The best of 'Dear Prudence'

Aug 20, 2012

Emily Yoffe of 'Dear Prudence' is currently on a well-deserved vacation. In lieu of the regular weekly Dear Prudence chat, this week we're asking readers to submit what they think was the best, worst, or weirdest questions or advice they've read in a 'Dear Prudence' chat or column. Also, readers are encouraged to discuss what advice they would have given differently to advice-seekers in the past.

Bethonie here -- I produce Emily's chat each week. She's on vacation (returning to chat with you on Sept. 4). So today, we're talking about our favorite Prudie moments -- from wacky letters to expert advice that pulled at your heartstrings.


We've done this before and it's always good to hear what advice resonated with readers and any advice they would have given to past LWs.


Let's get started.

Prudie absolutely got it right when she advised the LW not to purchase the family genealogy book. Not everybody is interested in genealogy and it is unfair of the aunt to assume every family member is going to cough over $30 to her hobby.

This refers to a question from a reader who dreaded having to fork over $45 for a book about her family history, knowing she could view the tome anytime she wanted -- at her mother's house.


I think most readers agreed with Prudie on this -- the LW was advised to go with her gut and not buy the book, though Prudie cheekily noted that the book could have another function:  "If you suffer from insomnia this book might would worth the price. Its coma-inducing powers will surely mean the $45 outlay will be recouped by not having to spend any more money on Ambien co-pays."

So, Bethonie, do you have an older half-sister named Bethany?

Ha! Love this question -- a nod to last week's question about naming two sons Adam. I do not have an older sister named Bethany.


But here's a fun fact -- my father really eschewed traditional spellings when he named me.  My middle name is pronounced "Danielle," but spelled "Daniel".


And that's why I started an unofficial support group called "My Parents Spelled My Name Wrong." Anyone want in?

I know this is awhile back, but a guy wrote into Dear Prude on August 16, 2010. He said that he'd just gotten married and his wife was so awful during the wedding planning that someone (a bridesmaid??) anonymously sent her an etiquette book. Can we get an update? Are they still married? Did the bridesmaid come clean? I was never really clear on why this guy married such a person in the first place.

Wow, how's that for a wedding gift?


I had never seen this question and I'm not sure the LW followed up, but here's a link to the original question.


Prudie wondered if the two were "on the divorce path" and advised the LW to talk to his wife about the behavior that may have inspired her bridesmaid to send the book in the first place.


Does anyone remember seeing a followup to this one?

I think the most memorable one this year was the woman who's MIL was putting something in her meals when visiting and she switched plates with her husband and he got sick instead! I can't put drops in my eyes without thinking about this!!

This is in reference to this question from a March Dear Prudence column.


Prudie suspected that the LW probably wasn't the victim of an attempted poisoning, but rather of her mother-in-law's bad cooking. Still, she advised the LW to talk to her husband about how uncomfortable she felt visiting her mother-in-law and to be frank with him if she felt her m-i-l was deliberately trying to harm her.


As for your aversion to eye-drops, that was a theme in a sad story from last week, about a Pa. woman accused of poisoning a man with Visine.

I don't remember seeing a follow up - but after reading that chat, I made a promise to my now husband that I would not lose control during our wedding planning. I kept my promise!

Talk about news you can use!

Can you give us a link to back Prudie Videos? I'm sure there are several I've missed...

Ah, I love these too. If you've never seen the Dear Prudence videos, you must watch them! You can find them over at Slate. Here's the link.

It's getting to the point where the people whose name is spelled "right" will be in the minority.

Totally! Anyone else have any stories involving particularly crazy names?


My favorite comes from a coworker who knew of a girl whose name was pronounced "LaDasha," but spelled La-a.

I don't qualify. One time at work, when a group of us were writing a document, people found it remarkable that I was the only one without a red squiggly line under either my first or last name (most had one under either his or her first or last names, and a few had the line under both). I told them I was the only one who knew how to spell my name correctly.

Homeroom roll call was no doubt easier for you. If I had a dollar for everytime a teacher pronounced my name "Beth-ony"...

What is it like to produce one of these chats? Does everyone sit in one room, or are you communicating with Emily via telephone/chat? Can you tell us a little about what goes on behind the scenes?

It's really fun producing this chat, especially since I have been a longtime Prudie reader.


Emily and I generally communicate via an internal chat tool, which is helpful as I usually let her know when follow-ups come in and if we're getting a lot of reader responses about a certain question in the chat. 

The LW wh0 suspected she was being poisoned by her MIL did a follow-up that Prudie published. She switched food with her husband, who got sick, and then LW realized that she had been right, and left her husband. Do you want me to find it? It was about April, because it was after Easter.

A few readers are telling me that there was a follow-up to this question. I'm looking now, but if anyone has the link please send it along and I'll post!

I have been an avid Prudie fan for about 4.5 years now! I think I've read all of her old columns and even written in for advice a time or two! I was on the mailing list for years, and about 2 years ago it just stopped coming. I've tried several times to sign back up and it simply never comes to any of my inboxes! Also, I have a very hard time finding Prudie's column if I don't come through the Facebook page! (And, this chat wasn't even linked to today! It took some serious detective work to find it this afternoon!) Is there something I'm missing? Google scearches never produce much, nor do Slate scearches (those only produce old coumns I've already read.) I just wanna enjoy this coulumn without having to work so hard for it twice a week!

