Dear Dear Prudence, Volume III

Remember when this was supposed to be a weekly feature?  Me neither!  We’re back with more D.D.P. after taking October and November off.

Every week Slate, an online magazine that’s a lot like if TMZ was written by the editors of The Economist, runs an advice column called Dear Prudence.  Written by D.C.-based Emily Yoffe, the column is similar in format to Dear Abby (ask your parents) and covers a range of topics such as manners, etiquette, familial relations, and of course how to deal with ill-conceived sexual decisions.  At least one of those makes it into the column a week.  Drink when you hit it.

This week we deal with the medical mysteries of adoption, why women don’t understand pissing in sinks, strange manifestations of other-woman guilt, and women thinking too hard about friendship.  Put a pink magnetic ribbon on your car and pretend to like missionary, it’s Ladies’ Night on Fantastic Manliness!

Dear Prudie,
My father was adopted as a baby in the 1950s. About all I know is that his birth parents eventually married and that he has full brothers and sisters. He does not want to know anything about his biological family, and I respect that, I really do. However, my husband and I want to have children in the near future and I feel it is important to have a more complete family medical history, though it’s not that the presence of some horrible disease will likely sway our decision. (My niece does have a rare, genetic blood disorder which my mother points out could be from her side of the family.) I have asked my mother many times over the years how I can get this information, to no avail. I’ve thought about hiring someone to track down the biological family or having genetic testing done, but these things are simply too expensive. My mom supports my dad’s decision to know nothing and feels that it is not my business to ask such questions. My dad doesn’t have much adoptive family left and they would probably be insulted by such an inquiry. Should I talk to my dad about all this? If so, how can I explain that I support his decision not to have a relationship with his biological family and that I am purely interested in shedding some light on my own family medical history?

Alright, so you and your husband think you sort of maybe might want to have a kid…someday…and you’ve thought out this process to the point that you are concerned enough about “medical history” to think you need to hire a private detective to track down the biological family of one of the four grandparents of this hypothetical child.  Sitting here, reading this, I’m absolutely certain that your “husband” (third date went that well, eh?) has no idea that you’re this deep in the baby planning.  This whole issue is exactly the kind of thing that a mind with too much free time comes up with when it thinks too hard about the idealized version of its future self.

When I was a kid I wanted to be a firefighter for six months.  I had this toy firetruck with all kinds of lights and sirens and stuff, and the thing was awesome.  It was a great toy.  I spent so much time playing with this thing in my room that I convinced myself, “yes, I want to be a fireman.”  My imagination ran wild.  I would play with this truck and picture myself driving it, hopping out, climbing the extending ladder, and putting out the fire.  Then the town would give me a medal and Nintendo would send me a free Super NES just for being awesome.  I kept this all to myself, until one day my brother was around for some reason and I just mentioned “I kinda want to be a firefighter.”  You know, to test the waters, maybe see what kind of reception the idea would get.

“You want to be a firefighter?  You don’t even like to go outside.  Are you going to get in good enough shape to carry two people out of a fire?  I don’t see it.”

No, I wasn’t going to do that.  I had no intention of doing that.  I never once thought about all the things that would have to lead up to being a firefighter, just the glory that would come after.  At the time I thought he was being a jerk but the man was right.  I was putting the cart before the horse.  You, lady, are putting the space shuttle before the horse.  You may or may not even be married to this guy, and your imaginary baby is so old that he’s dealing with genetic issues that you, if only you had been a good mother, could have seen coming if only you had tracked down the biological family of the one member of his family who was adopted.  Tell the guy you want to have a baby so he can dump you and you can come back to reality.

Don’t worry, she’ll stop crying eventually.  Moving on:

Dear Prudence,
I found out entirely by accident that my husband urinates in sinks. He does it not only at home, but in other people’s homes as well. Afterwards, he rinses the sink with water from the faucet, so at least he’s making an effort at cleaning after himself. When I spoke to him about it, he responded that it wasn’t a big deal, and that he was doing his part to “save water.” How do I handle this? Is he really saving water?

For the record, I don’t condone sink pissing.  It’s nasty, who knows where those little micro-dots of piss are landing, and the water that comes out of that faucet is one of your house’s drinking water sources of last resort.  However, there is something to this notion of “saving water” by doing so.  Your toilet uses anywhere from a couple to a few gallons every time you flush it, and nobody wants to leave piss just sitting in the toilet.  I mean come on, that’s piss.  Send the piss away.  So yes, I do see logic in trying to save water by pissing in the sink.

