My future mother-in-law and I have a difficult relationship. She doesn't approve of me, and hasn't been positive about my relationship with her son since we first got together five years ago in high school. She's a medical aesthetician, and for the past two or three years, she's been hounding me every so often to let her laser off any unwanted body hair. These conversations generally take place during meals and involve her listing all the places she could zap off hair, while I politely say, "No, thank you," to each one. The idea of this woman, who already despises me, spending an afternoon zeroing in on my body hair is enough to nearly give me an anxiety attack. My fiance tells me that I need to go through with this so that she'll feel needed and be happy, but I feel like having all my body hair lasered off is a high price to pay for familial acceptance. How do I get out of this once and for all? Or am I just being ridiculous?
—A Hairy Situation
The image of you defenseless on the table while your future mother-in-law aims a laser at you is too horrifyingly reminiscent of that scene in Goldfinger in which the eponymous villain has Bond strapped to a table as a laser slowly moves toward his private parts. So, in answer to: Are you being ridiculous? No, I don't think it's ridiculous that you take offense at dinner conversations that revolve around your superfluous hair, and that you're annoyed that after three years of declining her offers to zap you, she still persists. Let me assure you that if you go through with this, she'll come up with other things that need removing, like you from her son's life. Obviously you and your fiance are very young, but I'm afraid that if he's encouraging you to have his mother laser your body to make her feel needed, you need to rethink his readiness as husband material. Tell him you're done discussing this with his mother, and if he won't back you up completely, give him a bottle of Nair as a parting gift and ask him to pass it on to Mom.
Dear Prudence Video: Christmas Overkill
I've suffered from panic attacks since I was around 16, and I'm now 32. Life has been poor because I've been afraid of doing things. Four years ago, I got a girlfriend who's been with me through thick and thin. She helped me get through my panic attacks and find a better doctor. I started cognitive behavioral therapy about 10 months ago. The effects have been life-changing. My doctor suggested I make a bunch of changes so I'd feel better about myself, and my girlfriend has helped me with painting my condo, getting me a new wardrobe, furniture, etc. Unfortunately, she's 37 and lives with her parents. It didn't bother me in the past, because I was so grateful to have any kind of female company, but now that I'm getting better, I see my 14 years on medication as lost time that I want to make up for. I'm worried she's going to improve me to the point where I'll no longer want to be with her. Whereas in the past I was grateful to be dating someone who was helping me get better, I'm afraid that in the long run, I'll just develop the self-confidence to want to date someone younger than I am who lives by herself. Would leaving her be reprehensible, or should I stay with her out of a sense of duty?
I'm delighted to hear the cognitive behavioral therapy has been such a success and that you feel you're reclaiming your life. However, it's less delightful that the first thing you want to do with this new life is be an ungrateful jerk. This devoted woman was good enough when you were lonely and suffering. But now that's she helped you overcome your illness, you want to dump her for a younger model. First of all, five years is not a major age difference. Second, if she's 37 and still living with her parents, there are things holding her back from living a completely independent life, and maybe it's your turn to help her. I can't encourage you to be with someone out of guilt and pity, but have you truly had this woman as your girlfriend for four years only because you felt you couldn't do any better? Surely over that time you two have built something together—she certainly has invested a lot in your well-being. Since your therapy's going so well, discuss with your doctor what kind of romantic choices a decent person in your position would make.
My wife and I have been married for a little over a year, and it's been absolutely idyllic, except for one problem: Since we've wed, my wife has taken to belching and farting all the time. We dated for several years before we tied the knot, and I heard her pass gas only once. She turned beet red, laughed hysterically, and then cried out of embarrassment. I can't believe how much she's changed. Now she's at the point of rippin' 'em several times a day without much acknowledgment at all. I've had several gentle discussions asking her to dismiss herself into other rooms, try to "keep the magic," etc., but these have all been met with hostility and resentment. Not only that, but the problem only gets worse after we talk about it. It's gotten to the point of severely impacting my sex drive. I would think she would understand; the one time I let one go, she got mad at me for killing the romance! Any suggestions?
—Frustrated With Flatulence
Talk about a gas crisis. I was with your wife until I got to the part where you said she objects to your cutting loose. This is either a grotesque double standard or all those years of holding it in have poisoned her brain. I think it was Garry Shandling who said that he assumed couples who dated forever, then finally got married, did so because they couldn't hold their gas any longer. I know people have different degrees of tolerance for these things (let's just say the commercial market for emissions offsets is not mature enough to handle the output from my household). But it's hard for me to believe that two people who are planning to spend their lives together have a requirement that their ability to get sexually aroused means each has to run from the room whenever the pressure starts to build. I recommend you get a copy of the out-of-print Selected Letters of James Joyce and read together his writings about his wife, such as, "I think I would know Nora's fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women." Now that's love.
I'm a woman in my 20s who has worked hard to learn several languages. Being a linguist has a distinct downside; often I've picked up on "private" conversations that are no longer private. The most troubling example is at work. My building also houses a Japanese firm. Several times, I have been in an elevator with others speaking about me in Japanese, unaware that I understand every word! This also happens in the cafeteria and mailroom. It's embarrassing and can make me feel a range of emotions, from objectified to self-conscious. I have an urge to turn around and say something in Japanese, but I realize that this wouldn't be polite, as they probably assume I'm in the dark. Is there a way to make it known that I understand what they are saying in a professional manner?
—No Domo Arigato
I'm trying to understand the downside here. Your linguistic skills give you the ability of a superhero—you don't have to be invisible to know what everyone is saying about you in "private." If you're in an elevator and a bunch of guys are discussing in Japanese how hot your outfit makes you look, I'm not sure why it's impolite for you to answer back in Japanese, "Thanks, I'm so glad I wore it today. I do understand you didn't like the pants I had on last week." Please, when you do this, have your cell phone ready to get a picture of the looks on their faces.