26 October 2009


(Photograph copyright 2009, all rights reserved.)

As always, you can find the letters to Prudie at http://slate.com/id/2233031 (ED: fixed your link, sweetie! You owe me kisses...)

(No, I have no idea why my link doesn't work. I don't have the magic for that. Maybe I'll ask for the loan of some from Mermaid or the Oracle.)

Here I am, back again and taking consolation for my ten day cold to the fact that the rest of the population of the City of Wind seems to be snorting and sneezing too. Of course this does not include the folks that have swine flu, which is everywhere. We had a high school close for most of last week. Out of roughly 2000 students, something like 970 were out sick. There was no point staying open with almost half the kids gone.

Now here's where more people should be angry. We are out of vaccine. Completely out. At one clinic, people started lining up at dark o' clock for a 9:30 a.m. opening and they were out of vaccine within two hours. How is that possible? How is it that MASSIVE pharmaceutical companies can manage to screw up this badly? How can anyone explain that a company that can pump out (for example) a kajillion purple pills for limp little dicks every single day manage to fuck up something so necessary that badly? It's not like they didn't have any warning. It's not like they didn't know what was going to happen. So how does that work?

The people that lined up for those shots NEEDED them. There were sickle-cell patients, people with asthma, people in cancer treatment, some of whom travelled by bus for an hour or more, and there was no vaccine for them. Some of these folks could (and probably will) DIE because there was no vaccine for them. There is NO excuse for this.

So I have an idea. All of you, everyone who thinks this is as absurd as I do, start writing letters. Write to your newspapers, your congressmen, your City Councils, the pharmaceutical companies that dropped the ball, everyone who might listen to you. Write to the President. Let everyone know just how appalling this situation is. Ask how it is that pharmaceutical companies can get away with screwing up this vaccine and not be accountable for the deaths that are going to result from it. And make no mistake, there are going to be deaths because of this monumental screwup. All I hear in the press is excuses that I wouldn't accept for a ten-year-old to be late to class!

If you do this, let me know. If someone actually gives you the courtesy of a response, let me know. I'll put them in this space. This is important, kids, and no one should be able to shrug off these horrible consequences. If all we can do is make noise about it, then let's make noise.

Ahem. Off the soap box now. To the letters!

1. Hoo boy. I read this letter twice. First to see if the idea that your fiance's relationship with his sister was really odd, second to see, well, why you put up with this shit for four years. You say that the love of your life plays footsie with another woman, calls you by her name, and knows all of her most intimate secrets, including the ones in her MARRIAGE!


THINK, woman! Who the fuck CARES if the other woman is his sister! Even if they aren't fucking (and who knows, they may or may not have gone there, it doesn't matter) he is giving her the position in his life that is rightfully occupied by a wife. He tells her everything, spends as much time with her as he can, and ignores you when you're with them. No wonder you've tried to distance yourself. Who'd want to be around that much pathology?

Yeah, yeah. I know. A lot of folks over on Slate are willing to make excuses for them. Who the fuck cares? Really? This has been bugging you for FOUR YEARS. How can you even consider marrying this jerk? This is not a situation that will improve after the wedding. After all, your fiance's sister is married, too, and you don't see HER behavior changing. She's still mucking about and spending way too much time with her brother. In fact, I advise you to make an excuse to call her husband and ask what HE thinks of the situation. His answer won't mean you should go ahead by any means, but I would guess that he's a "go along to get along" kinda guy.

You claim that your fiance is "sensitive" and that he accuses you of not liking his sister. Gee, I can't imagine why you don't just adore her! After all....she's so... so... important to him. So what? I'd say he's about as sensitive as a rhino in a thorn bush. He may be touchy about it, but if he loved YOU, he'd do what he could to reassure you. He has chosen not to do that. Not only does he not give a damn how you feel, he throws a little hissy when you even mention it - probably to cover his guilt, but also because you just aren't as important to him as his sister is.

If you marry this guy, you will never really have a husband. You will spend your life fighting for his time to be spent with you and possibly his children, but he will want to be with the woman who really IS the most important person in his life. That's not you. It will never be you. He won't allow it, and neither will his sister.

Get out now. Tell him that you won't marry him, tell him why and tell him that the only hope he has of marrying you is if both of you go for counseling. He's going to refuse, and then you'll be free to find someone who wants YOU as the most important thing in his life and won't allow anyone or anything to get between you. And that's how it should be.