I'm sorry you've had trouble. The most recent "Dear Prudence" chats are all listed here.


And you can find all of our daily chats at

I've only begun reading the Dear Prudence Q&A this summer and am much impressed by her smarts and her directness. So much so, that I've sent in some questions about things that trouble me. To date, mine have never been selected, no matter if I send them in early the same day or during the chat or days before. Might you give us some idea how the choices are made? Is there an editor passing along just a few submissions during the chat? And about how many queries and comments are sent in, to give a sense of how lucky one is to be chosen? Thanks!

Thanks for your question.


I can tell you that shorter questions are better since the chat is fast-paced and there's a usually a high volume of questions. And we try to have a good mix of topics in the chats, though as regular readers know, there often end up being unofficial themes on some chat days.

And here's the follow-up to the woman who suspected her M-I-L was poisoning her. Thanks!

I still cannot get over the ick factor of the MIL trying to breastfeed the LW's baby--so Hand that Rocks the Cradle creepy!

Readers had a lot to say about this one. Here's the original letter.

For the fan looking for the Dear Prudence columns on, they are posted every Thursday morning. Here's the link to the archive:

More helpful information for Prudie fans. Thank you!

I think the parent of the girl had every right to be angry about the education she received when she stayed. But, a husband and wife have a right to intimacy when and if they have time. An apology was in order, and it certinally wasn't the girl's fault, but husband and wife weren't doing anything wrong.

This question generated a lot of responses. Some felt the parents were in the wrong. Others felt they were well within their rights, sleepover or no sleepover.


Any thoughts on this letter?

Checking out the poisoning letter, I noticed the first one from the girl's whose mother insisted she get plastic surgery. I'm puzzled why Prudie didn't tell her to let her mother keep taking her to see plastic surgeons, at which point she tells the surgeon she doesn't want surgery and be sure to charge Mom the full fee. Plastic surgeons do psychological testing on their patients to make sure their expectations are realistic; "I'm doing this for Mom, not me" should be a quick deal-killer.

Anyone else remember this letter?


Another reader wrote in about this today, saying "I'm still amazed over the one involving the daughter being cajoled, bullied and forced into plastic surgery, among other things. And sadly, this woman seemed to be increasingly accepting this behavior from her Mom. It was so absurd I still have a hard time believing it was a real letter."


Any other thoughts?

Hi, Bethonie, This is regarding the letter from a few weeks back from the mother of a child in a playgroup who's snacks did not meet the exacting criteria of the organically minded group. Prudence advised her to take a step back from the group and gently assert herself. I don't think Prudence went far enough. My advice is to back off entirely from this toxic bunch. This week it's the veggies and dip that are not up to standards, next week it will be clothes and accessories. These are mean girls who have never grown up and matured. Their e-mail had you in tears. Do you really want to associate with them? While it may be nice to have your child aspire to a better living standard, their standar of living is anything but better than yours.

This was another letter that got a lot of reader responses, many of which agreed with you that the mother should find her child another playgroup altogether.

Okay, shorter is better. When is the best time to submit questions or comments -- once the chat starts, earlier that morning, or ...? Thanks!

There's no better time -- we look at the questions that come in both before and after the chat starts!

The girl wrote back a few weeks ago to say that she had gotten her nose done and she hated it. I feel so sad for her.

I'm not finding a followup letter from "button nose," but please send the link if you have it.


There is this letter from a column last year, from a man who requested his girlfriend get a nose job that eventually left her disfigured.

I don't remember when I read it, but Prudie answered a letter about a husband who lied all the time and its affect on the wife's mental/physical health - she called it gaslighting. I had never heard the term. I looked it up, read a lot about it, and realized that this was what my husband at the time was doing. It helped me to see that my real problem was him and his constant lies. We have since separated and I am doing great. Thank you, Prudie.

Thank you for sharing!


Has anyone else been helped by Prudie's advice? Whether you were the original LW or the advice just resonated with you?

Honestly, I think the parents probably should have just owned up and apologized, without waiting for the girl to tell her parents (oh, and locked the door). But did it really require a full-blown tantrum from the other mother? Yelling, really? It's sex between a married couple, not an orgy. She's a little young for Skinimax, but give her age-appropriate information and move on (I mean, she's 10 - it's time for early sex ed anyway). No need to teach her it's some dirty, shameful thing (which is the message I think she probably got from a mother who would scream over the phone about something like this). I doubt the other mother is perfect - don't we all do something stupid as parents now and again?

Another opinion on "sleepover sex."

On the Daughters of Mean Girls playgroup, I did wonder whether the single e-mail genuinely reflected the opinion of the mothers, or just the one who sent the email. My advice would have been to respond with an apologetic e-mail, original message attached, and cc'd to the whole group. She'd either have learned that it was the whole group, or gotten a bunch of messages back of the "she does this to every new member, bring what you want" variety.

This is a good point and one that other readers made. Definitely something for the LW to consider.

I've got to run! Thanks everyone for joining this chat.


Emily will be back on Tues, Sept. 4 to dish out more advice. Have a great week!

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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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