I adore reading your column. I am completely up to date with your recent columns and am almost done reading your archives. I read your column because I am supremely interested in human behavior and interactions. I also love writing. My question is: How can one become an advice columnist? I am 23 years old, so this isn't just a whim for "when I grow up." My personal views are well-founded, and my advice would be unique (although definitely moral). I feel it would be a fabulously creative way for me to contribute something to this world. I have taken a couple years of psychology at university but have not yet earned my degree. Is this a requirement? Do I need a background in journalism? What kind of qualifications and experience led you to writing "Dear Prudence"? I know I am young, but my life experience is ample for my age. Any advice and answers you have would be much appreciated.
—Crystal in the U.K.
Prudie is gratified that she's had a part in your wish to become an advice columnist. Psychology courses certainly would be helpful, though when Prudie took one—with the renowned Abraham Maslow—she had no inkling she would be Prudie many years later. (If she had, she would have paid closer attention.) A background in journalism certainly provides a foundation. Prudie's career path, unfortunately, is hard to duplicate. And since it predated Slate, I will switch to the first person. A friend, the late Gene Siskel, had a hunch his jobless, undegreed pal could write for newspapers and asked his editor to meet with me. That man (miraculously) agreed and taught me the nuts and bolts of becoming a columnist. Mike Kinsley, Slate's founder, had been my editor at the New Republic long before Slate, and it was he, many years later, who invited me to carry on for the first Prudence. Oh, and last but definitely not least, my late mother, my model for so many things, was Ann Landers.
I married a younger man (by 17 years) a couple of years ago, after dating for three years. He has a high sexual appetite, in my opinion. It has always been an issue for us; however, we never lived together until two years ago. He spent one year away serving his country, then four months getting more education. Now that we're married and he's home 24-seven, he wants sex and I don't, and I feel awful because I know he's disappointed. When I give in, I really don't want to. I'm thinking about letting go of the marriage because I don't know if I can live a lifetime with this pressure. I am in my 50s, and he's in his mid-30s. Once a week is more than enough for me; once a day is what he would like. Is his sex drive unusual, or is mine? He says he desires me so much, but it doesn't make me feel good. Help!
—Once Is Enough
Your husband's sex drive is not out of this world for a chap who's in his mid-30s ... and neither is yours, for a middle-aged woman. The problem is that you're married to each other. (Disclaimer: This is not to say that younger men can't have less libido and older women more.) Unfortunately, your predicament is not easily settled by a compromise (i.e., three times a week) because each of you will feel put upon and possibly angry. What you both need to do is evaluate all the elements in the marriage to arrive at whether or not your incompatible sexual needs are a deal-breaker.
There is a man in my life who starts giggling every time he starts or ends a sentence. Sometimes he can't even get the words out, and he has to start again. This guy is 53 and in great marathon shape, an attorney, and going through a divorce. He says he only does this giggle thing around me, but I am beginning to wonder why. It happens all the time, even over the phone. So do you think this a nervous thing ... or is he hiding something that makes him feel uncomfortable around me? I am thinking about bringing it up and asking him to try to get it under control. It's really bizarre when we're trying to have a conversation about the smallest things ... the weather, the dog, what time he is picking me up, etc.
—Puzzled and Concerned
You are right about nervousness being at the root of this situation, though his saying it's only with you is the oddball part. This sounds doubtful to Prudie, but if that is actually the case—it only happening with you—it needs exploration, probably with a therapist. (Or perhaps even a speech therapist.) His going through a divorce is likely not without meaning. Your bottom line is that you cannot go through life being distressed by a middle-aged man, no matter how fit or accomplished, whose every sentence is punctuated by giggles. So by all means, tell this man that if he wishes his relationship with you to progress, he will have to get to the bottom of the nervous laughter.
I am a rower. I love the sport, and I could not possibly have better friends, family, and marks. But lately I've noticed a bit of a problem: I am always thinking about rowing. I'm fine if I'm in the middle of a conversation, but if I'm left alone for two minutes, I start running over competitions in my mind, what I will say to other competitors, my race plan, etc. I get shivers down my spine, as if I was about to race. I lie awake at night, thinking of competitions that aren't until next August. I'll sit in class and second-guess whether I'm good enough when I should be taking notes. The teacher will ask me to answer a question, and I realize I have drifted off thinking of Canada Cup or Henley. Ma'am, I'm 15, and something tells me that I should be thinking about boys, school, friends, and parties at this age. I just wonder if this is normal. None of my rowing friends seem to have this problem.
There is no need for you to change course. You are immersed in something you love, and Prudie thinks it's wonderful to be so passionate about a wholesome, healthy sport. Nowhere is it written that 15 is the age at which girls drop everything to concentrate on boys, friends, and parties. As for your thoughts keeping you up at night and wandering to all things rowing, you're not making plans to knock over a bank, so don't be so hard on yourself. This overriding interest suggests that you're probably on your way to being an outstanding sculler. Prudie wishes you success and "swing."