2. So, an accomplished artist did a lovely nude painting of you, gave it to you because he cared about you, and you're willing to insult him by hiding it in a closet with the shoe mistakes and unused sports equipment?


Where in the Midwest do you hail from that a nude painting scares you so much? Are you one of Garrison Keillor's Lutherans who would rather slit their wrists than admit that they didn't find their kids under cabbage leaves? When did you, a woman who happily POSED for a nude painting suddenly get a stick up your ass about showing it off?

I'm guessing you're quite young. I'm guessing you were pretty young when the painting was done. Why do I mention this? Well, if there was ever a time you could attractively bare your ass, that time is NOW. You might have kids, gain weight, start to droop in unattractive ways and in unmentionable places, folds will appear on your once-killer post-adolescent bod, you'll start to see cottage cheese where he saw smooth, inviting thighs and... get the picture? THIS is the time you flaunt what you've got, kid. Because what you've got now is a LONG way from eternal - you'll be envying yourself in that painting before you know it!

Why would anyone ask who's in the painting? Nudes in the thousands hang from walls all over the world. I got news for you, kid. No one gives a damn about the model. They won't ask who the nekkid chick is. They MIGHT want to know about the artist. If the painting is as beautiful as you say it is, then the artist is the one that will benefit if you tell people about him. Frankly, one set of bare boobs is pretty much like every other - it's the artist's skill that makes them worth looking at.

Hang it, tell people who did it, help the poor bugger make a living. You never know. Your ass might make his career, and THAT is something you can be proud of.

3. So you lied to your kid. How did that seem to be a good idea? Seriously, what were you using for brains that day? You think a kid, even one as young as yours, can't smell a parental lie from a hundred paces?


So tell me, moron, how do you think your "little lie" is going to play out over time? Let's say you keep it up and one day she finds out about the lie. You will have single handedly destroyed any trust that your child ever had in you. Everything you will have told her for her entire life is going to be up for questioning, and your cute little daughter will be so angry with you for lying that you may lose her altogether.

Think that's not possible? Really? Think again. How would YOU have felt if your mother "confessed" one day that your father was not your father, but an anonymous one night stand in the alley behind a bar when she was too loaded to know what she was doing? You'd be furious with her, right? Even if you didn't care who the guy was, you'd feel betrayed and wonder what else she lied about. THAT is what you're doing to your daughter.

She may not remember the lie. One day, she's going to bring up the "daddy" question again, and YOU MUST TELL THE TRUTH!

You don't need to go into gory details. All you have to tell her is that her father lives far away and is very busy. THEN you WILL tell her that one day when she's old enough, you will help her get in touch with him IF that's what she wants. You will tell her that he DOES care about her, he just can't be around. Reassure her that its not her fault, it's just the way it is.

Of course....if you don't do theses things and NOW, see the scenario above. It's going to be your life if you don't fix this now.

4. Oh boy. So Granny is a larcenous old bird, is she? I can see why it's annoying. Actually, the whole situation is pretty goddamned annoying, isn't it? This isn't ALL about Granny the Shoplifter is it? There's more going on here than that....


Your situation is not unusual. A LOT of women end up caring for either their aging parents, their spouse's aging parents or both. Sure, right now it's not that big a deal to haul your MIL around once a week, but it's not going to stop there, is it? It never does, you know. Eventually, she won't be strong enough to leave the house. That's when you have to do the shopping for her and take it to her place. Then she won't be able to cook for herself, so you'll either end up cooking all her meals or setting up Meals on Wheels for her. And if she can't cook, she won't be able to clean, either, so you'll either end up cleaning her house for her or setting up a cleaning lady or home health care....

I've seen this happen many, many times, and the way you handle this now is going to have a massive impact on a large chunk of the rest of your life. You will end up running around taking care of your MIL until she dies - and her own children (including your husband) will LET YOU DO IT. Forget anything that you might consider your own life - that's over if you let this situation continue to its natural end. You'll end up hating the old dear for screwing up your life and resenting your husband for letting this go on. You need to straighten up this situation NOW.

Have a family meeting. I don't know how many siblings (if any) that your husband has, but you have to get them all in a room together and make a plan for taking care of their mother. Tell them that you are NOT going to be going over there every day, that you don't have time to do all her shopping for her every single week, and outline what she's going to need as time goes on. Tell them (and make sure your MIL knows it, too) that you will NOT be the person to fulfill her every whim and that you are NOT the first person to call if she needs something.

