Dear Prudence chats live with readers at Washingtonpost.com.

Dear Prudence chats live with readers at Washingtonpost.com.

Dear Prudence chats live with readers at Washingtonpost.com.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 7 2010 2:49 PM

Kinky Confessions

Prudie counsels a woman whose husband's bedroom habits have become gossip fodder.

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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 Writes: Good afternoon. I hope everyone had a good Labor Day. And I don't care what the calendar says—summer seems really over.

Q. Nashville: I'm a happily married 35-year-old woman. A few weeks ago, I was having drinks at the home of a single female friend who is prone to "oversharing" about her personal life, particularly the rather large number of men she sleeps with. After an extra margarita or two, she persuaded me to talk about my sex life with my husband—which is very satisfying and fun, by the way. Much to my surprise, I found myself telling her that we engage in some "kinky" activities—I spank him, he sometimes wears panties, etc. She was absolutely shocked and told me that my husband would never be a "real" man and that he was almost certainly gay. To my astonishment, she has told several mutual friends about my confession, and now I suspect people are laughing behind our backs. I have cut off all contact with her, but I'm still worried about the firestorm of gossip this has created. What should I do?

A: First of all, after one margarita, learn to say, "I'd just like a ginger ale, thanks." It's unpleasant enough for your "friend" to extract some sex confession from you, but it's egregious for her to pass this along, and you're right to drop her. You're also right that some people are probably enjoying saying, "You will not believe what I just heard!" However, I would bet an equal number of people will be repelled at having such intimate confessions revealed to them, will shrug off what they learn about you, and have a bad feeling about the people who would blab such things. If your husband doesn't know about this, you must tell him. Then both of you should act as if nothing has happened—some extra hand-holding would also be good PR for the strength of your marriage. And watch last season's Curb Your Enthusiasm in which Larry David found himself confessing that he occasionally likes to wear ladies' underwear.

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Q.Help! I Feel Threatened by Our Female Pastor: I married the man of my dreams five years ago this month. We dated for almost three years prior to the wedding. He is wonderful ... a kind, hard–working, and prosperous man. When we met and started dating, I was aware of my husband's commitment as a practicing Christian, which included an active relationship with his church. I am just not really into church life but attend occasionally with him and support his participation, including his desire to tithe our income. No problems; all has worked out well. Until his/our church had a change in pastors. It is common for our denomination to "transfer" pastors from time to time. For years, we had "Rev. Bob." My husband had a good relationship with him and often met with him for lunch, personal spiritual counsel, or just to chat about faith. Now, Rev. Bob has moved on and has been replaced with Rev. Denise. A female pastor! Apparently, my husband has normed in to having a pastoral confidant and has sought such from Rev. Denise, too. I have to admit if Rev. Denise was some old troll of a woman, I'd be fine, but she is a woman of about 35, just out of the seminary. The idea of my dear husband talking and sharing on a special level with her drove me to the edge. One night when we both got home from work, my husband shared how much he enjoyed Rev. Denise's insight about some biblical perspectives and how much he looked forward to their next chat. Prudence, I flew into a rage! I am a very secure woman, but I felt great threat at Rev. Denise. I told my husband he MUST stop attending church and supporting it financially. And he must end contact with Rev. Denise. Backfire! My husband is now furious at me and is now using such phases as "IF this marriage continues." Help!

A: I suppose if you were an insecure woman, you would insist that you husband work someplace where he had no contact with members of the opposite sex—maybe you'd like him to be a miner stuck in a cave-in. I also find it hard to believe that if you are so threatened by a female pastor that this is the first time your pathological jealousy has manifested itself. You know your husband's spiritual relationship with his minister is crucially important to him. And you know that he belongs to a religion which considers the perspective of a woman equal to that of a man. Your husband came home from Bible study feeling renewed, only to find he was married to a lunatic shrew. It is unfortunate that his reaction was to put your marriage in jeopardy. You two need some serious soul-searching. You owe him a profound apology. Tell him even you were taken aback by your reaction to Rev. Denise, and you need to work on your jealousy and how you express it. I suggest you ask him to let both of you see the good reverend together to air this out.

