From a Submariner's Perspective is a weekly column, written in response to the letters sent in to advice columnist "Prudie" at Each week, The Submariner responds to the letter writers in a way that author, Emily Yoffe, probably can't (but perhaps would like to...). Each entry is headed with a link to the orginal questions and Yoffe's answers. Enjoy!

Also, if you have questions that you'd like answered by The Submariner, or anyone here at "The Fly", just write to me at and I'll forward to the appropriate party/parties for an answer (or you can write to them directly via the e-mail addresses on their pages)! Once the answers are published, I'll drop you a note letting you know.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

...on Ball-scratching Boys  (01/07/2010) <--Original Prudie Questions Can Be Found There

Hey-hey Shippers! How in the hell are ya on this fine, fine Prudie Day? I tell you what, I’ve been busier than an atheist on the Rapture Day. I mean, hell, there’ll be an awful lot of flat screen TVs and luxury cars to choose from, don’t you reckon?! So, that’s pretty damned busy! I hope that your first few days of 2010 have been easier going than mine have been, but, the weekend is near and maybe with its arrival we can all sit back and relax a bit? Before that, though, it seems Prudie’s picked the lamest letters possible so that there’s only one direction to go from here. And, sad as that is, it’s still our job to come here and give the letter writers our attention. So, with that in mind, here goes nothing...

LW#1: Dear Prudie, I’m a new teacher. I don’t know which issue bothers me more, the fact that two of my male students have literally stuck their hand down their pants and “adjusted” themselves while I was teaching them, or, the fact that one of them then used my keyboard after said adjustment! I don’t know what to say to these boys other than “that’s not acceptable behavior!” (regarding the “adjustments”, not the nasty keyboard manners, which I didn’t even mention to the offender). I don’t know what to do other than to scold them and then break out the Lysol and clean my keyboard afterward. How can I better handle this situation? I’m going to give you a break because you seem nice (although not too terribly wise, but, that’ll come with experience--we can hope). First of all, have you ever noticed that the best teachers in the world are those who can relate to their students? I’m talking, actually, really, truly relate? Well, so far, you’re not doing that. What do you think is the boys’ real motivation for sticking their hand in their pants? Is it truly discomfort as Prudie’s daughter suggests? If so, you can easily demonstrate how inappropriate that behavior is by engaging in it yourself! No, I don’t mean to suggest actually sticking your hand in your own pants (or theirs), but, if you pick your nose, and I do mean really stick your finger up in there and worm it around, while just going right along with your lesson (do not, under any circumstance, let on that you’re doing this on purpose), and then absent-mindedly wipe your finger on the table next to the student while you're still speaking, I guarantee you the opportunity to impart a life lesson will present itself. When the student reacts (and he will react, trust me), you can simply and calmly and matter-of-factly say, “What? It itches! If you can scratch your privates when they itch, how is this any different?” If, however, these boys are assholes, trying to get a rise out of you (and they might well be), well, then you’ve already failed. But you can save the day with what should have been your calm, matter-of-fact response the moment it first happened. Say, unfazed (it’s very important to stay unfazed), “Well, yeah, I guess I always check on my tiny jewelry too, when I wear it. It’s so easily lost.”

LW#2: Dear Prudie, my dad is a severe alcoholic (which, apparently is like being severely pregnant or severely deaf, and the opposite of being “slightly” alcoholic, or, "a little" pregnant...). He’s in his late 70s, about to die (obviously from the alcohol and cigarettes), and my mom has asked me to deliver a eulogy at his funeral. Prudie, I don’t want to! I have nothing good to say about this man who has never been there for me. What can I do? Late 70s and obviously dying from his bad habits? Man, you must live in one hell of a robust family if late 70s is an early death due to a lifetime of self abuse! But, that aside, on to your concern. You do know what a funeral is for, right? It’s not for the dead person. They’re dead. They don’t give a shit. It’s for the living. Far as I can tell, there will be two living people mentioned in your letter that you’re concerned with. You and your mom. Who’s more important to you at this time? Further, and this may help you to decide, do you even know what a eulogy really is? It’s a speech given to honor the dead person. It doesn’t mean that you have to come up with good stuff from your own perspective! At all. Hell, ask your mom what her favorite memories of your father are. She may actually have some, you know, from way, way back.  She might surprise you!  Ask your dad, too, before he succumbs to his partying lifestyle, what his favorite memory is. Ask anyone else who’s known him for any amount of time. Then, write it all down and, Bob’s-your-uncle, you’ve got yourself a eulogy! And all you had to do was compile a few stories, none of which have to be your own. If you decide not to do this, though, as a protest against the man that you father has been (which is fine, by the way), why even attend the funeral? Why not go out to dinner to celebrate the good riddance? If you can’t do that, though, then why can you consider not compiling a few stories about your dad? Something to think about.

LW#3: Dear Prudie, I’ve become good friends with my piano teacher of many years. We meet outside of class, we go to dinner, we chat, etc. The problem is that, as it turns out, she’s not such a good teacher. I learned more in a single 30-minute lesson with a new instructor than in the last three years with this teacher! I don’t want to lose our friendship, but, I don’t want to keep paying her for, well, her company. What can I do? You say that you guys are good friends, eh? Explain to me how that works? Look, how hard would it be to say, “Good friend, I have some news that I’ve been dreading sharing with you, but, I just don’t feel like I’m learning much on the piano any more. I don’t know if it’s because we’re such good friends that I’d rather chat with you than focus on piano, or if it’s just that we’re no longer connecting in a student/teacher way, or whatever, but, I need to start taking lessons somewhere else. But, because I knew that’d be weird, I haven’t wanted to say it. Then I realized how, because we’re such good friends, that this is just going to allow us to be closer because there won’t be that professional relationship anymore! And maybe I can play for you sometime if I get confident enough to show off my new skills for you?” If you can’t say that then you aren’t actually “good friends”, and the only thing that you stand to lose in that case is a burden.

