Advice from Slate's 'Dear Prudence'

Mar 04, 2013

Need help getting along with partners, relatives, coworkers... and people in general? Ask Prudence! Emily Yoffe -- a.k.a. Slate's advice columnist Dear Prudence takes your questions on manners, morals and more.

Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for just over two years. I contracted genital herpes when I was about 20 years old. I am now in my early 40s. I'm divorced, having been with my ex-husband for almost 20 years. He never caught the STD. None of my previous partners, to my knowledge, have contracted herpes. My current boyfriend is a virgin. This is the longest relationship he has ever been in. He had never had sex of any kind before me. I perform oral sex on him, but due to my STD, he will not reciprocate. Intercourse is out of the question. While he has gotten better about touching me, he does still thoroughly scrub his hands afterwards. It makes me feel like he should be wearing a hazmat suit before coming near me. We have talked about this. While I feel his fear is irrational (I have not had an outbreak since I was in my early 20's) he feels it's founded. I've offered to go on suppression therapy, and of course use condoms, but to no avail. Am I to be celibate for the rest of my life if we remain together? Prudie, I need some help in finding a new way to discuss this with him. He is a great guy, kind, sweet, loving in every other way. 

Don't get too close when you discuss this because he's probably terrified you'll give him a cold sore. You are not a person to him, you are a vector for the herpes virus.  If one person has herpes it's only fair to inform a potential sexual partner of this fact, then that person can decide whether or not to proceed. But your having herpes is probably great news for your boyfriend because it gives him a built-in excuse to never have sex with you. It's not by accident that he's a 40 year-old virgin. Frankly, I don't understand why you want to have intercourse with this guy. There's not much appeal to inept, hasty, fearful sex.  Of course you know the answer to your own question about whether, after two years,  this is doomed to be a celibate relationship. The discussion you need to have is with yourself about why you'd consider staying.

My husband and I married a few years ago after just months of knowing each other. I have never once doubted our decision to marry, and on the whole, we are exceptionally happy. He is my perfect partner and an ideal father for our daughter - but of course, there's a "but." During our very brief courtship, there is one habit he intentionally hid from me - online gaming. Apparently, he didn't want me to think him nerdy. When he first disclosed this after the honeymoon, I thought it was funny and cute. A couple years later, I'm bitter - we have routine marital disagreements, but this is the only issue we ever fight about. He spends several hours a week (10-20) playing these online games! Every time we fight about it, he'll cut back or promise to stop... but within a week or two, it's back to at least a couple hours every day. This is a man who has quit smoking and quit his pseudo-addiction to energy drinks, but can't (or won't) quit online gaming. I can't imagine life without him, but this is making me miserable. I'm not willing to leave him over it; how can I get him to stop or change my own attitude to accept it? (For clarification, I have no suspicions of any online infidelity - it just bothers me that he spends his leisure time gaming instead of reading a book, watching TV with me, etc.)

If he were spending all his free time reading books or watching TV, I don't understand why that would make your marriage better. Sure, he's doing a lot of gaming.  But you are not complaining that he's ignoring his family duties, just that you loathe his pasttime.  There are husbands everywhere who spend all their free time looking at porn, or training for triathlons, or conducting affairs.  Your husband shouldn't have hidden this hobby from you, but once he confessed, you had no objection.  Obviously the more bitter you get, the more you fight about it, then the more appealing his imaginary world becomes. Make the real world you're both in more pleasant and vow that you will drop your commentary about his habit for three months. Then see if your marriage and your life haven't  improved.

I have recently achieved a life-long goal. My first book will be published sometime this year. The problem is that I feel alone in my success. My husband, my friends, and my parents are happy and have been supportive, but the rest of my family has ignored it to the point of rudeness. I don't expect them to jump up and down and have a party, but a simple "congrats" would have been nice. My extended family has meant everything to me and I have done all I can to keep in touch and be supportive of all they do. I'm often quiet about my successes in my life, but this is the one thing I chose to share. I feel terrible and lost. This really hurts. Looking back, sadly, this seems to be the norm. Should I let them know how much they have hurt me or is this one I should just let go?

