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One of my best friends is a man I met a few years ago with whom I slowly fell in love. Despite being in our early 30s, both of us were virgins because of our religious traditions. I was profoundly disoriented when he recently got engaged to another woman after dating her for two months. After he became engaged, we had sex. Despite knowing that it was wrong, I think we're both relieved and grateful to have shared this intimate experience before our paths diverged. The fact that we had sex makes it clear that we will have to adopt a disciplined approach to our friendship in the future. The dilemma: My friend had asked me to be his "best woman" at the wedding, and I agreed. But I feel as though I should pull out in light of the fact that I've slept with the groom. He disagrees, and it might raise some uncomfortable questions for him if I were to drop out. But if his fiancee found out that he and I slept together, having me in the wedding pictures would be extremely painful. What should I do?
—The Virgin Who Became the Other Woman
You've left me intrigued about these religious traditions of yours. Intercourse before marriage is verboten, except if it is really necessary to alleviate the sexual tension that's been building with someone other than your intended. Then, "relieved and grateful," the cheating partners stand side by side as one marries someone else. It sounds like a denomination that could find itself wildly popular with politicians worldwide. I'm going to agree with you that you should pull out of this wedding before you and the groom find yourselves again in a situation that requires the groom to pull out. I've heard plenty of testimony about the beauty of saving oneself for marriage. But your experience makes clear that sometimes it's best for two consenting adults to just hop in the sack and find out what all the fuss is about before they commit to never finding out with anyone else. It's understandable that the groom would want to take advantage of the opportunity to have slept with more than one woman in his life, but having done so, it's distasteful that he wants to include the woman he cheated with in the wedding ceremony. And, frankly, he sounds like the kind of guy who will one day be so consumed with the fact that his marriage started with a lie that he'll be moved to erase this deceit by confessing his dalliance with his best woman. At that point, you're right, the wife will probably put the wedding albums in the fireplace. The way out of this is for you to say you realize you're so traditional (virginity until marriage and all) that you would prefer your dear friend find a man to be his best man.
Dear Prudence: Meddlesome Pediatrician?
I have an uncomfortable situation with the young man who works at the front desk of my gym. I'm 37 years old and married, and he's around 21 years old. He's always been chatty and given me puppy dog eyes. I figured he had a little crush on me but that it was no big deal. Then last week I missed a day and he told my workout partner to tell me that he and I were "divorced" because I didn't show. That was a little weird. The next time I went in, he told me I wasn't his girl anymore. That made me uncomfortable, but I just laughed and walked away. Then later I got a text from him! I have never given this kid my phone number, so he must have looked it up in the gym's system. I didn't answer. The next time I went in, he asked me why I looked tired. I said my husband and I stayed up to watch the basketball game. I haven't been in this week, but I don't know how to handle this. If I say something about him to management, he could get in trouble or possibly fired. I feel I may have encouraged him by chatting with him. I haven't told my husband about this, because he would be pretty upset. Should I just do nothing and see if it goes away?
—He's a Gym Rat
One of the purposes of management is that they punish or fire employees who violate every tenet of their workplace. Mr. Puppy Dog Eyes tracks your schedule, is angry when you deviate from it, invades your privacy, and inquires as to your sleeping habits. Since he's still practically a kid, he's on track to accumulate a record number of restraining orders in his life. Let's hope he grows out of his creephood before the court system has to explain to him what acceptable behavior is. You should immediately contact the gym's management and tell them you no longer feel comfortable coming to the gym because of how brazenly this employee has crossed the line. Tell them you want to hear back from them about how they've handled this. You probably are not the sole object of this young man's affection; he may have mental dossiers on many of the gym's clients. Do not be defensive about the fact that you engaged in pleasant banter with him. Your feeling responsible for his behavior because you were friendly is the kind of mind game that allows abusive men to manipulate women. And speaking of your relationships with men, why wouldn't you tell your husband? It would be natural for him to be upset that his wife is being borderline stalked by a gym employee, but I hope you aren't worried that he would take it out on you, or decide to "handle" the kid himself.
