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My husband and I are in our late 20s, have been married for two years, and have known each other since high school. My husband is of Japanese descent, and I am a white female with Growth Hormone Deficiency. It's a rare disorder in which my body didn't produce necessary hormones for growth during puberty. Unfortunately, I was not diagnosed in time for treatment to increase my height. I look like I'm about 14 years old. On our honeymoon, the hotel authorities knocked on the door of our suite to inquire about my husband's young guest. Since then, whenever we've gone on a vacation, either my husband or I has to explain to authorities why an adult Asian male has with him a seemingly underage white female. Because of this, my husband recently requested that we no longer travel. I understand law enforcement has to prevent sex trafficking. But I feel it's my fault that my husband can't be seen in public with his wife. I suspect that if we were the same race, we wouldn't have nearly this amount of harassment. I love my husband, and I love traveling. What should we do?
—Mrs. Benjamin Button
Dear Mrs. Button,
Sometimes what is good for society is bad for some individuals, and unfortunately you two are the recipients of an increasing awareness of sex crimes. Your disorder has presented you with a significant burden; it's understandable that you're resentful and that your husband just wants to stay close to home. But you two need a strategy for experiencing the freedom and adventure you deserve. Accept that at some point during a trip you might hear that knock on your door, and be prepared. Carry your passport—those are far less likely to be fakes than a photo I.D.—and a letter from a doctor explaining your medical condition. (You can also have a copy of your marriage license handy.) Greet the authorities calmly and explain that you know they're just doing their job. I know that nothing about this is funny to you, but if you and your husband could laugh about the most ridiculous comments you hear, or the most stunned facial expressions you see, it would help release some of your resentment. Stop dwelling on the racial aspect of this. If you were the same race, there might be fewer questions because of the possibility that you were relatives. But it's likely that a man in his 20s who looks to be sharing a room with a young teenage girl will arouse suspicion, no matter what the parties' races. The more you berate yourself for your condition and its social effects, the less you will be the person your husband fell in love with—a woman who hasn't let a medical condition keep her from getting what she wants out of life. It would probably help for you to talk with others who are dealing with this. One place to start looking for a support group is the Magic Foundation, which deals with growth issues. Most of all, don't let the reactions of others prevent you from seeing the world.
Dear Prudence: Journal Invader
About two years ago, I signed up to be a bone marrow donor. Six months later, I was matched to a man in his 30s with leukemia. I traveled 600 miles to his hospital to donate, and my recovery was somewhat painful. Shortly afterward I was contacted by my recipient: He survived due to the treatments and my bone marrow. I was happy for him and felt good about myself for helping to save his life. The problem is, he constantly contacts me to talk and thanks me all the time for my "gift." This isn't just once a month or once a week, but every day. I now cringe every time I see his number pop up on my cellphone. Is it rude for me to tell the man I helped save that I no longer want to speak to him? Am I obligated to be his friend?
Your dilemma sounds like a mashup episode of True Blood and Curb Your Enthusiasm. There you are being drained of your very marrow, and there he is draining you dry emotionally with his neurotic neediness. Maybe your recipient is worried that if he ever suffers a relapse, he'll need you to take a needle for him again—so he's trying to keep close to you. If so, given that you now never want to hear his name, his strategy is counterproductive. The next time he phones, take the call. Tell him you are very happy that you played a part in saving his life, but now both of you need to put all of that behind you. Explain that he's overwhelmed you with his expressions of gratitude, but that the best gift he could give you is to stop. Say you donated in order for him to be able to pick up with his life. So he now needs to do that, which means you two go your separate ways.
I'm a single male in my early 30s, and I date quite a bit. When I'm out on a date, I feel conflicted. The prevalent attitude is still that a man should pick up the check for dinner. This is in spite of the fact that many women make either the same amount of money or sometimes more. I think expecting the man to pay is an anachronistic notion of romance, but to ignore the tradition would leave a bad impression. My wallet can be seriously depleted after a few dates with someone who doesn't intend on getting serious. (By the way, it's not always easy to tell.) I still believe treating someone is a nice gesture. But what's a good way to suggest splitting the check until you both know you like each other, without leaving a bad taste in a prospective girlfriend's mouth?
If you're doing the asking out on the first date, you should reach for the check. You're right, this may not be entirely fair, but you're also right that if you choose a restaurant you can afford, it's a small price to pay for making a good impression. After that, especially since you are dating women making salaries equivalent or better than yours, going Dutch makes sense. By the third date, if she doesn't make a gesture toward her purse, feel free to say, "Shall we split this?" If she finds the suggestion outrageous, that's valuable information. And if you're enjoying each other's company, come up with things to do that aren't expensive: a hike, a museum exhibit, a movie rental and spaghetti at home. You say you feel rather put out by picking up the tab for a lot of dates with someone who doesn't intend to "get serious." By this I hope you don't mean you're someone who says, "Hey, I've paid for five dinners and you're refusing to have sex with me?"
I was asked to be a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding five years ago, and I gladly accepted. Last year, I got married in a much smaller ceremony and did not ask this friend to be in my wedding. I did call to tell her how much I looked forward to her being there and how much I valued our friendship. Then, the day before the wedding, she called me crying hysterically that she would not be able to make it due to illness. After the wedding, my attempts to get in touch were blown off. Recently I saw that she joined Facebook, and I emailed her in an attempt to reconnect. After a few days she replied, telling me that by not including her in our wedding party I had made it clear that I didn't think much of our friendship. She also told me that she had not been sick but could not bring herself to attend a wedding where she felt she was not wanted, and I must have known that. I didn't, or else I wouldn't have paid for a dinner for her and her husband. She added that after I read all of this, I may not want to reconnect, and she'd understand. I want her to know that I did not know why she chose not to attend and that I think she is being unfair. How should I respond?
—Former Friend of Not a Bridesmaid
These days, becoming a bridesmaid seems like a good reason to cry hysterically, given the expense and duties young women are expected to shoulder: hosting multiple parties and showers, buying an expensive and hideous dress, "supporting" the bride through a year of planning. However, you seem like a sane and thoughtful bride. Your friend, on the other hand, seems like just the opposite. Think of it, on the day before your wedding, you were supposed to be dealing with her melodrama. Your friend sounds like the bridesmaid's version of Miss Havisham—the pathetic jilted bride in Great Expectations who wears her decaying wedding dress for the rest of her life. Be glad you got out of the friendship before the baby shower meltdown. You can take your former friend's offer and reply, "You're right, let's not reconnect." Silence is another way to get that point across.
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.