Help! My Mom Keeps Dragging Me to the Club Against My Will.

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here.

Dear Prudence,

I write to you for some help with what is probably a strange dilemma: How do I enjoy clubbing with my mom? To elaborate, my mom was a single parent who gave up a lot to raise me. Now that she’s older and retired, she’s trying to indulge in some of her old hobbies, like listening to live music in clubs and bars. Going to these performances wasn’t really a problem when she was in her home country, where she had friends and other family members to keep her company, but now that she’s with me in America, she’s reluctant to go out by herself, and I end up going with her to these events to help her enjoy her retirement.

The problem is, I am the complete opposite of her and hate going out to clubs! I don’t like being outside past 7 p.m. and dislike alcohol (in contrast, she enjoys the ambience of nightclubs and loves drinking), so I kind of just awkwardly sit in the corner with my phone in hand. I also have sensory issues with crowds and loud music, so I try to make myself as small as possible. My mom, unsurprisingly, can sense this anxious energy from me, and the last time we went to a jazz bar to see one of her favorite bands, she tried to cut her stay shorter than usual in consideration of me.

She says she’s already happy that I’m “making the sacrifices” to come with her, but I don’t want her to feel bad about this! I try my best not to make it obvious how much I dislike being in this type of space, but she’s my mom. Obviously, she knows the kid she raised. As such, I’d appreciate any advice on how I can shift my mindset and allow myself to enjoy, or at least become accustomed to, this type of space. Letting her go out alone isn’t an option, considering her age and bad ankle, but I also don’t want her to feel bad about her hobbies when I accompany her. What would you recommend I do to ensure that my mom has a good time by making myself have a good time too?

—Homebody Child of an Ex–Party Mom

Dear Homebody Child,

I can feel how much you want your mom to have a good time and be happy and how much you appreciate what she did to raise you as a single parent. But I want to promise you this: You may owe your mom some love and gratitude for all she’s done for you in life, but you do not owe her clubbing if you don’t like it!

My German husband basically grew up in clubs, going out dancing, staying out late. He is over 50 and still wants to go dancing! I, on the other hand, have been in exactly one real dance club in my life (in Berlin, last year, at the age of 48) and do not plan on making it a regular thing. We all love people who like different things than we do. And while it’s nice to give the things we don’t naturally gravitate toward a try now and then, we do not need to adopt them as our own lifestyle (unless that is part of an explicit deal in your relationship—which is a different thing).

I think your time and energy would be better spent helping your mom find a friend, or a group, with whom she could indulge her love of jazz bars and drinking and staying out late. People of all ages are on the apps. Could you help her set up a profile and go through suitable matches? It doesn’t have to be for romance; there are options out there to find friends too. Or maybe research if there are seniors clubs or groups that go on outings together? Taking this project on would also give you quality time together, and you’d be showing how much you care about her by helping her gain some independence, in addition to having fun.

If you still want to keep her company at the club while you look for alternatives, why don’t you try setting some boundaries and expectations? You could offer to go out twice a month, or whatever is doable, and also make clear you are good only until 10 p.m. That way, you know that it won’t be a night that goes on and on.

The great thing is that, if she does find her own person(s), you can spend your time together doing things that you both enjoy doing. No need to “make” anyone have a good time!

Dear Prudence,

I’ve been dating my (33 F) boyfriend, “Brian” (35 M), for about three years. We just moved in together, and things are great. My only issue is that he gets jealous. Brian has a good job and we make very similar salaries, but he’s not very fulfilled by his work and has been passed up for several promotions in the past five years. Brian and I have very good communication, but he’s been trying to hide his jealousy for a while, until it all came out over the weekend. He said he’s a little jealous of the opportunities I’ve had recently to travel and go to other events because of my job.

People being jealous of me is not a new thing, but it is something that I have only recently started to realize. My best friend since high school was this way. After I recognized that this friend’s strange behaviors, which I’d merely considered odd at the time, were due to jealousy, it started to make sense. The thing is, because it took so long for me to have this epiphany, I haven’t really developed the skills to deal with it, and I don’t know how to deal with it with Brian now. I want to be there for him. He’s not letting the jealousy be destructive to our relationship, but I just don’t know how to comfort someone jealous of what I have. It’s not as if I grew up rich. My parents were teachers, which I think helped me to do the things that got me into a good school, but I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am. I can’t change the fact that I’m successful, and I’m not going to feel bad about it. Brian is being very mature and says he wants to work on this together. I really want to help him. Is that even possible? Is this something he just needs to go to therapy for? What can I do?

