20 December 2009


(Photograph copyright 2009, all rights reserved.)

Oh, the holidays! A time for rejoicing! Presents! Getting together with family! Presents! Stress! Angst! Presents! Fussing and fuming and fretting! Ah, to heck with all that. I've got a Christmas poll going over at One Messy Lady, if anyone's interested in venting.

All right. I'm late. The most devoted of us (I'm looking at you, Smag), read the letters, come up with terribly clever answers and witty bon mots to delight the heart of anyone who finds smarmy seriousness tedious. Then they post them on Thursday, seemingly within mere minutes of reading them. Now THAT'S devoted. I, however, seem to lack the facility and time to do this on the spur of the moment. I need time to digest, to research, to get my shit together...

But oh, look! While I was doing all that, some wit over at Slate decided it would be nifty to change the order of the letters and write a new headline! Why could that be, I wonder? Could they.....could they.....be hoping that they'd get more hits if people thought there were NEW letters? Have people stopped reading the actual letters and just skip right on to the Fray? Could it be that since we all moved here, fewer people are going to the DP Fray at all?

Inquiring minds and all that. In the meantime, I'll be answering the letters as they appear today at Dear Prudie

1. You know I try to be at least somewhat fair here. If there are serious questions being asked, I at least TRY to look at both sides and all that. But...but...what was it you wanted to know again? Oh yeah..... Your buddy asked you to lie to his wife, you said you wouldn't, now you're wondering what to say if she asks about the alibi you're supposed to provide so your so-called "friend" is off boffing whoever's available...is that pretty much it?


What is your major malfunction? Why are you asking the internet lady about this in the first place?

You told your friend you wouldn't lie. You told your wife about your "friend" asking you to lie. And NOW you're wondering if that was a good idea in the first place?

You CLAIM to be a friend to both of these people. Don't you think your friend deserves to at least have an inkling that the guy she married is screwing around and possibly becoming a walking disease vector or knocking up some bimbo? Don't you think SHE deserves a chance to try and either salvage the marriage or make a clean break BEFORE she spends years thinking that all is well, only to be abandoned after wasting decades of her life on Mr. Easy-Sleazy-Diseasey?

Clearly the whole "keeping your word" thing is beyond you. Your friend is banking on that. He's betting that you were all talk when you said you wouldn't lie for him and that he can count on you to be a coward. He's USING you, idiot! Why not just give up now and change your name to Patsy? Get it over with!

Here's what you need to do. Tell your "friend" to get lost. Friends like this you don't need - nobody does. THEN tell his wife the whole story. ALL OF IT. She may choose not to believe you, she may hate you for telling her, she may already know what's going on. That's not your call to make. Your obligation is to tell his wife (or, if you're a total chicken-baby coward and the fact that you wrote the letter in the first place would tend to support that hypothesis) or get YOUR wife to tell HIS wife.

She needs to know what's going on. Man up and help the friend that HASN'T betrayed your friendship and trust by asking you to lie.

2. HAHAHAHAHA! No diapers on TWINS?! Oh, stop it! Seriously, I gotta pee! It's ok, I'M trained! Hahaha! No, no really, I can't take it any more! *sniffle* *snert*........gigglegigglegiggle..... Ahem. Right. *snort*

Ok. But that's not the question. You want to dictate to your friends what presents they're allowed to buy your twins for shower gifts at the shower you're throwing for...yourself!


I have to address the diaper thing. I assume your intent is to follow the Elimination Communication fad? Hmm. I read some of the stuff on that web site. Then I had to take a break because I was laughing so hard....again. In fact, if you just Google "Elimination Communication" you'll find all KINDS of sites, blogs, "learned" dissertations, in fact, everything you ever wanted to know about letting your child shit at will while you try and "sense" when he/she "wants" to go.

It's the testimonials that kill me. All these (sorry guys) women rabbiting on about how "close" they feel to their babies and how "meaningful" their interactions are and how happy the babies are to be dangled over a toilet like a newly hooked fish over the hole in the ice. Whatever. It seems to me that anyone who's hunting that hard for a reason not to interact with other adults has issues that are WAY beyond anything I can deal with here.

There are a LOT of reasons why this is a bad idea. Yes, it's true that most kids around the world don't use diapers. As a physician that posts to the Fray said, most of the kids in the world have a better than even chance of getting cholera, typhoid, e coli poisoning, salmonella and all of the other nasties that come from being surrounded by shit. A whole lot of those kids die because of it, too. Basic sanitation has saved more lives in the past 150 years has saved an incalculable number of lives.

