Category Archives: Emily Yoffe

Advice by moonlight

It’s 12:47 at night on Monday (Tuesday?).   Mondays are Mondays, which means it’s hard to get up in the morning, and they are long days, full of meetings, catching up on email, figuring out what I said I’d do over the weekend and didn’t, regular work, and then the highlight of my week, an hour with the kiddles at 826Michigan, followed by pub trivia.

This Monday was enhanced by a ribbon cutting ceremony at the library (a rather moving one at that), the excitement of losing my purse (I think/hope I know where I left it), and a young writer more interested in bolting out the door than crafting his personal nemesis.  So the columns, all in all, were left by the wayside until 12:47 or, by now, 12:50, when I’m tired but not sleepy.

And thus I offer a quick drive-by-fruiting (Mrs. Doubtfire?  Anyone?) of Prudence’s Monday live chat–which I always forget about until 12:47, or, by now, 12:51 on Monday (Tuesday?).

As Prudence says each week, (except, of course, this week when I want to quote it): Let’s get to it!

….

Yikes.  After reading the first three chat participants, I’m not sure “drive by fruiting” is the best approach after all.  Some pretty heavy stuff in this week’s chat.  Here’s a rundown, anyway, with key quotes included and sassy commentary withheld.  Have a look, if you want to read about:

  • “One of my close friends just announced his engagement to a woman he’s been dating for a few years. We’re happy for him, but many of us can’t shake the feeling that he’s making a mistake. In essence, the woman makes fun of him a lot in front of his friends, and not in a loving way.”
  • “A few months ago, my husband raped me in the middle of the night. He was asleep during the attack, and he believes that it is a disorder called sexsomnia…I feel like I will never be able to get over this and I will live in constant fear for the rest of my life…To make matters worse, I have recently started having an affair, because I needed someone to take away all of the pain….I still care about my husband, and I want to honor the commitment I made to him, but when I look at him all I see is a monster. Is there any hope that I can fall in love with him again, or should I cut ties and move on?”
  • “If you have done whatever you can to get any kind of income and you haven’t been able to find a stable job, do you take it as a sign that perhaps you’re supposed to be unemployed? I’m at my wits’ end, and this is how I’m thinking, more to save my sanity than anything else. What do you think?”
  • I work in a small, close-knit office. There is one “boss” to speak of, but we all work mostly independently. Most of our staff have advanced college degrees. My problem occurs during lunchtime. There have been quite a few times that the “boss” reaches on my plate and takes some food.

Thank God!  Something petty, at last!  From that point on, the chat is all over the map, with the nasty relatives, nosy friends, speech disorders, adultery, boozing, housekeeping (and lack thereof) and lazy co-workers we all like to see.

Not much cheery or inspirational in Prudence this week, I’m afraid.  Tell your friends not to marry jerks, ignore the jerks in your own lives, and do your jobs, everyone!  Happy Tuesday.  Since it’s now 1:08.


 

Friday-ja vu

Last Friday and this morning both featured duplicate letters.  Last week, Margo published a letter that appeared in Prudence’s live chat a couple of months ago.  This morning, Amy published a letter that Prudence published yesterday.  Hmmmm…….

Last Friday’s Dear Margo:

Dear Margo: I am a young (early 20s) Muslim woman. For more than 10 years, I chose to wear a scarf on my head, but my problem is that I don’t want to wear it anymore. I started wearing it on my own because I believed in it, but I’ve been reconsidering for several years now after much thought and study.

I wish I could just take it off, but there are problems. One, my family is very religious and would freak out if I did. (I tried to bring up the subject once, and they were horrified.) I am a college grad currently looking for a job but haven’t found one yet, so I’m stuck at home and, therefore, financially dependent on them. Two, should I take it off, the small, tight-knit Muslim community in which I live would talk endlessly about it, which would “ruin” my family’s reputation. At the moment, they are held in high regard, particularly my dad, who is seen as a religious leader. I don’t want to shame my family or alienate myself from them, which is what would happen if I took it off. We are close. Just to make it clear, my family members are not religious extremists in any sense, just devoted to their religion and terrified that I am drifting away from it. What to do?

