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    Friday, March 31, 2006

    I Hate Prudence

    Prudence is screwy today!

    Dear Prudence,
    For the past few years, I've been dating a man in a significantly different socioeconomic class from mine. Between the two of us, this isn't much of a problem because his wealthy parents raised him with humility and social awareness, but among some of his friends, I often feel horrified by their entitled attitudes. They complain about having three weeks in Italy this summer and how boring that will get. They turn to me and ask which is my favorite thing about France, the city or the countryside? When I politely remind them of my status, which includes having been really hungry with nothing to fall back on, never having traveled to Europe, and paying for my own education, they say, "Oh, how lovely to have had that experience! You should write a novel about it!" How can a poor person politely explain to a wealthy one that their bourgeois dilemmas are hurtful to hear about, and that having one's painful experiences ironically aestheticized is no favor?

    —Ex-Redneck Grad Student

    Dear Ex,
    Maybe you've been watching too much Masterpiece Theatre—these people aren't viscounts and duchesses and you're not the scullery maid, they just grew up with more money than you. You made it out from poverty and are putting yourself through graduate school, where you can flaunt your vocabulary—"ironically aestheticized" indeed. Yes, it is obnoxious to assume everyone's traveled to France. But in response to your self-pitying tale, suggesting you write a novel was certainly more polite than pointing out that the chip on your shoulder is the size of the Appalachians. Spending the evening referring to your financial status makes you a bore—and that's true whether you're rich or poor. If you can't find more congenial topics to discuss when you're with these people, at least you can have some laughs with your boyfriend later about their cruel fate at having to spend three weeks in Italy.


    You know what makes me so mad about this? Referring to one's travels is not considered "referring to your financial status" though referring to one's lack of travels upon being asked! is somehow a sign of "a chip on her/his shoulder the size of the Appalachians" (so cute)!?

    This is entitlement: the sense that whatever you want to do or were already doing is just fine and dandy and, if anyone has a problem with it, it's their "chip on their shoulder" rather than your sickening myopia and insensitivity.

    I am so sick of being asked about my (as it turns out, nonexistant) travels abroad. I am so sick of the assumptions rich people get to make and then the rest of us have to respond either with honesty and pride (chip on our shoulder) or with shame.

    Also, why shouldn't this person write as s/he writes? Why critique her/his style: if s/he came from a humble background, she shouldn't be allowed to use "ironically aestheticized" as if it belongs to her? S/he's in fucking grad school- I imagine s/he might just be using the language that, at this point, comes to her/him naturally, rather than "flaunting her/his vocabulary".

    Something about Prudie's response kinda makes you think maybe she's one of those people complaining about three weeks in Italy and doesn't want to feel bad about it.

    Now, I don't think the cool thing to do is to go into her/his sob story every time someone whips out a complaint about Europe, but certainly these people need a reminder that the world they inhabit is not, strictly speaking, the world at large.


    Dear Prudence,
    My elderly father has a history of holding unreasonable grudges against family members. About six years ago, he decided he had been slighted by my husband, and no amount of apology or pleading that it was a misunderstanding would change his mind. I was hurt, but took my children to visit him sans husband because he is their grandfather. My kids don't know about the rift—they were always told Daddy couldn't come to Grandpa's because he had to work. Last fall, my beloved husband died after an accident. My father has been supportive, and we are visiting him in a few weeks. But the resentment that was simmering over the whole issue is now eating me alive. My husband was a wonderful man, as witnessed by the fact that there were hundreds of people at his funeral and articles about his life and accomplishments. I know my father isn't going to change his mind, but I feel that he owes me an apology for the way he treated my husband. If I don't get it, I'm afraid I will explode at him and say something to destroy what's left of our relationship. His health is failing and he probably won't be around much longer, but this anger is just killing me.


    Dear Bereaved,
    It's understandable that your father's cruelty toward your husband would feel so corrosive right now. But the father you describe does not sound like a man who will recognize the wrong he did or apologize for it. You were mature enough to keep up a civil relationship with your father. Because of that he has a good relationship with your children and they will probably cling to him. You mention that he's quite ill, so his death will be another blow to them. Since you already know you will not get the thing you need—and deserve—from your father, you must figure out how to see him without letting it tear you up. Could you write a letter before you go, explaining what an apology would mean to you and give it to him when you leave? Can you let your children spend a lot of time with him, while you spend as little as possible? If you decide you simply can't stand not saying something, can you save it until you are departing? Be proud that you and your husband always behaved well toward your father, despite his provocations. Remembering that might help you get through this visit. Then, when you're back home consider seeing a grief counselor. Not just because of this issue, but because you have been through a terrible trauma, and you should do anything for yourself that will bring comfort.


    You know what bugs me here? This line: "You were mature enough to keep up a civil relationship with your father." Is that really maturity? Is letting your father jerk everyone around and act like an absolute asshat just because he's your dad actually mature or is it the kind of thing we do our whole childhoods and early adulthoods until we endow our parents with human agency and go, "Listen Dad, this is ridiculous. Get a grip." And then, "Be proud that you and your husband always behaved well toward your father," meaning "Be proud that you let your dad trample over your partner." I don't think anyone should have to put up with that kind of crap from an "in-law" (or in-law-type-person) because their partner should stand up for them. Why is Prudie patting this lady on the back for being spineless? I mean, isn't that spinelessness and immaturity exactly what makes her feel so crazy now?

    The Advice Blender takes on the same column, but apparently likes the new Prudie, whom I can't stand.


    Blogger belledame222 said...

    >Something about Prudie's response kinda makes you think maybe she's one of those people complaining about three weeks in Italy and doesn't want to feel bad about it.

    Um, yeah. Who the fuck is this person, anyway?

    and anyway i guess what would you expect from someone who styles herself "Prudie." ew ew ew.

    12:01 PM  

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