But wait, you say! MY house is clean! Kids are washable! Sure. Of course. For now. This is where you enter the realm of fantasy, my friend. I'm getting the distinct impression that you have no idea of the sheer tonnage of shit ONE baby can generate, let alone two! And baby poo is probably one of the nastiest substances known to the universe, too. For one thing....it's GREEN, it's stickier than superglue and smells worse than the world's worst Superfund sites. Plus, and you're going to LOVE this one... the ability of a baby to smear shit on every surface in a single room has NOTHING to do with the level of their mobility. That's right, even a completely helpless newborn can liberally beshit furniture, doorknobs, parents, pets, clean laundry, and cars with no apparent effort. And that's when they're ALREADY wearing a diaper!

In any event...you're in for some surprises. All parents are, even those that have done the baby thing before. It's ok. And when you spend that first night getting up to feed the twins only to find that you're up to your elbows in excrement, which means stripping off the kids, the cribs, doing all that laundry, and scrubbing down all the hard surfaces with bleach (babies DO have gut bacteria, and it doesn't matter where it comes from, e coli makes everyone sick) while your partner wields the formula bottles and tries to get them back to sleep. Just as you put them down, you will be showered in pee and barf and have to do the whole thing all over again.

No one will want to see you on their doorstep because no one wants their furniture to look and smell like yours...barnlike with a faint pong of sour vomit and organic poo. I predict that within twelve hours of your joyous arrival home, the local 7-11 will run out of Pampers and you'll be on the phone to a cloth diaper service, BEGGING them to make an exception and deliver before morning.

It's ok, though. Kids are tough. Probably yours will survive even YOU.

Now, as to the question you asked. Well, it's tacky to throw your own shower in the first place. You probably know that, and if you didn't, then your mother severely neglected your etiquette education, so it's not your fault. If you want to make people do what you want as far as presents go, then get someone else (NOT you and NOT your partner) phone around with registry information. Be warned, though. Not everyone will obey. People are funny that way. No matter how ridiculous YOU think the present is, you do not get to sneer at it, throw it in the trash (The landfill? For shame!) in front of them.

Wow. All that unsolicited advice. I'm REALLY GLAD that I have no children, because I'd probably start smacking people who tried to tell me how to raise my kids...

3. I'm sorry about your mother. It must have been very difficult for you to go through that by yourself. Why are you wondering what to do about your thieving aunt, though?


.. and think for a second. Are you ever going to be able to look at this woman again without wanting to smack her? Like Prudie said, there's no chance for any kind of relationship there again. So put that out of your mind. You don't care if you offend her in the least, and you don't want the sort of person in your life that would take advantage of her own sister's death to make a few bucks.

Your aunt is an evil, conniving, miserable waste of skin. If she'd been drowned at birth, the world would have been a sunnier place. You're right. Stop feeling guilty about thinking that's what she is, because you're right.

What can you do? That's the problem, isn't it? I'm guessing that your financial situation, while not dire (you would have mentioned that) is not exactly terrific, either. The medical expenses alone have to be pretty bad, and I know what a funeral can cost. It's outrageous. That had to be a real hit to your pocketbook, you're going to take awhile to catch up, and the whole idea of your aunt keeping that money must make you furious. I get that, too.

You need to tell someone, someone who has more clout with the family than you do. Is there another aunt or uncle that you would feel comfortable trusting with this? How about your mother's friends? A grandparent? A lot of people just don't understand just how expensive things are and how much is left over to pay even with insurance. When you find someone you can talk to about it, show them the invoices. Let them know just how much money you're out. Tell them everything, then sit back and wait for the fallout.

I know there were people on the Fray telling you that you should just "live and let live" and "go along to get along". Some were telling you that you "have" to keep peace in the family, that you shouldn't rock the boat and so on. A few even told you to get over it because you'll make that money back in the end anyway. They're wrong. If families can't be frank with each other, they have no business calling themselves "family" in the first place.

Your aunt does not deserve to get away with this. Your mother did not deserve to be used that way. Neither did you. You need that money. If you can't actually get the cash, then the entire family deserves to know just what kind of person your aunt is. No doubt she's playing the angel right now, basking in the glow of her "charitable" act while planning the purchase of her new waterbed, large screen TV and Corvette.

