Advice from Slate's 'Dear Prudence'

Oct 01, 2012

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 took your questions on manners, morals and more.

Good afternoon, let's get to it.

Dear Prudie, Years ago I was pressured by one of my superiors into having an affair with him in exchange for a promotion and substantial raise. I was very young at the time, and didn't know how to stand up for myself. I've always felt terrible for what I allowed to happen to me, and that I just let the man get away with it. I had been considering reporting him to his superiors (I've heard through the grapevine that he's put several new hires and interns in the same position to date) but he left the company to run for a prominent office in our city. I'm now faced with the difficult decision of wether or not to expose him publicly for what he really is. I feel it would be the right thing to do, but part of me is afraid of the scandal that would surely follow, and I'm not sure I want to be in the middle of it. Should I take the plunge?

This is a terribly hard decision to make because unfortunately, as has played out over and over again, women who truthfully accuse powerful men of sexually abusing them often find themselves trashed. If you go ahead, you need to be prepared to have your entire life exposed: that shoplifting arrest in high school, the bad check you passed in your twenties.  As you know, men who behave this way almost always do it to many women, and they need to be exposed and stopped.  When Hermain Cain was first accused of sexual improprieties, he went on the attack and it wasn't pretty for his accuser.  But then other women stepped forward and Cain was cooked. I hope you step up, but  first you should protect yourself.  Talk to a lawyer about how best to go about this. If you have the names of other victims, maybe an attorney can reach out to them and they might come forward to support you. You can strategize about how best to make your situation known -- probably through an interview at the local newspaper.  You will be  doing the citizens of your state a service by letting them know the true character of the man who would serve them.

Hi Prudie. I'm madly in love with this funny, sweet and cute guy! I feel we were made for each other in every single way, except one. My eyes. He adores girls with blue eyes, and I'm brown-eyed. The problem is I found this out from a friend (who set us up on a blind date) before I had even met him in person. So on our first date I wore colored contacts, and as far as he knows, I have beautiful saphire blue eyes, which he told me he loves and gazes into lovingly. We've been going out for a couple of months now, and I think things are going to get real serious between us, but I'm afraid he might not love me anymore if I reveal my true eye color. I think he'll probably think of it as lying to him. Prudie, I didn't think we'd ever go this far (do blind dates ever work?) or I would have been upfront to begin with. I would honestly rather use these contacts for as long as our relationship lasts, but I'm not sure how long I can pull this off. Do I have to come clean, and if so, how can I keep from looking too silly?

Leave your contacts out one day, buy the the Van Morrison CD with "Brown Eyed Girl" on it, hand it to your boyfriend, bat your eyelashes  and say there's something you've got to show him. Look, I sympathize with your situation. My mother has spectacular turquoise eyes, my father had small brown ones. Get what  got? Yes, I was robbed of my baby blues, but I've never gone the contacts route because it would seem kind of silly to at the end of each day to Cinderella-like revert to a brown pumpkin.  But eye color is a deeply trivial matter, and if this makes a difference to your guy, then you didn't want to get serious with him anyway.

My ex-husband divorced me last year so he could marry his pregnant mistress. Much to everyone's surprise, our kids together adore their new baby brother. They love to go over to their father's house to play with the baby, and sometimes I feel like the bad guy because I'm unwilling to give up my custodial time with them so they can visit the baby. They talk about the baby all the time, even though I've told them talking about the baby hurts me. My ten-year-old son wants his little brother at his upcoming birthday party, even though my ex and I agreed to have separate birthday parties from now on. Hearing about my ex's new fabulous life is agonizing. I know it's crazy, but I feel like my kids are choosing their dad's new family over ours, too. I'm still reeling from the divorce, too. Sometimes I get short with my kids when they're talking about their brother. I am trying as hard as I can not to taint the relationship between my kids, their father, and their new brother. Is there any healthy constructive way I can tell them not to talk about the baby so much? I'm worried I'll blow up one day if I hear much more about the baby.

I had a neighbor in exactly this situation and I could only marvel at her confidence and generosity as she seamlessly brought the new sibling into her children's lives.  That baby brother was often at their home and he attended all the important functions of her two kids. When I said something to her about how amazing she was, she said whatever the adults did, the children were all a family and she wanted them to feel that way about each other.

