As per usual, see original letters <a href="http://www.slate.com/id/2233031/">here.</a>
LW#1: Can you count the red flags with me? "Several times, he's called me by her name." What is the context? In the sack? When he's annoyed with you? Context determines whether this is a red flag or just the fact that you're getting so close to him he confuses you with family at family-style moments (i.e. like how my parents called the dog by my name and my brother's name, or called us by the dog's name on occasions where one of us was being exasperating).
"At the last family dinner, he was playing footsies with her under the table." Okay, I'm going to count this as a red flag. By the time you are old enough to get married, you should cease with the clowning, especially "Deliverance"-style clowning, at the table.
"If I were to bring this up, he'd be upset" Now THIS is a red flag. Actually, this is basically the only red flag, when it comes down to it.
All the creepy footsie and inter-personal knowledge they have of each other are boundaries they have set and are comfortable with (and what exactly is wrong with being married to one's first and only significant other? While it wouldn't have worked for me, it does work for others). What is weird is that apparently he can't talk about this with you.
Why? I assume you're a little judgey when you try to broach the issue. You want to know if he's "normal." But his "sensitivity" is another red flag. Yes, this is uncomfortable ground, but you two are getting married, and a host of uncomfortable realities await you in marriage-land. You think this talk is uncomfortable? What about you living with your uncertainty for the rest of your marriage? What about him resenting your feelings toward his sister? If you really love and trust each other enough to spend the rest of your lives together, this is something you should be able to be honest about with each other.
But what I want to know is why the two of you are getting married if you, for your part, are wondering if there's something incestuous about his relationship and he, for his part, thinks you hate the sister he is so fond of. This seems like a very intimate and negative dynamic to be merging a family with.
If what you're really worried about is that he is closer to her, more able to freely talk with her. than you, then that may be its own problem.
Before you get married, make sure you're on the same page about who comes first to him. It should be you.
LW#2: I guess Prudie has no idea what an "open-style" house is, where all the walls are open to eyeballs. Sheesh.
I am guessing that there is a high enough level of detail to make you a little antsy about "just anyone" seeing this picture. So don't display it. Wait until you live somewhere else, or you don't care anymore. Or just until you can learn to lie about it.
If the picture is really hot, though, there will be a day where you'll be telling people, "That was me many years ago." Seriously. Take the Golden Girls route then.
I don't really understand what you're asking for. Do you want to be told not to be such a prude or that you should go ahead and lie about this painting? Do whatever you want, this is your life.
LW#3: Well, there are developmentally appropriate ways of dealing with this (that do not include lying to your kid) and I'd suggest you'd get in contact with the kinds of resources that will help you learn what they are so you can get out ahead of this situation you've created.
I would suggest talking with a therapist who is used to this sort of thing or heading to the library/book store pronto, too.
Another thing: You knew this day would come. You know there are other questions that will arise in the future. They all have answers that are painful, awful, sad and you have NO idea how, exactly, they will affect your girl. But here's the thing: You have the advantage of foresight. You can start making a plan about how you want to talk to your daughter about this. You can start practicing now, before she puts your back against the wall someday and you say some other untruth (or just plain stupid thing).
I can't help you with what you've already done (though Prudie's advice is sound enough), but I do know that kids not only like the truth, they NEED it, especially from people they trust. They also don't handle things the way you might think they would. The mind of a little kid is a really different place, and we adults tend to forget that. Always be truthful to her. Always, always be willing to answer any questions she has.
LW#4: If this is a new thing, it could be impending dementia. That is something to be paranoid about.
In the meantime, if you REALLY want to be scrupulous, get whatever she gets (candies, grapes) put them in separate bags and pay for it at the register and then say, "We won't be needing these, this is me paying for what my mother ate." That should embarrass both of you pretty bad.
Also, any security guard that will bust an 80-y-o woman would probably not actually arrest her, but give her a shakedown in the back room she'll remember for a while. I suspect she'd be given a pass, though.
You could also tell her that what she does embarrasses you and makes you think she needs to be put in a home.
No, seriously, I wouldn't worry about what your mother is doing. It's freaky, sure, but it's probably easier to freak out about what is probably a symptom instead of the core problem, which is probably neurological and not moral.
But I suppose the kindest advice is to tell you to a) take her to a doctor and b) if she's just becoming a little sneak thief in old age, tell her what my mother told me when I, at a very young age, contemplated eating a Brach's caramel: "How much money is your integrity worth? Five cents?" (Little did she know she was setting me up to do an integrity cost benefit comparison in the future because I was a bit literal-minded, but really, is your integrity worth the price of grapes and candy?)