprocate? If you didn’t, you would feel better about being transparent to your husband (“Gym guy keeps giving me gifts and probably likes me, but I keep things totally kosher. I just wanted you to know” )? Or is it making you feel weird that you had better stop this interaction? There are many people in the world and many people to reconnect with or climb with, so don’t feel obliged. And unless you have a lot of stress-free time, there is no point in putting yourself in a situation that scares you.
My boyfriend and I have been together for almost two years and his parents spend four days with us on vacation. I work in a very stressful and exhausting area of human contact (think mental health) and I have to be “on” all day. Although his parents are very nice and I like to spend some time with them, the knowledge that I am now spending a large part of my winter break as a host fills me with fear. It is a family “joke” that the boys in the family are useless and their partners are the organizers / planners (ie his mother sent me her flight confirmations and not my friend). While I am a planner by nature, provided these are my future in-laws, I DO NOT want to be placed in this role of activity and entertainment for the rest of my life.
I have already reached out to my friend to ask him to think about activities for his parents and think about getting them transportation so they can go out and explore on their own. (I have the only car and we live in the suburbs where out of town visitors cannot find and visit many sights or attractions on foot.) I imagine there are hours of periods of sitting around in our little house and have polite conversations. While I can be a good sport for a while, the nature of my career really doesn’t let me spend my break looking good face and being endlessly engaged. I’m looking for A) permission and B) ideas on how to politely pull myself out and give myself some time for myself and the much-needed time off during this visit.
– You just want to sleep late
Dear sleep late,
It would be nice – for the family and for your inner planner – if you could plan a good activity, meal, or excursion, and get fully involved and do some good exercise in the process. Let everyone know when it will take place. And then ask your friend what he’s up to for the rest of the time. If the answer is “not much,” schedule a lunch date, a class at the gym, or a zoom out with friends for a few days. Each of them should give you at least a few hours of privacy and a break from whatever happens (or isn’t happening) around the house.
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Help! My boss only sent a daring photo to the women in the office.
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Dear Prudence Uncensored: “Can I give up the SIL yet?”
Help! One little lie I told at work is going to mess up my relationship.
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Help! My 24-year-old sister can’t stand the fact that she is “still” single.
And remember, different families conduct the visits in different ways. The truth is, his parents may be the type of people who think it’s good to sit around doing nothing special or finding out things at the last minute, and if they do, they probably don’t expect you to “be all up” have the time. Remember that there is no need to fully plan the visit and that their goal may just be to be with you at home and see you both. Not to mention, you and your boyfriend have only been together for two years – even if they like you a lot, they might appreciate having some alone time with him. And if you expect more from the visit than you offer – well! Repeat to yourself, “These are my friend’s parents and I will be nice to them, but beyond that, they are not my problem.” If it gets boring or inconvenient, it will be a great lesson for him, and hopefully he will work better as a social coordinator next time. If his mother asks you what’s on the agenda, happily pass it on to her son.
But don’t, I repeat, don’t set a precedent for taking responsibility for the entire visit unless you want to do it for the rest of your life.
Check out this week’s prudie.
Further advice from care and feeding
My husband and I had a beautiful baby this summer. She has a different hair and eye color than we do, but otherwise looks very similar to our child. She has one pretty distinctive feature that we don’t share: the shape of her eyes. We live in a progressive and diverse city but have now received multiple comments on your “insert racist comments here” eyes. The first time I was so shocked that I didn’t even notice. The second time I said, “Please don’t say that word.” Both times it came from a regular acquaintance, such as a work colleague. I think the comment came from ignorance, not racism. I’m afraid we might hear that again. How do I respond to “Don’t use that word” and “Why comment on my baby’s looks?” Without directly labeling these people as racist?