This is where they'll all start screaming that you "don't have a job", so it shouldn't be a big deal. Let them yell, but don't buy that bullshit for one second. You may love her to bits (I'm guessing not), but you do have a life of your own and you will lose that if you don't fight for it. You do not want to end up hating and resenting all of them and her over this. You are not responsible for the care and feeding of an adult until the day she dies. Make sure everyone is clear on that.

Your situation happens all the time. Don't let it take over your life. You deserve a life, too, and if there's more than one person to shoulder the burden, then make damn sure they do it.

Oh, and the grazing? She's jerking your chain, the old bugger. It's pretty clear that she likes making you uncomfortable, and she knows this is a guaranteed way of doing that. So stop letting her. Take her on the weekly shopping jaunt. Make sure you have a list of what she needs before you leave. When you get to the store, fill the list. If she toddles off to snack for free, turn your back and let her go. All you need to do is fill that cart and get it and her home safely. In between, she can do whatever she wants. Just because she's elderly doesn't mean she can't be a bit of a jerk, you know.


  1. Lovely to hear from you, as always, Messy!

  2. Thanks! I always seem to the the cow's tail on this, though. Things tend to speed up around here on the weekends. Sigh.

  3. But the timing works out perfectly, Messy! Advice keeps flowing so there's reason to come by The Fly every day.

    My MIL was a lot more than a bit of a jerk from the moment I met her. My Darling Man says he doesn't remember ever liking her and I think he actively hated her by the time he was a teenager but he and his youngest sister took care of her for several months at the end of her life. He thought it was the right thing to do and I honor him for it but it sure made both of us miserable! If I'd had to take her shopping once a week she would have exulted in doing everything she could to make trouble for me.

  4. A lot of people take one look at an elderly person and assume that they're darling angels. They somehow forget that even assholes have children and that as nasty people age, they don't mellow, they get nastier.

    I don't think for an instant that the MIL is senile or suffering from some sort of dementia - which is an excuse that a lot of people at *the other place* are wiling to give her. That's why my advice was to ignore her. If the old biddy wants to act like a toddler, then treat her like one. When she's obnoxious, ignore her.

  5. "You tell her that he DOES care about her, he just can't be around."

    Since the LW said the biodad is nowhere around and doesn't want to be around, I'd be reluctant to give her possible false hope. Besides, at some point that poor kid will have to confront the fact that no father who wants to be with his kids would move so far away and never call or visit.

    It's a sad situation.

  6. Sad, but not unusual. There are a lot of kids that know Daddy lives far away. I have to agree with your take on "daddy cares", that was a whoops on my part. Still, the kid does need to know that he exists, he's alive and that one day when she's old enough, she can contact him herself.

    She's only four. There's plenty of time for the mother to manage expectations and let her daughter know what the situation is. Ultimately, the choice of whether or not she should contact him is the kid's choice. The mother will have to stay out of that one.

  7. "Why would anyone ask who's in the painting? Nudes in the thousands hang from walls all over the world. I got news for you, kid. No one gives a damn about the model. They won't ask who the nekkid chick is. They MIGHT want to know about the artist. If the painting is as beautiful as you say it is, then the artist is the one that will benefit if you tell people about him. Frankly, one set of bare boobs is pretty much like every other - it's the artist's skill that makes them worth looking at."

    Oh, the artist. That would be John Smith. You remember John. My ex-BOYFRIEND. Who saw me NAKED ALL THE TIME. You know, the one who was always looking for NUDE MODELS?

  8. Messy, honey, I can't read this column because all the Shaddaps make me want to cry. But I'm posting in support because it's you I love, not your words. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go remove my tongue from where it's firmly planted in my cheek.

  9. Just a thought here; this is relating a current letter to ancient history. Every time a LW find out years later that 1 of their parents had an affair, most posters say it's none of the kids' business. While I can see the veracity in that, I think an affair DOES affect the whole family, even the kids who weren't technically cheated on. Maybe it's because I'm too close to the subject, but I would think that, just as you recognize that lying to the 4-y-o could damage that girl's relationship with her mother down the road, that same damage was done to the LW who found out her adulterous dad had a kid & is struggling to accept it. The kids still have to come to grips with this lie-of-omission or whatever you want to call it. This is a BIT like finding out your dad was a bigamist had a whole other family you never knew about. I know, this is could deserve a SHADDAP!, but just wanted to give you food for thought for the next LW in such a position. Because we all know there will be one.

  10. Jennifer, I both agree and disagree. Yes, if Daddy was a bigamist, there will be a big hoo-ha, probably a divorce and the shit will be hitting the proverbial fan for a long time. No doubt.