 I doubted I could have been that magnanimous. So I understand your anger, grief, and pain. But it will benefit you in the long run of life if you can support your own children's embrace of their new sibling.  To get through this I think you need a therapist to unload to,  at the very least. Together, you can figure out strategies so that you can support this newly constructed family without feeling you are going out of your mind.  If you have primary custody of your kids, because of your husband's perfidity you have become a single mother. That's a huge load to carry, so don't be so quick to limit your children's time at their father's.  It's good for them, and for you, if he is stepping up and spending a lot of time with all his children.

Dear Prudence, My husband suffered an accident at work in which he lost his genitalia. Needless to say this has killed off what sex life we had before the accident. Nvertheless, I have decided to remain faithful to him. We have bought several sex toys and he likes to please me as best he can. I would never tell him this, but I'm actually enjoying it more now than before when it was the "real deal" This makes me feel very guilty. Also, I worry a lot that he can tell I like the artificial sex more and that would hurt him a lot. Can you give me any tips for moving forward?

Tragically, this kind of wound is being suffered more and more by our soldiers and I hope your letter gets widely distributed among them.  There is nothing for you to feel guilty about. You do not need to tell your husband things are better, you just need to reassure him that he remains a marvelous, inventive lover.  Tell him that you are so lucky that out of a terrible sorrow, you two have been able to become closer.

I recently started dating a new girl. I'd known her, and secretly loved her for years and our friendship has blossomed into an amazing relationship. It's still young, but seems to be getting serious fairly quickly. I love everything about her and we get along unbelievably well. My only problem is, I'm a little kinky and I have this 'fetish', you could call it. It is very common as far as fetishes go, the most common as I've read, and it's perfectly harmless in my opinion. It's something I would enjoy in addition to our already healthy and amazing sex life. I have not yet had a chance to tell her about this kink of mine, although I thought I'd dropped some hints. The problem is, in a group discussion about 'adult themes' she expressed total disgust with people who were into this particular 'fetish', I didn't bring it up, some one else did. I'm a little lost with how to proceed. It's certainly not a deal breaker and I could just try and ignore or suppress it, but I fear, down the road I might seek out other avenues to fulfill that desire (not with another person, via pornography) and I don't want to run that risk. I'm typically pretty open about these things but her comments have me apprehensive about how I can go about letting her know this about me without grossing her out or scarring her off. What should I do?

I'd wish you'd told us what your kink is: Plushies? Handcuffs? Rubber gloves?  I'd also like to hear how you dropped hints about your fetish: "I was thinking tha a fun thing we could do over the weekend is to  take a drive and see local wineries. Then that night I could dress up as Rocky Racoon, and you could put on some rubber glover and handcuff me to the bed."  Thank you for giving me an opportunity to express one of the rules of sexual behavior I've gleaned from this column. That is, if you have a fetish, that's news the other person needs to hear before your relationship gets serious and sexual. I have heard from too many people who had fallen deeply in love then found themselves blindsided by their partner's new, and to them awful, demands.  If you bring this up early enough your new love can say, "Sounds like fun, let's try it," or "I appreciate your telling me, but I'm sorry I find that to be a massive turn-off." You've waited too long, but tell your girlfriend now, before she stumbles on your fetish website and you are forced into a long overdue talk.

I am having a problem with my three daughters. They have been watching a new "reality" show. The family in this show is crude, very poor, and spends ridiculous amounts of time and money on pageants for their youngest daughter. My girls have decided that they want to dress up as this family for Halloween. I am not comfortable with this, as I think it is mocking and in poor taste. My girls don't see it that way. They think it is funny. One of them wants to dress up as the mother of this family -- she is over 300 pounds, and she seems to burp and sneeze whenever she is on camera. Another wants to dress up as the pageant daughter -- in full regalia. The third wants to dress up as the oldest daughter, who was pregnant and just had her baby. This child has a minor birth defect, and they plan on using this in the costume too. They've already modified a doll to be the new baby. They are practicing using southern accents, adding in bad grammar and crude slang to imitate these people. I can't seem to get my wife on board to veto this tacky idea; she actually thinks it's funny too. Am I being a big grouch, or am I right that this will completely offend our neighbors?