I hope this isn't a self-help book about letting go of slights and unrealistic expectations.  Congratulations on your book, and speaking for book authors everywhere, get used to realizing that hardly anyone else is going to care. You mention you're book is scheduled to be published "sometime" this year. Normally the hoopla -- what there is of it -- doesn't start until there's an actual volume that can be procured.  You need a serious expectation adjustment. Start assuming no one is interested in your accomplishment and you will sell no books. Then if anyone buys one,  you'll be thrilled.

Dear Prudence, Please help! I'm 17 weeks pregnant and my brother-in-law, "Sam." has "temporarily" lived with my husband and I for the past year. He moved in when he lost a lucrative job and needed to become financially stable, and we had an understanding it would be for a few months until he could afford a security deposit. Now flash forward a year and nothing is happening. He doesn't make a whole lot, but Sam could definitely afford a small place of his own. Instead he likes to spend money on bar tabs, a new car loan, and going out with his friends. Sam still lives like a bachelor, staying up at all hours of the night and playing music or video games very loudly. My husband agrees his brother has overstayed his welcome and it's time he go, but every time we try to bring this up, Sam throws a fit or claims he has no money and then refuses to talk about it. Each time, the conversation gets put off for a few more weeks. I'm at my wits end, my husband hasn't been able to make any headway, and I am about ready to move out on my own until Sam is gone. What can we do to try to remedy this situation?

So when your child has a fit and says he or she will not sit at the table, or go to school, or do homework, or stop drawing on the walls, you and your husband plan to look at each other and throw up your hands? You're responsible adults whose forbearance needs to come to an end.  You and your husband must present a united front. Have your husband tell his brother that he has until the end of the month to find other accomodations. Explain this is a non-negotiable and if he doesn't take action the locks will be changed and his things donated to Goodwill. If your husband won't enforce this, then explain to him you are not going to raise your child in a frat house, and that until he can get his brother out, you are going to move in with friends or family because you need quiet and peace and the all night music and video games are making it impossible for you to get enough sleep.

My mom is over 60 and, for the last few years, has had her health greatly decline. She refuses to quit smoking, lose weight, and follow other doctor's orders. My brother and I have talked to her about our worries but she brushes us off. Now I think something is seriously wrong with her and she's hiding it from my family. She keeps having dizzy spells, hides pills in her purse, and goes on "errands" (which involve most of the day and have her return home exhausted and drawn). I've tried asking around but she becomes furious and refuses to talk with me for days. She tells me to keep my nose out of her business. I'm so worried about her and I want to help (or at least know). How do I even broach this with her without ensuing a fight?

You and your brother could contact her doctor -- if she has one -- and then have an intervention in which you make an appointment for her and take her for a check up. But unless she is found to be incompetent -- and it doesn't sound as if she is --  if she prefers to fall apart, there's not much you can do. Of course it's painful to see someone you love go down the tubes. But some people's urge toward self-destruction can't be stopped.  Do what you reasonably can, then accept you can't let her bad decisions about herself ruin your life.

My husband did this early in our relationship as well. I took a different tactic... I joined him. That way we spent time together and I learned something new about myself as well. Sometimes it takes giving a little to get a little.

This is an excellent alternative. Thanks.

I will be spending Easter with my best friend's family like I do every year. And as much as I love my friend, I can't stand her mother. She's the most completely superficial person I've ever met in my entire life. My friend has been in therapy for years because of the damage inflicted on her by her mother. My friend has dealt with bulimia because starting at age 7, her mother told her she was fat. Which based on pictures, she wasn't. I watch my friend struggle with this all the time and her mother is still inflicting damage. I'm usually good at keeping quiet, but after a particularly brutal phone call, my friend wound up crying on my couch for 3 hours recently. I know it's probably not my place, but is there anything I can do to lessen whatever blows will be inflicted on my friend while not ruing the holiday for everyone?

It sounds as if the only way your friend can resurrect her self-esteem and mental health is to create some serious boundaries with her destructive mother. This may even mean temporarily or permanently cutting off relations. There are some people who should never have become parents, and your friend's mother may be one of them.  So instead of going over with her for Easter and watching your friend go down the tubes, suggest an alternate holiday. Say you will host an Easter feast as your house -- maybe you can invite a few mutual friends -- the two of you can decorate eggs and have a festive time. Tell your friend you can't stand anymore to watch the way her mother shreds her, and you want to help her get healthier.

