Dear Prudence chats live with readers at Washingtonpost.com.

Advice on manners and morals.
April 26 2010 2:44 PM

Meeting in the Ladies' Room

Prudie counsels a man on whether it's OK to escort his young daughters into the women's restroom—and other advice seekers.

Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. (Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)

Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. I look forward to your questions.

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New York City: I am a father of two beautiful daughters, ages 1 and 4. We spend a lot of time outside, in parks, museums, and restaurants. And, of course, they often have to go to the restroom accompanied.

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I often wonder whether to take them to the men's or women's restroom. I used to always go to the women's—it's cleaner, and they don't see men peeing.

I am always apologetic if there is a woman in the restroom, but it is honestly never a problem, and they always say, "Oh, never mind, that's normal"—the several frowns and protests always came from men. This really led me to think about it.

I still think that we should go to a ladies' room. I mean there is really nothing to see there, is there? And after all, my daughters are young ladies, so why should they not go to a ladies' toilet? What do you think?

Emily Yoffe: Dad, you need to get out of the ladies' room. It is cleaner and nicer, but even though you're accompanied by your little girls, you are going to freak people out. I also agree the men's room is not ideal. But you can quickly glance inside, make sure there is no one at a visible urinal, and whisk the girls into a stall with you. Ideally, you should get in the habit of anticipating toilet needs so that before it's an emergency, you have a chance to see if you can locate single-stall facilities that allow you to lock the door. Sometimes there are special handicapped or family toilets at museums, etc., that would work. In a year or so, when you feel your older daughter shouldn't be entering the men's room at all, you can stand outside and wait for a mother and child and ask the mother if she will keep an eye on your little girl while she does her business. And thank you for a toilet question that does not involve the country-dividing issue of toilet seat up or down.

Washington, D.C.: I need a rudeness check. Here is the situation: My husband and I used to be friendly with a couple and our connection was through my husband. However, neither recognizes me when I am not with my husband (despite the fact that we have seen each other on numerous occasions—even dinner at their house). My acknowledgments of them were met with blank stares (this has happened more than once) when I was by myself. Because of this (and because we don't have much in common with them anyway), the friendship has faded. I think it is sort of amusing and am not hurt by it. However, sometimes I see the husband at the gym I go to. I don't acknowledge him, and he doesn't acknowledge me when we pass each other. But then I might walk by with my husband, and they will stop and talk. Then I feel weird/rude for not acknowledging him. Am I being rude?

Emily Yoffe: Since you don't mention they have only seen you in a niqab, this is utterly bizarre. When you socialized with these people, did they address your husband as "Bill," and you "Mrs. William Knickerbocker Jr."? It must make you feel weird to pass an acquaintance at the gym and have to pretend you don't know him because of his rudeness. I say stop pretending and when you see him just say, "Hi, Dick! It's Linda Robinson, I've noticed we were both members of this gym." Then just give him a little nod and smile when you see him. You will feel better for not buying into his rudeness.

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Chicago: I am a finalist for a great job that would begin in several months. The first two interviews, which were over the phone, went really well. I have a half-day interview in person next week. I feel like I am a really strong candidate, but there is one issue: I'm pregnant. Let me rephrase that, I am very noticeably pregnant. The baby is due 19 days before the job will begin. I have a lot of help from my husband and family, so I won't require any maternity leave. (In fact, my current job is offering me two weeks of maternity leave.) Plus, since it is a university teaching job, I will have plenty of flexibility to nurse. How do I reassure my possible future employers that I will be able to fulfill the job responsibilities? And when and how do I bring up the obvious?

Emily Yoffe: It would be illegal for your potential employers to pass you over because of your pregnancy. (Of course, how would you ever prove that case?) And—readers, correct me if I'm wrong—I don't even think they're allowed to ask your post-pregnancy plans at a job interview. But your stomach will be the elephant in the room, so I think you should acknowledge it. Be confident and totally nondefensive. You can bring it up lightly by saying, "As you can see, in a few weeks, I will be occupied with pressing matters." Then explain you have a very good support system in place and your intention is to be available to start teaching when the semester begins. (And, readers, start whacking away if I've gotten this legally, and otherwise, wrong.)