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!


  1. asking for a "friend"December 22, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    I'd anything for $30! :). have an awesome Festivus everyone!

  2. Bravo Smag! You're much nicer than I am, but that goes without saying, right?

    (Oh, and the usual favor...there's a new SHADDAP, if you could give a technotard a hand posting....)

    Have a lovely Christmas and party into the New Year, big guy. You've earned a break.