LW#4: Dear Prudie, I’m 28 years old and tired of being asked out via text message. I’ve been in a relationship for several years that just recently broke up. Prior to that, I was never asked out via text. Now it seems that’s the only way anyone does it, and, to me, it smacks of a lack of confidence and low self esteem. And perhaps a small penis. And I want a real man, Prudie, not some unconfident, texting yahoo. What can I do? One of two things. Either, a) tell the guys who text you that you don’t accept date requests via text and to try again, or, b) just go out with guys who ask you from the get-go in more traditional ways. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but, uh, holy shit, how hard was that?! I mean, do you really have a dating problem or are you just wanting to bitch? ‘Cause it sounds to me like it's the latter. But, the way I see it, the golden rule applies here. You want to see a certain behavior, ask for it. Well, unless it’s receiving flowers from the only man you’ll ever be able to get in your life. In that case, you just have to live with it, but, you know, otherwise, ask for what you want, damnit. Is it that hard?

Well Shippers, that’s it for this week. Sorry for the lack of my customary snark and foul language. These letters were just roundly uninspiring. But, you know what? I have a feeling that next week’s are going to be a bazillion times better! I mean, it’ll be a new week, it’ll be warmer (hopefully), less busy (certainly), and who knows what other goodies the week will bring? Personally, I can’t wait! See you then, Shippers, but, until then, fair winds and following seas to you all...


  1. Bravo, Captain! Shall I shower you with congratulatory hugs and kisses for a job well done? I especially enjoyed your tactic for dealing with the students in letter #1. I must admit ~ nose picking is not the first thing Mermaid thinks of to get a young man's attention!

    The only problem is ~ now that we've got nothing to disagree about this week ~ whatever shall we do to pass the time here in the Lagoon? Text me if you think of something, diving buddy... ;)

  2. I skipped right over the actual letters and let Prudie have it with both barrels and a pointed stick. I have never seen such a load of crappy advice! Margo must be peeing herself laughing right about now.

  3. I too, think the nose picking was an awesome tactic to suggest for LW1!!
    As always, great job, Smaggy, and way to point out the silly level so many of us took the flowers letter to last week. *tries to look sheepish, but just laughs at everyone, herself included*

  4. Greetings and Salutations, MM! It is strange with nothing to disagree on, isn't it? I would text you, but, if I did that, would you think less of me? Perhaps that I lacked "confidence"? However, just for the sake of a little discussion, I did issue you a challenge over on your blog. Perhaps that'll be our point of discussion?

  5. Hello Messy! It's good to see you here, and a wonderful treat! I will head over in short time to check out your double-barrelled, pointy stick attack of Prudie (to Margo's pants-wetting approval, I'm sure). ;-)

  6. Greetings Libby! I'm glad that you liked my nose-picking idea. I've employed it with my own offspring (not the nose-picking tactic, but the demonstration of gross habits tactic and it works wonderfully!). I am a bit disappointed, though, as I thought my witty retort about small jewelry was the better response. :-)

    As for the flowers, we all had fun with that one, yes?

  7. Oh, I loved that response too, but I actually used it when a shift manager in a casual dining restaurant to impress on my teenage male employees why it was important to not do that in view of the customers. :-)

  8. It's mind-boggling, in this day and age, that the worst LW2 can complain about is that dad was just hanging out.

    What, no abuse? No bottles thrown against a wall? No beatings, or yellings?

    Please; try listening to victims of actual abuse and be thankful that this is all he did (caveat: if he was going to be there anyway, of course; I'm not arguing it's better than an actually engaged dad).

    But have some sympathy for your mother, for pete's sake! I get so tired of adult children acting like they're still children, petty and unsympathetic to anyone else's feelings.

    And, I'd also like to point out, unsympathetic to your own father, who clearly has an addiction that he cannot quit, and we can argue all day over "well, he should have _wanted_ to," but that's not going to change anything.

    Point is, he didn't. This is his life, and you can act all bitter and woe-is-me, or be glad you aren't like that (you're more susceptible), and feel for your mother, who has spent her life with this person. She will be alone after he's gone, and whether you like it or not, that'll crush her (again, unless she was abused, it doesn't mean she wasn't at least comfortable or content with him), and if that doesn't make you at least a little nicer, I'm glad I don't know you.

  9. I'm sorry the hell does someone of any age get comfortable enough in any classroom, in front of the opposite gender to shuffle around inside their pants, skirt, knickers', capri's, shirt, blouse, etc as if this is acceptable behavior? If I dabble a bit inside my bra adjusting my girls so they're all perky and level isn't this a bit disconcerting to anyone trying to teach me something?
    If you're digging inside your pants regardless of your gender...I am grossed out, and in particular...moving away from you at the speed of light because next you'll be picking your nose with that freshly genital dipped finger...OMG...and I'm unwilling to watch nor willing to explain it to you because you should have learned this prior to age six.
    I can see the advice in action...the teacher says...after I get done scratching my ass and adjusting my junk... turn to page 6. Skeevy at best!
    Then lets picture the teacher explaining this lesson to her to hear that one.
    Stunned upon reading Madd the restaurant they were told not to do that behavior in THE VIEW OF THE CUSTOMER'S! wonder I stay away from restaurants. I don't want your junk near my dinner thank you.
    But that's just me...I'm alone now adjusting my junk with the utmost joy and glee for no one to see...sure I am. Gettin' everyone happy in their housing and ready for the day!

  10. Isn't don't do that in the view of the customer's similar to.... pick your scab on your own time I need that salad in the buffet line NOW! Just curious!

    And may I suggest...if your junk itches on a daily basis that there are several things one can do. Introduce your junk daily to soap and a good scrub, maybe switching from that bar of Lava to a moisturizing bar, maybe using a body oil for moisture...and then maybe some much needed personal time would solve that itching issue? Hmmmmm?

    Just a thought...

  11. Even understanding that there are abuses more heinous than others I have trouble not validating another person feeling's towards whomever they feel abused by.

    Is there a validity scale for abuse/abuser's?

