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, December 22, 2011

(NEW!!!) ...on Sisters, Brothers, Mothers and even Extended Family

Original Prudie Letters Can Be Found Here.

Hey hidey-ho-ho-ho, Shippers!  How in the hell are ya on this fine-fine, pre-holiday Prudie Day?  I hope that you’re all well, that you’ve family around, that the lovely aroma of cookies is wafting all through the house, and, that you’ve had the chance to sip tea or coffee or your holiday beverage-of-choice while watching those movies you’ve been too busy to watch up until now.  I wish for you all a wonderful and merry holiday season, however and in whichever way you celebrate it.  And, now with that said, and since we’ve got letters, why don’t we get crackin’?!

LW#1:  Dear Prudie, I like my family’s tradition of spending Christmas Eve at my parent’s house with my brother and our parents.  All together as one happy family.  Just us.  But, since my brother got married, not only has his wife and her family tagged along, but, we’ve spent Christmas Eve at their house!  And now they want us to do it again!  Now I’m dreading Christmas and don’t know if I even want to go.  Why can’t it be like it’s always been, without all of the intruders and interlopers changing our traditions?  And who moved my cheese?!  Signed, Longing in Lawrenceville

Dear Longing.  Listen, I understand what you’re saying.  I do.  But, not once did you say anything negative about your in-laws (and yes, they’re your in-laws, too, even though you made a specific point to divorce yourself from them in your original letter to Prudie) other than that you don’t like their son, due to some high school indiscretion or other.  You can certainly stew on this situation.  Plenty of people do.  They’re known as “Grumpy Aunt Sarah, the Spinster” or “Drunk Uncle Sam, the Curmudgeon”, etc.  They’re the bane of everyone’s holiday celebrations, but they also make for the best stories afterwards.  So, by all means, keep feeling put upon when invited to share hospitality with people who are nice to you.  You’ll be appreciated for the water cooler fodder you provide in the New Year.  And, too, yes, I do get that you’d like things to go back to how they were.  Hell, I would love to press a “reset” button on life, too.  There are tons of things that I’d do differently, and tons I’d just like to do again.  But, as appealing as that sounds, it’s not real life.  Nor is it how things work.  Real life is staring you in the face and you can accept or not the fact that your brother has grown up and is making a family of his own.  You can choose to be a part of that family that your brother takes forward into life or not.  That's your choice.  Don’t worry.  This stuff happens to the best of us.  And sometimes, it’s even for the better.  Hang in there, okay?  You might find that if you give it a try without any preconceived notion, you might even enjoy something new.

LW#2:  Dear Prudie, my family and I have been estranged from my brother for nearly ten years.  For years of living with us he’d been a hateful shit to my sister, me, and our parents.  And, worse, once he moved out and married, he continued in his shittiness by writing letters to us, blaming us for imaginary slights we’d put him through and in particular attacking our generous and loving dad.  Well, he's recently divorced and has been making an effort to reconnect with us.  He’s reached a fragile peace with my parents and my sister.  And recently a whole stack of Christmas presents from him arrived for me.  Should I acknowledge them with a thank you?  Ignore him (as my impulse says to do)?  Or what?  How can I best move forward?  Confused and Hurting in Cincinnati.

Dear Confused.  Look, I know this seems very complicated, but, it’s far less so than it you’re making it (which is understandable--it’s a sucky situation!).  Just ask yourself this:  will your ignoring him be more of a strain on you (including any worry you may have about how your family will react) than the peace of mind you’ll gain from continuing to keep him at a safe distance?  If the answer is yes, extend an ever-so-cautious olive branch.  Otherwise, don't.  If you need to stay distant (something which you’ve every right to do, and which you’re completely allowed to do), simply explain to your parents and sister that you can’t open up that part of your heart again right now.  Explain that it’s still too tender.  And know that that’s fine.  As long as you’re not actively rude or disparaging or judgmental of their contact with him, your distance won’t hurt their relationship unless they choose to make it an issue (which is not your fault).  Maybe later you’ll feel that you want to give it a try, but, right now, explain that’s not how you feel and that they need to respect your feelings.  However, if you do choose the path of continuing to ignore him, under no circumstances are you allowed to keep the presents!  Return them unopened, with a note that simply says, “I’m cannot accept these, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to.  I wish you peace and happiness.”  And then enjoy and embrace the love of the family that’s always been there for you.