I'm 12 years old and the youngest, by far, of four siblings. My parents are amazing people. A few months ago our family was together, and my sister started talking about abortion in China. At that moment, I think my mother and father decided to confess. My mom said that when she found out she was pregnant with me she decided to get an abortion for financial reasons. But at the doctor's office she changed her mind. Everyone looked at me as if they thought I was going to cry, but in reality I was shocked for about 30 seconds and then I started to crack jokes about how my mom was going to get rid of her best kid. I've known that I was an accident my entire life without anybody telling me—I just did not know about an abortion. What I want to know now is whether or not I am sane for not caring that my mom wanted to get rid of me once.
—Surprised I Don't Care
Not only are you sane; you should give lessons to adults about the benefits of humor, confidence, and resilience. You're not crying because you know you're well-loved by the parents who are grateful that you were born. Like you, most insightful caboose children have probably intuited that Mom and Dad weren't actually setting out to add to their brood after a gap of many years. Your parents could have come home in such a good mood after seeing There's Something About Mary that they lost control, but at least they've had the self-restraint not to let you in on your conception story. Sometimes there's painful news that must be revealed—in general it's better to announce a surprise offspring to your wife before the kid has reached puberty. But there are some things in life best left private. At the top of that list is for guilt-ridden parents to keep tight-lipped about the fact that they contemplated abortion. But not only are you lucky your parents couldn't do it; they are lucky that they ended up with such a sane, mature, funny "best kid."
Two years ago, I met a man online and we fell in love. I was planning on moving to the United Kingdom to marry him. I moved in with my mom temporarily so I could sell my belongings and save some money. Two months before I was to leave, Mom had a stroke. I canceled my plans so I could stay with her. My fiance sold his business in the U.K. and moved here to help me. We're married now, and we both live with Mom. It was sad to give up my dream of living in the U.K., but I love my mother more than anything, and she needs a lot of care. I have a brother and a sister who have visited only sporadically and seldom call. They care, but they have lives of their own. Mom has told me she's changed her will to leave me the house we live in. This is completely her decision, and she says it's something she wants to do as she feels I gave up a lot and I've "earned it." All other assets are to be divided equally. I'm afraid that when my sister finds out, she's going to have a major problem with my getting the house. Should I feel guilty about this?
If you and your husband hadn't been there to care for your mother, the house would likely have been sold a while ago to pay for your mother to go into a nursing home. Your mother is right: You've earned it. Let's hope your sister will surprise you and say she's grateful for all you've done and feels the house is just compensation. But if she rages at the unfairness of it all, just shrug and say since you always honored your mother's wishes while she was alive, you're going to honor them now that she's gone. And make sure that when that time comes, you and your husband take a long trip to England and raise a pint to Mom.
More Dear Prudence Columns
"Financial Affairs: I want to bequeath money to my mistress in my will. Is that wrong?" Posted March 24, 2011.
"A Fool for Love: My wife is super hot but dumb. How can I make the best of our union?" Posted March 17, 2011.
"I Can't Relate: My estranged half-sister wants to get to know me, but I'm afraid my parents won't approve." Posted March 10, 2011.
"Diamonds Aren't a Girl's Best Friend: My ex is blackmailing me for sex. How can I get out of it?" Posted March 3, 2011.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
"This Baby Shower Is a Wash: Dear Prudence advises a reader who thinks her brother impregnated his girlfriend to steal her own baby's thunder—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com." Posted March 21, 2011.
"Teacher Gone Wild: Dear Prudence advises a schoolteacher caught on tape acting a drunken fool—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com." Posted March 14, 2011.
"Dead Letters at the Office: Prudie counsels an office worker who found love letters while cleaning out the desk of a recently deceased colleague that are not from her widower—and other advice-seekers." Posted March 7, 2011.
"Nightmare Vacation: Prudie counsels a reader who regrets her promise to take an ailing family member to Disneyland—in this week's live chat." Posted Feb. 28, 2011.