— To Wear or Not To Wear

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Names, kisses, weddings, oh my!

Prudence’s live chat this week hit on a few topics we’ve covered lately, namely, baby names (and the grandmas who hate them) and kisses among family members.  Check out the chat each week to see what her readers have to say about these issues, and more!

Mum’s the word….

In honor of Mother’s Day, Prudie devoted her whole column to, well, mommy issues (“Prudie offers advice on matriarchs with salacious secrets, deadly diseases, and pernicious personalities, just in time for Mother’s Day“): two grown kids trying to make the best choice to stay close with their moms, one teenager tired of everyone thinking she’s a mom when out with a baby, one crazy mom (there’s always got to be one!), and one mom letting the ghosts of her own jr. high past color her kids’ experience.

Some are quite thoughtful, though not all are necessarily the best way to honor moms and motherhood….. For example:

I’m fed up with my mother’s lifelong helplessness and dependency.

Yikes!  (The person who wrote this was not unjustified, but it’s a bit incongruous to choose her as the Mother’s Day poster child, no?  Then again, maybe not: moms of all kinds will be recognized this Sunday, in all kinds of ways–see also: Carolyn Hax live chat, about 2/3 of the way down–and the difficult situations probably deserve more advice column inches than the warm and fuzzy ones)

Happy Mother’s Day!  If you are a mom, enjoy your brunch and handcrafted elementary school delights….and if you have a mom, don’t forget to call!


Ho, Ho, Ho, Merrrry…..wait, we missed it!

After a couple of weeks of lots of holiday horror stories and “shocking” breaches of Christmas etiquette, I was a bit surprised to see that on Christmas Eve, most of the columnists didn’t even touch Christmas. (Maybe they figured any train wrecks are now far beyond stopping….).

  • Abby revisited the issue of reading or not reading collections of private letters between deceased relatives (I responded to this one after the original October column)
  • Kathy and Marcy of Annie’s Mailbox counseled a high school student who’s being buillied about her Jolie-like “duck lips”
  • Dan Savage, whom I read weekly, but rarely write about here (partly because most of his answers are a bit out of my range of expertise, and partly because when I started this blog I checked the “no adult content” box, and generally try to avoid profanity, etc.) gives a slight nod to “last minute Christmas gifts,” but mostly covers the standard Savage Love grab bag of spanking, smelliness, and electro-stimulation.
  • Miss Manners hits on foreclosure and telecommunications
  • And Carolyn wrote about HPV, of all things!

Golly gee whillikers, where can a girl get a little holiday spirit, or at least a little festive forehead slapping?

  • Amy hits the spot, featuring a woman (I’m guessing) who is obsessed with the fact that her relative cannot send Christmas gifts on time. The gifts always arrive eventually, but she’d apparently do away with gifts altogether rather than have them show up late. How old is she, 9? Unless there are kids thinking Santa’s been run over (by a reindeer?) because the presents aren’t there, what’s the big friggin’ deal? Amy conveys basically the same sentiment, though not in so many words.
  • Prudence devotes all four of her weekly featured letters (plus the video!) to Christmas conundrums (conundra? help me, Latin speakers!). Get ready for simmering sibling entitlement, multicultural mishaps, mysterious gifts from married men, and my two favorites: absurdly political Christmas cards and prank gift wrapping that would give Wile E. Coyote a run for his money.
  • Carolyn’s last pre-holiday live chat also had a few doozies: gourmet cooks griping about lame holiday food, obnoxious custody arrangements, and this, my favorite one (scroll all the way down to the bottom):

Washington, DC: Carolyn

Any tips for surviving driving my sister from one parent’s house to the other this weekend? It’s a three hour trip and she commandeers my radio, criticizes my driving, and generally drives me nuts every time we’re in the car. Plus, she’ll be ready late and want to stop at every Starbucks we pass, which will make her have to pee. I’m anticipating the three hour drive will take roughly 4.5 with her in the car. How do I do it so we arrive at parent no. 2’s house with me still in the holiday spirit?

