Dear Dear Prudence, Volume I

Every week Slate, an online magazine that’s a lot like if Gawker was written by the editors of The New Yorker, 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 the weird sexual kinks of our loved ones.  At least one of those makes it into the column a week.  Drink when you hit it.

Her answers tend to be thoughtful and well-reasoned, but many of these questions deal with issues that are just a little thorny to be answered from only one perspective.  With that in mind, I bring you Dear Dear Prudence.  Each week I will “help” Ms. Yoffe navigate the turbulent waters of anonymous people’s problems.  Let us start off with last week’s column, dated September 1.

Dear Prudence,
I’m a mother of two attending graduate school and constantly in need of quiet time to study. My husband is a great help, but with two toddlers he’s got his hands full. His father often asks to take our daughter to help “lighten the load” but doesn’t ask to take our son, as well. I don’t like my father-in-law because of comments he’s made about women in general and me in particular. He has also served time for drug-related offenses earlier in his life. But I don’t want my feelings to taint my children’s view of their grandfather. He’s recently converted to a neo-Buddhist religion in which he “lives in the now” and tries to get everyone around him to be “enlightened” and forgiving about things that happened in the past. I keep getting this strange notion that something is inherently evil about this man, though he’s tried hard to convince everyone that he’s a new person. Do you think that people can really change in such a significant way that it’d be safe to let him spend time with my kids? Or should I trust my instincts and allow only supervised visits or no contact? My husband doesn’t like his father but humors him so that he doesn’t “have to deal with him.”

—Conflicted Mother

Her father is possibly a child molester and wants to babysit her kids!   We have our weird sex letter of the week, everybody drink a shot!  My first takeaway from this letter is the phrase “inherently evil.”  That is so broadly damning it’s almost hard to take seriously.  How many other people does she think are inherently evil?  Society thinks his worst crimes were drug offenses, which you can probably toss in the Reagan Bin, and she doesn’t say anything about having been molested herself.  What did he do that she’s not telling us about?  Did he chew loudly with his mouth open?  Murder Robert F. Kennedy?  It’s a bit of a leap from “bad father who went to jail for riding the snake” to “kiddie cornholer.”  For the sake of argument let’s take that leap and assume he has an XBox and a 6-pack of Bartles & Jaymes ready to pull out of his van the moment an unattended child crosses his path.  How bad would that be for her kid really?  There are certainly worse things than being molested.  Hell, if anything it builds character.  I grew up Catholic and we used to have this old saying in Youth Group – “walk it off.”  The kid’s gonna have her world shattered someday, you might as well let their granddad take care of it early during Secret Special Time.

Well that was a slam-dunk, on to the next question! Continue reading