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.
My husband has some kinky sexual desires that I don't want to deal with—they just aren't my thing. He's proposed that he visit a dominatrix, and I'm half-inclined to consent. He insists that they wouldn't be having sex, not even in the Bill Clinton sense, and that whatever happens, there would be no threat to our relationship. I suspect that both of those things are true, but I still wonder whether we should go down this road. Obviously, I don't love the idea of my husband being involved in any kind of intimate acts with another woman, but I might prefer this to dominating him myself. He's gone to therapy—it made no difference. Any thoughts?
Having just read this interview with a former dominatrix, I can understand that even for the sake of marital harmony you'd rather not hog-tie your husband, put him in a cage with a bowl of dog food, or dress up as a cheerleader and kick schoolbooks out of his hands. I got in big trouble with the sexual fetish community a while back for suggesting that a teenage boy with an obsessive latex glove fetish get counseling to help keep the fetish from taking over his life—and I still think that having rubber gloves on your hands and on your mind during all your waking hours is a terrible way to live. I understand, however, as your husband has found out, that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to extinguish a fetish. Your letter also points out that even if you love someone with a fetish, that doesn't mean you can happily participate in it. It sounds as if your husband's desire for domination doesn't dominate his life—it's just an aspect of his sexuality he can't squelch and that you don't want to incorporate into your conjugal bag of tricks. It's natural that you don't love the idea of your husband finding a release for his desire to be tied up, or whatever, with another woman. But the dominatrix literature makes clear that while they deal with an aspect of their clients' sexuality, it's is not about sexual intercourse. Letting him go might make your marriage happier because he won't be asking you to tell him how naughty he's been. If you can trust that his visits are limited to playing out scenarios that make you gag, then just think of it as therapy with a whip.
Dear Prudence: Pugilistic Partners
My mother-in-law likes to pick up my 2-year-old daughter on the weekends and drive her around to attend the sporting events of her other grandchildren or just to run errands. It sounds like a dream to have an afternoon free while my child spends quality time with her grandmother, but in my case it's a nightmare. My mother-in-law has been in more than 20 automobile accidents. The vast majority were her fault, and many have been single-car accidents. Her two daughters won't let her drive their children anymore, after she drove into a cement wall on the side of the highway with a grandchild in the backseat—luckily, no one was hurt. I'm a nonconfrontational person, and she can easily become belligerent and unreasonable. I hinted to her that I'm not comfortable with her driving my daughter long distances, and she got extremely upset and accused me of thinking she's not trustworthy. Since this exchange, she regularly calls and asks to pick up my daughter. I find myself having to come up with lies until they run dry, and then I give in and let her take my daughter. I'm on pins and needles all day until they return. How do I deal with this without starting a feud?
—Driving Me Crazy
Your mother-in-law is a traveling morgue, and you're worried about offending her? I don't care how nonconfrontational you are; your daughter's life is at stake, so the words "My child will never, ever ride in the car with you" should come easily to your lips. Also, your husband should care more about his daughter's life than his mother's feelings, and it makes sense for him to be the one to step up and have this conversation. The issue here is more than just taking away your mother-in-law's privileges to drive her grandchildren. Out on the road are other people's grandchildren, and your mother-in-law is a menace to anyone she encounters. If she's been in 20 accidents—many of them single-car crack-ups—there's something seriously wrong with this woman, and she needs a medical check-up. It's also discouraging that her insurance company and the department of motor vehicles would continue to allow her on the road. But you—and the entire family—should do something to protect the public. Contact your state department of transportation and find out the most efficient way to report her as an impaired driver. Your letter should contain a thorough accounting of her driving history and your family's belief that her license should be revoked, because, right now, it's a license to kill.