Q. I Don't Like My Son's Girlfriend, but He Wants To Propose: My youngest (in his 20s) has a girlfriend that I can't stand. She's a beautiful girl, and very smart and nice, but she's very unrealistic. She is always telling my son that he can "do anything he sets his mind to if he works hard" and that he should go after all his dreams in life. This is all well and good, but I want my son to have a serious, realistic outlook on life. Most people don't get everything they want out of their adult life. I know for sure I didn't. I'm worried that this girl is convincing my son to expect too much. That's not how his father and I raised him. He's been dating this girl for a few years, and he came home last night with a huge ring—bigger than anything I've ever had! He is going to propose to her in a week, and I want to stop him. I know my son is happy with this girl—the happiest I've ever seen him be, in fact, but I'm worried that he'll have unrealistic expectations with her and be disappointed later in life. But he loves this girl with all his heart, and I can see that she clearly loves him as well. What should I do?

A: These darn young people, so optimistic, so healthy, so exuding excitement at all that's ahead of them. Why can't they understand that in the next 40 years someone is going to tell them, "I'm sorry, you didn't get the job." "I'm going to have to biopsy this." "You're not the boss of me and I hate you and I'm running away from home!" and "Let me see if this comes in a larger size."

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You're right that life doesn't work out exactly as hoped for anyone. That may be particularly true in your case, because you're such a defeatist downer. (Have you had an evaluation for depression?) One of the jobs of being young is to think that there is an exciting world of opportunities out there waiting to be grabbed. Guess what: that's what actually does happen for a lot of people (though not you). Your son sounds like he's in love with a wonderful girl. You should shut up (or, as they say in the Cymbalta ads, "talk to your doctor") about your gripes, and tell him how happy you are for him. You need to concentrate on addressing what's gone wrong in your life rather than try to ruin his.

Q. Leaving Friends Behind ... Or Not: I'm a 22-year-old college student, and soon I'll be going out into the world and trying to find a job. My problem is an odd one, as I see it. My mother says that in order to have a better chance of getting hired by someplace within my field (I have an associate's degree in IT and am currently working on my bachelor's degree in justice studies), I should stop using two of my closest childhood friends as references. She also said that I should stop associating with them altogether, because they could reflect badly on my reputation! One of them has appeared in court, on a charge that was later dropped because her side of the story was proven to be the true, but the other one has a spotless police record apart from repeated car accidents. I understand that, sadly, we are judged by the company we keep, and that continuing to associate with my childhood friends will most likely reflect badly on me. But I have known the accident-prone one since kindergarten and the other since sixth grade, and I am very close to them. I really don't want to end these friendships, but I also don't want to be judged based on their reputations. Should I end my friendships with them, as my mom recommends, and if so, how would I go about doing it?

A: Even though you are interested in law enforcement, that is no reason to drop dear friends who have had brushes with the law. But references are not people who can vouch that you always brought enough cupcakes to class on your birthday and that you never hogged the swing during recess. Your references should be professors or people you worked for during the summer or on internships, who can vouch for you as a budding professional. (And since you are such a good friend—what's up with "repeated car accidents"? If your friend is a drunk driver or for other reasons is endangering the public, you should speak up and insist your friend get help.)

Q. Father in Prison: My 5-year-old granddaughter has a father (my son) who has been in and out of prison (drugs) all of her life. He is once again incarcerated. I feel that the days of explaining his absence with work are over. They spend a lot of time together when he is clean. What should she be told about her father's absence?

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A: How sad for all of you, and how lucky that your granddaughter has a loving grandmother to help raise her. She needs to be told the truth, but it has to be a truth aimed at what a 5-year-old can understand. This means telling her something along the lines that her Daddy loves her very much, but he has some problems and got in trouble, so now he has to be in a place called prison for a little while, and that's why he can't come see her now—and that makes him feel really sad. Please seek help from a social worker, therapist, or support group for families of the incarcerated. They should be able to help you work out exactly what to say and how to answer her questions. Let's hope your son can someday get a hold of his demons for his and his daughter's sake.

Q. Dating While Living With Mom and Dad: I'm a single woman in her late 20s and I've recently been asked out by this really nice guy that I keep running into at the grocery store. He's seemingly everything I want—smart, nice, cute, etc. He works at a nice place and has an apartment. I haven't said yes and I don't know what to say to him about my own situation in life. Here's why: A few years ago, I graduated from a prestigious graduate school program and landed my dream job. I worked there for a few years, had a really nice place, and loved everything about my life. However, due to a massive lay-off I lost my job—and despite sending out hundreds of résumés, I have yet to find anything full-time and permanent. I lost my place and am now living back at my parents' home and unemployed. I'm embarrassed and I haven't told this guy—I also don't know if I should even date right now and focus on trying to get back on my feet. I feel so miserable. What should I do?

