Mean girls, grabby men, ex-boyfriend obsession, and family secrets: Dear Prudence advises readers in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.

Advice on manners and morals.
June 6 2011 3:07 PM

The 40-Year-Old Mean Girl

Prudie advises a former bully whose kids are being mistreated by her victim's children—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.

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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.)

(Continued from Page 1)

Q. Employee's R18 Pic: I run my own consulting company with one employee, a sweet and hardworking girl in her early 20s. Although we have lunch together occasionally, we generally don't share a lot about our personal lives, which is fine with me. Last week I got a disturbing anonymous email in my inbox—it was a graphic photograph of her clearly engaged in a sexual activity (the guy's face was not shown). I remembered she briefly mentioned that she broke up with her boyfriend and he was giving her a hard time. I am guessing he sent it to me as an act of revenge. I am debating whether to tell her or not—I don't want to humiliate her but I wonder if she has a right to know what her ex-boyfriend (or somebody else, if my hypothesis is wrong) is doing. Please help with my dilemma.

A: As awkward as it is, it's imperative she know that someone (surely you're right it's her ex—and good riddance!) is sending lewd photographs of her. Be as direct and unembarrassed as you can be, but explain this is something she needs to be aware of. She may need to take legal action before he posts these charming scenes on the Internet.

Q. I Just Want To Be Friends This Time: Last year I developed a crush on one of my co-workers. But he was already in a committed relationship. I did some bad, manipulative things. He trusted me as a friend, so I used that to get him to start to choose me over his girlfriend. They started fighting a lot, because his girlfriend could see that I liked him, but he trusted me and told her she was being jealous. He and his girlfriend got in a huge fight after that and broke up. I was so happy, we even dated for a few weeks after that, but he broke it off with me and tried to get back together with his girlfriend. We didn't talk at all for months. Well, in May they finally got back together. And over the past few months I've realized that what I did was really bad. So I started trying to be friends with this guy again. I texted him a few times, and he responded nicely, he didn't seem mad at me. So I decided to see if he'd like to hang out with me. I asked him to drive me to work one day, and his girlfriend called me angrily and told me that I need to stay away from him and leave the two of them alone. When I confronted him about it, he agreed and said that I need to leave him alone and he didn't want to be friends at all. I'm heartbroken over this! I genuinely just want to be friends! Do you think I should keep trying to be friends with him?

A: Go away. Just go far, far away. I'll give you some points for having the insight to see that you behaved in a repugnant, manipulative way. But here you are, doing it all over again. The reason you only dated your love object for a few weeks is that obviously he realized what a toxic person you are and ran for the exit and was able to get his girlfriend to forgive him. You can't be friends with this guy. You need some therapy to see if you can ever be friends with anyone. And while you're in the waiting room of your therapist's office, read Othello, and pay particular attention to the character of Iago.

Q. Condoms: My husband and I have been married for 32 years, and in that time we have never ever used condoms. I recently found some condoms in a coat jacket pocket. He says they are for his "private time" alone. Taking a survey from a lot of friends both, men and women, all said he is probably cheating. (None know it was my husband I was referring to.) I told them I had a girlfriend who needed to know. My husband is with me every night, never goes out, does not travel out of town for business. However, he does have the freedom during the day because he doesn't have anyone to really answer to at his job. What do you think?

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A: I think that you're lucky he's using condoms during his extra-curricular activities. Sure, it's possible that he has a solo, sexual fantasy life in which his big thrill is getting to wear a condom. But I'll add my vote to your friends' that this is unlikely. You don't have to tell your husband about your survey. But you should tell him that his answer about your discovery doesn't hold up, and you need to know the truth.

Q. Dark Family Secret: I have an uncle who molested several children in my family, including myself, my sister, and some cousins (male and female). Eventually he was discovered and he has been disconnected from our family ever since. However, while searching for family members on Facebook I came across this uncle and discovered that he owns a business teaching horseback riding to children and offering day camps. I was horrified, to say the least. No one in the family ever filed any official complaints against him when the abuse occurred, and after doing some research I found that the statute of limitations for reporting the abuse has expired. (I am the youngest of the known group, so I would have been the last chance.) I can't sit by and let this man be near children for the rest of his life, but I don't know what I can do, short of contacting him personally and threatening him with the hope that he will shut down his business. Any advice on how to stop this monster?

A: You and your fellow family victims should contact a lawyer who specializes in this. In some jurisdictions statutes of limitations have been changed in regard to child molestation. Then your lawyer should contact the prosecutor's office in the area where your uncle now works (and likely molests). Law enforcement has to be informed that a pedophile is running a camp for children!

Q. Self-Esteem: I am a fraternal twin in my early 30s, and my sister and I are so close we are practically the same person. We are so similar that people find it "fun" to try to scope out the differences between us, usually in physical appearance. It is not news to me that my sister is more obviously attractive than I am, and for the most part I rarely think about our differences in appearance. But I can't help but feel hurt when someone scrutinizes us, and I know that they are thinking that I drew the short straw on appearances. I have even had someone tell me that I "shouldn't be angry that I am the ugly twin." I consider myself to be a very attractive woman, but I can't help but feel down when someone points out to me that I am not AS attractive as my fraternal twin. This has happened my whole life, and I don't see it ending anytime soon. How can I keep my self-esteem intact, and is there anything I can politely say that lets people know that I don't enjoy when people play a game of "spot of differences" with my twin sister and me?

A: There are two issues here (or should I say, two, two, two issues in one!). One is the recurring problem of idiots who say stupid, hurtful, and pointless things to others. In response to being told you're not the prettiest one, you could just stare in disbelief before you walk away. You could also say, "Thanks for letting me know! I hadn't realized I was ugly."

The other issue is that no matter how close you are to your twin, you two are not the same person. If you are feeling that you are, it's time for you to loosen the bonds somewhat. Developing your own interests and spending more time apart from your sister will also reduce the amount of time others spend playing, "Spot the differences."

Q. To the Bully Mother: What this woman is doing to your kids is inexcusable. She should never use her and your children in that way. As a former bully victim, though, I look at your interactions with this mother and I don't see sincerity or a true apology. You still call her a "geek" in your topic line. You rationalize by saying "although I don't much remember what I did." You should approach her sincerely and be actually remorseful. Of course protecting your kids is priority number one, but as it stands between you and your bullied victim, I am not reading real remorse, and it seems that she may not be reading it either. Being sincere and acknowledging the pain you inflicted, instead of dismissing it as being "young and stupid," may go a long way. Of course, if this woman has deep psychological damage (and it seems that way by the way she bullying you now), it may not help, and you may need to look for alternatives for your sons.

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