    If there is a scale, I find the then lessor abuser's to be quite distasteful and put them on notice that I don't tolerate their abuse lightly and for me that begins with the person who feels the wait staff to be beneath them in a restaurant, as well as the person who does not like cat's seems to think they can then give a little toss into the air to see them land on all feet for fun.

    Don't we all see these people in all walks of life, performing different forms of abuse for their own empowerment or escape or whatever they are thinking at their moment in time?

    I have trouble finding a valid excuse for any level of abuse, heinous or not, addicted to drugs or not.

    So the drunken father poised on the sofa sleeping off his booze year after is what it is and the daughter should now do as she pleases. Smaggie had a thoughtful out for her by suggesting she tell favorite stories. This I shall remember. It's also the daughter's only chance to tell the father how she feels prior to his death, if she can find him sober.

  12. One last thought for today...

    Levels of abuse, would that not be like levels of cannibalism? I only ate 4 of the finger's on his left hand, after all he's right handed so no harm right?

    OK, I'm now going as fast as I can to my room for a moment to myself after this last thought...sheesh....scary! Do forgive!

  13. Captain Smag, what sound advice, particularly the nose picking. I wish I had thought of that when I was teaching, not that any of my students had their hand under their pants, at least not that I noticed.

    I once taught an introductory course in Women's Studies. It was my first course in that field and since I was an adjunct with only a couple of weeks to prepare for the course, I was just a week ahead of the students in reading the things I had assigned (sadly more than half of college courses are now taught by adjuncts... though adjuncts are often the better teachers because you have to love your field of study and teaching itself to put up with such low pay --but I digress).

    So the class met in a very long narrow room. There were 77 students and I had a hard time seeing all the way to the end of the room, let alone hearing whispers. So to make a long story short, feminist theory consists of four very different orientations. Apparently this caused some heated conflict and I finally realized how heated it was when a scuffle broke out in the back row and a door banging alerted me that someone had walked out of the classroom just as I was frantically trying to give my usual spiel about the goodness of discussion and "hey, we are all friends here!"

    So the other students informed me that there had been hostile conflict in the back row all during the semester including even finger pointing (upward that is!) (this was before the time when people could vent on line...).

    So who knows what else went on? Except that the only guy in the room sat in the front row and made comments asked questions constantly, so he probably wouldn't have had time to scratch his privates since he was too busy scratching his brain... but who knows what else was actually happening in the back row -so picking my nose might have got their attention?

  14. nagatuki.... Explain again why a parent who just checks out of everyone's life, including his own, is somehow "all right"? Abuse and neglect are treated the same way under the law, and they are one and the same to the victims.

    The LWs father wasn't just "hanging out". He was what's known as "passed out". He chose to pretend that he had no family. That causes some pretty severe damage all on it's own. I'm quite certain that the LW isn't counting her lucky stars that he didn't go after her with a ball peen hammer.

    As for "Mom", she hasn't exactly covered herself in glory either. I suspect that a large part of the reason the LW is ambivalent about the whole mess is that "Mom" was too busy enabling dear old Dad to bother raising her child. Making demands for a nice eulogy now is beyond absurd and edging into crazy territory. It makes me think that "Mom" STILL wants to pretend that she had a lovely home life at the expense of the LW's peace of mind.

    As for "real abuse", I've been "really abused". You remind me of the guidance counsellor in school who said, "at least he didn't RAPE you!" That was about ten minutes before he called my father to tell him about my "lies".

    And no. I'm not interested in hearing a bunch of people telling me how sorry they are. I've dealt with it, thanks, and the exposition was for demonstration purposes only.

  15. Nagatuki, I'm okay with the LW not giving the eulogy, and, frankly, not speaking fondly of his/her mother or father. But, what I am not fond of is not owning that. The LW seems to be sort of existing in a place where he/she doesn't know what to do. Either he/she's pissed and angry enough at mom (or mom and dad) to not do the eulogy, or not. And if she/he is, that's okay. It really is. It doesn't sound like the LW owes either of them too much. But, if he/she's not ready to cut ties, or is not angry at mom and wants to please her, and if it means something to mom, why not just collect some stories and recite them? Not out of obligation, but out of wanting to please mom. If she does want to, that is.

  16. Debbie, have you been smoking some weed today? :-) I'm not judging! I'm loving the stream of consciousness going on! And, I completely agree with you regarding the junk grabbing. If you have to dig, find a private spot. If a no-hands wiggle will do, that's okay. Maybe. ;-)

    As for abuse, I'm of the opinion that we don't *owe* anyone anything (except children, who, if we're responsible for them, I believe we owe the best we can do for them). If a parent was a bastard, it's okay to walk away when you're legally allowed and never look back. And, when they ask why, it's okay to tell it like it is! No need to be mean about it (that just raises your own blood pressure), but, too, no need to worry about it. At all. If you're lucky enough to have a good relationship with your parents, all to the good. :-)

    As for the cannibalism question, was that a euphemism? ;-)

  17. Kati! Ahoy! Greetings and salutation! It's wonderful to see you here. :-)

    My advice to an adjunct professor of 77 students is to do the best you can and hope that a few get angry and leave! :-) That way you can hopefully reach the few who are interested. If the person who left had really wanted to learn, she would have sat in a different spot in order to avoid the conflict. Seems it takes to tango, yes?

    As for the guy in front row, lucky guy! :-)

  18. Messy, I understand what you're saying, and I'm not going to comment on Nagatuki's discussion, but, surely there are levels of abuse, yes? The doesn't make one abuser less guilty, as I said above, in that case, all that matters is the victim's perception, but, surely there is scale yes? One that we discuss in the cold hard analytical light and analyze a bit? I would never apply it to a person, victim or perpetrator. How can we? But the discussion is worthwhile, even if just a mental exercise, yes?

  19. Smag, you are correct. There are definitely degrees of abuse. The danger of the discussion, though, is that if you try to quantify them, some people will inevitably start to dismiss their effects. This is a mistake.

    Picture the LW, for example. She has never seen her father completely sober. He has never gone to one of her games, never met with a teacher, never had a conversation with her, never read her a story, never gone to a graduation and in short, bailed on every significant event in her life.