A: You and how many millions of others? There is nothing to be embarrassed about by being caught in a massive economic blood-letting beyond your control. This doesn't mean you are required to put your emotional life on hold. Would you reject a guy who found himself in the same situation? I hope not. So say yes! You deserve some fun. Getting out and meeting people is therapeutic in every possible way. And whether your romance works out or not, maybe the man from the produce aisle will have leads on producing some job prospects.

Q. First trimester—Lying to Friends?

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I'm about eight weeks pregnant with my first child. I've been feeling a bit under the weather (not too awful, thankfully), but since I'm so particular about food right now, I don't really like going out to eat. (I've had the experience of something sounding good to me, then when it arrives, having it disgust me.) Plus, of course, I can't drink. I keep dodging invitations to go out for dinner and/or drinks with friends, but I'm starting to worry that they all think I hate them. My husband says everything will make sense in another month, when we tell them, but I still feel bad. Is this a common problem? Any suggestions on how to deal without them thinking poorly of me? (Other than just telling them, since I'd rather wait until after week 12.)

A: If you usually order a glass of wine while seeing your friends and now you order a club soda, I'm surprised no one has asked, "Are you pregnant?" There's no reason to dodge your friends just because you're keeping this a secret for a few more weeks. When you go out, just order the least nauseating thing on the menu and pick at it if you can. And don't be surprised when you finally release the good news that everyone says, "I knew it!"

Q. PFA: Political Family Awkwardness: My boyfriend and I have been dating for a while, and we're pretty serious. He wants me to meet his family soon. I'm really worried about it, because his family are all very conservative, and I'm not. His family is very wealthy and connected—some of his close relatives are involved in the government. All they do is talk about politics and how dumb liberals are. The reason I know this is because before we started dating, I was friends with my boyfriend and we talked about our families and how different they were. My boyfriend is conservative as well, but we can have political discussions and respectfully disagree with each other. I'm worried that when I meet his family, they'll hate me. My boyfriend has joked (again, before we started dating) that his father can spot a liberal a mile away. Help!

A: What a shame that the country can't be more like you and boyfriend: willing to engage in real debate about how you disagree on the issues with an open mind and without rancor. You can approach this in several ways. One is to pretend you're Margaret Mead and enjoy immersing yourself in the byways of an alien culture. Another is to let most things go, but be willing to respond in a reasonable fashion to something you disagree with: "There may be a lot to criticize the administration for, but the president is an American citizen and a practicing Christian." It would be good if your boyfriend would be ready to back you up in some way if you do this: "Kristin and I disagree about many things, but she's right that birthers are all wrong." And most of all, just let the political discussions slide past you. Bring up more neutral topics if you must (however, you probably want to put a cap on that old favorite, the weather, for obvious reasons), which will show his family how confident you are and what a delightful choice their son has made.

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Q. For Dating: I had the same worry when I was first starting out with my girlfriend. Not only was she totally OK with it when I confessed haltingly that I lived with my parents, but I also had the joy just this past weekend of her visiting in the new apartment (which itself is rent-controlled) that I finally secured. It was wonderful to have her not only not judge me for those things, but to have her delightedly welcome me into my new home. Hang in there.

A: See, "Dating," there is life after living with parents. So have a delightful dinner with Mr. Groceries, and don't give up.

Q. Doesn't Like Son's Girlfriend: I'm going to print that letter out and the next time my 23-year-old son complains about me "getting in his business," I'm going to share it with him so he'll know what he could be dealing with. OMG!

A: And I hope that the young people who see the letter can say, "Jeez, at least my mother doesn't keep telling me how rotten my life is going to turn out!"

Q. Sloppiness: I have a co-worker who has various physical issues and is therefore both very messy (old, slimy food everywhere that he has trouble cleaning up) and rather prone to sudden disappearances for health reasons. I often wind up either given his work (some of which is difficult to suddenly pick up, due to years he's spent working with particular people) or forced to cover for him not being around. I really don't want to be bitter, as I know he has reasons for his problems, and I've got a few of my own! But his sloppy (in both senses) habits are really beginning to get exhausting, even though I know he has it rough. I don't know what I want to do, since I can't imagine addressing it would correct anything. How can I better deal with this so I'm not constantly on edge?

