Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
April 27 2006 5:42 AM

What a Boob

Can I get past my new girlfriend's cancer scars?

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Dear Prudence,
I am a man in my late 40s, new to the dating scene after a divorce, and I have begun seeing a wonderful, sexy, accomplished woman. There's only one problem: A number of years ago she had breast cancer and went through a bilateral mastectomy. She had restorative surgery, and while the surgery was a major success for her self-image, it has left one breast, well, dented, with a crease in it. She is a heroic woman who has done wonderful things for women's health care over the years, and her sex drive and emotional energy are equal to and surpass that of many women I have known. But the misshaped breast has a way of, uh, lowering my libido. Is this selfish and narcissistic of me? Absolutely. I guess I need a woman to carefully and prudentially tell me how I might cope with this—I mean, in an inner way. Is there a "mantra" that will help me remain focused on all the good, sweet, transcendent stuff that is in her, and not on the pinup expectations that I, along with most men, still have?

—Feeling Like a Boob

Dear Feeling,
Is she overlooking your less-than six-pack abs, and the slackness in your jowls? If you had fallen in love with her before her cancer and she survived—though with a dented breast—would that have been the end of your sex life? If you trade her in for a more ideal model, do you think life won't leave its scars on that next woman? And do you think life won't leave its scars on you? You're right, your objection is superficial and unattractive. But libido can be a strange and delicate thing that resents being told what to do. Yet you two seem to have made a strong connection, sexually and otherwise. (Note that your letter has several references to how sexy she is.) Build on that and see if your pinup expectations don't start fading. And if they don't, she sounds like a catch for someone who won't care about a few dents.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My soon-to-be-fiance is perfect for me in almost all ways except one: He is a major flirt, and isn't ashamed of it. I have tried ranting and raving about it, but that rarely gets anyone anywhere. Now my family is calling his sometimes inappropriate behavior into question, and although I have basically come to terms with it, I don't want to look like the village idiot. It has been seen as "disrespectful" and I can understand how it looks that way. I'm thinking about coming clean and telling him that a flock of birds—not naming names—doesn't appreciate his behavior, and see what happens.

—Loving a Flirt

Dear Loving,
There are people who can be charmingly, enjoyably, and harmlessly flirtatious. Your almost-fiance obviously isn't one of them. He's the kind of guy the women in your circle think of as Stand-Too-Close Stanley or Heavy-Handed Harry. And you're the kind of woman about whom they wonder, "How does she stand it? Could it be she doesn't know?" Men who constantly come on to other women will follow up sooner or later if they get positive signals in return. As you recognize, even someone "perfect" isn't perfect. Yet there are imperfections in a potential spouse—chronically late, a slob—that are annoying but not deal-breakers. Feeling that your beau makes you look like the village idiot is a deal-breaker. The good news is that you're not even engaged. Listen to your family and find someone who will treat you with respect.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My now-husband and I just eloped after a three-month engagement. It was just us, the officiator, and a witness. We didn't inform anyone beforehand that we were getting married. Our friends and family seem a little hurt by our actions but they are supportive of the marriage overall. However, now everyone wants us to have a reception. That's all well and good, but one of the reasons was eloped was because it was cheap! We're both in our 20s and not well-off financially (I'm in grad school and he has a lot of debt). We're fine with not having a reception, but when I informed my mother of this she said, "What about gifts?" We don't care about gifts—neither of us needs more stuff. But if we say that we can't have a reception because we can't afford it, my parents or his will probably take the burden upon themselves, and neither group can really afford to do so, nor do we want them to. What should we do?

—Party Pooper

Dear Party,
I'm afraid I don't understand. You say you two eloped because you just wanted to start your married life without investing endless time and money in an extravaganza you had no interest in. And now, because you did it that way, you don't want to put on an extravaganza just to try to get gifts out of everyone. You might have to be reported to the Department of Homeland Matrimony—your behavior is suspicious and bordering on un-American. Actually—good for you. You understand that you gave both sets of parents a pang that they weren't at your wedding. But here you are happily married and wanting to take responsibility for your own lives and finances—so they obviously did something right in raising you. At the next big family gathering, you can toast them for that—and they can toast you for the beginning of your wonderful life together.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
Yesterday was my birthday, and my father and stepmother took my husband and me out for dinner. The tradition for years has been dinner at the place of your choice on your birthday and a card with some money in it. This year, I got the dinner and the card but no money. I thanked them graciously but am left a bit stunned and confused—my parents are not lacking for funds and birthdays have historically been important in our family. It's not that they didn't acknowledge my birthday, but rather that they changed the tradition without explaining why or even giving a token gift. To top it off, my brother (who is 18 years younger than I am) will be getting a car for his 16th birthday this year (I certainly did not get a car when I was 16), so it's not a familywide ban on birthday gifts—just me. I can't seem to come up with a tactful way of addressing the situation, but my feelings are hurt and I feel sort of forgotten. What should I do?

—Birthday Blues

Dear Blue,
You are a married woman in your 30s. I'll bet your parents probably thought that at this point in life an evening out marking the day was celebration enough. It would have been better to have told you that—perhaps in the way some families make a decision to give holiday gifts only to the children. But their actions have gotten the message across. Your teenage brother is still getting real gifts (even though I think a car for a 16-year-old is too much) because he's a teenager. If the evening was lovely and the card was loving, be glad that you are close enough to your parents that you all enjoy spending special occasions together.

—Prudie