4. You're spending Christmas Eve with your parents, who you KNOW always go to church that night. You invited your boyfriend to spend Christmas Eve with your family, KNOWING that going to church is part of the deal. You TOLD your boyfriend that when he spends Christmas Eve with your family that going to church is expected.


I was inclined to cut you some slack, knowing that you're barely out of teenagerhood and not yet versed in all of the ways that adults behave. I really was. But you started out telling us that you plan to marry this guy one day, so I decided to treat you the way you're acting. Like a childish and clueless adult. So there. No one's asking you to like it.

A lot has been made on the Fray about this whole atheist vs. christian thing and how you two should break up now because it will never work between you. I cry bullshit. In fact, anyone who tells you is suffering from a severe case of cranial-rectal inversion. If anyone ever tells you this to your face, ask them to substitute "white" and "black" for "atheist" and "christian", then tell them to


If they don't get it, then to heck with them. They don't deserve your time.

Whew. Now. This is not a religious problem. This is not (really) a dating problem. This is a simple matter of etiquette. Ready?

Right. See, you told your boyfriend what the activities will be for the evening. If he were REALLY uncomfortable with the whole "going to church" thing, then he SHOULD have declined the invitation and offered to meet your parents another time. He didn't do that, therefore he has to participate in the evening, sit through a church service (no one has ever actually DIED of boredom) and get over himself.

See? How easy was that?

Now you go on, and here is where you show your age. First you say that he'll go if you ask him to. THEN you go on to say "I don't think it's my place to force him."

You aren't "forcing" him to do anything. You didn't "force" him to agree to the invitation. He CHOSE to attend. Part of that is going to church for a couple of hours. Tell the boy to suck it up and deal. A couple of hours out of his life for the potentially lifelong good will with your parents? No contest.

Oh, and give your parents a little credit, why don't you? They aren't stupid, and I'm betting that even if your light'o'love decides on the rude and churlish action of staying home in front of the TV while everyone else is at church, they won't pitch a fit or yell at him. They MAY say something to you, but that's when you have to make a decision. Whose opinion is more important to you - the guy that you're planning to spend your life with, or the parents that you don't even live with any more?

04 December 2009


(Photograph copyright 2009, all rights reserved)

Oh my, these are some terrible letters this week - this could end up being very short.... However, the originals can be found as always at Dear Prudence .

1. You're doing well, your friends not so much. So far this seems not to have been much of a problem, and at your age a lot of this is time-related. Some of those friends will eventually do well, perhaps even better than you are. Some won't. You know it, they know it and all will be well. But that's not the issue, is it? Money is coming into a couple of these friendships because your boyfriend...well, he screwed up. Tell him to


about the whole thing. The damage from his unthinking offer to turn friends into employees can be mitigated, but only he can do it and he has to do it NOW. It was actually pretty thoughtful for him to try and replace a bad cleaning lady for you. It's just that his alternative wasn't the wisest. Prudie was right. The only way out of this is for your BF to tell your friends that he made a mistake, that you hired someone else to clean house when he wasn't looking. Yes, it will be a lie and you'll have to clean yourself until you find someone, but it will be a kind and sensible lie, won't it?

As some wise person on Slate pointed out, if your friends do a lousy job, how are you going to fire them without hard feelings? The answer to that is you can't. Also consider that these people are your friends and point out to your boyfriend that cleaning people know EVERYTHING about your house. Do you REALLY want people you socialize with to know that your bedroom floor is covered with underwear or the hi-jinks that go on elsewhere in the house? There's no point in hiring anyone if you're just going to run around tidying up before they come over. Yes, they probably could use the money. But you are perfectly within your rights to say that you'd rather have friends stay friends instead of well, employees.

You've been taking a kicking on Slate because some people who don't earn the kind of money you and your boyfriend do can't resist trying to "take you down a peg". It's pure envy and spite from people who don't have the energy and drive to do what you do. You have my permission to ignore that crap. The two of you worked hard through school and got the jobs that everyone wanted. People who have no drive or ambition love to whine about how "snobbish" it is to hire a cleaner. If you talk about your life, they'll accuse you of bragging. If you go on a vacation, they'll call you a snob. They seem to think that you've been sitting on your ass for your whole life. You know that truth. No one is handing you money to do nothing. You earned it, it's yours, and you have nothing to apologize for.

As for finding a new cleaner... I don't have a lot of advice for you, but I think your best bet is to ask around and try to get names from people who love their cleaners and see if that person can get you in the schedule. Once you find someone who's really good, you'll half kill yourself to keep them happy.

