Prudence, drawing on her rich experience of life, will answer questions submitted by readers. She will respond to questions about manners, personal relations, politics, economics, and other subjects. Questions should be sent to Prudence@slate.com. They should not exceed 200 words in length. Please indicate how you wish your letter to be signed, preferably including your location.
At what point, and how, should one tell one's new boyfriend about one's medical history? (And it's not the history you may think.) Bluntly put, when does he need to know about the Prozac I take every morning? It's easy enough to tell acquaintances that the reason I'm not having a beer at the office party is that I'm "on some medication," and leave it at that. Is a more detailed explanation needed for a more continuous relationship? Or should I just assume he'll find the bottle in the medicine cabinet when he gets a headache?
--Not D/D-free in D.C.
A lot depends on what you mean by a "more continuous relationship." If you mean that you will be with this man daily, or almost daily, for a significant period, with the possibility that it will be for the rest of your lives, you should certainly tell him. You will both be more free with each other if he knows. You will not have to try to hide your condition or make up false explanations of it. He will understand you better if he knows. He will know to try to avoid exacerbating your condition and may be able to help alleviate it by sympathetic and understanding behavior. If he can't accept that, you should consider whether you want a "more continuous relationship" with him.
Won't you come out to play?
--Mark TullyMadison, Maine
Dear Beatles Fan,
I am at play right now. Play is activity engaged in for the enjoyment of it without regard to the financial remuneration. My remuneration is so trivial that what I am doing qualifies as play.
I had a youthful indiscretion and was married to a woman for six months almost 18 years ago. In July of this year, I received a phone call from a young woman who professed to be my daughter. When we divorced, I knew her mom was pregnant, but through the lawyers I was told the unborn baby belonged to her first husband. In fact, out of the blue one day she left me and remarried him.
This young woman, whom I met in person over Thanksgiving, is undoubtedly my child. But, she's a very troubled and angry young woman. She has been abused sexually, emotionally; was put out of her home at age 12 by her mother; has been pregnant but suffered a miscarriage. Beginning at age 15, she had an affair for almost two years with a 35-year-old married man; has attempted suicide some three times; was hospitalized for psychiatric problems for three months; was arrested for assault and is currently on probation; and the list goes on.
My advice to her was that she needed to deal with her anger and learn to love herself before she could even begin to think about loving me, her half brother, and half sister. She said some pretty mean things to me while she was here. I requested that we not have a relationship unless and until she gets herself some help.
I am totally disabled with a spinal-cord disease and I have limited emotional, financial, and physical capabilities. Did I do the right thing?
--Hopeless in the SoutheastSanford, Fla.
Dear It's Not Hopeless,
What a sad story! But I think you are shortchanging your daughter and yourself. I accept what you say about having limited financial and physical capabilities. I don't think you are right about having limited emotional capabilities. You should not cut off your relationship with her but rather should offer her sympathy, understanding, love, and companionship. It will be hard. Obviously, after the life she has led she is going to say some mean things. She may feel that the absence of her natural father during her 18 years, however well that might be explained, contributed to her present condition. Treating her lovingly will not only be helpful to her. It will also be helpful to you. The emotional capabilities you describe as limited will grow as they are used.
You may not be able to sustain this attitude, but it will be worth a very hard try.