    Very likely she never held a birthday party, never had guests for dinner and never had a boyfriend that she ever brought home. Why would she? There's nothing to see. She never even had the consolation of being angry because he abandoned the family. Instead, he was there in the house, an inert drunken blob who never cared about anything besides where his next bottle was coming from.

    Add to this the fact that in a house with a drunk EVERYONE is all about the drunk, and it adds up to a very lonely childhood. So how benign is this? Can you quantify that and compare it to what I went through? How much more or less damaging is mental harm than physical harm? I would argue that a lot of the physical harm is less damaging. After all, no matter how foul the setup was, there was an acknowledgement that I existed. Weird, but true.

    I know Nagatuki is a smart person and means no harm by her statement. However, she has succumbed to the same minimizing effect that even professional counselors are prone to. So how does one have a dispassionate discussion?

  20. Well, Messy, I think you bring up good points. And, truth be told, I find you to be very brave (no, I'm not trying to blow sunshine up your skirt). Many of us have "things", I guess, but not nearly so many are brave enough, and strong enough, to talk about them. Your questions are all valid, and, not only do they all depend on many factors, they're all very different, even if nothing else changes, between Victims A and B (how else to explain how differently siblings in the same house have such different takes on the same events). Anyway, in the end you're absolutely correct. I guess I just like seeing it discussed so that I can...I don't know. Truth is, I honestly don't know. :-) Something for me to think about.

  21. The last two letters bored me (never your answers, of course, Aqualad!), so I'll only comment on the first two.

    I suppose if I taught, and had boys spontaneously spelunking in their fabric caves, if in a mischievious enough mood, I'd probably call for everyone - chicks, too - to stand up and do whatever adjusting they need done, all at once. Boys could fix their boys, girls could fix their girls, boogers could fly, and a cacophony of throat-clearing could lay down percussion. If it proved a popular enough way to start the lessons, I'd set it to music.

    As for LW2, I've been in a similar situation, for one of my sisters. She did spend a good chunk of her life on drugs/alcohol, sometimes kicking the habit(s), sometimes not, never employed in the last 10 years or so (Mom paid ALL her expenses till the end), etc. My two oldest sisters had some interaction with her in the last 10 years, but as little as possible, and I had pretty much zero contact. As young'ens, she spent a good chunk of our time together belittling me. As for her good side, though, she was a naturally generous person (the drugs killed that) and fiercely protective. On the bad, aside from the chemicals, she was willfully ignorant and fiercely opinionated - a great combination - and had zero talent for self-examination.

    But when Mom asked me to write the eulogy, I said that I'd be honored to. I'm not sure why. I didn't see it as an opportunity for revenge or to "tell it like it is," like some reenactment of a Sopranos funeral. Maybe a way for me to work out my own guilt for not interacting with her for so long? Who knows.

    I chose to remember the good about her - because there was plenty - but did not ignore how her life turned out, either. I didn't have to spell anything out; we were family and knew the details.

    The reception afterwards was incredible. She'd had many friends growing up, but ultimately lost contact with all of them because they grew up and formed their own lives, but she did not. Nevertheless they came, and came, and came! My own funeral would be a "full house" if 5 non-family people showed up. Not that this would bother me at the time. I suspect that I'll be dead by then. Unless the afterlife consists of being present everywhere but unable to be seen or heard. Good times.

    Anyway, eulogies can be written for people who weren't exactly the hero of the beach, and without lying. So there.

  22. As for "not in front of the customers" that was in reference to OUTSIDE the clothes adjustments. And everyone was told that if they touched anything other than food or clean dishes they had to immediately take off their gloves and wash their hands then apply new gloves. EVERY TIME. And I had the kids on my shift so conditioned that they'd harass anyone who even rubbed their forehead with their forearm without washing.
    But the point being that part of that training was including the point that if you're on your way to the sink, customers STILL don't want to see you do a outside the pants grab and adjust so figure out another way to make it work.

  23. Dear Smag'ster...would you still like me if I said I had those thoughts drug free? Not even aspirin? ;o) I had thoughts. I shared.
    And yes, cannibalism...that was my attempt at a euphuism...ya...that's what that was! Maybe a bit too creative? Ah, too visual? Too off the charts?
    Thanks Madd Libby for sharing as I had random thoughts of young men in restaurants ducking behind the walk-in and no sink in sight! I'm simply glad to find you of kindred spirit regarding sanitation and food service. Phew! Such good news!
    Does it serves any purpose having levels of abuse? Certainly not for the victim. If you believe in levels of abuse that possibly works out great for the perpetrator and I can see how it could have value within the justice system. Should the person who for the first time loses control and punches you in the face causing you to respond with a huge whack of a 2x4 (no rolled up magazine handy) spend the same time locked away from society as...let's say...the cannibal?
    I know Smaggie, I we go with the cannibal again and may I say thoughts of cannibals arrived in my brain yesterday for the first time out of the blue. Out of estrogen again? Scary! Maybe drugs are in order?
    In my opinion....Levels of abuse is the victims one last huge insulting additional heap of abuse for the perpetrator's peace of mind so they can go forth thinking well of themselves when most of us would like to apply the wide side of the 2x4 just one little time to send them on their way while stopping their behavior from damaging others.
    Doesn't the perpetrator tell themselves as an was only...I only did...good thing I didn't they can feel better about themselves for the next time? I see no purpose served for the victim in having levels of abuse. I have a bias about abusers due to my sensitivity in my ability to detect abusers...I see shit detector goes off instantly...especially the ones who think it's of little consequence. I see those delightful, cheerful, well meaning abuser's that do it with a smile.
    I find my sensitivity to be a curiosity within myself from the standpoint of why does my being have the ability to feel this radiate off people. When I meet people more often than not I feel their core (very odd but true) and it began at an early age. There are many abusers out there all living their own crazy version of normal within some nonexistent good level of abuse...sick.
    I am in the middle of digging deeper as to why this is true for me. I am not a woman who presents herself as a potential victim so that's not the reason they are drawn to me. Or are they drawn to me at all, is there really simply that many abuser's out there for us all to come in contact with...maybe? Then I think could the reason simply be my human coloring they are drawn to? How odd, but could that be? I have fair skin, growing up with white blonde hair as a child, and absurd does that sound? To me very absurd.
    Is it simply that I have abusers in my family so my close contact prepared me to identify others? My mother is and I've known my sister is but I've just come to understand my sister is no longer going to battle being an abuser, she's able to justify that behavior now. And I wish to live in peace and harmony even if that means I shall choose to have limited exposure to people, to family.