LW#3:  Dear Prudie, I enjoy visiting my family for the holidays, but I hate the annual ritual of attending mass.  And it’s not as if my parents are particularly religious.  They only go on Christmas and Easter.  Yet, my mother will be very hurt (and it'll show) if I don’t go to mass with them.  My father, ever the peacemaker, would rather that I go along to appease my mother and to keep her from pitching a royal bitch and ruining the holidays for the whole family.  But I'm just as stubborn as she is.  What should I do?  Signed, Hating the Hypocrisy in Hoboken

Dear Hating.  This is a common and real concern.  And in your case it’s made even more prickly in your mind because of what you perceive as your parents’ spotty attendance at church.  Here’s the thing, though:  you need to think of this like a scale.  On the one hand of the scale, you have the shittiness that your mother will doll upon your and everyone’s head if you don’t go to mass, hypocritical though that may be (and it is).  On the other, you have the shittiness that you’ll experience if you do go.  If you want to know who’s right in this situation, it’s you.  You win nothing for being right, of course, but, you are in the right to feel as you do.  No person should ever be forced, especially by guilt and shittiness, to do things that they don’t want to do.  On the other hand, taking us back to our scales, how long will the shittiness last if you don’t go versus if you do?  I’m not saying that your mom’s in any way correct, but, seems that she’s probably capable of making the whole holiday about the fact that you didn’t go to mass.  And involving other family members.  Emotional blackmail-style.  Or, you can choose to go and simply employ the philosophy of WWABD.  That’s “What Would Alec Baldwin Do”?  And we now all know the answer to that question.  He’d play Words With Friends while spending an hour and a half in mass because he knows that’ll be less pain, time-wise, than dealing with Mama Baldwin’s complaining about the fact that he and Stephen and the other brother, the one with no talent, didn’t go to church with her.  You should follow Alec’s lead and go to mass, too.  Even though it’s wrong and you shouldn’t have to.   And while there, you should play Words With Friends.  It's not just any game, mind you.  It’s a word game.  For smart people.

LW#4:  Dear Prudie.  My sister and I each receive a check for $30 every Christmas from an Aunt and Uncle that we see only once per year.  Now that we’re adults, not only does the tradition seem weird, it means that I have to write them a thank you note for the check.  I’m sure that you’ll agree that it’s all a bit gauche.  What should we do?  Signed, All Grown Up in Albuquerque

Dear All Grown Up.  No, you’re not.  Look, I get that you and your sister think it’s a little weird to get a $30 check from your aunt and uncle each Christmas.  Especially now that you’re in your 30s, have families of your own, and are near the age of writing Christmas checks to your own ungrateful, shitty nieces and nephews.  But, what gave away your lack of maturity, grace, and even basic empathetic ability (or concern) is the fact that you clearly seem most upset by this arrangement not because you find it weird, but because you’re compelled to “go out of your way” to write a thank you card.  You know, if you don’t want to send a thank you card, don’t.  You don’t even have to cash the check.  Some people don't consider that a chore.  You do.  Why hide it?  Plus, you could always send back the check with a note that says, “Cashing this tiny little check isn’t worth the effort that’s going to be required to write you a thank you note each year, so, could we please just share annual pleasantries at Thanksgiving and call it good?”  I realize it’ll take some effort to write that out (try some Icy Hot afterwards, it’d good for the hand cramps), but, rest assured, if you do it correctly, you won’t have to do it again next year, or ever again.

Well, Shippers, that about does it!  I hope that you have the best holidays ever.   May your coffee or hot chocolate warm you, may your Christmas cookies fill you, and may your travels both now and over the coming days, be filled with time well-spent with loved ones and tater tots and grand adventures.  Fair winds and following seas, Shippers!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

...on a Cat Woman, a Princess, a Jewess, and a Reasonable Writer

Original Prudie Questions Can Be Found Here.

