Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. A transcript of this week's chat is below. (Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. Let's get to it.
Anytown, USA: About a year ago, I started a new job. I had been unemployed for over a year and had already lost my car to repossession, so now I have to use public transportation. There are the same few of us at the bus stop every morning who all take the same bus. One of them is a very nice, older man with poor eyesight. He would always fumble, trying to find the right bills for the bus, so one day I offered to help him. While I was in his wallet, I stole a $20 bill. After the first time, I realized how easy it was and started taking a bill once or twice a week. This has been going on for about seven months. He has never mentioned missing any money, so either he doesn't miss it or thinks he spent it without realizing what he was doing. I feel terrible but can't stop myself. It isn't enough money to make a difference to me in the long run, but I can now have a nice lunch at work instead of bringing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Please, tell me how to stop robbing this dear man and how to make amends.
Emily Yoffe: "I feel terrible, but I can't stop myself." Do you also find that you can't stop yourself from throwing small children down the stairs and beating stray animals? You're writing to me because you know what you're doing is repugnant. If this is the first time you have committed serial larceny, then consider yourself lucky that you can stop now before you start justifying how you deserve little treats and end up being arrested for embezzling at work. First, stop stealing. If you "can't," find a support group for kleptomaniacs and related disorders and go to meetings or get online—and consider walking to another bus stop to reduce your temptation. Start saving your money so that one day when you're "helping" this old man, you can quietly replace the money you stole.
Naperville, IL: This past weekend, I had my third date with a guy. It went really well, and I had a nice time. He then invited me back to his place, and things went a little farther than I was expecting. I had never gone as far as we went that night. Now, I regret what happened. I still like him, but I am uncomfortable with the level of intimacy that occurred. Do I tell him? How do I proceed because I feel pretty low about myself now?
Emily Yoffe: I hope there is a fourth date. When things go too fast too soon, sometimes they just end abruptly. Since you've been enjoying this man's company and want to see him again, this would be a good time to see how he responds to you on an emotionally intimate level, not just a physical one. Tell him how much you're enjoying seeing him, but you feel things went too far on your last date, and although it may seem artificial, you want to press the reset button and put the physical thing on hold while you get to know each other better. Stop beating yourself up—countless millions of people have been in your situation. Approach this with confidence, even a little humor. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is worth watching for advice on how to put off the big reveal.
London, Ontario: I am a 50-year-old married man with children. Recently I was out with my wife, two other couples who are friends, and another couple who I do not know very well. Suddenly one of my friends started to reminisce about how we had all met. When he came to me, he recounted how limp-wristed I had been and how everybody was grateful how my wife had "straightened" me out. This man and his wife have a history of making snide remarks (not about my sexuality) about me, however it was few and far between, so I had chosen to ignore it. In this case, I felt humiliated and speechless. What should I have done?
Emily Yoffe: "Waiter, check please!" would have been an understandable response. There is teasing, and then there are insults. (Caveat: There is nothing wrong with being homosexual, however there is something wrong with making snide remarks that a heterosexual friend is homosexual.) At the risk of putting a damper on the evening, you were well within your rights to explain your companion's remarks were way out of line and you wished to drop this line of talk. For the future, feel free to drop these "friends" and just socialize with people you enjoy.
Re: the third date that went too far: Not that I necessarily agree with it, but the standard nowadays is third date equals sex. I'm not entirely sure what the comment about it going too far means—if they had sex, or if there was some other type of canoodling involved—but it's not like this makes her a slut or anything. If it was too fast, though, she should say so. Just beware that he might disagree.
Emily Yoffe: No wonder the papilloma virus is out of control and the out of wedlock birth rate is skyrocketing. Are people allowed to say, "Now that we've been to a concert, and seen Avatar and Up In the Air, I know we're scheduled to have sex, but is it okay if we wait until a fourth date?" This woman regrets the canoodling she did, so it doesn't matter if she was just conforming to expectations; she has to do what's right for her.
Philadelphia, Pa.: One of my husband's friends attended our wedding (solo and without his girlfriend) but did not give us a wedding gift—not even a card. We just received a "save the date" for his wedding in June. I don't want to sink to his level of rudeness, but I also don't feel like going all out for their wedding. How should we handle the wedding gift for this couple considering less than a year ago they didn't give a gift for our wedding?