—Successful Girlfriend

Dear Girlfriend,

I am trying to square the beginning of your letter—“things are going great”—and everything else you have to say. You two “have very good communication,” but he was hiding his jealousy, then let it all out over the weekend. He isn’t “letting the jealousy be destructive to our relationship,” but here you are, writing to Prudie! He is being “very mature” about this, but you feel it’s your job to comfort him out of his negative feelings. Let me tell you: This is not possible. Also, his jealousy is not your problem (unless you are rubbing your success in his face, but it does not sound as if that is what you are doing). I truly hate to be a downer here, but I’m pretty concerned about your relationship. You’re doing a lot of saying that things are great, but then undermining that with various details. (Also, have you wondered why he has been passed up for all those promotions? I know there are a million factors in these things, but I have to wonder if something else is going on with work too.)

The best way you can help him is suggest he go to therapy to deal with his feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. But I want to stress, again, that this is not your problem. You are proud of your success, and a good—mature, to use your word—partner should be proud of you too. See if he can get to a better place, and if he can’t, please consider your options! You sound like a catch.

Submit your questions anonymously here. (Questions may be edited for publication.) And for questions on parenting, kids, or family life, try Care and Feeding!

Dear Prudence,

My stepchildren are 15 and 20. I have a toddler and stay at home. Things are pretty tight, moneywise. They never text us when they are coming over for dinner. Then, they complain that they’re hungry and don’t have hot food in front of them and have to make themselves a sandwich. Half the time, they don’t even bother to show up when they say they will, leaving us to waste food. Even with boxing up the leftovers, it is beyond frustrating. My husband likes having dinnertime be family time, but frankly, it feels to me like a slap in the face. I am not asking for the moon and the stars here—just be respectful and let me know if you’re coming for dinner or not!

I hit my limit when I made some fresh spaghetti with enough for my husband and me and our baby. The 20-year-old shows up with friends and then tells me, to my face, that I need to get back in the kitchen and make more. My husband was right there when this was said to me. I got up, got my toddler, and left the house for a very long walk.

When we got back home, my husband was upset that I had made a “scene.” I told him that if I hadn’t left, there would have been a scene that required the police to be called. How dare he let his adult child speak to me like that. I am his wife, not the cook and housekeeper his children get to use and abuse. I told him I was done: I would cook for our baby and myself. My husband could be the short-order cook for his own kids. I am sticking to it, and my husband hates it. The man could burn water, and his kids don’t want to learn to cook either (I tried). I am not expecting my stepchildren to see me as an authority figure, but some courtesy isn’t hard. Short of just throwing in the towel, what do I do?


Dear Dinnertime,

Right off the top, let me praise you for the phrase “The man could burn water” because I have never heard that before, and I love it!

But seriously, there are two things to address in your letter: first, the simple one, which is the chaos around food and your stepchildren. It sounds as if they don’t live with you but come and go at their whim. As a divorced parent who shares custody, I understand your husband’s wanting to be maximally flexible for your children, even into adulthood, and making sure the kids feel that both parents’ houses are home.

However, you are indeed not asking for the moon here. My daughter texts me if she is with her dad but needs to come over to get something. This is just a basic heads-up and courtesy. It sounds as if your stepchildren can’t handle even this, so I think you have to do what we all do with children who won’t behave: Put them on a schedule. Tell your husband that until they can learn to communicate clearly when they are coming over, they are invited on Tuesdays and Fridays (or whatever days are good for you), and you will plan on them for dinner. They are not to bring guests or surprise you at other times. They are expected to be punctual.

If your husband won’t get behind this … well, we’re on to the other thing in your note. Your husband (and father of your toddler) does not have your back. There is no reason I can see that he should be tolerating his kids’ crap behavior—especially if it’s resulting in him missing out on your cooking! If you two can’t get on the same page about this, I think it’s time to try therapy (if you love him and want to be with him, which is not clear from your letter) or, as you say, throw in the (kitchen) towel.

Although I myself do not smoke, I have a real fetish for women who smoke. I try to always carry cigarettes with me, just in case someone (preferably an attractive female) is looking for one. Well, this plan worked; a single woman bummed a few cigarettes from me, and now something is developing (maybe just a friendship, but I’m hoping for more). When she realizes that I don’t smoke, however, she’ll wonder why I keep cigarettes. Would there be any good way to answer this question without scaring her off?