Carolyn says: Read this, see how funny this is, and treat yourself to a foofy hot somethingorother on one if not all of the stops.

Gentle readers (to snag a phrase from Miss Manners), thanks for sticking around for year two of A Little Help Please?! Happy holidays, and see you in the new year! (unless things are boring at home, in which case I’ll see you, like, tomorrow).

Hot Dog, Hold the Dog

A bewildered woman wonders what’s up with the bizarr-o eating habits of her boyfriend’s teenage daughter:

Dear Prudie,
Last week, my boyfriend and I took his teenage daughter to a major league baseball game with seats in a corporate suite. As with most suites, the food and drink were complimentary. We arrived before the game and were able to enjoy several different types of ballpark food—nachos, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. My boyfriend’s daughter helped herself to a few things, one of which was a hot dog roll—just the roll, no hot dog. While I thought this odd, it was no big deal. About 20 minutes after that, she went back to the buffet and took two more rolls and ate them both! After the game, I mentioned to my boyfriend that I thought this was inappropriate, given that the rolls were there to accompany the hot dogs and that most of the other suite guests had not arrived yet and therefore had not had a chance to get food. He felt that as a guest in the suite, she was entitled to whatever she wanted and however much she wanted. And he said that there was no formal etiquette rule to address this. What do you think?

—Ms. Everything in Moderation

Oh boy, does this take me back to junior high and the early days of high school….those days when half of my friends dabbled in vegetarianism, and the rest were old enough to wonder about what was in hot dogs, but too young to come to terms with their concern.

Please be clear: I’m not belittling vegetarianism as a lifestyle choice–just laughing a little as I recall the legions of girls I knew (I may have been one of them) who adopted it for a week or two, and whose vegetarian diets consisted of tater tots, Skittles, and Big Macs without the burger. (Only years later did I learn from my brother’s committed vegetarian friend that, of course, thanks to animal-based gelatin, Skittles aren’t vegetarian at all!)

In those days, the sophisticated way to respond to ballpark food was “Ew, gross, I would NEVER eat that,” while creating some modified version that in fact was much grosser and much worse for you (spreading nacho cheese on hot dog buns, for example…)

For me and my friends, it wasn’t even really about trying to lose weight or be skinny (though I’m sure it is for many young women). It was more about pressure to conform: if one person said “hot dogs are so gross, what is even in there?” we all said, “Oh, totally,” and began sneering at hot dogs. I mean, what could you do, pick up a dog and eat it? Of course not! (Six years later we are pretty much all avid hot dog eaters).

Prudie responded that she thought the girl was just really into carbs. I think, rather, she probably thought she was being “healthy” by loading up on the plain buns rather than the mystery tube steak that’s supposed to accompany it.

The bewildered woman thought the girl was being rude by taking all the buns (“that CAVIAR is a GARNISH!”), but in a corporate suite like that, especially one that’s all you can eat, I think they’d be refilling the food as it runs out. I have heard the legends about all-you-can-eat baseball boxes from SK and his friends. A teenage girl picking at hot dog buns is not even a blip on the radar of “all you can eat” when a group of men in their 20s are in the room.

There are many young women dealing with severe eating disorders, but this doesn’t sound like one of them. (If it were, she’d probably know exactly how many calories were in the bun!). Sounds to me like someone who is trying to figure out how and what she wants to eat, now that she’s old enough to have the freedom to choose. Food is an easy rebellion, and inevitably there will be some strange patches. Like the time my mom asked me how I wanted my sandwich sliced, and I said I didn’t want it sliced at all. She sliced it anyway, and as an act of defiance I held the two pieces together as I ate them.

Teenagers are weird. They mostly get over it.

On the Lighter Side….

The blog has been a bit marriage-and-family heavy these days, so maybe it’s time for a breath of fresh air from Prudence. Remember, no issue is too small or strange to require the services of a professional advice columnist!