    Then there are the people who like to be abused. They've had it so long they can't live without it. It took me several years to understand I had two friends who were never going to get into any resemblance of a healthy relationship. I've blessed them and let them go for my own survival over a year ago and that was a sound decision but that lead me to wonder if I have more exposure to this than others do? Or is it that they don't see abuse? I have so many questions.

  24. Debbie, your posts make sense. You can't just be a bit of an abuser, just like you can't be just a bit pregnant or just a bit alcoholic.

    My understanding is that we are part of a species whose members (but not all!) can get pretty nasty and that's why there are so many abusers/torturers in our midst. Your metaphor of cannibalim is very apt. The abusee is being literally eaten away....

    I lived through a physically and emotionally abusive marriage for 15 years --well it got abusive only during the last 10! It was during the sixties and mid-seventies. It started out with me thinking I could fix it, I could make this unhappy person whom I loved happy.

    Little did I know at the time that my attitude was typical. And of course if you think you can make someone happy, it's only a matter of time till that person believes you're the cause of his/her unhappiness, yet for some mixed up insane reasons he wont let go.

    Of course what happened is that I got conditioned by the abuse. We humans are easily conditioned --physical domestic abuse (always always accompanied by abusive words) falls within the broader category of torture. And just like various forms of torture it is, consciously or unconsciously, aimed at destroying the victim's sense of selfhood.

    All this I understood much later. Now there is much more info on domestic abuse and I'd like to believe that if I'd had access to it I would have taken my two kids and left that marriage much earlier. And just so that you understand the power of conditioning, I was the one supporting all of us, and I actually worried how he was going to survive without me!

    Debbie, it's still hard for me to write about this (though it gets easier over time) but I wanted to reasure you, because having abusers and abusees in your family is scary.

    After I met quite a few former abusees, I found out that in all cases they had been "set up" by earlier experience. (This was also the case with me). This explains why abuse and acceptance of it often runs in families.

    It's great you have an abuser radar (abudar?). Treasure it and keep listening to it! You're quite right to no longer worry about what the rest of your family and relatives are doing. And don't think your physical appearance is specifically attracting potential abusers. They are always fishing around but luckily so are many single good guys.... Your "abudar" will help you weed out the bad and give the good a chance.

    Just keep on the good course you have set, and all will be well...

  25. Thank you Kati.
    It seems I am plagued by women abusers/abusees to the point I am asking myself..did I do something in the past that brought them into my life? And am I doing something now?
    At least when I was dating I knew I would rather stay single than live with a man who was less than I deserved, less than I could thrive with. I dated my husband four years prior to marriage, I know him as much as anyone could know a person. I have a hard time changing my own stuff, thankfully I knew then I was powerless to change anyone else. And I've a dumbshit for a sister who at age 40 has already been married 4 times...I think it's 4 now? And they keep on coming, only now she's realized divorce is too costly. So I really knew the male species to be as plentiful as know...miss one and another will be along in 15 minutes. Goes for both gender's. That's why I am constantly amazed at the women writing into Prudie regarding their boyfriends, those exceptional but with a third eye types that Smaggie loves so well.
    A dear long time friend had your same thoughts on how will he survive without me even after she filed for divorce and he slit her car seat with a knife while she was at church and then keyed her car. Their couple therapist deemed him to be a narcissistic sociopath and she then divorced him and then quietly remarried him. It was at that time I blessed her and let her go. For the first time in over a year I have just seen her, she is divorcing him again. I was emotionally invested and could not save her from herself or from him. It was hard to let her go knowing his whole goal was to separate her from her friends and family, hard for me to let him win. Both are educator's and progressing in the school system. She could protect the children in her care at school from a predator but she would not protect her own two children from him. Sad, I am saddened by it all. I understand the power of conditioning to well.
    I need now to understand that I as a person am doing nothing to draw these people into my life. Is this a question you have had to answer for yourself Kati?
    I understand my need is wrapped up in the fact that over the past three years I've ended two long term female friendships for my own survival and now for that same reason need to do the same with my sister. I tire of feeling like the road kill of her life as she happily believes family is equal to whomever her latest guy and his kids are, over her own children and a boatload of other abusive events. Heartbreaking.

    Interesting how they can speed on ahead without looking at the damage they leave as they pass. Never before have I felt I need to move out of the way as fast as I can and be watchful for the next abusive moron coming my way.

    Have you ever felt this way? My desire for peace and harmony has never been stronger. This I wish for everyone who has experienced any abuser. I deserve peace and harmony and to live well, and I'm going to have it even if I have to live as a hermit someday with my great guy.

    I'm not a huge Oprah fan but she does sometimes have great thoughts. I found her thoughts on...when someone shows you who they really/truly are, believe them the FIRST be very valuable and insightful advice. Humans waste valuable time trying to believe something that is not nor will ever be possible in another person.

    Be well...

  26. Debbie, thanks for your answer. I'm glad you have found a good guy. I too have had a great partner for the last 29 years, including the 8 (!) years we hesitated before moving together (he'd made a pretty bad first marriage too).

    Dealing with abusees is heart breaking. People who work in that field get burnt out faster than in other social work/therapy field because abusees do tend to go back to their abusers, but most will eventually leave....but it's pretty discouraging for anyone trying to help (though that might explain why there are so many abusers around at any given time looking for a new victim!).

    I think you made the right decision about detaching yourself and seeking peace of mind. I suspect that if you have been emotionally invested with family members and friends who were abusers or abusees, you shouldn't try to help because it's just too heartbreaking for you. Let the professionals do their bit....

