Got a burning question for Prudie? She'll be online at Washingtonpost.com to chat with readers each Monday at 1 p.m. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.
I'm 16 years old and have an awkward dilemma. I'm thinking about buying a vibrator because I am very curious, but the thing is, I want to talk to my mom about it first. We have a very close and open relationship, and she says I can talk to her about anything. I'm just not sure about this. I'm scared that it will make her feel awkward (even though she's a nurse, so she likes talking about gross stuff). I already tried talking to one of my best friends about it, but she seemed pretty repulsed by the idea. I'm still a virgin and not planning to change that for quite some time, so it's not like I'm going to be romping around with teenage boys. The vibrator would be for my own private use, and having my mom to talk to first would be especially helpful to me. Should I tell her?
If you want instructions on proper vibrator use, I can probably help you: Add batteries, aim, fire. If you want permission, I can help you, too: Masturbation is perfectly normal, and a teenager doesn't need to check in with her mother before engaging in it. It's wonderful that you and your mother are so close that you feel you can talk to her about this—but just because you can doesn't mean you should. Part of your job as a teenager is to start separating from your mother, and masturbation may be a good place for you to establish a zone of privacy. I'm sure your mother—since she's a nurse and all—would understand your desire for orgasms and appreciate the fact that you are seeking them solo. And if she hears a suspicious buzzing from your room, she probably won't conclude that you've taken up woodworking. Once you do become sexually active with more than an inanimate object, it's great that you'll feel able to turn to your mother for guidance because young women can use help making sure they're protected from disease, pregnancy, and bad choices. But your adventures in vibrator-land may be something you need to confide only to your diary.
I'm 26 and engaged to a wonderful 33-year-old man. He's absolutely the person I want to spend the rest of my life and have a family with. We both want kids fairly soon, but there's one problem. For the past few years, my fiance has had some problems with a testicular infection, and the doctors say there's a chance that it has left him sterile. Having children is extremely important to me, but if it turned out that he couldn't have them, I'd work around it, i.e., adoption or sperm donation. However, not knowing is killing me. He says he doesn't want to get fertility testing until we're ready to start trying to get pregnant. Is it unreasonable to want to find out whether my future husband will be able to have children?
—In the Know
Dear In the Know,
When any two people marry, there's no guarantee that they won't face fertility problems. Your anxiety is understandable: When you conceive of your future together, you want to know your chances of conceiving. But to him, your insistence probably sounds less like a desire to know what's going to happen than a way of possibly getting out of the relationship before you marry someone who will not be able to father children. Let's say you had had a pelvic infection that might have harmed your fertility. Wouldn't you resent a fiance who wanted you to undergo a battery of tests prior to your marriage, just so he had a better idea of your ability to get pregnant? The doctors have only raised a possibility, not given you a definitive finding. If this is the man you want to commit to, accept that being together will make it easier to deal with all the surprises life has in store.
When I was 14, I severed ties with my dad. I was a messed-up teenager, living with my certifiably nutty mother and visiting my dad on weekends. When he remarried and had another baby with my stepmom, I was furious. I treated them badly, cursed at them, hollered at them, stole from them, and went so far as to set "booby traps" in the house so my stepmom and new baby brother could get hurt (luckily, they didn't). I treated my stepmom like dirt, even though she was never mean. After I stopped answering my dad's calls and threatened to report him to the cops as a stalker, he stopped trying to get in touch with me. I can see now that he and my stepmom were good people who wanted only the best for me. Now that I am 27, I am trying to get back in touch with my dad, because I'm getting married. However, he will not respond to mail, e-mail, or Facebook messages. I've asked my uncle and cousins to tell him that I want to see him. They told me that he was too hurt by my behavior and has no desire to get in touch. Am I wrong to try to re-enter his life? Should I just leave him alone?
—Stupid Teen, Now Regretful Adult
Write a letter to your father and stepmother very much like the one here—explaining that you were a miserable, troubled teen who, following the troubled-teen guide book, took out your unhappiness on the nearest target (although you don't need to mention the booby traps). Say they showed you extraordinary patience, and looking back, you appreciate that they were the one stable, loving influence in your life, and you are sorry about how you treated them. Explain that you've worked hard to be a decent, productive adult, and now you're getting married. Add that as you are about to become a spouse, and contemplate becoming a parent, they will be role models for how to deal with difficulties. Tell them that your fervent hope is that they can be part of this new phase of your life. Then ask one of your relatives to be the go-between and deliver the letter. Accept that your father and stepmother may feel they did everything they could for you at the time, and that the breach was so painful, they've decided not resuming contact is the best choice for their family. If they don't contact you, following the wedding, you could send a short letter and some photos saying you don't expect to hear from them in return, but you hope they don't mind that you wanted to send them this update about your life. If you never do re-establish contact, take comfort that you've come out of a difficult, painful childhood and found happiness and love.
I am a woman who started working at a company earlier this year. I share an office with a man who doesn't really want me there. Because I do my job well, it creates more work for him (which is actually great for business!). I ignore any smart comments he makes, stay professional, and get my job done. My work is beyond reproach. Here is the problem: We have to share a bathroom. He changes into his uniform and leaves his dirty socks there during the week, then takes them home on Friday. (Yuck, I know!) I think he leaves the bathroom this way to protest me being there. The issue is really about the toilet seat. He refuses to put it down. It is his final act of protest against me. I have asked him repeatedly to lower the seat and am completely disregarded. I have talked to my boss about this, and he said he would mention it to my co-worker, but he either forgot, or it didn't help. I told my co-worker that if I have to put up with his dirty socks, he can at least put the seat down. No reaction. There is another bathroom, but it's not close. I don't feel I should have to go out of my way so he can have his own personal bathroom. Any advice for how to handle this?
—The New Girl
Dear New Girl,
Go into the bathroom, rip off a few squares of toilet paper, and holding them between your thumb and fingers, lower the seat. Your work may be beyond reproach, but dumping the matter of the toilet seat position on your boss is neither a way to make friends with your co-worker, nor have your boss feel anything but dread at the sight of you. Probably your co-worker has been piling his stinky socks in the bathroom since before you came, and it is only because of your objections that he now sees the socks as a biological weapon. Consider that your superior attitude and stream of complaints may have something to do with your co-worker's reaction to you. So if you can't live with the bathroom as he leaves it, instead of getting pissy, just decide you could use the exercise and hike to the other facility.
And become a fan of Prudie on the official Dear Prudence Facebook page.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Ebola Story
How our minds build narratives out of disaster.
The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola
PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer
The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics
A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers
Welcome to 13th Grade!
Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.
The Actual World
“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.