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Dear Prudence Presents: Knowing Too Much

Sometimes, I think of myself as a judgmental, disagreeable person. I mean, I'm forever rolling my eyes at the dumb stuff people do, but one quick roll is about as far as I take it. Some people take their disagreement SO FAR, though. So far I can't even believe it. For example, let's say that a pregnant woman and her husband have "mutually decided that we didn't want to know the sex before the birth." Personally, I think knowing in advance makes a lot of sense, but it's not my decision. It doesn't affect me! The lady's mother-in-law missed the boat on that little bit of perspective though, and she was "livid" about it. Oh well, it's not like she can do anything worse than piss and moan. Unless. . .

My doctor's staff was aware of our decision not to know the baby's sex, but after one sonogram I was surprised to see my mother-in-law at the office smiling ear to ear. A few days later I had messages from family members congratulating me on the baby girl I was having! My mother-in-law wheedled the information out of the ultrasound technician, who is a friend of hers, then announced it.


She says that she "threatened the clinic with legal action and found a new doctor mid-pregnancy," and I assume that the lack of legal action was accompanied by much begging, pleading, and a groveling apology. The HIPAA hippo would have definitely fucked some major shit up in there had she turned it loose on them. I even feel kind of bad for the ultrasound tech, who absolutely should have known better, because they're like one of the MIL's victims as well. As for her, she's "smug about her tactics and told me nastily that if I 'still had a mother,' I wouldn't be so selfish. (I was orphaned at age 14.)" Now, there's a new birthing plan – MIL isn't allowed anywhere near the hospital, and is limited to telephonic notification of the birth a few days after the event. As far as visits go, she'll be welcome once the new mother's stopped feeling quite so incandescently furious, which might take a while. She wants Prudie to tell her if she's being "too vengeful" in this.

Prudie says no – with a violation of trust like that, any person would have to work their damn ass off to get even a shadow of it back. A good place for MIL to start might be with, I don't know, AN APOLOGY. If she thinks she can get out of this one without even saying sorry, then she's made a radical misreading of the balance of power here. If you control access to the family's first grandchild, then it's just game over. Maybe she thinks she can get some mileage out of playing Sad Grandma on Facebook, but that's a losing hand if there ever was one. She'll wave the white flag if she has any sense at all, and once she starts acting right, Prudie says to start letting her back in.

The next letter comes from a (hopefully) young woman who "feels comfortable roughhousing" with her boyfriend, which "consists of trying to slap each other in the face and using scare tactics to see who gets startled the most." What could possibly go wrong? She came in for a surprise attack and his block attempt popped her in the jaw, chipping her tooth. She's sad about it, but her boyfriend and her mom just say it was her own fault.

Am I 100 percent responsible for this accident? Should I be upset with my boyfriend for making me feel that I was being dramatic and useless? Should I avoid ever going to my mother for advice because her first response is to criticize and exacerbate the situation?


LLolz. Just childish from start to finish, where the other kid's all sullen and won't even say sorry and your mom's just like "I told you not to be running around all crazy!" I learned that play fighting with girls was a dumb idea when I was awkwardly trying to flirt with my eventual first girlfriend in high school. I was being all super careful, but she just drilled me right in the mouth. Gave me a fat fucking lip, too. The whole thing's a lose-lose proposition – either they'll hurt you and laugh about it, or you'll hurt them and feel like the world's biggest asshole. Prudie tells them to break up.

The next issue is a disturbing romantic pattern that a woman has seen develop in a male friend she's been close to since childhood. "We are in our early 30s, and he's good-looking, charming, and successful," and when he starts dating a new woman, he'll go all out before sharply pulling back a few months later. They're always totally blindsided, and "Recently I met a girl who said she became clinically depressed after her affair with him. She thought she had met the love of her life, and then had to go the humiliating route back to her friends and family and tell them the romance was all in her head." For his part, he says that he doesn't make or break any promises to anyone, and that he's not responsible for whatever feelings a person might build up in their own head. As for her, she finds his behavior "repulsive," but "he has never been anything but a good friend to me and we go way back." First of all, Prudie calls bullshit on him pretending innocence or ignorance of all the havoc he wreaks. At this point, it's pretty clear that broken hearts and wounded feelings aren't an unfortunate side effect, but the whole point of his little game. It's the terrible person/good friend conundrum, and Prudie says to resolve it in favor of limiting the time she spends with him.


Finally, Prudie hears from someone who's always taken pride in being of Native American descent. Unfortunately, genetic testing revealed this heritage to be a family myth, showing their ancestry to be "plain old 100-percent European mutt." Their mother is the chief keeper of this Native American pride, and other family members have taken a stance of personal offense to the Washington Football Team name shenanigans. Is this the sort of truth bombshell they ought to drop on everyone, or should they just keep it to themselves? Prudie makes a teepee joke and tells them to keep it under their hat, because the damn tests don't even claim to be 100% accurate anyway, and even if they were, their mother still wouldn't accept or believe it. Better to let that one lie.

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