    And yes, I too have come into contact with female abusers and male victims, it's actually harder for a guy to ask for help, but hopefully that's slowly changing. One of the problems with being the victim of abuse is that you're more ashamed of it than the abuser ever would, assuming he/she would be ashamed! It seems that shame has gotten its grips in you and even after years it still manifests itself against all the common sense you can muster. So it's an ongoing struggle.

    About being a hermit, my partner and I have made friends over the years who have turned out to be so much closer than any family member ever was: they have become our true family and become "aunties" and "uncles" to my kids. Well that fits the old say: "you can't chose your family but you can chose your friends"!

  27. Smag, the people in the back row of that women's studies course were actually arguing about competing feminist theories. so I guess they had taken the course material to heart!

    I'm trying to remember the main ones: there are the "liberal feminists" who have worked towards equal pay and opportunities for women (actually they get the credit for all the advances made by women in the last 100 years, including the right to vote), and then the socialist feminists (class exploitation etc), and the radical feminists (to hell with men) and, you know, I can't think of the fourth one. (I only taught that course once --not really my field). As I recall, no. 3 and 4 were heaping scorn on the others, particularly on no. 1 whom they accused of having sold out,etc etc etc. (they should actually have been grateful to no 1 because they're the ones who had made the field and depts of Women's Studies possible to begin with!)

    There always is at least one guy or two in every women's studies courses. I don't know how many women attend the subsequently organized "men's studies" courses. Since then, many institutions have changed these courses into "gender studies". (Ithink they put the old courses on "human sexuality also in them). This makes more sense though not at first because women had to be made visible for gender to be visible. Of course this seems absurd because how can gender not be visible? But often when something is not spoken about, it is as if it were hidden in plain sight and thus invisible. But I digress.....

    So no, this kid in the front row didn't put his hand under his pants to adjust his balls (I wouldn't have said anything if he had, assuming I had felt it relevant to notice). But he did try to shock me...

    He wrote an outstanding final paper. I gave it an A+ and plenty of praise for his writing and interesting choice of topic. He had analyized the alternative sex ads in a local paper (woman seeking woman, man seeking man, bondage, etc etc etc). He claimed I hadn't read his paper. I assured him I did and indeed I found it excellent. But, he said, weren't you shocked? You must have been shocked! If you aren't shocked it can only mean you haven't read it!

    He left pissed off and left me scratching my head. So I'm wondering if he had been scratching his balls right there in the front row and I hadn't noticed or pretended not to notice, would he have been equally upset?

  28. ooops, I meant to say that the students in the back row had actually come to blows over competing feminist theories!

  29. Greetings Kati! Oh, I understand what was going on in the back of the classroom. :-) I sat through several lit. courses where the same thing went on as we were encouraged to doing readings of the course material from various perspectives. So, we had those who would always read from the Feminist perspective. Those who would always read from the Historical. Socio/Economic, etc., etc., etc. (as well as plenty of us who would do "close" readings and then enjoy the fireworks in class!). Anyway, we had a couple of militant young ladies in class (I believe they would have been 'Radical Feminists' in your nomenclature), who happily (and without irony) allowed their parents to pay for their schooling while they bashed men. All men. And that's fine, actually. College is supposed to expose us to new thought and new ideas and it's supposed to expand our minds. We can hope that there's respect in the disagreements, but, when something's that new to us and that explosive, it's sometimes hard to keep it all in check. Plus, well, the passion of youth is sometimes more emotion than wisdom. I have a feeling the ladies (both from my class and yours) look back on that time now with a bit of a sense of humor. I *hope* they do! :-)

    As for the young man and his shocking paper, he was only disappointed (and perhaps learned a bit once he had the opportunity to reflect on it) that he didn't know people as well as he thought he did! ;-)

  30. Debbie, I understand what you're saying. And please accept my apologies for making light of your very worthy and poignant stream of consciousness (my 'smokin' the weed comment' was a out of line in hindsight--please know that it was not meant as harmful or in any way derogatory). Kati has said all that I would say, but, I do want to stress one point: there's nothing about you that deserves to be treated in any way other than exemplary. However, as Kati notes, we do learn things from our upbringing that sometimes causes us to behave in ways that are more comfortable for abusers. Enabling is such an easy pattern and habit to fall into and we do it out of goodness and desire to please. But, because it comes from a good place and a desire to please, it's also particularly insidious because it's much harder to spot than abuse. So, *if* you are doing anything to "attract" that personality type(and there's no indication here that you are), you may be displaying some enabling tendencies just due to your upbringing and having experienced abusive behavior all through your growing up. If you aren't well aware of the behavior, I suggest reading up on it. However, being aware of abusers and avoiding them (without guilt) is most of the battle! So, to me, it sounds as if you're doing really well! Hang in there! :-)

  31. Hey offence at the smoking theory...if I had a huge cigar I'd light it up and pass it around and we all could get silly together and speak about the truth about aliens or some other fun topic, all harmless at my age with no kids in sight, a one time event! I do believe The Octomom (remember her)with all those eggs needing fertilized is our first proof there may be aliens amongst us. What other reason would there be? Continuing of a species? Hmmmm? I digress.
    So far I have not come up with one thing I am doing to draw these people to me but since I continue to strive for identifying any leftover's from my experiences as they crop up this has come to my attention lately. An internal question important to ask myself. These people are too time consuming...too consuming overall, and to be candid, exhausting!
    Other than this last question I feel I've gotten past the other issues and I know I will never tolerate drama well inside my own home for the sake of drama. Some people have to have that ongoing conflict and drama to feel excited in life, they create a firestorm to get that feeling. Me, not so much...I can get crazy drama in one hour of watching reality TV, those Housewives of Orange County are enough drama, enough crazies and I can always count on Prudie to bring forth some interesting folks, drama on my own terms if you will. My family is very good at creating drama for themselves by making very odd decisions with no other outcome other than bad.
    My sister is my last toxic family member that I must bless and let go. It took me awhile to figure out that when you are the one making good decisions for your life consistently over time you then become in their eyes something of less value...very interesting identifying when your family wishes you to stop progressing. Family becomes uncomfortable when you continue to thrive and continue to choose to thrive year after year, in their eyes you somehow become perfect and that is not welcomed.
    Kati has helped, your words have helped. Talking about it has helped.