    This is where we differ. The kids DO NOT need to know the details. They DO NOT have the right to judge their parents and they DO NOT have the right to question them on every little detail. What precisely went on in their parents' relationship is none of their fucking business.

    They don't need to know that Mommy was frigid or Daddy has a tiny penis. They don't need to know that Mommy fucked every repairman that ever came to the house - they don't even need to know that she had an affair. All they need to know is that Mommy and Daddy don't get along and that they are separating.

    The example of the letter where the two girls found out about their father's child? So the fuck what? These kids thought they had the right to demand what went on exactly - from the meeting in the bar, to the horizontal bop, to how Mommy felt at the time. NONE OF THAT IS ANY CONCERN OF THEIRS. The only thing they have the right to know is that they have a half-brother and that they can choose to contact him or not.

    Judging their father and taking sides with their vindictive and childish mother is not their place - they have no right to interfere in that particular drama. It's NOT their relationship, and what actually happened is something that is private, between two married people and therefore none of their business.

    It seems very trendy for parents to brag that their kids are their "best friends" and that they tell their kids "everything". In my opinion, people who do that are failures as parents. They've blurred the line between family and friend and have abdicated their authority. It's hard to ground a teenager for having sex with a teacher when they already know you blew the entire football team in the 11th grade during a party, even if you DID use it as a bad example.

    Now if the MOTHER or FATHER had written the letter, concerned about what their adult daughters were doing with the situation, that's another story altogether. It IS their business how their kids respond to things. Even still, in that letter, the kids are adults. I would expect the parent to be begging for advice on how to get the kids to leave them alone.

  11. The one thing bothering me about LW1 is wondering how she phrased her concerns about her fiancee's sister. I keep imagining it went like this:

    LW1: So, honey, you and your sister creep me out.

    Fiancee(F): Huh? Why would you be freaked out?

    LW1: Well, it's like you guys are sleeping together. I mean, can't you just act like normal family and not touch?

    F: What the hell!? Why would you even think that?

    LW1: Ugh! If you're going to get huffy with me, forget it!

    Now, while I don't personally have a super close relationship with my brother, at least like that, I have known a few people who were more physically affectionate with each other due to being the only support either of them could get growing up. (Their parents are kinda asshats.) This doesn't mean it's NOT creepy to people not familiar with it, or that the LW has to put up with something bothering her. (She's an idiot for choosing to stay and then whining about it though.)

    On the other hand, I can understand feeling defensive about your family, especially if someone you care about starts to harp about how weird they are. Either way, sounds like the two aren't a very good match, especially if they can't talk about uncomfortable things without either of them having a hissy fit and ending the conversation. Honestly, the fiancee sounds like he's a few cards short of a deck if his lady love is openly accusing him of having an inappropriate relationship with his siter, and he just takes it with only a token 'fit'.

  12. Well, it really doesn't matter - any of it. I don't think the letter would have been written at all unless the LW was seriously squicked by the way they act, and she's been putting up with it for four years. I would have turfed his ass out the door the first time he dismissed a concern like that.

    The fact is that her fiance has given the "wife" position in that little triangle to his sister, and it seems like he AND his sister make a special point of making sure the LW not only IS left out but FEELS left out. That's some serious yuck right there.

    When a couple gets married, then their lives are about EACH OTHER and no one else should be permitted to interfere. Relatives, and that includes parents and siblings are not included and have to come second, otherwise the relationship is a sham. That's just the way it is. If he can't respect his fiancee enough to bother listening to her, then she needs to leave.

    This guy isn't someone anyone should marry unless he can figure out what boundaries are for.

  13. Or he needs to find a lady that's given the 'husband' position to her brother. >:D Everybody's happy!

    I do agree that dismissing her concerns was not a good boyfriend, or even person, thing to do. Yet... I can't put my finger on it, but something is off about this one. (More than the usual LWs, since most of them seem "off.")

    Maybe it's just because I can't imagine putting up with something like that for four years without either leaving, or making the bastard listen to me. (...and then leaving.)

  14. Oh Great Editor! Thank you for your link repair! I give you hugs and even a couple of smooches for taking the trouble to help a computard like me get the link right (That said..I have to do that again. Sigh.)

    If you will gift me with your mailing address, you can also Drink of the Sacred Small Batch Bourbon, supplied by the Ample Cellar of Aunt Messy. (If you label the box "pickles", they don't squawk about shipping booze.)