Dear Prudie, I am a high school teacher and my husband is employed as an engineer. We have three children, one in high school and two in middle school. Every summer, the exact same thing happens: their sports teams, extended family, friends, and sometimes, even my husband assume I have unlimited time. While it is certainly true I do not have classroom hours in the summer, I still work 10-15 hours a week tweaking lesson plans, researching different ways to teach concepts, and reviewing what worked and what didn't from the previous year. Whenever I try to say that, people inevitably respond with "must be nice to only work 15 hours a week! Now can you pick up Kid A/drive us to the doctor/plan a baby shower?" My husband is pretty good most of the time, but sometimes he can get a little demanding about meals and how clean our house is in the summer.  It is my siblings and friends who often think I can run any errand, host any party, or help at any time simply because I am a teacher. Sometimes I tell them that they, too, can get summers off if they are willing to be a teacher, but they would have to give up their much, much larger salary. However, this is a sort of hostile response and I would rather keep this conversation more civil. How do I set boundaries for my summer schedule?

I have a similar question for you as I do for the pregnant woman living with her brother-in-law. When your students get unruly do you let them run wild? I know you can't send your friends and siblings to the principal's office, but you can say, "I'm sorry, I'm not able to run those errands for you." Then refuse to get in a colloquy about the nature of a teaching career. As for your husband, when he gets on you to rattle those pots and pans or attend to the dusting, wave your arm at the refrigerator, or hand him a Swiffer and say since your domestic efforts don't meet his standards, you look forward to enjoying the fruits of his labors.

Years ago, I dated an amazing girl, Allie*. We dated for seven ears (through mid-high school to young adult), and we were engaged to get married. A few months before our wedding, I cheated on her with a co-worker. I came clean to my then fiancee, after feeling very heavy guilt. Despite the long relationship and great friendship, we agreed to call the wedding off and go our separate ways. During the relationship, her father and I were very close friends -- we golfed together and I really admired and respected him. He's the kind of father and man I hope to someday become. Naturally, he was very angry and distraught after my infidelity unfolded. I haven't seen or spoken to him since, and have only heard stories. Fast forward several years, I'm now married to an incredible woman who is the polar opposite of Allie, and we have a beautiful two-year-old daughter. I'm completely faithful and committed to my wife and daughter, yet I still feel great remorse and guilt over the way things ended with Allie and how I disrespected her and her family, especially the relationship I had with her father. I repeatedly have a dream and feeling that I should go apologize to her father face to face, as I know he wouldn't read a letter if I sent it. Do I go and apologize and attempt to make amends? Or just let it be? Signed, Guilt-ridden-Ex

You were set to marry your high school sweetheart when you realized you felt as if you'd gotten trapped way too young. So instead of addressing that directly, you cheated.  That was an weaselly but effective way of getting out of the wrong relationship.  Sure, the ensuing break up was painful, but that one was between you and Allie, not her father, your golfing buddy. I hope by this point everyone shares the perspective that it all worked out for the best.  There are no amends for you to make to these people.   You are a decent person, so you feel terrible about how you handled your relationship with Allie.  So you need to find a way to forgive yourself without involving her family.

Dear Prudence, I have been going to the same general practitioner Doctor for quite awhile. He is kind and attentive. He has a great staff and his office is very close to home. Overall, I'm very happy with his treatment. However a couple of years ago he started greeting me with a hug. Not a bear hug, just a lean-in-pat-on-the-back type. This does not normally bother me, but he's my doctor and I want to keep a professional doctor-patient relationship. He is also seeing sick people all day and I'm a little creeped out at the germ-factor. I have tried pre-empting the hug by saying, "I'm not a hugger," or extending out my hand for a hand shake, but he just ignores it and goes in for the hug. I was recently in the office with my husband who had been injured, and he didn't hug or shake my husband's hand, but hugged me. He hugs whether I am sick or well, and he comes in for the hug at the beginning and the end of the appointment. I dont want to change doctors, but what can I say to him to make him stop without offending him? Signed, Let's Shake On It

Since you've told him this makes you uncomfortable and he just did it again -- interesting the hugs are only for female patients -- write him a letter. Say that you appreciate his excellent care and how well run his office is, but say that you feel you must reiterate your discomfort with the hugs you get at the beginning and end of an appointment.  Write that you've mentioned it before, but it hasn't stopped and now you feel the need to put this request in writing. Then if the hugs continue, find yourself another practitioner.

