The therapist who has been helping me rebuild my memory after my horrible hot air balloon accident has informed me that I used to have this blog. Dear Dear Prudence appears to be a regular feature, so I’m writing another one. Wear a helmet when hot air ballooning, kids!
Every week Slate, an online magazine that’s a lot like if Reason was written by the editors of Cat Fancy, 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 librarian) 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 that last one makes it into the column every week. Drink when you hit it. We here at Dear Dear Prudence like to take another crack at the questions she has been posed, so that the people who ask them may have the benefit of a second opinion.
After seeing several friends go through bitter and prolonged divorces, my husband has decided that he wants us to have a postnuptial agreement. He explains that our marriage is a “limited liability partnership” with no “out clause” and that he wants to put a “stop loss” in place, as if our marriage is one of his stock market trades. He says he doesn’t want to go on in this “contract”—meaning our marriage—unless I sign a postnup. We have been married four years and have a toddler son. We live in a state that says assets should be divided equitably in a divorce, but the postnup he offers would give me only 20 percent of his financial assets and he’d keep the house because he owned it before we were married. We both work, though I make two-thirds of his income. I consulted an attorney who says my husband’s proposal is “total B.S.” and I shouldn’t sign. My husband says if I don’t he will serve me with divorce papers. He adds this has nothing to do with his feelings for me or our son, and would prefer to continue living together even if we do divorce. I love the life we had together and don’t want to lose it. We even had been talking about having a second child. But he is obviously more worried about protecting his growing wealth than he is about our family. I just don’t know what to do. —To Sign or Not To Sign?
I was just about to go off on you for writing to an advice columnist and, by extension, that advice columnist’s troll parody blogger (Why won’t you answer my tweets, Prudie?) instead of your lawyer, but it looks like you actually did consult an attorney, so well done. Your husband is part of a growing movement in America of people who think they’re going to be rich soon, and are pre-emptively paranoid about the people they love stealing all of their precious hypothetical money. There are a lot of Ron Paul-voting engineers out there just like your husband, but most of them lack the gumption to drop a “postnup” on their wives. Honestly, before reading your letter I didn’t even realize that a postnup was a thing. Is it a thing? I don’t know, all my friends are sailors and mechanics. So we’ve established here that not only is your husband a dick, but a dick with courage. That’s pretty much the perfect asshole storm right there, so unless you want your son to grow up to wear blue dress shirts with white collars and suspenders and use words like “deserve” when discussing capital gains taxes, you need to get rid of this prick. That attorney who described the postnup as “total b.s.” could draw up a hell of a divorce settlement, especially since you’re probably entitled to half his assets and child support until little Dodger or Shiloh or whatever horrible name you gave your kid grows up. Stealing from bad people is a good thing, please make the most of it.
I am a senior in high school and live with my mom and dad, who are intelligent and loving people I admire greatly. My mother has an office at work and at home, but seems to feel that every available surface, including the dining room and living room, is a place for her to put her papers, print-outs, files, folders, etc. Both the second and third floor of the house are wall-to-wall messes of books, papers, magazines, clothes. The back staircase can’t be used anymore because it is overflowing with her collections of whatever. It’s hoarding, which even my father acknowledges but won’t do anything about. I value cleanliness and organization, and it makes me sick to come home every day to rooms that look like a tornado has ripped through them. My mother is adamant that I don’t touch or move the piles of stuff and gets angry when I try to throw anything out. I’ve tried to call a “family meeting” to talk about it, but she says I’m the one with the problem for being “hypersensitive.” My father just says she’s always been like this and next year I’ll be in college. Is there anything I can do to make my mother see? —Can’t Stand the Clutter!
You have a “back” staircase? When I was growing up we had one staircase. You know what we called it? “The stairs.” No modifier necessary. That guy from the last letter probably daydreams about when he’s going to have three staircases. I wonder what he’ll call them.
So your mother is clearly a hoarder and your dad, having signed up to deal with her shit until they’re both dead, isn’t stepping up to do anything about it. Obviously you see this as spinelessness on his part, but you need to think about it from his perspective. Unlike you, he isn’t going anywhere. He’s middle-aged, he has no idea how a single man should dress, and after almost twenty years as a family man there is absolutely nothing attractive or interesting about him. He needs this to work. A man willing to stare down the barrel of 40 more years of moving piles of magazines and dead cats aside to walk down the hall isn’t spineless; he’s spineful. Is “spineful” a thing? Add it to the list with “postnup.” The point is, go easy on dad.
Now, as for mom, let me share with you an anecdote. My mother was a stickler for table manners. This meant that any opening of one’s mouth while chewing food would be called out, regardless of how embarrassing that would be. If my sister’s friend who worked at Hooters was having dinner at our house, I would still be scolded for daring to breathe while chewing my beefaroni. Bear in mind that as an adult, I realize the importance of what she was doing. I can go to a fancy dinner party without my table manners making me look like I was born in a barn, and I’m grateful for that. There was a double standard at work, though. When she chewed gum, the rule went out the window. Opened-mouth chewing of gum by her was immune from prosecution. I objected once and was slapped down with some version of “it’s my house.” The hypocrisy of it drove me nuts until I turned 18 and something amazing happened – I went to college and completely stopped giving a shit. I’d come home for Christmas, she’d pop a stick of Big Red into her mouth, and it just wouldn’t bother me. The solution, Can’t Stand The Clutter, is college. You’ll be there in the next year. Just suck it up, let your inner monologue yell and scream, and thank your lucky stars that you didn’t promise to live with her and all of her crap until one of you is dead.
A few weeks ago, my neighbor’s son, “Ollie,” and my daughter, both 5 years old, were playing in our enclosed backyard where we have a small herb garden. While I was doing laundry my daughter came in and solemnly told me that Ollie had deliberately peed on the basil. Ollie stayed for dinner, and I took the abused basil, rinsed it, and set some aside for Ollie only. At dinner I told everyone that we’re having “spaghetti and meatballs with herbs from the garden.” Ollie looked extremely uncomfortable and didn’t want to eat his meal. I think dinner made a big impression on him. However, when I told my mother this story she was horrified and thinks I should explain everything to his parents and Ollie as well. I have considered telling Ollie, but I don’t want to get his parents involved. What do you think? —The Mean Mommy?
The only thing you did wrong was rinse the basil. This is a problem that has been dealt with since the dawn of time. I guarantee that the first draft of the Ten Commandments read “don’t shit where you eat” where it currently says “honor thy father and mother.” Some 3rd-century monk probably changed it after an argument with one of his illegitimate children. Kids need to be taught that their waste belongs on a different side of the yard than tonight’s dinner, and I guarantee little Ollie has taken that to heart. As for your mother, tell her that if she doesn’t stop undermining your decisions you’ll start asking specific questions about her opinions and actions during the civil rights movement. I find that little doozy tends to quiet the elderly.
That’s it for this week, folks – and remember, when hiring a hot air balloon pilot don’t go for the cheapest one.