Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to email@example.com. (Questions may be edited.)
I'm a grandpa with several wonderful step-grandkids. The youngest told her mom, my stepdaughter, that I pulled her pants down while she and her brother were visiting. It is true that I playfully gave the hem of her shorts a little tug during horseplay. It was completely innocent. Unfortunately we two were the only ones in the room during this visit. My stepdaughter has not only disowned my wife and me, but she has spread the tale to her siblings and their families. They seem supportive of me but choose not to get in the middle of anything. I'm in a quandary. I never meant anything by my action at all. I'm not a sexual deviant, and my wife and I have a healthy and loving relationship. I've been the stepdad for over 20 years. It seems I'm a marked man, and my wife and I are suffering terribly. What does one do when one is falsely accused and sentenced without even being heard? I realize there are all kinds of nuts out there, but I'm not one of them, and no one has ever suspected me of anything like this before. Once an accusation is made, it takes on a life of its own. What shall we do?
For the sake of this discussion, Prudie will take you at your word, though in this day and age to pull down the shorts of a little girl is thoughtless and boorish, at best. Because the rest of the family is supportive of you and you have no history of this kind of trouble, your best bet would be to find the appropriate legal or mental health professional to put you through a battery of tests showing whether you have any pedophiliac inclinations. Assuming you came out with a clean bill of (mental) health, there's a chance that the rest of the family, using the test results, could convince the girl's mother that it was a foolish, though innocent lapse of judgment. And should your stepdaughter give you another chance, always be in a group at family gatherings.
As a straight 30s male working in a gay-positive industry in a gay-friendly North American city, I am often faced with the dilemma of whether to kiss or not to kiss. I'm not in the least bit squeamish about giving the social air kiss to my gay colleagues and friends; I simply wonder if doing so comes across as patronizing. On the other hand, does not offering the peck on both cheeks mark me as a fearful breeder or some kind of homophobe?
Prudie can make this easy for you. Kiss—or don't—according to how you feel about the person, just as you would with your straight friends. If you feel warmly, or even if it's politic to do so, by all means kiss, hug, whatever. If you feel some distance between you and whomever, then simply be cordial—no kiss. In other words, move your thinking from gay/straight to good guy/not. Mmwah!
I was a single mom for nine years when I met my husband. We have been together for four years and married for two. He loves me dearly and would always take care of me. This past February I asked for a divorce. I explained to him I was tired of walking on eggshells because I didn't know when he'd blow up next. I was sick of being a referee between my son and him because he continually overreacted to my son's misbehavior. I also said I didn't love him any more because he had emotionally pushed me away for so long. Since then, he has really calmed down and is making a genuine effort to improve his relationships with my son and me. My son loves him and doesn't want to leave, and I can see us staying together if he continues down the road he's going. However … I have a desire for travel, socializing, and romance. I have started losing the weight I gained since he and I got together. Physically, he doesn't do it for me anymore. His idea of having a fun night is to sit in front of the computer for hours eating chips and drinking pop. His life consists of his cats, his computer, his job (his identity), and me. He would make another homebody a great husband. I accept my choices and feel I should stay married because my son loves him, my husband is making a sincere effective effort to improve his behavior, and honestly, I enjoy the higher standard of living I have versus being a single mom. On the other hand, I miss feeling passionate about someone, I desire someone who enjoys some of the things I enjoy, and I long for the excitement my life used to have. His needs are easily met, but my needs will never be fully met if I stay. What are your suggestions or thoughts about this situation?
—Unsure in the Midwest
Many women share your dilemma, though the particulars may differ. To be realistic and not a goody-two-shoes about it, here's what Prudie thinks. Were there a strong possibility of realizing your dream life of romance, passion, and excitement, the word from this corner would be "go for it" and not feel you were sacrificing yourself on the altar of reliability and security. But oftentimes, the romantic ideal is unattainable. From what you write, you should seriously consider devoting your energies to building on your husband's desire to do better. With some loving effort and encouragement, you could probably bring him around to doing some of the things you enjoy. At the very least, perhaps give yourself a year to concentrate on the marriage you are in. Although it is by now one of those "yeah, yeah, yeah" remarks, good marriages take work.
There's a friend I used to be quite close with whom I don't hear from much lately. When I run into her, she gushes about us getting together again to do things, but then she never calls. Toward the end of our active friendship, I was the one who would call, but now I don't call anymore because she has an irritating habit that's only gotten worse over the years. She would make plans and then cancel to do something else she considered more fun—and had no qualms about telling me she would rather do this or that. The final straw was not hearing a peep from her after she offered to take me out for breakfast for my birthday. She is the only person I have met who does this. Am I being over sensitive?
Prudie can't figure out what it is you're wondering about. You and Miss Let's-Do-Lunch have drifted apart; she behaved badly, stood you up, and was rude, thoughtless, and phony. This woman is no great loss, and you're not too sensitive. Perhaps you just needed to vent and be validated? All better now?