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I am writing you about a rather bizarre situation. My wife and I have been together for nearly 13 years. Things were great until the birth of our second child, a daughter, in 1998. Since the day our daughter came home, she has slept in our bed. The year before last we even bought a new, larger home so that our daughter would have her own bedroom. This improved nothing; our daughter still sleeps in our bed, and I have been retired to the family room couch. I love my wife and my daughter, but I am alone. I complain, only to be told that our daughter—nearly 7!—will be in her own room soon. At times these debates become loud, at which point I am told I am selfish and must not care about our daughter. I know that I am not selfish or uncaring. I am, however, considering a divorce. It is not something I want, but I no longer wish to live like as a guest in my own home.
—Lost and lonely
Something obviously happened in year six of your marriage that made your wife decide she had reached her sexpiration date. Not only does she have a 7-year-old chastity belt, but no kid in the second grade belongs in her mother's bed. The emotional turmoil for this child could be immeasurable. You certainly have the patience of a saint—a celibate one, at that—but you must now insist she see a counselor or mediator with you. If her problems cannot be dealt with, you will, indeed, have to divorce. It is a fair bet that custody of this child may come into the picture, as well. Good luck. And no one can ever say you acted hastily.
I love your column, and now I finally have something disturbing enough to ask you about. My boyfriend and I have been together for a few years, although we've known and liked each other for nearly a decade. We've both been faithful churchgoers and even played together in our worship band. Like any large (or small) church, it is its own community and therefore can be either very supportive or gossipy about the members. A few months ago, I found out I was pregnant. Huge faux-pas for a 20-year-old Christian. Both my boyfriend and I decided we wouldn't rush out and get married just because of our baby, but we would buy a house and move in together. Everything considered, we feel we've done the right thing. I feel totally at peace. However, it has gotten out (and spread like wildfire) that we're living together. The overall response from our "loving" church was a lot of judgment and people saying how stupid we are. Needless to say my boyfriend and I have taken a "break" from weekly attendance. After such negative outbursts from our just being together, I have no desire to say I'm pregnant. My question is: Given the opposition, should my boyfriend and I try to explain ourselves (they'll find out about our baby eventually), or should we just start looking for new friends who will support us in this supposed-to-be-happy time?
—"Judge not" in Alaska
Prudie is sorry you've been disappointed by the people you've worshipped with. Not to put too fine a point on it, it's always a letdown when churchgoers point fingers … schooled as they are in the Good Book. Prudie cannot see how you would ever feel comfortable with this congregation, so by all means look for a more understanding, less gossipy group of parishioners with a somewhat higher compassion quotient. As for the "judge not" directive, your current group of co-religionists definitely sound like they belong in the department of pots and kettles.
I'm wondering what the etiquette is for newspapers and magazines in public places such as doctors' waiting rooms or libraries. Can I do the New York Magazine crossword puzzle while waiting for my dentist? Or am I obligated to leave it as I found it? What about interesting articles or ads for products in which I might be interested? Is tearing them out allowed? Thanks for your help!
—Jack the Ripper
In a perfect world, magazines in waiting rooms would be left in pristine condition for all to enjoy. In the real world, however, people see something of interest and often, because the publication is dog-eared from wear, they tear out whatever they want or do the puzzles. Prudie, alas, pleads guilty. Anything in a library, however, must not be touched. The difference is that waiting-room reading material is to keep you occupied; anything in a library is for reference purposes. It may, in fact, be against the law in some places to tamper with anything in a library, whereas it's unlikely that one's dentist would make a fuss over a page ripped out of People.
I am a longtime fan and now I find myself requiring your advice. I am madly in love with my boyfriend of two years. We've lived together for about seven months now. The problem is he is the worst housekeeper known to man. He will walk in the front door and distribute his work clothes like bread crumbs through the house. He thinks that the best way to wash dishes is rinsing them for a few seconds under cold water. His idea of "cleaning up" is to hide things … in closets, in locked rooms, on top of the fridge. His newest habit is grabbing a clean towel out of the cabinet, even if there's a clean one hanging on the towel rack. I love my man, but I am burned out being the only one to clean the house. Whenever I point out his shortcomings in the cleaning department, he gets huffy and pouts. Usually after the second or third time I tell him something, I'm forced to do it myself. Short of sitting him down like a pouting 3-year-old and showing him how to clean, what's the best way to deal with this? Hiring a housekeeper is completely out of the financial question.
—Sick of playing the Cleaning Lady
Given the fact that you're in a two-year relationship with a swell guy, Prudie would advise you to pick your battles. Because the beloved is an inveterate slob and you've had no luck getting him to pitch in around the house, there are really only two options open to you. One is to sit him down … not like a 3-year-old, but like a partner to whom you're making a plea for help. Tell him you feel like the maid and that's not the way you want to feel. Lessons are not required to remember to take your clothes off in one place, use hot water instead of cold, or learn that the top of the fridge is not the proper place for whatever he's putting up there—merely a serious request. The other alternative is what Prudie's mother taught her: It is sometimes easier to pick up the guy's socks than to make continual "requests." Given that he is slothful and chaotic around the house (and may also have retro ideas about men and women), it might be easier on you to bear in mind what a great guy you have while you pick up his socks. Don't ask Prudie how she knows this.