I am concerned because my older brother who, by the way, just turned forty, but still is sometimes clueless about women, just got engaged to someone who is not totally honest about her credentials. On her website she says she is a graduate of a really good university several states from here. I happen to know, through a friend who once lived in the town where my brother’s fiancée lived, that she dropped out after her junior year and did not finish her degree. I’m concerned because she advertises herself as a life coach giving direction to other people, and she has an affiliation with a hospital, so doctors recommend patients to her. No, she does not have a master’s in psychology, but she has certifications from a few institutes, the names of which I do not recognize.
My family has always prided itself on honesty. If my parents found out about this issue, they would be very upset. So far they love this prospective daughter-in-law and really enjoy her company. Should I do some work checking this woman out? Like going to her face-to-face and asking if she finished her B.S. at the university? Or should I call the university and see if I could find out? I know Melania Trump lied and said she had a B.A in architecture from a university in Slovenia when she actually did not even finish her first year. However, this is America, and I would like to trust the credentials I see on paper.
I look forward to your response.
—Ornery in Ohio
I am not sure why you feel that it is your place to do a background check on your brother’s fiancée. You are not going to marry her, or even hire her as a life coach, so the question whether she completed four years of college, or only three, has remarkably little bearing on your life.
You will object that it is not the fiancée’s apparent lack of a B.S., but her dishonesty, that worries you (although your concern about her not having a master’s, a degree she apparently never claimed to possess, does make me wonder a little). And it is certainly true that a person who misrepresents her educational credentials may be equally untrustworthy in other areas. But for all you know, this may be an isolated instance—or not an instance at all. Maybe that friend who “once lived” near the university got the facts wrong, or maybe your brother’s fiancée went back to school and completed her degree at a later time. Unless she is half your brother’s age, she has had plenty of years to go back to Prestigious U. She also could have finished up at another institution, in which case there may have been some on-line oversimplification about where, but not whether, she eventually got her degree—a more venial sin, I’d say.
But even if her website is a web of lies, that is not really your lookout. The person who does have some legitimate interest in her bona fides is, of course, your brother. If you raise the credentials issue with anybody, it should be him.
As to whether you should talk to him, or maintain total silence, I am on the fence. I would probably speak up as a preemptive move if I thought he was likely to hear from some other source about the credentials issue, or that you had been talking about it behind his back. But if you doubt that the Incident of the Dubious Degree will ever come to light without your spilling the beans yourself, think twice about mentioning it at all, ever.
Of course, I do not know your brother. If he is anything like you, he might consider his betrothed’s alleged conduct a major transgression, and an impediment on the order of “speak now, or forever hold your peace.” Ask yourself whether you really believe that this is how he would see it, and that he would want to know the truth. If, after serious reflection, you can say yes to both questions, speak now. Try keeping it low key, though. “Remember my friend Winnie? She knew Fiancée back in U Town. By the way, she said Fiancée never graduated. But how the hell would she know? I’m sure there’s some explanation.”
And let’s keep Melania out of this. If false educational credentials had anything to do with facilitating her marriage—which I highly doubt—our First Lady has paid the price many times over.
LA WALLY SAYS:
Stop butting in. If you want to do something, get to know the fiancée better.
There is this guy at the gym I find really, really attractive. I mean really. We have chit-chatted a bit, and I have also overheard him talking to other people a few times because he tends to take the elliptical right next to mine whenever he can. Or so it seems. He sounds witty and funny, although I’ve never heard him talk about anything much beyond the machines and local sports, which is how things are at the gym.
Yesterday he asked me if I’d like to go out for coffee sometime and I said sure, but we didn’t set a date because I said that I had to run off.
That was not true. The fact is that I am ambivalent, and the reason I am ambivalent is that I have noticed that (when not looking at me!) he always looks at Fox News while he’s on the equipment. I abhor Fox News. I can’t even stand to watch it. I am also very progressive in my views. Is that reason enough to reject him? What should I do? Do pheromones lie?
—Fit but Fretful in Phoenix
I don’t know whether or not pheromones lie, exactly, but I suspect that they give us an incomplete picture. Your pheromones, and Gym Guy’s, are probably accurate as all get out if the goal is to produce healthy offspring and protect them from wooly mammoths. They may also be good predictors of the physical parts of sexual compatibility even in the modern world. But they may not be so good at helping us choose people we can stand to live with, or even to date on a regular basis.
You’ve obviously got a strong physical attraction going on here—maybe even a little more than that, if your assessment of Gym Guy’s humor and wit has some basis other than his being so cute that you’ve temporarily lost all objectivity.
But you also have strong opinions about politics and society that sound diametrically opposed to those of Fox News. So the first thing you need to do is find out why Gym Guy watches it, and what he takes away from it. It would be terrific if he hates Fox and his only reason for watching it, or seeming to, at the gym is because the TV nearest your elliptical is permanently set to it. (Is he wearing headphones? Could he actually be listening to music or some cool podcast?) Or he may prefer much less conservative and biased news outlets as a rule, but use the gym as an opportunity to check out the opposition. You should find out at least this much before you reject such a cutie. Maybe a quick chat at the gym, over vending-machine drinks or bottled water, would get you over this threshold.
At the other extreme, Gym Guy may be a rabid and credulous Trumpster, who believes and agrees with everything he sees on Fox. If that is the case, I have trouble imagining how you would be able to stand listening to a word he said about politics, society, science, justice, civic duty, and a whole range of other subjects. Some people are more than happy to embark on a purely physical relationship, and others actually find political sparring a turn on, even in these days of extremism and hate. But you do not sound like either sort of person.
I suppose there is some middle ground here, some situation where Gym Guy is actually watching Fox out of a sense of allegiance or affinity, but is reasonable and open-minded enough to get along with you, maybe even develop a serious, satisfying relationship. I confess that I have trouble imagining this scenario—but it gets easier when I remember experiences I’ve had in states other than my own, or in some rural areas, where people think of Fox as the default vanilla objective news network, and where if you say “National Anthem,” they say “God Bless the USA.”
Is your part of Phoenix like that? If Gym Guy is a fox who likes and believes Fox News, can the particular bubble you live in excuse what would, among most educated people, seem like willful ignorance?
I’m guessing Naah. So my advice, in sum, is: find out if he is seriously watching that propaganda arm. If so, either reject him out of hand as a dating prospect, or have that coffee just to check him out and see if there is something you’ve missed, like that he has been living in a fallout shelter or a cult or a bowling alley in rural Oklahoma for the past several years. Or is just now starting to break free from his powerful charismatic family back at the compound.
I don’t hold out much hope. It’s a shame, though. Stupid pheromones.
LA WALLY SAYS:
Have the coffee and ask him what the deal is with Fox News. Let him know how you feel about Fox, and the two of you can take it from there. By the time your little coffee date is over, I am sure you will know whether you would be happy dating this guy.
Cleaver’s in-house advice columnist opines on matters punctuational, interpersonal, and philosophical, spinning wit and literary wisdom in response to your ethical quandaries. Write to her at [email protected]. Find more columns by June in her attic.
La Wally is the nom de June of June Cleaver‘s adult daughter. In real life, she’s an artist and entrepreneur. What’s up with her name? In choosing a pseudonym, the two of them considered the names of the original Cleaver family offspring, both boys, but rejected “Beaver” for obvious reasons. “Wally” alone seemed too masculine and generally hideous. But “La Wally” brings to mind Catalani’s wonderful opera. Speaking of which, have you seen the movie Diva? You should.