Dear Prudence,
A few months before my husband and I got married, I found out by accident that he wears a toupee. As we lay in bed one night, I noticed what looked like hairspray or gel buildup on his hairline. He was fast asleep, so I went to scratch it off, and what I thought was gel turned out to be the tape of his toupee! Here he had been wearing a toupee all this time, and I never had the faintest idea. I’m sure he’s painfully embarrassed about it, as he’s very particular about his appearance, but I’m his wife and hate knowing he’s keeping this from me. Do I somehow gently confront him about this? I’m nervous to do so, because I think he would be extremely embarrassed. In the end, I want him to know that I love him no matter what he looks like, and he shouldn’t feel like he has to wear a hairpiece.

—Bald Is Beautiful

Dear Bald,
There’s better, there’s worse, then there’s Hair Club for Men—which may be worse than worse. If you scroll around the Web for Hair Club counter-testimonials, you’ll find the most astounding thing about your story is that when your courtship began, you didn’t immediately suspect that your future husband had a muskrat pelt attached to his scalp. A standard toupee is supposed to be removed nightly, but customers of the Hair Club, or an equivalent, have the wig taped and glued on for weeks at a time. (Though your husband’s hair follicles appear to be dead, let’s not think about the life forms that must be breeding under the rug.) When he disappears without explanation, he isn’t cheating on you; he’s at the club getting his muskrat adjusted. We live in a glorious time for male pattern baldness, a time when even men who still have hair flaunt fully shaved heads. What a service it would be if you could release your husband from the tyranny of the toupee so that his scalp can breathe free. But he sounds like a delicate vessel, so handle him gingerly. Tell him the truth—that one night as he slept you noticed a buildup of glue on his scalp and realized he was wearing a toupee. Say you know that he takes great pride in his appearance, but you’re sure he would look just as handsome—probably more so—if he went natural. It will probably take time for this advice to gel, but maybe one day he will be willing to flip his wig.

—Prudie

In this day and age, I can hardly imagine a guy even wearing a hairpiece. Like Prudence, I find it even harder to believe that this woman never got close enough to notice until her husband was asleep. In the time they’ve been together, she’s never touched his hair? Or at least wondered why he recoils and pushes her away when she tries to?

I hope this guy comes around and decides to ditch the hairpiece, but since his wife apparently couldn’t tell that his hair was fake, well, why should he? She seems to hope he’ll realize that she loves him enough that he doesn’t have to wear fake hair. (But not enough to notice that he is, in fact, doing so??). Yeah, I think she should try to bring it up with him, and for the rest of the world it would be great if he went free. But I suspect that the fact that the woman who shares her life and bed with this guy couldn’t tell his hair was false will only serve to support his belief that the thing is working.

P.S.: Check out the hairclub “non-surgical bio-matrix system” and an an educational countertestimonial.

Father knows Best…….and he knows it.

I’m tired just reading this poor student’s letter…..

Dear Prudence,
I’m a 20-year-old student and generally get along well with my 63-year-old dad. However he is also quite aggressive, and this has been a constant strain on our relationship. He loves to play the devil’s advocate and will argue any side of any subject. Whenever I express any political, religious, or moral opinion, he will argue with me. These conversations almost always become heated and cause me a great deal of anxiety. I’ve told him this, but he thinks it’s all in good fun. I’ve also tried changing the subject or walking away from the conversation, but he gets very angry and demands we finish our “philosophical debate.” I’m pre-law, so I normally love to debate at school, but these arguments last for hours, and not being able to end them is stressing me out. Do I have the right to walk away? Or do I actually owe it to him to finish these debates?