However…

If you are this concerned about conserving our dihydrogen monoxide reserves, you have to back it up by showing similar concern for other resources.  So here’s the deal – if you drive a car that gets less than 40 miles per gallon, you can’t piss in the sink.  If you eat meat more than once every two days, you can’t piss in the sink.  If your house is powered by a power plant that burns coal, your roof isn’t covered in solar panels, and you don’t open your main breaker every morning as you leave for work, guess what?  You don’t get to piss in the sink, because obviously you don’t really care about the water, you just want to piss in the sink.

If your husband rides a stationary bike for an hour to generate enough power to heat three minutes of water for a shower, and then recycles the water, then give him a break and let him piss in whatever drain he wants.  Otherwise, yes, you have permission to be a harpy about this one.

Sounds like I just ruined some guy’s sweet sink-pissing deal.  I hope that’s not a Bro Code violation!  God I hope the next one is the sex letter.

Dear Prudie,
About 15 years ago I had a several-years-long affair with a married man who was much older than I was. The affair ended when I met my now-husband. While I had a good time while it was happening, hindsight has made me see how hurtful my behavior was to his wife and child. My former lover and I would still occasionally see each other, and the last time I saw him he seemed despondent. His business had failed and he was in desperate financial straits. Recently, searching for information on him online, I found an announcement from his wife that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s this past spring. Seeing this made me incredibly sad. I’m not sure what to do, if anything. I wasn’t his first affair and I wasn’t his last. I know his wife has had a terribly difficult time even though they stayed married. I’m sorry for him and I ache for her. Should I contact her and offer my sympathies and apologies? Should I just leave it be?

Sweet!  This week’s “oh no a sex thing happened” letter!  This one looks like it unfolded for a long time.  There’s 15 years of history here.  In one paragraph you have covered about half of the duration of Forrest Gump and somehow made it about your guilt over doing something wrong.  You do realize you did something wrong here, right?  You seem to get that this whole thing has been hard on the wife, but don’t quite make that connection that it’s not just the world and the guy that made it that way for her, but you.

You say you’re sorry and that you ache for her.  You should be sorry and you should ache for her.  You have no business contacting this woman who will likely spend years taking care of this man who wronged her in a very personal way over a very long period of time to offer her your sympathy.  Your sympathy means nothing to her.  You have nothing to offer this woman but your absence, because for her you are walking, talking pain.  Leave this poor woman alone and keep the ache.  You earned it.

I can feel myself getting more sexist.  Life really is just a giant season of Sex and the City for you people, isn’t it?  It doesn’t matter what happens to the people around you, just what it means in the context of “my story.”

Dear Prudie,
My friend is amazing and generous and I love her like a sister. I am having a holiday party and for the fourth year in a row, she has declined to attend. I chalked the first year up to her being very shy. She admitted she hasn’t attended because she was uncomfortable being one of the few people without a date. Each year I was disappointed she didn’t come, but I understood because our relationship means more than attendance to a party. But this year she is engaged and I was thrilled to invite her fiancé. It would give me a chance to know him better and I hoped now she would feel comfortable going with him and wearing her beautiful new ring. But last week she sent me her regrets, with no explanation. Because she and I are so close, I am hurt. I have told her before how much it would mean to me to have her there. I am afraid I will say something I may regret later. I have plans to go out with her in two weeks that I’m ready to cancel because I’m so upset. Am I overreacting?

Your amazing, generous friend has a thing that comes up every year when you throw your party that she doesn’t want to talk to you about.  Maybe it’s a party being thrown by that one girl you thought you both hated but really you just hated and she doesn’t want you to throw a fit about it.  Or maybe it’s something a little more innocent, like her annoyance at your alcohol-free parties.  I don’t care if you’re a Mormon, throw some Caronas in a bucket off to the side.  More likely, she spends the holidays, like many of us, in overdrive trying to make everyone else happy.  Maybe she thinks you, as her friend, are one of the people who can understand that.  You may love her like a sister but she isn’t your sister, she’s your friend, and friends respect each other’s boundaries.  She’s not leaving you out in the cold, you mention that you have plans to go out in two weeks, which for adult friends might as well be “tomorrow,” so stop being a diva about your party and instead be an adult about your friendships.

I’m just kidding, she’s blowing it off because really she’s always hated you and thinks you’ll steal her fiancé just like you stole the affections of that 20something History teacher you were both crushing on in the 10th grade.  She’ll be damned if she’ll let what happened with Mr. Turner happen with Doug the Med Student!

That’s it for this edition, let’s hope for some Y chromosomes next time around, I might actually produce some constructive advice.

Just a reminder, if you’d like your question answered you have to get it on Dear Prudence first, just send your questions to prudence@slate.com.  Don’t send them to me, I don’t have an advice column on Slate.  Yet.

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