The Christmas celebrations in my office have taken on an increasingly religious character over the years. Last year, there were Christmas carols, including "Silent Night," playing in the break room, and several of the holiday cards bought to decorate the area around the Christmas tree had Nativity or other religious themes on them. Multiple people complained, either to management or to each other after feeling that management was not responsive to our concerns. My boss asked me why I wasn't at last year's tree-trimming party. When I told her that it was because I'm not a Christian, she suggested that it would be OK if I hung a menorah on the Christmas tree. I can't begin to describe how offensive I thought that was to all religions. I don't have any problem with Joe wearing a cross in the office or Ayanna putting a picture of her favorite Hindu goddess above her computer. It's the corporate-sanctioned expressions of religion in shared spaces that bother me. What can we do to encourage management to return to the more secular celebrations of previous years?
—Not a Christian
I'm also not a Christian, but excuse me for being amused at your boss's idea of a menorah as an interfaith Christmas-tree ornament. I often hear from people who are subjected year-round to pressure from religious zealots in the office—often the boss—and that's repugnant and needs to be dealt with. But what you're describing sounds mild and inoffensive, and since it will all be over the last week of December, it's a self-limiting problem. Your office has a Christmas tree, which you don't seem to object to—and I don't think you should—so it's hardly worth making a fuss over a Nativity card or "Silent Night" in the break room. Face it, there's no silencing the Christmas music in any venue once the Thanksgiving dishes are put away. You, of course, are free to skip the office tree-trimming, but attending does not mean you are violating your own religion, just as a Christian partaking in a Passover Seder is not part of a conversion program. Though it's not my holiday, I love seeing others get excited about the pageantry, even the excess, of Christmas. My suggestion is that instead of complaining, get in the mood of the season and be merry.
I married earlier this year, and I love my new husband's family. His parents have never had set holiday traditions in their home. Instead, they come up with a new way to celebrate every year. I grew up in a home where we have lots of holiday traditions. Both of our families live in the same town, so we thought it would be easy to split the holidays with each family, but this year his parents have decided to take everyone to Las Vegas for Christmas. Neither of us gambles, and neither of us wants to go. Since we spent Thanksgiving with my family, I feel that technically we should spend Christmas with his, but the idea of Christmas in a casino feels so wrong. However, I don't want to hurt their feelings or isolate them during the holidays. What do I do?
—Don't Like the Odds
Some people want to spend Christmas gamboling through the snow, and some people want to spend it gambling at the craps table. I've many times noted my reservations about destination weddings, and the same applies for destination Christmases. It's fine to invite everyone to join you somewhere, but the folks who are flying off have to accept that there will be others who simply don't want to go. You and your husband should thank your in-laws and explain that Christmas in Vegas is just not for the two of you. Tell them that when they get back, you look forward to getting together and hearing about their adventures and counting their winnings. And don't worry about them being isolated, wandering the Nevada desert searching for the star of Bethlehem.
They'll have so much companionship with their fellow celebrants that they'll be lucky to get tickets to see the Christmas show of one of the biggest stars in Vegas—Andy Williams at the Hilton.
More Dear Prudence Columns
"A Cornucopia of Crises: Prudie takes on Thanksgiving quandaries involving uninvited guests, the ghosts of holidays past, and exiled smokers." Posted Nov. 18, 2010.
"Bob & Carol & Ted & Malice: My parents' swinger friends are trying to blackmail our family after Mom and Dad's tragic deaths." Posted Sept. 30, 2010.
"No Debt of Gratitude: I borrowed cash from Dad to care for my dying mom. Now he's demanding payback." Posted Aug. 12, 2010.
"Dirty Pretty Things: My girlfriend has worn the same undergarment for weeks. Isn't that disgusting?" Posted Aug. 27, 2009.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
"The Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving: Prudie counsels readers on Turkey Day predicaments, such as flying solo for the holiday, hosting irritating in-laws, and attending multiple dinners. Posted Nov. 22, 2010.
"Baby Mama Drama: Prudie counsels a sleuth who uncovered a baby-trap scheme—and other advice-seekers." Posted Nov. 1, 2010.
"The Family That Bathes Together: Prudie counsels a mother who wonders when the time is right to stop bathing with her little boy." Posted Oct. 12, 2010.
"Help! I'm Too Hot for My Age: Prudie counsels a woman whose youthful looks bring her nothing but problems—and other advice seekers." Posted Feb. 8, 2010.
Like Prudie on the official Dear Prudence Facebook page and like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.