2. How many lunch thieves are there, anyway? Millions, I bet. Zillions, too. How do I know this? I'll tell you. It's because every person who has ever worked in any kind of office (even me) will happily regale you with tales of some sticky-fingered individual who carries out sneaky commando raids on the office fridge. I'm sure that many people are dancing with glee at the very thought that someone in your office actually caught a culprit! I seems a rare and beauteous thing, doesn't it? But is it, really?


for a moment and consider. Offices are closed spaces and the tiniest things (stapler anyone?) can come to seem like monumental disasters. Tiny slights are magnified into huge offenses. Something as simple as a snort or giggle can lead to murderous thoughts. In some peoples' minds, the way a pencil is sharpened, the tuneless hum of someone at the copier, or the loudness of a keyboard stroke can become firing offenses.

So stop and consider..... Yes, the lunch thing is irritating. When this started happening where I worked, I invested in an insulated lunch box with it's own cold pack which I stashed under my desk. Easy. I wish more people would do that, life would be simpler. It's a solution.

But your lunch thief has been busted. Not only is she your friend, but she's also a financial guru for your firm. Dangerous ground. Very dangerous. How close a friend is this woman? Can you tell her she's been busted? If you think you can, talk to her about it AWAY from the office. Mention that someone saw her going through the fridge, ask if she was looking for something and mention that some people think she's a lunch-jacker. Then LEAVE IT ALONE.

A lot of people are yapping about going to HR, some think she should be fired on the spot because I guess touching a baloney sandwich is not only a hanging offense, but guarantees that she's raiding company coffers and stashing millions in her Swiss bank account and probably has her own personal pirate ship that robs unwitting Carnival Cruise people of their booze tickets.... but none of that matters. If you aren't close enough to her to talk about it outside of work, then stay out of it. SAY NOTHING AT WORK. It's none of your business.

3. "I am not a germophobe." Give me a break here, lady! Do you really think that H1N1, the plague, the seasonal flu and the common cold are going to just vanish off the face of the planet because YOU can force others to wash their hands when they leave the loo?


And that's what you should do. Not because, as many people explained to you in detail, there are germs everywhere. Not because there's any real hope of eradicating all communicable diseases if people obey you. No, you need to keep your mouth shut because you sound like a nut case! Who are you kidding when you claim you aren't a germophobe? Seriously.

I can see you now, a silent, lurking presence in the washroom, just waiting for someone to hit the door instead of the sink after they leave a stall. What were you planning on doing? Leaping out of the stall with a clang in your pink tights and bubble cape and beat them over the head with a large bar of Ivory? Pushing the button on an air horn and following them around yelling "Dirty, poopy hands! Don't let this person touch anything!" as if anyone but you cares?

You're going to have to find something else to obsess about before someone either drowns you in a bathroom sink or has you hauled off to the booby hatch. I hear there's a lunch-jacker in your office. Best get a few surveillance cameras and a Taser to take care of that one.

4. Schizophrenic brother, check. Hitchhiker that vanished with the sun, check. Long-held suspicion that your brother is a murderer, check. Boring life as toilet supervisor/lunch room surveillance officer, check. No drama in your life, check. ....


No really. I have no advice here. Just ...just.... SHADDAP! already. Either you're a phony or a nut, but either way no one is interested in hearing this crap.

Ok ok ok. I'll give you some advice. I recommend that you buy your old family home and quit your job so you can dismantle it piece by piece looking for blood or body parts or some kind of evidence that the hitchhiker was killed in the house. By the time you're done, I expect to see nothing more than a pile of sticks and another pile of gravel because you'll also have to take apart the foundation and dig under it, too.

I recommend also renting a backhoe and digging up the yard looking for bodies, too. You never know who else your brother killed, right? While you still have the backhoe and under cover of night, you need to go to that park that your brother "dropped" the guy off at and dig that up, too. If you manage to do THAT and not get caught, then you're going to have to dig up every ditch and yard along the way to the park and inspect all of that dirt, too!

Eventually you'll be caught of course - the police are death on people who tear up parkland and destroy entire roadways. No one would convict you of an actual crime, you understand, because you'll be so overwrought by then. You won't get away with it, though. So when you're alone in said booby hatch and your now-healthy brother comes to visit you and asks if you killed that hitchhiker so many years ago... you can babble and drool into your straightjacket and hope to get into a halfway house some day.