I recently started dating a guy who is absolutely great. Early on, I invited him to hang out with me and my friends, just to see if they'd hit it off, and they did -- fabulously -- which I took to be a good sign. I've started hanging out with his friends more over the past month, and I've noticed something that really bothers me: Whenever he interacts with female friends, he touches them a lot. And I don't just mean pats on the back or shoulders; I mean he touches their leg, rubs their back (even the small of their back!), puts his hand on their waist, etc. This is sometimes in addition to jokey flirtation and innuendo (initiated by both parties). I'm affectionate with partners, but I'm characteristically unflirtatious with friends, so maybe I just don't get it, but it seems over the top to me.  He told me that one of his acquaintances propositioned him recently -- clearly she didn't think the touching meant nothing! I completely trust him, and I don't think he would ever cheat on me, but I'm a jealous person by nature, and can't just shut that off -- so I'm worried that he's touchy-feely by nature, and that likewise, his behavior is never really going to change. Should I bother addressing this with him? 

You've concluded that the new guy you're dating,  who loves to rub his female friends and exchange  jokey sexual banter -- which apparently gets misunderstood because one of these women wanted to take him up on the innuendo -- would never cheat.  I'm not sure why you're so sure of this, especially since you say you're a naturally jealous person.  Flirting can be fun,  but it has to be within mutually understood bounds, and what your boyfriend considers appropriate seems creepy to you. So talk about it with him. Say you're not asking him to tie his hands behind his back, but since he's told you one recipeint misunderstood him, ask him to  tone it down. Then see what happens. And I have a question for you: By any chance is your boyfriend a doctor? 

Hi Prudie,  A couple years ago, my sister was driving home drunk, and unbeknownst to her at the time, her boyfriend was in the back of her truck (covered by a topper), himself passed out. The awful thing is, she lost control of the vehicle, rolled it and he was killed. Needless to say, this was just a tremendous loss for everyone involved, she loved him dearly. I can't imagine his family's feelings - and we lost my brother in a car accident four years prior, I think part of the reason my sister gets drunk. My sister went to trial, was found not guilty but did get some minimum jail time and a DUI. I thought she was really facing her drinking problem, going to a therapist and AA on her own. Now I have learned from family members that not only is she drinking again, she is drinking and driving. I am furious, and I have been angry about this whole accident since it happened. I have talked with therapists and gone to Al-Anon myself, I am accepting that I just may feel judgmental towards her, well, forever. However, now what? I can tell her how concerned, angry, etc. I am that she is again drinking and drinking and driving - but what good does it do? I live far away from her, so a family intervention isn't possible.

Contact the District Attorney's office where she was tried and tell them you know that your sister is drinking and driving again. She may be on probation and violating it could get her taken off the streets (I hope). Also write the DMV, give specifics about her legal history , and say you know she drinking again so  is an impaired driver.  You may not be able to do a thing about your sister's addiction and terrible behavior, but you must try to protect innocent people from mayhem.

I, too, am married to a gamer. And I'm completely happy with it, because it gives him an outlet to unwind after a stressful day. He'll often play games while I watch a TV show in the same room. That way, we're still around each other, but we both get to do our own thing (how much interacting would you do while watching TV anyways)? This really is no different than reading a book--you get lost in an imaginary world there, too.

More good advice. And I've heard from many readers who extol just how fascinating and complex these imaginary worlds are. So the letter writer is making a poor argument when she's putting down  gaming and arguing for watching TV.

Dear Prudence, I have been given the unfortunate gift of an awkward body shape. I have fairly thin legs, normal sized thighs, tiny breasts, and a huge gut. I am often asked if I am pregnant. I have been asked this question by colleagues, clients, professors, and even random people while shopping. There are many times where I've wanted to give an inappropriate response to the query, however I don't have the heart to offend people in such a manner. I have normally taken the road to sharing with these questioning folks that I am not pregnant, but just packing on a few extra pounds. I am curious to know if there is a better way to handle such issues, as I know I'm not the only portly lady to deal with such rudeness. Signed, Not Pregnant

To paraphrase Dave Barry,  if you don't know whether a woman is pregnant or not, you never mention the possibility, even if you notice that a baby's head is emerging from between her legs.  As for you, you do not have to make any excuses for yourself when asked this question. Just smile and say, "No." The extremely awkward pause that follows should remind the questioner of Dave Barry's dictum.

