June 21, 2018
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My 16-year-old got pregnant at a party. Shouldn’t the hosts pay up?

Emily Yoffe
By Emily Yoffe, Slate

Dear Prudence,

I am furious with another set of parents. My 16-year-old daughter has recently told her mother and me that she is pregnant. It happened at a party that was not well-supervised, and there was alcohol involved. The boy involved and his family are owning up to their share of the responsibility, but the owners of the house are absolutely infuriating me.

They need to admit their share of this burden, as it was their booze and their house party that allowed this to happen. My family is going to have a lot of expenses due to this new baby, and I don’t know how much the boy’s family can help, so it seems that the party’s host should help out, again as it was on their watch that this happened. So far, that family has ignored me when I have tried to speak with them about this.

I am ready to call a lawyer to press the issue, but my wife thinks I am overreacting. What do you think?

— Where’s the Money?

Dear Money,

I believe this is a yet unexplored avenue of tort law. I am awaiting the television ads for law firms that announce, “Was your daughter knocked up in the basement at a friend’s house while the parents were upstairs watching Masters of Sex? You may be entitled to compensation!”

Dad, you wouldn’t be suing yourself if it happened in your basement while you were out at a football game. Listen to your wife and forget the other parents. The issue here is that a couple of dopey teens are on track to become parents themselves. Your family needs to be seriously addressing this issue and all your options. Perhaps proceeding with the pregnancy is not a good idea. Perhaps if termination is not a possibility, placing the child for adoption is. If your daughter is going to keep the baby, the burden is going to fall on your family.

So stop trying to displace your anger and anxiety. It’s time to show your daughter how mature parents face tough situations.

Dear Prudence,

I am the co-chair of a daylong cultural and educational event at a local college. Our budget is small, and we have people from out of town, and over the years my elderly widowed mother has allowed me to put up some of the out-of-town speakers at her large and nice house. I also throw a reception at her house.

Preparing for this is frantic and stressful. This year, five guests were staying at my mother’s. Two days before the event, I went to her house, stripped the beds, and washed all of the sheets and towels necessary for the guests. I placed the folded clean sheets, pillowcases, and towels on each bed, figuring that each guest could make his or her own bed. She felt not making the bed was tacky, and since it was her house (as she frequently reminds me), she could make the rules. We had a huge fight, and I left without making the beds. Acting the martyr, she got my brother’s girlfriend to help her make all of the beds.

After the event, I stripped all of the beds and put the linens in the washing machine. My mother then wanted me to come back and remake all of the beds and fold the towels. I declined. My brothers often host overnight guests and have even thrown large parties there, and I have never heard her make housekeeping demands of them. Now my mother has informed me that I cannot host any guests at her house in the future.

So my three questions are: Is it socially acceptable to place clean, folded sheets on the bed and expect my guests to make their own beds? Am I wrong to feel angry at my mother for making a big deal about a trivial issue when I had more important things to deal with? And isn’t she being a big jerk for having a double standard between me and my brothers? The fabric of our relationship is rent over sheets. Suggestions?

— Not My Mother’s Maid

Dear Not,

In one corner we have Elderly Widowed Mother, who opens her home to provide free lodging and banquet facilities for your guests. In the other corner we have Daughter With Important Things to Do, who’s not about to provide maid service.

Since I’m the referee, I’m ending this bout, and I think the crowd will agree that Elderly Widowed Mother wins by unanimous decision. Let’s take each of your questions.

One, while it’s not the world’s biggest faux pas to leave the sheets on the end of the bed, it also isn’t gracious. Being a good hostess is important to your EWM, so if you didn’t have time to make the beds, you should have gotten someone to do it.

Two, your EWM may not have been understanding how overwhelmed and stressed out you were, but you were equally unsympathetic to the stress this generous older woman was feeling about providing a lovely experience for her — I mean, your — guests.

Three, when you start this one by calling your EWM a “big jerk,” you don’t make a good case for yourself. Maybe your mother is sexist, or maybe your brothers are much more attentive and grateful than you when she allows them to use her home.

As for suggestions, start by buying a large bouquet of flowers and personally delivering it to your mother. Include a note of apology that says you were wrong and you are so sorry you lost your temper. Go on to tell her how much you appreciate everything she does for you, how remarkable she is that she can still throw a hell of a party, and how you need to learn to better manage your stress. You might also want to book the hotel now for next year’s event in order to lock in the best rates.

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. Questions may be edited.

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