Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 13 2006 6:23 AM

Bittersweet 16

Will my much-older boyfriend get in trouble for seeing me?

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Dear Prudie,
I am a 16-year-old girl in love with a 26-year-old man. This isn't the problem; I love him and he loves me, and he's never abused or coerced me into anything. We haven't had sex, even though I wanted to; he wants to make sure that I'm not doing anything I don't really want to. What is the legal status of my relationship? I'm in New Jersey, so what is the age of consent? I am tired of keeping our relationship a secret, but I will if revealing it would get him in trouble. That leads to the other part of my question—if I have to keep it hidden, how do I respond when people ask if I'm involved? I don't want people to think he's a predator, because he isn't.
—Not a Victim

Dear Victim,
If you're not able to find out on your own if the love of your life will be committing statutory rape by having sex with you, then you're not old enough to consummate this relationship. (OK, I'll look it up for you. In New Jersey, the age of consent is 16—if the male partner is not a relative or does not have a supervisory position over you.) If Hamlet is still taught in high school, you've probably heard the phrase, "The lady doth protest too much." When you write about how great your boyfriend is, it's hardly reassuring to hear your protestations that whatever it looks like, he's not a sexual predator. Yes, if you agree to have sex with him, he won't get arrested. But I wish the fact that you are worried he could be makes you realize you should run from this relationship. While this guy sounds like he only has half a brain, at least he's using it because it's kept him from taking advantage of you so far. Do your parents know about him? If not, please tell them. That they will want to throttle him will be evidence that they are the ones who really love you.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudie,
For the past year my dear friend and I have been discussing how much fun it will be to have babies at the same time, since we were both in that place in our marriages. Unfortunately, my friend was recently told that she is menopausal (at 38!) and will be unable to conceive naturally. She was devastated and broke off all contact with me for several weeks because she couldn't even stand talking to someone who was planning for a baby. I totally understood, and we got through it. But I peed on the stick last week and got two lines—how on earth do I break the "happy" news to this fragile friend?
—The Fertile One

Dear Fertile,
Many couples don't reveal a pregnancy until around the third month, when the chances of a miscarriage have substantially decreased. So, unless you're announcing it widely now, you can hold off telling your friend for a little while. But when you do tell her, do it straightforwardly, as in, "Jennifer, I wanted to let you know I'm pregnant. I'm due in February." This is happy news, not "happy" news, and there's no use trying to pretend to your friend that it's otherwise. On the other hand, being sensitive to your friend will help keep you from becoming one of the bores (and boors) who go on incessantly about their impending wonderful event. You should talk with her about all the other things that continue to happen in your lives and also be there to listen if she wants to discuss her pain or even her jealousy. While there are different paths to becoming a mother, one has just been closed to her and that is a blow. But if she wants to withdraw from your friendship, there is not much you can do. It is now up to her to be able to, despite her feelings of loss, accept the happiness of her friends.

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
Fifteen years ago, my high school sweetheart and I broke up. He left town and joined the military. A year or so later, I was at his best friend's house (we were both drunk and drugged up, though that's no excuse), and his best friend and I slept together one time. It wasn't good and we never spoke of it. I went off to college and never saw either of them until 10 years later. My sweetheart and I found each other again, and we married. A few months into our new relationship, I realized that not only does my husband not know about me and his (still) best friend,  he would be absolutely furious if he found out. My husband is a wonderful, kind, caring, strong, smart man, and he holds others to his high standard. He would never forgive his best friend—though they have been close for decades. Do I tell my husband?  I feel terrible every day for not telling him. I would never lie—if he asks me, I will tell him. My problem is that I still feel it is dishonest to hide it from him. But how can I destroy a long-term friendship and hurt my husband to make myself feel better? I think about it every single day and feel guilty and anxious.

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—Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Dear Rock,
You are destroying your peace of mind over a lousy one-night stand you had in high school and about which you'd never give a thought if it had been with another random classmate. Clearly the best friend decided to forget it ever happened, and you need to do the same. When you got back with your sweetheart after a decade apart, did you ask him for a list of his sexual encounters? Would you want one? No, and no. Your husband wisely hasn't asked for one from you. However high his standards, be assured there were moments in his past when he didn't always meet them. You say you think telling your husband would make you feel better. But wouldn't he wonder less about the fact of this long-ago encounter than what is motivating you to make a confession all these years later? He's likely to think there's something going on today that's stoking your guilty conscience. If you can't let it go on your own, talk to a counselor or member of the clergy about how to get some perspective on this single long-ago extracurricular activity.

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
Last year was the first summer that a newly hired employee was with us in the office. He reeks of body odor so bad the whole office area could be designated as hazardous to one's health. I am in charge of human resources, and his manager informed me that he brought it to his attention last year.  However, this summer he once again reeks! Just last week he came into my office for about 10 minutes and I had to excuse myself before I gagged. Even after I had sprayed Febreze, people who came in after him commented on the smell and asked if he had been in my office. How do I, or who should, address this issue?

—Gagging

Dear Gag,
Leaf through your human resources instruction manual—isn't there an entry for: "Stinking up the joint, telling employee who is"? I'm afraid since you're in charge of human resources, you're going to have to get a supply of incense and activated charcoal and call a meeting with Mr. B.O. While breathing through your mouth, be as professional and matter-of-fact as you can. Explain there's a serious issue with his personal hygiene and that he has to attend to it. You can even print out these suggestions from the Mayo Clinic, hand them to him, and tell them he will find some useful advice there.

—Prudie