Hey hidey-hoy, Shippers!  How in the hell are ya on this fine-fine Prudie Day?  Are you finishing classes maybe?   Taking that one last test, or turning in that last term paper?  Or, maybe work is winding down before taking time off for the holidays?  Or all of the above?  Whatever your situation, I wish you a happy and wonderful next few weeks (and yes, that includes Christmas, but it also includes Hanukkah , Kwanzaa, Festivus, Winter Solstice, and even “Sunday the 25th”, a purely secular day for some).  Regardless of how you spend the holidays, my sincere wishes for a wonderful time for you all!  :-)  Except for maybe a LW or two, who truly don’t deserve it!  To that end, let’s get crackin’ on these letters, shall we?

LW#1:  Dear Prudie, I’m in my 30s, have met the man of my dreams and am ready to marry and start a family.  The problem?  I have a cat and my beau is deathly allergic.  My cat is eight-years-old and I feel super-guilty about trying to figure out how to best place him in a loving home.  My rigid, judgmental, asshole friends are basically accusing me of the equivalent of abandoning a child, and, too, my cat is starting to develop behavioral problems because I spend so much time away from home at my boyfriend’s house.  What can I do to assuage this guilty feeling?  Signed, Broken Hearted in Belleview

Dear Broken.  First off, tell your friends to shove their judgmental attitudes up their own (or each other’s) asses.  Either, a) they’re jealous old bitties from whom you’d do well to extricate yourself, or, b) you’re reading too much into what they’re saying due to your feelings of guilt.  Either way, Prudie’s suggestion of enlisting them to help you place the cat in a loving home is right on target and will tell you a lot about their motives in tearing you down and criticizing you.  Too, though, if you do need judgment, and want it from me, you’ve got it:  if you’re spending so much time away from home that your cat is developing behavioral problems as a result, you’re already way past being a shitty owner to your cat.  Finding a loving new home for a beloved animal due to changing life situations is not a crime, and sometimes it’s just the way life works when you wear big girl panties.  However, frequently leaving a cat for what’s obviously several days at a time without love or care?  That’s just shitty.  How you or your friends could possibly think that’s better than placing your cat in a loving home is beyond me.  You want to feel guilty about something, feel guilty about that.  And then fix it.  Pronto!

LW#2:  Dear Prudie, I have a wonderful husband who loves me dearly.  He spontaneously gives me presents, shows me great affection, sends flowers for no reason at all, gives tender, loving words, etc.   But, when it comes to planning for big events like birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, etc., he’s pretty terrible--to the point of barely making an effort at all to spend money on me.  I, on the other hand, get him thoughtful and appropriately-awesome gifts for those days.  Every time.  How can I tell him that it feels like a personal attack on me, our love, the very foundation of our relationship and our family’s future that he doesn’t pay special attention to me on those days and that I’m planning a major crying jag complete with holiday-ruining door-slamming (and other tirades) if he doesn’t come through in a big way this Christmas?  Signed, (Already) Buying Tissue in Birmingham

Dear Otherwise Great Husband’s Wife.  So, let me get this straight.  He loves you dearly, is loving and affectionate and generous, but, he blows it all by not planning ahead for and getting you gifts on big days?  Is that right?  I’m not meaning to trivialize your complaint, I just want to make sure that I understand the issue.  No, look, I’m being a little heavy-handed, but, you have to realize that you’re falling victim to “princess syndrome” (PS).  PS dictates that, not only should your husband be the most awesome man ever, he should also be able to magically predict your desires without hints or clues from you, know you so well that he just “knows” what you want, and then deliver it in such grand style that you feel you’re the only woman on Earth.  And, truth is, I can understand that desire.  Hell, I’d like that, too!  But, fact is, that’s not how things work most of the time in the real world.  I know that you think that you do great by him, but, you know what?  I bet if he gave in to PS, he’d be wondering why you can’t do things a different way for him!  And the shame is that you both think you’re doing well for the other!  He thinks he’s being awesome by showing you how much he loves you all year long.  You think you’re being awesome by buying him big ticket items that he may or may not need or want, but, by golly, I guarantee you he’ll pretend he loves them because, well, you guys (or at least you) aren’t communicating!  Prudie’s right.  You need to be proactive and quit pretending that if you leave a hint or help your husband give you what you want that the effort he then makes and the gift he then buys will be somehow tainted or of less value.  That line of thinking is best left to Disney movies and fantasy.