  32. Messy, I never said it was "okay" that he be checked out. Yes, I did say it was better than real physical abuse, but I also said:

    "(caveat: if he was going to be there anyway, of course; I'm not arguing it's better than an actually engaged dad)."

    Our own experience colors perception, and I think yours does, too: you make assumptions of mom "enabling him... to bother raising a child," and extrapolating that LW had a lonely childhood with no parties.

    I would never argue anything so preposterous as "at least he didn't (fill in any abuse here)" if I had any inkling how damaged a person was.

    But... LW doesn't sound particularly damaged. She _does_ sound resentful, but gives no indication of a life bereft of joy. Instead, she writes:

    "Most of my life, he has been emotionally absent due to the drinking"

    She writes "most" again later, in remembering him. This alone implies it started later in life, which means it maybe wasn't all bad?

    Again, I don't know... but I cannot conclude that all abuse is equal, and I think much depends on the victim.

    An example: Has anyone listened to Adam Carolla? I mean, on Loveline? or his podcasts?

    This is a man who has mentioned many times how uninterested his family was in his life - how he was a football star as a kid and they didn't go to _one game_. How his mom stayed on welfare b/c it was easier, and how his dad knew nothing about him and wasn't encouraging.

    And was it abuse? Yes, because he believes it was. He has said he had no self-esteem, and it took him awhile to accept he couldn't count on them.

    Now, if he had ambivalence to a eulogy, I'd get it. As it is, LW just sounds whiny w/o any concrete examples of life-altering disappointment.

    The other question is, would Carolla be the same person if instead of neglect they physically beat him every day? I don't think so, and I only think that different abuse amounts to different adulthoods, and one or the other can leave you scarred but more or less capable of leading a normal life.

    Not to go on, but I do know of someone personally who was physically abused by someone very close to her (I don't know who explicitly)- her parents have treated her like a child (excessively protective and intrusive), and as a result at 30 she sounds like she's 6, at most. She is definitely a victim of sexual abuse, and the only question is how much.

    Would she have been better off if they only were passed out on the couch? I have _no doubt_, but that doesn't mean I wish she had suffered _any_ abuse.

    Smag, I agree with you: LW needs to own whatever she feels and proceed. But her tone makes it sound like she's not particularly mad enough to do anything, so the question is then, why not just write up something? (Your suggestion is very good).

  33. Nagatuki - Dismissing what I said by pretending that my "experience colors perception" is no argument. It's a personal shot that makes you feel better about dismissing what I said, but it has no validity in this discussion. If you disagree, then tell me exactly why, but do me the courtesy of not attacking my character when you do it.

    You cannot quantify abuse vs. neglect. It's not possible. Better minds that yours and mine have worked on that for decades and have come to the same conclusion. Being abandoned on a street corner by a parent or being abandoned by a parent passed out of the couch amount to the same thing as far as the kid's concerned.

    The same goes for physical abuse. Who are you or anyone else to decide that sexual abuse is "worse" than getting hit, than being neglected which is "worse" than being ignored? What makes you think you're qualified to decide that? If you really want to know, then ask the people who were in those situations. You will find that they all have many of the same issues, resentments and anger.

    Of COURSE Mommy enabled dear old Dad. She stayed married to him, she fed him, she cleaned up after him and everything in the letter indicates that she did everything she could to keep him happily drunk, rather than crankily drunk.

    Her behavior is inherently selfish because her aim, rather than to have her child grow up in a healthy household, was to make things easy for herself and her personal drunken millstone. If she HAD considered her child, she would have gotten out of that situation. She chose to stay and raise her child in an unhealthy and harmful situation.

    The way the LW talks about writing the eulogy points not only to the fact that she has nothing good to say about her father. If she harbored no resentment to her mother, she would have written the thing with all the bullshit she could think of. As it is, her mother is as much the cause of her shitty childhood as her father.

    She should refuse to write the eulogy. Period. No one really expects the immediate family to do that anyway, particularly in a situation like this one. I suspect that enough people know that Dad spent his life pissy drunk and wouldn't expect his daughter to jump up and sing his praises.

  34. While I agree that she should refuse to write or give the eulogy, I want her to know *why* she's refusing. Right now, she says that doesn't want to. Which is enough in my book, considering. But then she undermines that with not being sure. That was the point of the last bit in my advice to her. I asked her, if she truly feels the way we imagine, why not go out and celebrate her good riddance? And, if she's not willing to do that, I would hope she can explore *why* she's not willing to. Because that co-enabling that she did with mom is tough to get past. And I'm guessing she's about to become the primary enabler to her mom if she can't own her feelings.

  35. Messy, I was not impugning your character, nor dismissing your experience.

    Our life experience _does_ color our views and perceptions; it's not a debate. _My_ life experience does the same to me, and it doesn't make it better or worse.

    It is _not_ a judgment.

    Clearly you have personal things coming up in this letter or you wouldn't be so passionate in telling the LW to refuse, but as she's written for advice on it _she_ clearly doesn't feel as strongly as you do, and it's _her_ life.

    I just cannot speculate, given the scant info from the LW, that her mother did _any_ of those things and that, even if she did, it was only because she's so damn selfish and clearly had an easy way out.

    I'll point again to the fact that LW said "mostly" about her dad, implying _some_ time when it wasn't like that.

    And, it's very easy for all of us to guess, but neither you nor I have any real idea of her family's situation.

    I'm not going to argue with you; I'm not an expert on what damages people most.

    However, I'm sorry, but I can say, without a doubt, that the woman I told you about - the woman who was sexually abused at a very young age, who sounds like she's 6, who went to college incredibly trusting and naive as a result and was raped, who started cutting herself and is now anorexic, and has no idea why people don't like her and starts crying if you tell her _anything_ remotely negative...