I agree with you that dressing up as Honey Boo Boo and family is a tasteless mistake. It's not a matter of offending the neighbors, it's a matter of explaining to the kids that even though these people are on television, they are real human beings  leading dysfunctional, even depraved lives. You understand the impulse to laugh, but mocking the poor, uneducated, and disabled will make your own children appear mean  and insenstive.

Some advice: Stop referring to it as artificial sex. It's still sex, and it's great that pleasing you is important to him. I suspect in addition to the enhanced physical pleasure (which few men could compete with anyway), there's additional intimacy that comes from bonding in this way after the accident.

Good point -- it is sex.

My fiancé's father is a recovering alcoholic. He's been dry for one year, but stays strictly away from any functions that serve alcohol. He chose not to attend our engagement party for this reason and we respected his decision. The problem is, he asked us not to serve alcohol at our wedding. He says if we do, he cannot go because it would risk his recovery. My parents are bewildered at the idea of not serving any alcohol at our wedding. They think we will come across as stingy and very odd if we had a wedding at a hotel with just juice and soft drinks. My fiancé thinks we shouldn't have alcohol at our wedding so his father can attend. My parents think my future FIL is making an unreasonable request. They asked if there were other ways around it, like bringing his recovery mentor/therapist to the wedding or assigning a relative to watch over him and make sure he doesn't drink. Is there any compromise to this problem?

If youre future father-in-law cannot be anyplace that alcohol is consumed then he has a long way to go in his recovery.  I agree that bringing a support person is a good compromise because sooner or later your father-in-law is going to have to learn to go out to dinner with friends who want a glass of wine with their meal.  If a wedding is not the place for him to try this, then as with the engagement party  it's sad he won't be able to attend. Your fiance should tell him that when you two get back from your honeymoon , you will take him to dinner and raise a glass of cider to celebrate.

Last year, my boyfriend wanted to have sex with me in my Halloween costume. I was dressed up as a cat. I went along with it, and I thought that was it, except for some inside jokes here and there. But now he's pestering me to get another costume this year, and he's put a lot of thought into it. He wants me to dress up as a fox, and this costume includes an accessory that doubles as a sex toy, and I'm not OK with it. Plus, he wants to role play -- as in me crawling on all fours, and he catches me -- you can imagine. I'm less and less comfortable with this. He thinks since I went along last year, that I'm into this sort of thing, and I'm just not. Help!

It may be possible you are the girlfriend of the letter writer with the kink,  and "Hey foxy lady, I want to have sex with a  fox," is your boyfriend's  idea of dropping a hint. Time for that long-overdue talk about paraphilias and how you are uninterested in his. You need to tell him that Halloween comes once a year and even when it does, you aren't interested in being his trick.

Dear Prudence, Our neighbors bought several chickens and a rooster and raise their own fresh, organic eggs. The rooster would wake us up every morning before dawn and crow incessantly throughout the day. I gave my teenage son a BB gun for his birthday, and not long afterward the neighbor's rooster went missing. I asked him if he had anything to do with the rooster's disappearance (for which I am very gratetful) and he denies having anything to do with it. Unfortunately, my neighbors are convinced that he killed their rooster, depite having no evidence to support their claim. They are insisting that my son replace the bird, but I don't think that would be fair unless we were sure he did it. Besides, I'm enjoying the peace and quiet. We have put up with the neighbor's noise to keep the peace, but I don't want to take this. Is it ok for us to stand our ground this time?

Speaking of foxes, I assume people who raise chickens understand that incessant crowing is a siren song to predators for miles around -- and I don't mean kids with BB guns. A fox or a dog could easily have taken out your local Chanticleer.  Stand your ground (not in the Florida sense, just the moral one) and tell your neighbors your son has denied any involvement, they have zero evidence, and they just need to be more attentive to guarding the hen house.

Your colored contacts are no more deceitful than a push-up bra.

I basically agree, but lots of people are slamming the letter writer for her lying eyes.