LW#3:  Dear Prudie.  I’m Jewish.  My husband is not.  His family is not.  But I am!  I just had a little boy who I’m raising Jewish.   My in-laws are great, supportive, but simple, uneducated people.  They’ve traveled at great expense to my son’s bris and though they don’t know any Jews, have tried to be understanding of my culture and my religion.  I am traveling to see them over Hanukah and they would like to give my son presents.  I’ve directed them to wrap the presents in Hanukah paper because my son is Jewish and Christmas paper will stain his soul.  They claim that Christmas is a secular holiday and that receiving Christmas presents from them won’t permanently scar my son or exclude him from Heaven and God’s grace.  How can I help them respect my wishes.  Signed, Jewess in Jersey

Dear Jersey.  I’m going to try to be as tactful as possible.  I, too, worry for your son’s soul.  But my worry isn’t due to Christmas paper or other exposure to Heathen activity.  It’s due to his mother’s selfish, self-interested, elitist snobbery.  Listen, I don’t know if you know this, but, there are other religions, other cultures, other traditions in this world outside of your own.  And your son will be exposed to them.  And you can make that exposure so vile and nasty that you drive him away from you and your own culture and tradtions, or, you can recognize that you married a non-Jew.  That you chose to break with Jewish tradition in doing so, and that you are at fault if you think that you can now go back on that and make everything in your son's life be about you and your ways.  Whether you let your husband touch the child or not with his goy hands, he is the child's father, and his family is your son's family.  Didn’t you realize your husband was a non-Jew when you married?  What, did you just not give a shit because you reckoned that, like his weak, wimpy ass, his entire family would just bow to you and your desires?  You know what?  Call it Hanukah, call it Christmas, call in Solstice, I don’t care.  One thing I’m pretty sure of is that it’s supposed to be a time of grace and giving and tolerance.  Maybe you should ponder that part of your tradition, eh?

LW#4:  Dear Prudie.  My sister and I would like to visit our childhood home.  We have many great memories of the place and would love to see the house, the yard, the rooms.  Unfortunately, our family no longer lives there and I don’t know how to go about asking the current owners if it’s okay if we come for a visit.  I know that my own parents would be quite derisive and object whole-heartedly to anyone making such a request of them regarding their house!  What should I do?  Signed, Homesick in Harrisburg

Dear Homesick.  Simply write a letter to the current owners.  Explain what you’ve explained here.  Offer proof of your identity--perhaps a picture or two of you and your sister in front of the house?  Unless the current owners are as horrible as your parents sound (and let’s hope not!), they will happily have you into their home, or, if they’re unable to do so (and there are certainly valid reasons why they couldn’t), they’ll at least write back explaining their sincere regrets.  Either way, it’s a very modest request and the worst you can receive is a no.  Good luck, and happy memories!

Well, Shippers, that about does it!  May your week be filled with fun, happiness, double burgers and fries!  And, too, may we all meet here again next week for more of that magical Prudie fun.  ‘Til then, fair winds and following seas to you all!  Cheers!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

...on Creepers, Skeeves, Painters and Pricks

 Original Prudie Letters Can Be Found Here.

Hey hidey-ho there, Shippers!  How in the hell are ya on this fine-fine December morn?  How’s life been treating you lo these many months gone by?  What are your plans for the many upcoming holidays?  Do tell!  Listen, I could go into a long explanation of what I’ve been up to over the last several months, and, too, ask you what you’ve been up to, but, fact is, we’re all here for the letters, right?  So, with that in mind, and to shake off the dust, let’s get crackin’ on ‘em, shall we?

LW#1:  Dear Prudie, I’m not going to give you a single bit of context or back story or even a single detail of my life save for these:  I’m miserable because my 58-year-old husband of (less than, but nearly) two years has just left me for my daughter of (fully) 25 years.  I now feel “heartbroken, betrayed and furious at the two people I love most.”  What do I do?  Signed, Miserable is Muskogee

