Click here to read a transcript of Prudie's live weekly chat with readers at Washingtonpost.com.
Last fall, I met a terrific woman from the Mediterranean who may be "the one." She's beautiful and has a great body that she likes to show off, but she is also very hairy. She never shaved back home, and having now been steeped in years of women's studies in the United States, she has become militant about not conforming to the ideal of hairless womanhood. She can't wait to spend lots of time at my parents' beach house this summer. She has bought a tiny bikini that she plans on wearing, so lots of her pubic hair is guaranteed to be on display. My mom and dad are going to faint. Hair in the armpits? European. Hair on the legs? Granola. But pubic hair all over the place? I've told her she may want to "trim up a bit," but she refuses. What to do, besides hide her from my mom and dad?
If she feels about you the way you feel about her, surely she wants to snatch this opportunity to make a good impression on your parents. Appeal to her vanity: Tell her that if she refuses to trim her undergrowth, your parents' embarrassment will keep them from appreciating her great mind and beautiful figure. Appeal to her sophistication: Since she's lived a cross-cultural life, she knows that making a small gesture can be all that's needed to keep from muffing a sensitive encounter. Appeal to her affection for you: Explain that if her pubic hair is also her public hair, you're going to want to hide in the bushes. Emphasize that you are not asking for permanent defoliation, just for an application of depilatory so that when beach time comes around and your neither European nor granola parents see her itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny bikini, their hair won't stand on end.
I am a college sophomore living in a dormitory. The majority of us engage in small, college-type debauchery (e.g., underage drinking, loud music, minor drug use) that the resident director more or less ignores. The problem is a nosy girl who lives across the hall. She appears to have the entire college rule book memorized and takes a special thrill in reporting people for infractions. Recently, after hearing that a freshman was selling drugs, she went directly to the police. The boy's room was raided, narcotics were found, and he was expelled. He was popular, and now animosity toward her has reached a fever pitch. In response, she has started complaining about individuals in Facebook posts, yelling from her open door about the horrible people in our hall, etc. Her obsession with school code and inability to get along is frightening, and even though I don't smoke or drink, I feel what she's doing is over the line. Do I have justification to complain to the RD, or should I simply try to ignore her and hope that she doesn't decide to watch me too intently?
Dear Utterly Confused,
Some students are pre-med, some are pre-law, and your dorm mate is pre-internal affairs. Although she's wreaking havoc, she also sounds like a sad case with an emotional disorder who may be destined to go through life alienating people—unless she manages to get ahold of power and goes through life destroying people. However, while she may be obsessed with those who violate the rules, surely your campus code has something to say about screaming abuse at people or making ad hominem online attacks. You should go to your resident director to discuss this. You might want to take someone else from the dorm with you so it doesn't sound like a personal vendetta, but don't bring a big group because you don't want to sound like a mob. Describe specific incidents as dispassionately as possible, and explain how this student has created an atmosphere of hostility and fear. You can express sympathy about what an unhappy person she must be, but explain something needs to be done because her unhappiness is making everyone else miserable.
I am a photographer and was asked by a friend of my mother's to do a photo project. She asked me whether I could take pictures of her demonstrating various ways of committing suicide in black and white, then paint red blood on the prints afterward. I know that this woman has had problems with depression in the past. My mom is her very close friend, and she asked me not to tell my mother about the project. She said this project is to help her work through some issues. Do I do it? Do I tell my mother about this in case her friend is seriously contemplating suicide? Do you think presenting her with images of her own fake suicide will encourage or discourage suicidal thoughts?
—To Shoot or Not To Shoot
Dear To Shoot,
This woman could have gone to a photographer she doesn't know and explained she's taking a conceptual art class on taboo breaking. Instead, she came to the child of her close friend with this macabre project. This is what's known as "a cry for help." It is a sign of how confused her psychological state is that she would involve a young person toward whom she should have some motherly feelings in this disturbing enterprise. If a chronically depressed person wants to rehearse and record various methods of killing herself, then she needs immediate intervention, because her actions are shrieking that she's a suicide risk. You must tell your mother, and your mother should call her friend's therapist. If her friend doesn't have one, your mother should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) for advice on getting her friend some help. Do not feel guilty about telling this secret—that's a burden you should not keep.
I had been dating the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with for almost two years when his ex-wife told him she was dying of cancer and that he should come back to be with her and their son. She put so much guilt on him that he would hardly talk to me. Then one day she called to tell me they were getting back together! He never had the nerve to tell me. I was devastated and could hardly function for months. It takes too much effort to be mad, so I told him that I forgave him and I hoped he and his son were happy. A month ago, I encountered someone I had known 20 years ago in high school. He is a wonderful person, and I can imagine a future with him. We have been inseparable. The kicker is that now the man who dumped me realizes that he made a huge mistake because he found out that the ex is not dying—it's just more of her lies and manipulation. I love him more than anything, but I just don't know if I can risk being hurt like that again. Do I go back to him or stay with the new man, who is not the type ever to hurt anyone?
—Back or Forth
You might want to consider sending a big bouquet to your ex's ex, since she saved you from life with a weak weasel. It is possible to have some sympathy for someone who breaks off a current relationship to go back to a dying former wife, but if she's a well-known manipulator, it would be a good idea to see an x-ray of the tumor before heading home. Every time you consider resuming a relationship with this guy, try recalling the miserable, cowardly way he treated you. You, however, behaved magnanimously, and maybe that's why the gods of romance have shined down on you and brought you this lovely man from your past. You're still emotionally vulnerable, so I suggest you take it slow and steady with your high-school guy—he may be everything you say, but you may be prone to idealizing your beaux. And when your ex begs your forgiveness, remind him you've already forgiven him once, and once was enough.