Well, here's the problem. You didn't HAVE to sleep with him. You did it to get a promotion and a substantial raise.

It's all very nice to say that young, vulnerable subordinates should quit, or report the boss, or otherwise stand up for themselves. But master manipulators use their power over others to get what they want. This guy holds the threat of unemployment over the women he pressures into bed. He's a creep and the voters should know it.

I adore my thirteen grandchildren. One of my daughters and my son each have three children. My eldest daughter and her husband adopted seven mentally delayed and physically disabled children from Bulgaria and Russia. I sometimes offer to babysit my younger daughter's and my son's children, because I can easily care for three children at a time. It's more difficult for me to offer to watch my elder daughter's children, not only because there are seven of them but also because I feel I cannot adequately attend to their needs at the same time. I spend time with my eldest daughter's children, but usually only when my daughter, her husband, or other people are present. I have given my eldest daughter and her husband considerable financial support over the years, support which I have not offered to my other children because they do not need it as much. No one seems to resent this arrangement, but my daughter recently began to demand that I watch her children, too. She has accused me of hurtful things like not loving her children as much as my others because they're disabled and adopted. I try to explain to her how I do not feel like I can properly care for her children on my own, but she doesn't accept this explanation. I believe she wants me to stop watching my other grandchildren, to be "fair." Am I being insensitive to my eldest daughter and her children?

She's being insensitive to you.  Being fair to one's children is not a matter of everyone being treated exactly the same. If one daughter looks smashing in green, and the other looks sickly, you don't buy both green sweaters because that's treating them equally. Your oldest daughter gets financial help from you the other's don't and no one resents that.   It could be that instead of being with your eldest daughter's children as a group, you could occasionally take one or two out to a zoo outing, say. Otherwise, you need to explain to your eldest  that you have the same amount of love for all  your grandchildren, and that means being flexible enough to recognize the best way to show it.

Dear Prudie, My cousin is marrying a Catholic woman (we are Episcopalian) in a Catholic church. My children are 9, 7, and 4 and were included in the invitation to both the full service and the reception following. I love my cousin, but I do not want to attend a full Catholic service. I do not agree with a lot of the teachings of the Catholic church, I do not appreciate that I cannot take Communion, and the sheer length of the event followed by a reception is too much for my children to handle. When I brought this up with my aunt, she told me that it is rude to attend the reception only and that I need to put my personal feelings aside for the day. I think they are asking some pretty big compromises in the name of their wedding. I love this column and the responses to follow, so any advice you have I would appreciate. What would you do in this situation?

Attending a wedding at someone else's church does not imply endorsement of all that denomination's teachings.  It's  an endorsement of the marriage of two people you presumably care about.  It's nice of your cousin to include your children in the invitation, but you should probably just get a babysitter for them.  That way you can just enjoy yourself and not worry about handling restless kids. If you can't make that work then decline and send a lovely gift.

Don't you think you had a kind of mocking tone there? C'mon. We all have something (sometimes deep) in our psyche.

Yes, and what goes on in one's head is fortunately encased in a skull so our little private movies are just that. The problem is when your partner become Cecil B. DeMille and recruits you to star in an actual production of "Plushies in Chains."

Perhaps some of the other guests at the party don't drink much and they could have a designated sober table (with all of the guests agreeing of course). That way he wouldn't feel alone. There are always people at a wedding who don't drink.

Good idea, thanks.

My husband's grandpa has always made uncomfortable racial comments. In the privacy of his home, I'd keep my mouth shut and not say anything, as I knew it would cause a rift in my own relationship. I was married a month ago, and three of the couples invited were gay and lesbian friends of ours. Another couple, my cousin and her girlfriend, also attended. During the dancing at the wedding, my husband's grandpa approached my cousin and asked, "Are you a boy or a girl?" She answered him politely. Later on in the evening, he was retelling this in a crowd and blurted out, while I was in earshot, "It told me it was a girl. I can't believe those (epithet)s throw it in our faces out in public." I was furious - and pulled him aside to tell him how hurtful his comments were. He left in a huff with my husband's grandma. It has been three weeks since we got back from our honeymoon, and my husband's family has gone almost completely silent on us. Except for one message from my husband's grandmother, who has asked me to apologize to her husband! She's either gotten a very edited story of what happened, or she's a fool along with her husband. I haven't responded. What should I do?