    I would pay anything if instead she'd have simply had a dad who slept on the g-ddamn couch.

  36. Nagatuki, we are quits. Rational discussion is seemingly beyond you. My so-called "life experience" has no bearing on one word that I said. NOT ONE. Again, it's just a cheesy way to dismiss what I said. Transparent, much?

    Living with a drunk is never easy. You can read books to find that out. I did. In fact, I have a degree in that sort of thing.

    Using ONE person's experience to generalize to all people is reductive and irrelevant. Therefore, I don't do that. Kids respond to various things in many different ways that form patterns of behavior that have been studied for a long time. This LWs experience is pretty typical.

    The LW can do whatever she wants. Why would you assume that I'm "passionate" about that? Her ambivalence to doing it is part of a typical pattern of behavior. It just is.

  37. Smag -

    Mea culpa for highjacking your post. Sigh. Ooh, just wait until Thursday.

  38. No worries, Messy! You and Nagatuki are having a respectful discussion and I really dig that! And, I see merit in what both of you are saying.

    Without choosing sides or anything like that, I will say that I understand exactly what you mean about the mom enabling this behavior and the LW having (perhaps as yet subconscious) issues with her for it. I think that perhaps it takes actually living that type of fucked up situation (no offense to any especially-empathetic folks out there) to really understand how insidious that enabling relationship becomes. How completely victimized the whole family becomes. How the whole house becomes sick, including the victim. And that's not an easy thing to explain, nor is it easy to understand if you haven't lived it. Even with research and books. You know this first hand and the knowledge seems like common sense to you, I would imagine. I'm not dismissing your experience or belittling it by mentioning it, as, you're correct, the enabling relationship *is* well-documented. But, to truly understand things, sometimes books are useless and living them turns on a lightbulb that a million year's worth of books could never light.

    Too, though, I understand what Nagatuki is saying and feeling about the victim of sexual assault and how Nagatuki feels it would have been preferable to have had a dad asleep on the couch. I understand that mindset, but, like you, I'm guessing, I can't fully embrace it because I know how bad things get, even when they aren't "bad". And rating victimhood is not nearly as easy as it might appear to be. Referencing the paragraph above, I understand that the dad sleeping on the couch is just how things are presented. That's the sad picture the outside world see. The hidden scene, though, is the awake time, where he's raging because he didn't get anything done while he slept, and demanding to know how everyone could let him sleep, the ungrateful bastards that they are! Of course they let him sleep, even though they knew how shitty things would be when he woke. The alternative is unthinkable. That's the stuff that's not in there becasue the mom and LW have learned what's acceptable to publish to the outside world and don't even recognize the unacceptable because they feel they're to blame. Sleeping is acceptable. Emotional abuse is not, but, when you're being abused like that, you often can't see it. Even if it's spoken softly, it's constant and insidious and eats at the very core of a person who comes to believe that everything is their fault. The LW worrying about upsetting her mom over this very inappropriate request is indicative of that conditioning.

    There's not enough space here, obviously, to even scratch the surface of this conversation. I only wish help for all of those living it. :-( And Messy and Nagatuki, I welcome you guys' comments ANYtime! :-)

  39. "She should refuse to write the eulogy. Period."

    _That's_ why I said you were passionate about it - it leaves no room for discussion, after your lengthy explanation of what this LW went through (all your speculation, still).

    Clearly, Messy, you're intent on insulting me but have no qualms accusing me of the same (rational discussion, indeed).

    As I said, I'm not an expert (though apparently you are), and I'm not - not - going to argue with you over some stupid LW who has no idea we're debating whether she should write a eulogy.

    I tried to provide examples of degrees of abuse, but only after being called out on my first response, which essentially told LW to suck it up for someone else if she's so ambivalent.

    I also wrote this, which I think bears repeating (again):

    (caveat: if he was going to be there anyway, of course; I'm not arguing it's better than an actually engaged dad).

    Based solely on what she wrote this is what I said, and I never said she didn't really suffer, yada yada, but frankly, if she's so wishy-washy and actually has to ask for advice, can we not assume that maybe it's not as bad as someone raped by her dad every day?

    No? Completely equal? Okay.

    I tried to be very clear that life didn't sound great, but at this point she should act like an adult for the people left behind after her father dies of his addiction, and I don't see why that's so terrible.

    Frankly, I don't care anymore, but thanks for the attacks; I'm so much the better for it.

  40. Smaggie, very well said.

    I did much reading on abuse after the beginning of this discussion. What I came away with after reading a list of symptoms of abuse is that the damage left behind is much the same for any abuse. The victims suffer through much of the same internal thoughts/behaviors regardless of the intensity of the abuse...seems humans feel a high intensity regardless of, once again, any so called level of abuse.
    It all sucks. It all leaves damages. Not validating a victims abuse causes more damage, continues the damage, which is why proposing there is an actual way to gauge levels of abuse seems so incredulous.
    It all leaves me trying daily to do some act of kindness as I never know when my simple deed may be the one positive interaction a person has in their day.

    Until Thursday...happy trails to you...

  41. Messy and Nagatuki, you're both right and Smag and Debbie are pretty good at synthesis.

    I Just now I realized that Prudie should have advised the LW to join a support group for adult children's of alcoholics. They're not the same as ALANON but I can't remember their exact moniker. They're probably on Google (if not, it means they don't exist! ha ha) I understand it's an organization that can be very helpful...

  42. Actually Kati, you were correct. Al-Anon and Alateen are both support groups under the same umbrella for family of alcoholics (and, fact is, other types of addicts, as well). They're here:

    And yes, they can be wildly helpful, even if it's just for providing literature. Meetings aren't good for everyone, I know, but, even attending and not speaking is sometimes helpful just to hear stories and go, "Holy crap?! That's me! That's us! I never knew how fucked up that is?!" It can be mind blowing--in a really good way.

  43. For clarification, Al-Anon is not the same as Alcoholics Anonymous, and Al-Anon is a support group for adult children and family members of alcoholics. Although, there certainly may be others!