My boyfriend and I live a major distance away from most of my family. We do not have much money to spare, so my parents pay for me to come visit a few times a year. We are now at the point in our relationship where it feels wrong to spend holidays apart. On the one hand, pooling our own resources, we could probably only afford to visit once every two to three years. On the other hand, it also wouldn't be appropriate to ask my parents to pay for my boyfriend to come with me. Complicating the matter is the fact that my parents hate my boyfriend, who they blame for the fact that I live so far away, but they are extremely passive-aggressive about it. What is the right way to handle the situation?

Split the visits between holiday and non-holiday times. So spend Thanksgiving with your boyfriend, but see your parents for Christmas, or vice versa. Or visit for a long weekend in the summer.  You also need to address the fact that your family won't accept your boyfriend. Next time you visit, explain you are in a  serious relationship and you two are partners. Say that if you parents can't accept that, then the distance that separates you will not just be physical.

During my freshman year of college, I found cell phone evidence that my Dad was cheating on my Mom. After blaming me, my sister,and my mother for "forcing him to do it," a move to a new city, and several months of couples therapy, my parents seemed to move past their problems. For me, the whole experience was really eye-opening -- for the first time I noticed my father's emotionally abusive tendencies, and the horrible relationships the women in my extended family have with men. And three years later, here we are again. I have once again found digital evidence of an affair, and I'm not sure what to do. Should I tell my mother? Part of me thinks that she might know on some level but wants to turn a blind eye. Another part of me thinks that I should confront my Dad and see what happens-- maybe he will tell my mom and I can extract myself from this situation. I love my mother and I want to do what is ultimately best for her. Any advice?

Stay out of the mess that is your parents' marriage and  continue to look with clear vision at the dynamics of your family.  You want to make sure you don't repeat these patterns in your own relationships.

I have a medical condition that sometimes leaves me "looking pregnant" and I know how annoying the questions and comments are! My favorite response comes from a friend who, when asked when she was due, calmly replied, "Eleven months."

Great reply. Thanks!

Thanks for the answer, Prudie. My expectations about my book are low. I'm not quitting my day job by any means. I'm not sitting around having a temper tantrum about this one small thing, though I realize it sounds that way. When I've made mistakes, they have all been vocal about it. Things that happened ten years ago still pop up. Yet, the positive is ignored. I guess I have a lot to think about in regards to my family and why I so badly need their approval.

There are many books already on the market that explore excessive approval-seeking. Look at some, then work on your Amazon author's page and concentrate on attracting readers outside your family circle.

Hi Prudie! For two years, my daughter dated a guy we didn't like for various reasons, including the fact he was unemployed, lost his license, and seemed kind of shady . After a tumultuous final year, they broke up but daughter wouldn't share why, given that we weren't his biggest fans. I found out months later he was addicted to heroin. He apparently has been through rehab and is better now. She has no plans to get back with him, but I feel like I let her down because she didn't share her burden with me at the time. I get it, because she felt we already didn't like him.   The issue now is that she still resents us for not accepting him. I have tried to diplomatically point out that there aren't many parents who would support their relationship, especially given that his issues were so large and overshadowing. She feels we should have trusted her to do the right thing (as she eventually did by breaking it off) and hasn't dated anyone since.  Her resentment towards us on the issue flares up often. Can you think of an approach to the issue I can take to get her to see why we were so unsupportive of their relationship and that it was out of love?

Although your daughter is an adult, if she's so concerned about her relationship with her parents that she would consider family counseling, that seems like the best way to go.  You thought her boyfriend was bad news, and he turned out to be even worse news than you imagined. I don't understand your daughter's assertion that you should have trusted her judgment about a guy who turned out to be a criminal.  But you've left ambiguous what what "not accepting him" means. Did you refuse to allow him in the house for Christmas? Or did you simply tell her you had serious reservations about this guy?   In any case, there are so many crossed wires and hurt feelings here that it would help to have a neutral party sort them out.

Next month will be my third wedding, but the only one that my parents have been able to come to. My dad has never walked me down the aisle, so I really want him there. My mother and I have always had a horrible relationship. She criticizes everyone and everything. She refuses to come to my wedding and will not let my dad come either. I'm afraid she will tell the rest of my family - aunts and uncles not to come. She has been using the excuse that I've been ignoring them and my fiance's son is gay and they don't want be a part of the 'gay family'. My parents are in their 80s and I'm almost 45. She doesn't call my boys for their birthdays or send cards anymore. I don't know what to do.