A: First, approach your co-worker with compassion to make your situation clearer and offer him a way to make work life better. It certainly is not your job to clean up his work station, but he can't, and it's making you sick. Perhaps you could gently tell him that you want to give him a hand getting stuff in the office straightened out, then do it yourself, or enlist some colleagues to get his place cleaned up. You also need to talk to him about how to cope with what you know are unexpected absences due to flare-ups of his illness. Getting this out in the open may give you a way to make covering for him more expected and fairer. And if you get total resistance, go to your manager and say that you admire that your company accommodates people with illnesses, but that your firm needs a more systematic way of coping when your colleague has to be out due to physical problems.

Q. The Boy Next Door: I have just begun a relationship with my neighbor. He is a few years older than me, and things are going very well! The issue is that our families have lived next door to each other for years, and his brother and I grew up together (we are closer in age), and our parents dine in (and out) together often. Do you think this is gross? Is this like kissing cousins territory? I'd really love to hear your opinion!

A: There's a reason "the girl next door" is a phrase that carries with it the understanding that two kids who see each other blossom into two appealing adults end up together. All your collective parents will surely be thrilled that you each are having a romance with someone so thoroughly vetted and from such a nice family. Kiss away!

Q. Guilt and Fatherhood: Whenever my daughter calls, which is increasingly rare these days because of her intensive residency in specialized surgery, I feel guilty that I have lots of free time. But then I tell myself that her schedule is her life and her decisions, and I have paid my dues to earn my free time. But the guilt about this drives me crazy. I have no reason to feel guilty that I am coasting, right?

A: This is "parents who regret their life choices" day. No, you don't need to feel guilty that you yourself are not under the same pressure as a surgery resident. But even if you've earned your free time, it's not good to feel you're coasting. Find some engaging volunteer work, take some classes, do something worthwhile so that you don't have time to compare yourself to your busy daughter.

Q. Shared Vacation Leave Request: My boss's boss has very early breast cancer and will soon be taking medical leave for treatment that should be curative. She has requested that her employees donate leave to her but will have the treatment either way. (Requesting shared leave is per company policy, which I endorse.) I have lots of vacation leave and sympathize with her medical situation and wish her well. But I also don't like her, don't think she is doing her job well, and don't think that she supports her employees. And while the donations are supposed to be anonymous and voluntary, the department record keeper will have the information, and they are friends, so I don't trust the security of the information and believe that not donating will be held against me. My conscience says to just donate and forget about it, but I find myself procrastinating as I don't really feel that I have much choice and I resent that. My daughter says, without hesitation, to donate because it's simply the right thing to do, which tells me I did something right in raising her and it would make me a hypocrite if I didn't donate. So I guess I've answered my own question but would still like your thoughts.

A: It's easy to do something generous for someone in need whom you like and admire. I understand why it's hard to do it for someone who makes your life harder. I don't think your reluctance means you're a hypocrite (however, it is nice to have raised such a generous daughter). In this case, you just need to separate the professional from the personal. Helping someone facing cancer is a good thing to do. Putting the personal and professional back together, it is also the most utilitarian thing for you to do since you suspect there won't be anonymity and you have plenty of days to donate. So go today and donate some socially acceptable amount to the boss.

Q. Boyfriend Confusion: The man that I am seeing is very attentive and we see or speak to each other every day. Recently, he has begun telling me that he is seeing other women and that he wants to marry more than one woman. I was OK with that because I would enjoy an open relationship and would like to date other men. The problem is that he is from another country and culture and considers a woman who dates more than one man to be immoral. He is jealous and won't let me even talk to another man. I want to end this relationship, and I need to know how to do it kindly, as he is very serious and has asked me to marry him. I don't want to hurt him because he was raised to think this way.

A: "Don't ever contact me again," would be a clear way to do it. But since you want to end it kindly, before you say that you could ask, "Where are you registered? I want to buy you and all of your wives a bulk gift."

Emily Yoffe Writes:Thanks, everyone. Have a great rest of your week and talk to you next Monday.

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