Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
I’m really close with my half-brother (same mom, different dads, 15 months apart) even though he grew up 100 percent with our mom, and I spent half the time with my dad and stepmom. Back when we both had thick, longish dark hair, we both did a large amount of (consensual, respectful) sleeping around. But in our mid-20’s we both started losing our hair. So we went together to get our heads shaved. Cue the discovery that my bro has got one seriously weird-shaped skull. The barbers and other customers were laughing and giving him condolences, and he almost beat up a guy who took a pic. Turns out he was born that way, and our mom was even advised to get him one of those baby medical helmets to fix it, but never did.
So I’ve gone from a good-looking dude with great hair to a good-looking bald dude, while my brother’s gone from a good-looking dude with great hair to a weird-looking bald dude. My attractiveness to women has not seriously diminished; his is sadly another story. He’s been pretty depressed about it, and I sympathize. But he’s been guilt-tripping our mom like crazy about a decision she made more than a quarter-century ago. And I just found out he’s trying to convince her to will her house 100 percent to him, instead of 50-50 between him and me, to help make it up to him. She points out he’ll only be inheriting from her, and I’ll be inheriting from both her and my dad. But my dad has a bunch of other kids, most with his wife, so I don’t think that will make that much difference. Do you think this is fair, or is my brother being a giant, whiny, greedy man-child?
— Cheated by Chowderhead
Dear Cheated by Chowderhead,
Okay, this will thing came out of left field for me. What this boils down to is: He doesn’t feel as attractive so he wants a house at some point hopefully far in the future? That’s a little much, methinks. Why isn’t his solution to have her pay for a toupee or hair replacement? I just don’t see how your portion of the house is going to solve the problem that he has. He and your mother should work through the issue they have in therapy while he still has the privilege of having her in his life. And I’d suggest you tell your mom that you don’t want to be dragged into this inheritance talk. Everybody needs to address the actual problems at hand and leave will enough alone, as it were.
I’m in a weird position at work with a coworker. For context, my company is 100 percent remote, so any “office talk” or “gossip” tends to happen rarely (thankfully) and on a video call. We don’t even discuss certain issues with one another via Slack or email because there’s a fear that we might be monitored (I don’t think so but also don’t engage). For the most part there’s a lot of trust to do our jobs, take a break when you need one, and we have unlimited vacation policy. It’s honestly a great place to work, and I feel really fortunate to have found this job.
My issue is another co-worker who started a few weeks before I did. She has recently been placed on a Personal Improvement Plan because of the amount of time she has taken off. Even though we have that unlimited vacation policy, there’s always the “within reason,” and that is usually discussed with your manager. Where I have taken three weeks off for the year, she has taken almost six. And a lot of it is because she’s been “sick” (she does have a lifelong disease, think diabetes), but she’s also taken a TON of vacation time.
She’s confided about this to me and other coworkers, and won’t stop talking about the “double standard” her PIP represents. I sympathize with her, but I feel uncomfortable now. What she describes has not been my experience at all here, with our manager and HR, and I’m also worried that if they found out we all knew about the situation, it wouldn’t be great.
How can I tell my coworker that while I sympathize with her, her vacation issue is just not something I want to discuss anymore? Do I change the subject? Again, thankfully our interactions are sparse, but when we do get on a call to actually discuss work-related items, she hijacks it and doesn’t stop talking about how unfair all of this is.
— Stuck Between a Rock and the Office Water Cooler
Dear Stuck Between,
I am very curious about unlimited vacation policies. I’ve never worked in an office with one. I would like, as a test case, to take an entire year off. Just to see. Can you imagine how much more productive I’d be with one year’s rest and relaxation under my belt? I know that’s not the intention of the policy, but it feels within the realm of the policy’s spirit, and we should honor that. Maybe that’s what your coworker is doing. Regardless, it serves neither her nor you for her to keep bringing it up with you. You can’t do anything to help her. The next time she brings it up, tell her—either in the moment or in a follow-up shortly thereafter—that you just don’t feel comfortable talking about it because you’re not in a position to help and it puts you in an uncomfortable space. If you want, you can ask her if she’d like help talking to HR, but I honestly wouldn’t recommend getting involved more. Set a boundary that’s kind but clear—her PIP and the relationship she has with your manager are hers alone. Coworkers like to commiserate, that’s part of office culture. But at a certain point, one has to take their complaints either higher up the chain or out of the office entirely. She can go to the manager or she can chat about it at happy hour with her friends.
I am 31 and just bought my first condo. My parents helped me with the down payment, for which I am extremely grateful. I am also the first of my siblings to buy property, although my younger sister and her now-fiancé bought and renovated a house in early 2021. The house is all in his name though, and my sister just contributes to the mortgage, so there was no need for my parents to help them with the cost.
When they moved into their new house last year, my parents and my brother all showed up for the weekend to help paint and do renovation projects. My sister’s fiancé is very handy, as is his dad who also came to help, so overall they had a lot of support. (I was planning to go help too, but got dumped by my serious boyfriend two days before and did not feel up to being around people. Then they finished renovations so quickly—1.5 months later—before I could make it down to pitch in.)
I am older than my sister and her fiancé, and single. I have no partner or family in the immediate area. I close on my condo in a month, and found out that none of my family plans to come help that weekend with initial move-in projects like painting. They say they are too busy and stressed by other things going on in the following weeks (my sister’s wedding is two weeks after I move in, and my parents are also moving out of their house just before the wedding then into a new house right after the wedding). I’m hurt that nobody is planning to come help me—especially since my birthday is the weekend after I’ll be moving in. My family also wants me to come to visit them for my birthday, the week after I move into my new space. I had planned to spend the weekend doing projects in the condo, and hoped they might come join if they couldn’t make it the prior weekend.
I’m very close with my family and especially my sister, but often feel like I’m the most “difficult” one and most frequently expected to do everything without help, since I’ve always been fairly independent by choice. Am I being selfish for wishing they would come pitch in? Should I just accept the financial help from my parents as more than generous and keep my mouth shut? Should I tell them I’m upset and really want them to come help, and that I don’t want to come visit for my birthday? What do I do?
— Single and Sad in Escrow
Dear Single and Sad in Escrow,
I know you feel slighted, but it really feels like this is a calendar problem that has activated some lingering familial feelings. There’s an incredible amount going on with your family over a few weeks’ time, and it sounds like everyone is having to make some tough choices. Let your family know you’re disappointed, but see if you can figure out an alternative. Can they come a few weeks after the wedding and your parents’ move to help you with projects? It sounds like your sister’s fiancé’s handiness was a major boon in the last move, so I suspect that asking for his help a few weeks after his wedding is going to be an easier yes than asking for it a week or two before. Try not to see this as a personal affront. In the same way that you chose to stay home and prioritize your emotional well-being in the month and a half when your sister was moving into her place, trust that your family still values you but can only fit but so many commitments into a short period of time.
More Advice From Pay Dirt
We have two daughters. One was married, but after two years of marriage, her husband had the rug pulled out from under him and found out she had been having an affair for seven months. We dearly loved our son-in-law—a person couldn’t have asked for a better human being. He was totally devastated, as we all were. This daughter and I have always butted heads—we are like oil and water. I can’t say or do anything right, and she truly just does not like me. I am seriously considering changing my will to the one daughter 50 percent, the daughter who doesn’t like me 25 percent, and ex-son-in-law 25 percent. What are your thoughts?