You're a 45 year-old woman who has a horrible relationship with her parents. Your mother may be a disturbed, destructive person, but as is often the case your "nice" parent has let her run wild because it's too hard to rein her in.  A third wedding by its nature should be a low-key affair. You don't need to be walked down the aisle.  And if your mother convinces everyone not to come because you're a "gay" family, then good riddance.  Please get some therapy. You're still working out the effects of your painful childhood. That might have something to do with this being wedding number three. Get some help being your own person and getting your mother's voice out of your head.

Dear Prudence, I was sexually abused by my stepfather from the time I was in Kindergarten until I was in 7th grade, at which point I told my mother about abuse and my stepfather committed suicide. During that time, my mother became pregnant with my younger sister. I'm twenty-four now, married to a wonderful man and, for the most part, have healed from the abuse. However, there are certain triggers that take me back and cause me pain. My sister is now eighteen. Two years ago my mother told her that my stepfather had sexually abused me as a child. She felt horrible that it had happened but obviously doesn't know the extent. A while back posted a picture of us and her father on Facebook and tagged me in it. I untagged myself. My brother told her that it hurts me to see those pictures and so she hadn't done it in a while. Recently however, she posted another picture of her as a baby with her father. I would like to come up with a tactful way to ask her to cease posting these photos, or to at least block me from being able to see them. Do you have any advice on what I can say to get her to stop?

Oh, the damage and the trauma sick people can inflict.  I think you should just use Facebook technology yourself to corral your sister so that you aren't seeing her posts instead of asking her to protect you. If the most effective thing is for you to defriend her, then do so. You might want to explain to her you're taking this step because you recognize that she's entitled to post her own family photos, but any involving her father are too painful for you to see.

I think you skipped over the LW's real concern, which is that her mother is seeing a doctor and is being treated for something serious, but that her mother won't discuss it.

If the daughter feels the mother is getting adequate care, then she just has to back off.  Yes, it's sad if the mother is ill and won't share this with her daughter, but that's the mother's choice to make.

Dear Prudence, I'm a woman who sings in a large, independent choir (not affiliated with any house of worship) that is conducted by a very talented professional, married, conductor. Like many people in the music profession, he is rather touchy-feely, hugging people (both men and women). The first time he hugged me, I didn't want to make a public fuss, but afterwards I told him privately that I don't hug married men (I'm single; I'm also aware that he has a reputation of being a ladies' man). He seemed to understand, but more recently he has done things during breaks in rehearsal that cross my personal boundary line, such as rubbing my back and stroking my face when he talks to me. I've been trying to avoid being anywhere near him and haven't wanted to discuss this with him because I realize (a) his touching just might possibly not be intended sexually (and might be more of a power thing), and (b) his wife, who is also in the choir, watches him like a hawk. I don't want to quit the choir, so should I just put up and shut up? My resentment is building, and I don't want to blow up.

Whether men you don't want touching you are doing it for power, or sex, or because they like it even if you don't, they've got to stop. Instead of skulking around, have a normal relationship with the director. If he touches you again, say rather loudly, "I've asked you before not to touch me. So please stop." If you have to find another choir, do so.

We had him over to the house a couple of times but he wasn't really totally welcome. I always thought he was a good person, but my husband really couldn't stand the relationship. I'm the peace maker so tried to keep the door open. I would love to go to counseling on this issue but the other two (husband and daughter who are very similar in outlook) are very stubborn and won't go. I guess maybe time is the best mender for this one and I look forward to the day when she finds a great guy and we can all look back on this as just a rough patch on the way to a good relationship.

If they won't go with you, see a counselor yourself. It will feel good just to talk this out, then get some strategies for changing the dynamic.

Thanks, everyone. Have a good week, and I hope you only get welcome touches.

In This Chat
Emily Yoffe
Emily Yoffe -- a.k.a. Slate's advice columnist Dear Prudence, offers advice on manners, morals and more. She is also Slate's Human Guinea Pig, a contributor to the XX Factor blog, and the author of What the Dog Did: Tales From a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner.

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