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. (Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)
Q. Advice Columnists: Your colleague who writes The Ethicist at the NYT is using a question that looks familiar to one that appeared in one of your recent chats (The "should I work in Bahrain" question). This isn't the first time I've seen similarities between Ethicist questions and your chats—there was a recent Ethicist article on what to do about your dead co-workers emails—and I know that you and Dan Savage have recently answered the same question before. Since three times = trend, any thoughts about this recent phenomenon?
A: It's not a recent phenomenon. Sometimes people submit questions to multiple columnists, and occasionally more than one of us bite. I don't think there's any way to avoid it, but I'm always very relieved if I get to the answer first.
Q. Re: Frustrated with stay-at-home wife: You were ridiculously harsh on this guy. His wife was a slob before the baby! And as a single working mother who has to do it all, I do get tired of the "but I was chasing a baby" argument. Sure, laundry may pile up a bit, but leaving things strewn around the house is a bit much.
A: Yes, she sounds like a slob. What is wrong with him that when he sees a cup on the floor he'd rather leave it there "for weeks" than pick it up? If you're married to a slob, and you like the house neat, unfortunately, you're going to have to do some tidying yourself and maybe get some professional cleaning. It would be nice if there were a magic formula for fixing the justifiably annoying failings of one's spouse, but nagging her clearly isn't it.
Q. House investment with overinvolved Mother-in-Law?: My fiance and I are hoping to buy a house soon. We found a perfect starter home in an up-and-coming neighborhood within our price range and were set to move forward—until we told his mom. The problem: My future MIL is of means and now wants to invest in a house with us. She would contribute funds, and we would live in a better house in a nicer 'hood. The problem? She has a history of dominating her son—she decorated his apartment, buys him clothes, strongly declares her opinions on every life choice he makes. I'm scared that we'll be living in "her house" and that she will have her hand in all the decisions! I want to start an adult life with my fiance and to know the joy of making our own decisions. Is there a way to do this while living in what will be half my MIL's investment? Am I being silly? Thank you, Uncomfortable Taker
A: You will be much happier living in a shack the two of you can afford than a mansion that his mother calls her own. This is a great opportunity to draw some lines that will make your relationship with your mother-in-law so much more pleasant over the years. The two of you should express your deep gratitude for her offer but explain that as young adults, you want to be responsible for living within your means and making your own good financial decisions.
Q. Quid pro quo: I'll understand male sexuality when they do the same for females.
Q. Swearing at Work: I work in a male-dominated environment where the majority of the time I am the only female: engineering. I enjoy the work and co-workers with an exception of when they swear. As the field and the people working in this field are a contrast from, let's say, banking environment, it's much more open, but how do I react when somebody uses the F-word or alike in the group? They are not saying F--- you, but still using it. I don't swear myself at all, don't like them swearing. I don't want to tolerate this behavior but at the same time don't want to be the swear-word police, either. What is the appropriate response without making it a big deal? Thank you.
A: If everyone's dropping F-bombs all the time, it should start to sound like background noise. What's wholly inappropriate in some workplaces is standard in others, and swearing is standard in yours. The last thing you want to do is sound like the grammar policeman noted above. There's nothing for you to do but ignore it.
Q. Free advice to Mr. Frustrated: Start wearing a helmet when you bring up the subject of how, despite your cleaned and pressed clothes, healthy meals (at home and work), balanced checkbook, and happy child, you can't help but notice that she's still a big slob. Because one of these days, that cup is going to get picked up, and you'd better hope that one of her other endearing qualities isn't a good fastball.
A: Another touché!
Q. Catcalled: What would you say to a young women who gets catcalled often during the summer? I live in the city, and as the weather gets warmer, catcalling gets more frequent. Although I dress normally (typically shorts and a blouse in the summer), I find that I'm yelled at by old men and young men, standing on corners, driving by me, etc. It makes me tense, and now when I walk down the street, I see every man as a potential threat. It's annoying and demeaning, but I know I can't haul every weirdo on the street to a sensitivity class. How should I deal?