—Great Debater

Dear Great,
The law does tend to attract more than its share of overbearing bullies, so your father may be doing you a favor by giving you experience with the kind of argumentative know-it-alls you will inevitably encounter. Start learning how to deal with this by dealing with him. Tell him the endless disputes are not stimulating and fun for you; they’re draining and debilitating and are keeping you from enjoying your relationship with him. Explain that for the sake of father-daughter relations, and your blood pressure, you’re going to start cutting things off when they get too heated. Be prepared that this will likely provoke a harangue along the lines of, “Why would someone who says she wants to be a lawyer be ‘drained’ when she’s asked to defend a simple assertion?” Don’t take the bait. Instead, smile and reply, “That’s the fact, Dad.” Then, in the future, when he starts in, have a few phrases that signal you’re ending the discussion: “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” “That’s been asked and answered.” “Let’s drop it.” If he won’t stop, remind your father that you came over to enjoy his company, not relive the Inquisition, and since he wants to keep going, you’re going to go. Then give him a kiss and bid farewell to your man of strife and contention.

—Prudie

I know a lot of dads who do this, to greater and lesser extents. My dad is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum…I can think of at least one friend’s dad who is WAY at the intense end of it. In fact the only out-and-out fight I have ever had with my dad was when I took what I thought was a reasonable discussion too far. (Too far for me, actually, not too far for him–I was unprepared for how strongly he would feel the need to prove me wrong). Are your dads like this? How do you handle it? And why do they do it?

Also, Prudence makes the assumption this writer is a woman–she of course has the benefit of email addresses and possibly names to help her with this assessment, but still….it does sound like a daughter, doesn’t it? All the people I can think of who get in these long exhausting debates with their dads are women. What does THAT mean?

Romancing the Crone?

Sorry I’ve been MIA this week….I’ve been tired and borderline sick, and mostly catching up on sleep and forgetting to do assignments. Unfortunately, the blog was the first thing to go. Anyway, as a little “thank you” for sticking around, we have an extra special letter today from this week’s Dear Prudence:

Dear Prudence,
I am a college student in my early 20s and have been married for three years to my wonderful husband. My problem is that I’ve got a huge crush on Michael Douglas, who is in his 60s. I watch his movies every day! At first my hubby just laughed it off and said he had crushes on celebrities, too, but now he’s irritated because I insist on him watching these movies with me and discussing Michael Douglas’ personal life all the time. I am not a stalker or anything. I am not writing him fan letters—though I’ve considered it. I have had mad celebrity crushes before, but this is the first since I’ve been with my husband. It feels like I am cheating and pushing my hubby away to watch movies that are older than I am. Please help!

—Cheating With the Movies

Wow….she says she’s had “mad celebrity crushes” before, and I can’t help but wonder when, and on whom, and how long they tend to last. It seems like it would take more than, say, 3 years to accumulate the complete works of Michael Douglas (unless she’s just using Netflix). While of course it’s natural to have crushes at any time in your life (though perhaps less natural when the object of your affection is decaying by the day….we’ll return to this in a minute) there’s clearly something wrong if it’s affecting her life this much. Which she knows, or she wouldn’t be writing in. I wonder if she’s obsessive in other areas of her life, as well, and if this speaks more to a personality quirk of hers, than to any special allure that Michael Douglas has. Prudence, as always, is right on the money:

Dear Cheating,
I just saw the preview for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a Matthew McConaughey movie in which Michael Douglas appears as Uncle Wayne, a dead playboy. If the movie is as awful as the trailer—and since it stars Matthew McConaughey, I have every confidence it will be—sitting through multiple screenings just might be the kind of shock therapy you need. Also helpful would be to Google “Michael Douglas facelift” and see your dreamboat with his incisions oozing. If that doesn’t do it, get the HBO series Flight of the Conchords, about a failed rock duo, and pay particular attention to the character Mel. She is the pair’s crazed fan who forces her husband to accompany her as she stalks them. She’s what you don’t want to become. For that matter, you don’t want to end up one bunny shy of the Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction. Having fantasies about a celebrity has got to be a nearly universal experience. (When I was walking through a lobby in Los Angeles and literally bumped into my first big crush, Sean Connery, my knees buckled.) But once you get past the stage of taping pictures of the Jonas Brothers on your wall, you’re supposed to be able to understand this is a limited, private indulgence that you don’t subject your patient husband to on a nightly basis. If you were bingeing on potato chips, you’d keep them out of your pantry. So get rid of the Michael Douglas oeuvre, and start doing things with your husband (besides going to the movies) that make you appreciate the young man you have for real.

