Dirty Pretty Things
My girlfriend has worn the same undergarment for weeks. Isn't that disgusting?
Click here to read a transcript of Prudie's live weekly chat with readers at Washingtonpost.com.
My girlfriend of six months has worn the same bra every day now for two weeks. I really wonder: Is this a normal thing for most women or a psychological issue? I feel it is a matter of hygiene, abnormal behavior, and also really gross.
Perhaps your worries about hygiene arise from watching too much soft-core porn in which women get in the shower and soap their breasts for extended periods. This is not because breasts are intrinsically dirty but because such scenes are gratifying to dirty minds. If bra hygiene were an actual issue, don't you think American womanhood would have been subjected to decades of commercials along the lines of, "What's that smell?" "It's Myrna's bra. Someone has to tell her!" On your behalf, I actually polled some of the cleanest women I know on their bra-washing schedules. The answers ranged from "weekly" to "when my white bras look black and can walk themselves to the washing machine." The average was a monthly laundering. So your girlfriend's behavior is perfectly normal and neither unhygienic nor gross. I understand that the intimate rituals of the opposite sex can be mysterious and even repulsive to the uninitiated (see the recent letter on men searching their underwear for the Hope diamond). But if you want your girlfriend of six months to be your girlfriend six months from now, you will drop the judgmental tone and think of yourself as a lucky explorer of a fascinating, strange land.
My daughter is getting married in a few months to a great guy. She is white; he is black. My wife's grandmother has some very racist attitudes about such things. Against my strongly stated advice, my wife's side of the family, as well as the groom, has agreed to simply not tell her about her great-granddaughter's engagement or wedding. She is very old, has little contact with us, and, if everyone keeps their mouths shut, will never find out about my daughter's marriage and future children. They are worried it "will kill her." They are also worried about being cut out of a large will. I have told all involved that I do not want to participate in this deceit and if contacted by the great-grandmother (which probably won't happen), I will not lie. What say you about this situation?
—Mixed Up in Marriage Madness
Dear Mixed Up,
Although I understand the impulse to protect people from the kind of news that "will kill them," I have to side with Nietzsche on this one and say that for old bigots and the like, disturbing news is less likely to kill them than to make them stronger. Great-Grandma is a racist who is already disconnected from the family. Everyone, including the groom, believes that having her attend an interracial wedding will not cause her to be enlightened but the wedding to be blighted, so I agree with the people who just want to leave this old woman out of it. Sure, there is something distasteful about having money be part of the reason for the silence. But since the rest of your family didn't inherit Great-Grandma's racism, there's no reason not to keep quiet and inherit her cash. If her knowledge of the wedding would prompt her to leave her estate to the KKK, why provoke her? You're not being asked to actively participate in deceiving Great-Grandma; you're just being asked to keep out of it. So do so.
My lifelong best friend, whom I love dearly, has developed a personality trait I cannot stand. She has become a complete and utter snob. She married a well-off man who allows her to maintain a very tony lifestyle, which I don't object to at all, except she details every purchase and luxury on her Facebook page and in all conversations. She has even made fun of what she calls "poor people's" stores and seems to think her snobbery is cute. I adore almost everything else about her, and I also enjoy the finer things in life, but I find I am distancing myself from her because I can't stand her nouveau-riche attitude. How do I deal with her Imelda Marcos routine?
Enjoying the "finer things in life" surely has to include the people in it. Having a best friend who is a "complete and utter snob" must be having a negative effect on the quality of your life. Since you two have a long history, and you say she has many good qualities, you have to be honest enough to talk about this with her. Next time you see her, wait until she boasts about some new luxury item or disparages some "poor people's" store, then call her on it. You can tell her she's your best friend and you adore her, but she never used to be the kind of person who flaunted her money or belittled people who had less. Tell her it just doesn't seem like her to speak this way. (You can leave out that if she keeps on like this, she may eventually find herself riding in a tumbrel a la Marie Antoinette.) Even though your remarks will sting, maybe when she reflects upon what you've said, she'll realize you're right. However, if she decides you're just a defensive peasant and you two are now on different material planes of existence, she will just be speeding up what was going to be an inevitable breach of your friendship.
What's the best way to handle people who don't respond to invitations? About two months ago, my husband and I invited another couple—let's call them Jack and Jill—to join us on a weekend trip. We aren't super close, but we enjoy their company. Jack and Jill said they'd love to join us but that they weren't sure about their schedules. Two weeks later, I hadn't heard from them, so I checked in: They still weren't sure. After three more weeks and no response, I wanted to give them an easy out, so I said, "It sounds like you and Jack have other things going on, so it looks like we'll have to get together another time." Jill insisted that they wanted to come—she just wasn't sure she'd be able to organize pet care. I'd like to invite some other friends, but it feels wrong to withdraw Jack and Jill's invitation since they haven't officially declined yet. On the off chance that Jack and Jill do end up joining in, there won't be room for everyone; our accommodation sleeps only four. How should I handle this?
—Wishing They'd Just Say No
They have said no. People sometimes think keeping their options open indefinitely means they always have indefinite options, but by refusing to make decisions, one's choices don't widen—they narrow. I've written before about the disturbing trend of having to hunt people down like wild beasts in order to get them to agree to partake of your hospitality. You have been more than patient with Jack and Jill's vacillation, so it's time to let them know they aren't going up the hill with you. Send an e-mail saying you're sorry that you had to go ahead and make other plans for that weekend, and you hope all of you can get together soon—it's just too bad there's no emoticon for, "But I'm not holding my breath."
Photograph of Prudie by Teresa Castracane.