Dear Ms. Miserable.  Damn!  That’s a kick in the titty, eh?  So, look, I’m not a “blame the victim” kind of guy, but, you say that your daughter is one of the two people in the world you love most.  As such, why would she ever dream of doing this?  How did things end with your first husband?  Did you leave him for someone else back when your daughter was in her formative years?  Is there some other powerful reason for your daughter to treat you with such little regard or respect?  These things don't usually just crop up out of the blue--especially with those we "love most."  If it was a passionate, short-term mistake (and those do happen) by an otherwise-loving daughter, she would have tearfully fessed up and distanced herself from Old Man Creeper.  But instead, she’s moving in with him?  And, then, there’s your 58-year-old ex (whom you love second most) shacking up with a 25-year-old girl?!  Boy, you sure do know how to pick 'em!  So, while I’m not blaming you, I do suggest that you go for counseling and tell the counselor everything you've told us (and, you know, the rest of the story, too), and try to find out why those you “love most” are such apparent duds.  Be prepared to hear, once you're done with your fainting fit, that your love of the dramatic is going to be just as much a part of what you need to overcome as the betrayed furiousness you now feel.  And, as for the new lovebirds, were I you, I'd simply wish them well.  Their fling will last only so long as you make it apparent that it bothers you, because, your daughter, having not fallen far from the tree, will quickly grow tired of your ex if she can’t get a rise out of you over the situation.

LW#2:  Dear Prudie, my FIL is a creeper.  His actions with my daughter make her (and me, and my husband, I think,) very uncomfortable.  The in-laws are rarely around, and their culture dictates that they be treated with extreme reverence when they are.  And, even though they treat me like shit, I’ve deferred to that dynamic in the past to keep the peace.  But I've determined that I won’t have my daughter at risk any more.  What can I do?  Signed, Standing Up in Scranton

Dear Standing Up.  Good for you!  Now, as Prudie says, get your husband to address not only the treatment of your daughter--have him tell them that she doesn’t like rough housing and that gramps is going to need to practice a much more hands-off approach this time--but, too, he needs to put the kibosh on his parents' poor treatment of you, too.  If he hasn’t already turned toward them when they condescend to you, eyes a full shade and a half of Hell and said, “Excuse me, but, that’s my wife, this is her house, and if I ever, ever hear her treated like that again, you will no longer be welcome here”, then he needs to be told that that’s his responsibility.  And, if he won’t do it, you should.  You should never be condescended to in your own house, nor should you ever feel the need to defer your feelings about your daughter’s safety.  Ever.  To anyone.  You are her protector, not a model for her on how best to be shit upon.

LW#3:  Dear Prudie, my girlfriend’s step father paints nudes of her.  He’s 80-something and we’re in our 30s.  He didn’t start painting her until she was in her 20s.  I’m all liberal and fine with nude paintings as a general concept, and his are very tasteful, but this arrangement skeeves me out.  Especially the frontals!  Am I a jealous prick or is something amiss here?  Signed, Heebie-jeebies in Hoboken

Dear Heebies.  You are a jealous prick who doesn’t respect his girlfriend’s judgment or her step-father's discretion.  And Prudie was way off base in her answer to you.  There.  How’s that?

LW#4:  Dear Prudie, I still have my security blanket from childhood.  I’ve tried to quit it, and have been able to put it away for months at a time, but, I always go back.  My boyfriend groans when he comes home and catches me with it and when I then try to lie and say that it was just sitting there and that “I wasn’t touching it, honest I wasn’t!”  I need help in breaking this habit.  Don’t I?  Signed, Insecure in Indianapolis

Dear Insecure.  Which habit are you asking about breaking?  Your relationship with your blankie, or your relationship with your prick boyfriend?  Listen, first off, and this is important, anyone, and I mean anyone who makes you feel like you need to lie about your blankie is not right for you.  Who the fuck is he, the blankie police?  If he thinks he needs to be with someone without a blankie, then let him.  And if that’s not you, that’s okay, too.  Might even be better!  Listen, people smoke, chew pens, have a favorite chair or hobby or other things from which they derive comfort.  You have your blankie.  If you want to break the habit for you, then that's one thing.  But if your asshole boyfriend can’t accept you for who you are, he’s the one with the insecurity issues.  Never lie about your blanket again.  It’s not necessary and it’s beneath you (although I would wash it--it sounds a little nasty by your description!).

Well Shippers, that’s it.  How was that for being gone so long?  Okay?  Need more snark?  Less?   I hope that alls’ well with you all and that you’re having a wonderful December!  Fair winds and following seas to you all!