—Prudie

Cheers to Prudie for loving Sean Connery, knowing the Flight of the Conchords, mocking the Jonas Brothers and their fans, and revering the power of google image search. Speaking of which….you know you were going to look, so I’ve saved you the trouble:
Hmmm…actually, not as bad as I expected. Doubt it would be intense enough to derail a crush as serious as this one.

Facebook: Turning the other [Virtual] Cheek

Facebook seems to come up a lot lately in the columns….in particular for those who are just coming to it this year (or last year, or what have you…). For many of us who have been on the ‘book for four or five years already, it prevents the post-college (or for the next generation, post-high school) drift from ever happening. But for my parents’ peers, or even my aunt’s (she’s 14 years older than me), there’s a huge rush of reconnecting going on. And many people have questions about how best to approach “friending” those they know they hurt or were otherwise rude to, usually with the intention of making amends. (Equally common is the issue of being friended by someone who you hoped you’d never hear from or see again). Prudence addresses this issue in her column today but, unfortunately, it’s fairly clear that she herself has never used Facebook:

Dear Prudie,I am the flip-side of your letter last week from Bliss in Exile. Many years ago, when I was in high school, I did something very cruel to a friend of mine: I took her boyfriend. Now we are both married to other men. I found her on Facebook and attempted to contact her to apologize for the cruel thing I had done. She took your advice and hit “ignore.” I feel terrible that I was not even given the opportunity to admit to her that what I did was wrong and try to make amends. I also feel a little angry because I think it is immature to hold a grudge or resentment for so long over something that a teenager once did to you. Now that I have been ignored by the person I would like to apologize to, should I just let it go? Or should I take another avenue to try to contact her to tell her how sorry I am?
—Blocked

Dear Blocked,
In response to Bliss in Exile, I have heard from several people who were the miscreants in high school and have successfully used Facebook to contact their victims and make amends. But the problem with simply making a friend request to someone you’ve hurt is that the person on the other end has no idea about your intentions. In cases such as yours, it’s a better idea to use your Facebook network to get an address for your former classmate and write a letter explaining that what you did has weighed on you all these years, you are asking for forgiveness, and that you want to reconnect. Give your phone number and e-mail address and add you’d also be happy to be contacted through Facebook. If you don’t hear anything, just be glad you did the right thing now, and accept that there are some people for whom high-school graduation was one of the happiest days of their lives.
—Prudie

There are two major flaws with this response–first is that when sending a friend request, you DO have the option of including a personal message to explain who you are and why you’re seeking a connection with the recipient. Second is that, for people who restrict their profiles to be visible only by their friends, or at least limit the information visible to non-friends in our network (which I think, and hope, is most of us) you can’t just snag someone’s address off of Facebook unless they’ve already accepted your friendship, even then only if they’ve chosen to post it….my full address is not listed on my facebook profile. If you want their address, without feeling like you’re creeping on them, try….smartpages.com?

Ultimately, leaving this mistakes aside, I agree with Prudence. Reaching out might be a nice gesture. But jeez, people, learn to take a hint! This happens all the time in the columns, with facebook, with email, with voicemail…”Dear Prudence, I’ve sent twelve emails and left 8 messages and the person has not responded. Do you think it would be inappropriate of me to show up at their house?”

Also, for this woman in particular…SHE is the one continuing to make a big deal out of what happened so long ago, not her friend. My experience with high school boyfriend drama is that, 20 years later (or, um, five) nobody cares! Stealing her boyfriend may have been the best thing she could have done for this woman, in terms of removing the wrong guy, and a disloyal friend, from the circle of people she chose to associate with. People who think they are “owed” the opportunity to make amends–especially this many years later to people who probably don’t care–need to get over themselves.

Just because you CAN find someone doesn’t mean you SHOULD.