Where's your new husband? He needs to respond to his grandmother's message by explaining to her that grandpa repeatedly, and loudly, insulted your friends  at the wedding and that you quite properly pulled grandpa aside and told him to cut it out. If your husband's family wants to cut you two out because you refuse to be entertained by racist and homophobic rants, then that frees up a lot of time to be with more agreeable people.

I'm a father and step-father to a gaggle of children. Prudie is right. Over the long haul, all the children will benefit from having a higher functioning family where all the kids treat each other well. My older step-children have been amazing to, for and with their half siblings. In fact, they have talked my now-teenagers out of bad choices in ways that I never could have done as a parent because the little ones look up to the older ones.

Thank you for this perspective.  Such closeness not only benefits the kids, but the kids, as they grow up, will appreciate that the adults did not create barriers to them feeling like true siblings.

Dear Prudie, my son has a friend who is a good kid. I knew the friend's mother and she lost her home and job. She told me that she was trying to get her housecleaning business off of the ground and even though I don't need someone to clean my house, I hired her to help her out. She is a single mom and my mom was too so I have a soft spot for ladies in that position. I've also loaned her money (which I don't expect to see again but I wanted to help her child.) Long story short, I recently realized that she has been stealing from me, mostly jewelry that I don't wear much but has great sentimental value to me. Obviously, I can't have her clean my home any longer, but how do I handle things so that her child is not hurt? 

You're entitled to contact the police, but even if you don't want to, you should fire this woman immediately. When do so, you can tell her that you're  sorry for her situation, but items have started going missing and you're letting her go.  You don't have to say anything to her son, and he can continue to come over. Just  bring him to the door to meet his mother when she picks him up.

My wife and I were in the shower together and I peed into the drain. She was disgusted, even after I explained that urine is sterile so it can't be that unhygienic. She said it is psychologically disturbing to know that I pee where she washes herself, even if there are no lingering germs. She made me promise not to do it again, but I can't help it.  I've started peeing in the shower in secret, even as my wife bangs on the door to conduct random checks and remind me how disgusted she would be if I peed. I have never lied to her about anything before so I feel guilty telling her I didn't pee when I actually did? Signed, Peeing Tom.

I have an image of your wife with anEPA inspector barging into your bathroom and collecting water samples.  Perhaps your wife will also be psychologically scarred if you tell her you place your hairy, germy tush on the same toilet seat she uses. I agree that when you're in the shower, the warm, casading water makes it impossible not to contribute your own stream. And for goodness sake, not only is urine not germy, there are no traces left given the torrent of clean water that follows. Okay, shower pee makes her shudder. So she need to occasionally spray the stall with Lysol if it makes her feel better. Mostly she needs to let you shut the door and and be at peace.

For the first time in my young life I have been bestowed with an intern, Melissa. Melissa is smart, hard working, and an asset to the company. Her only shortcoming is that she has gigantic (bigger than double E) breasts but does not wear a bra. It is very obvious and, in my mind, does not look very professional. I'm not sure if I should ask her to please wear a bra or even address the issue. At the risk of sounding like a Puritan, Melissa's lack of a bra makes me uncomfortable. As a well endowed woman I have always striven to be properly supported.

Melissa needs to understand that in a professional environment she needs to not only be an asset but restrain her assets.  This is the kind of thing a more experienced professional can tell a young one.  Pull Melissa aside and say that her work has been great, but her attire is not up to office standards and she  needs to be wearing more supportive undergarments.  You can smile and say that she can see you know of what you speak.

She said she got a promotion and a raise. Isn't that different than being threatened with firing? She got what she wanted, and he got what he wanted. They are both at fault.

I can't believe that people think this was a happy quid pro quo. The boss was in a position of power and used his to manipulate a young, vulnerable subordinate. She knows this is what he does with young women.  Sure, it would have been better if she'd refused, but surely people understand things don't tend to go well for those who decline.  Well, at least these responses will give the letter writer a taste of what's ahead if she comes forward.

Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.

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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