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.)
A: Wait, my dear, just wait. When I walk down the street with my lovely teenage daughter, men passing in trucks will honk their horns and make appreciative kissing sounds at her. They apparently think the prune standing next to her is deaf as well as old. Yet, their catcalls spark a vestigial memory in me—a couple of decades ago I used to hear vocal judgments from men. At the time it was annoying. Yet given their absence, I have to admit it wasn't all bad.
Since today is apparently the "men are pigs" day at the chat, this also falls in the category of there's nothing you can do but ignore it. And maybe a catcall is better than finding you're being photographed and your image swapped around by horny married men.
Q. Re: Swearing at Work: If incessant F-bombs are part of a pattern of abuse against female employees, the letter-writer might want to consult an attorney to determine whether she has hostile-workplace sex-discrimination case.
A: Let's posit that a general rule for a happy life is to avoid unnecessary hospital stays and lawsuits. Remove the lone female employee from the workplace and I doubt the men will say, "Hey, it worked, we drove her out! Now we can stop swearing and start talking like Queen Elizabeth again. What a relief!"
Q. Argh: Can we please stop with blanket statements about male and female sexuality? I am a crazily-happily-married female who checks out guys (and yes, pretty women) in the street, finds pictures of hot naked guys sexy (according to Monica Hesse's article in this paper, I am not supposed to), and has a crazy sex drive. A friend of mine is married to a man she has to beg for hugs (!) and rarely gets sex. Let's all just put the generalizations into a jar on the shelf and deal with individuals. Men, women, gay, straight, whatever. We are what we are, and sexuality often is a spectrum.
A: Good point. I love Monica Hesse's work, but I have to disagree with her that a laundry basket of clothes folded by the man in your life is sexier than the man in your life in all his glory. But I think we can also agree that while being a highly sexual person can be a great, it's imperative to keep this aspect of yourself a private pleasure.
Q. Re: Swearing At Work: As a woman who has a pretty foul mouth, I kind of resented the "gender gap" implied in this message. (If anything, I've found that it's a regional thing more than anything else.) Why does it bother you? It's a word. As long as they aren't using it to degrade you or another person, it's not a hostile act. Try looking at things from the perspective of intended meaning. Do you really want to be the person who has her co-workers walking on tiptoes around her just to appease her sensibilities? And a word of advice: Don't visit New Jersey. You won't like it.
A: Well said. And she especially shouldn't watch any of the Real Housewives of ... shows.
Q. RE: Swearing at work: Wait, what? You're saying that as long as they're not using sexually explicit language to intentionally harass her, then it doesn't really count as a hostile workplace? Are you kidding me?
A: No, I'm not kidding. She says they're not saying, "F--- you" to her. They're just decorating their speech with F's. You've got to be kidding that a lawsuit is a good way to resolve this situation.
Q. Cat-calling: I wear my headphones, so even if I can still hear it over the music (and am usually flattered, I must admit), I just pretend I didn't hear anything.
A: Good suggestion.
Q. Etiquette Question: Good afternoon! How do you introduce two people who have already met before? This weekend, I will be going to a large BBQ at our company's CEO's house. I will need to reintroduce my wife to the CEO and other higher-ups. However, they have been introduced at large functions before (but wouldn't recognize each other on the street). I am stumped!