Got a burning question for Prudie? She'll be online at Washingtonpost.com to chat with readers each Monday at 1 p.m. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.
During high school I dated a boy who is now a successful recording artist. Things were going well between us until his career picked up toward the end of our senior year. He transformed from a level-headed, compassionate guy into someone shallow and self-absorbed. When he broke off our relationship, his words were, "I can't see you fitting into this kind of lifestyle and the crowd I'm now going to be rolling with." I was pregnant at the time (I never told him) but ended up miscarrying. The breakup and miscarriage were so emotionally devastating that I couldn't continue my schooling and had to put off college. Years later, I've been contacted by his representatives, as I'm in possession of a number of nude and compromising photographs of him, and they want to ensure these pictures never see the light of day. The photographs are on an old computer in my mother's basement that I'd almost forgotten about. All the old hurt, pain, and resentment have come rushing back. The fact that he couldn't even call me himself and left it to "his people" makes me so angry that I'm strongly considering selling these photos to a tabloid—I could use the money. Under normal circumstances it would be a terrible thing to do, but maybe I deserve this vindication. Would I be justified?
—A Woman Scorned
I hope you're forever grateful to your mother that she didn't give your old computer to the Salvation Army, but that doesn't mean getting revenge will necessarily be your salvation. It's nude photo week at this column, and I give you credit for a uniquely juicy variation. Your situation is both a legal and moral dilemma, so for advice on the former I turned to attorney Carolyn E. Wright, whose practice is devoted to photographers. She laid out a number of issues you need to clarify. One is who owns the photos. If you snapped the shutter, you're in luck, because then you have the copyright. But that doesn't allow you to reveal these revealing images to whomever you like. If the photos were taken with the expectation that they were only for personal use, then you have to deal with the matter of his privacy rights. It's possible your ex is such a big name that a tabloid would be willing to buy the photos and indemnify you. But "his people" might also be willing to make a deal to purchase the copyright from you. Wright says, however, that you have to be careful not to extort them: "Pay me a lot of money, or these are the cover of next week's National Enquirer." Hire an attorney conversant in privacy law to handle this on your behalf. You were treated terribly by a jerk, but millions of young women have been dumped by arrogant high-school boyfriends. Yes, the miscarriage added to your pain, but it also has meant that you didn't become a teenage mother whose child had an emotional moron for a father. You need to start looking at your life differently. In high school you dated someone who got famous and broke up with you. By now that should be a couple of anecdotes, not a life crusher. I hope that the delay in your education was only temporary. As for the moral issue of the photos, try to negotiate a fair payment from Mr. "You're So Vain" for your property. You'll feel better about yourself for not turning your high-school romp into sleaze. But if I see news that a recording artist is embarrassed over the release of youthful "compromising pictures," I'll hope you're laughing all the way to the bank.
Dear Prudence: Anti-Pagan Prejudice?
My wife does something that drives me absolutely up the wall. Every year, sometimes twice a year, she vacations alone! Ever since "Nancy" was 18 (we are both now in our mid-30s), she has flown to Miami Beach, has rented a room and a car for a week or two, and, according to her, has lain out on the beach, visited the Keys, and gone sightseeing. She has not once allowed me to accompany her. She claims her trips are her "alone time" to "recharge and regroup" and argues that we do take vacations together. I get that everyone needs time to themselves. But I find it odd, upsetting, and lately a bit suspicious that we've been married for seven years and she has still not invited me to go along with her. She's booked a trip for the end of summer, and I am sorely tempted to follow her there and see what she's up to. I think she may have another man in Florida. Would I be out of line for doing this? Is it normal for wives to frequently vacation alone?
If your wife went away every year to a spa with her girlfriends, I doubt you would be peeking into the massage room, making sure she wasn't getting any "extras." I can just imagine you in Groucho Marx disguise trailing your wife through the Keys, falling into the water and being attacked by Portuguese man-of-war. Your wife is direct with you about her craving for solitude, so she'd hardly be able to enjoy her time alone if you were there with her. She's in her second decade of visiting Florida by herself, and yes, it's possible she may be living out a version of Same Time, Next Year, a play about a couple, married to others, who meet briefly for an annual tryst. But you offer no evidence for your suspicion other than her absence. You need to have a talk with your wife and tell her that you've been feeling increasingly uneasy about her time away, and your anxiety is undermining your marriage. She owes you a respectful conversation that addresses your worries. You say she takes one to two weeks a year for her sojourns. Given the average American vacation schedule, that's a lot. Her leaving that much must cut into your vacation time as a couple, so maybe a compromise for both of you is for her to agree to spend less time as Thoreau on South Beach and more getting away with you. (I will also note that my husband's reaction to your letter was that your wife's banging the cabana boy. Forget talking to her about her "vacations," and hire a professional to tail her.)
Like a lot of people, I'm outraged at the verdict in the Casey Anthony case. I understand the jury did its job, and nothing can be done about that. But I am so upset over this case. A beautiful, innocent little girl died and was thrown in a swamp. Are there really people in this world who feel no remorse? I wish Casey unbelievable harm for her lack of grief, selfishness, and pathological lying. I wish someone would throw acid in her face and gouge out her eyeballs. Casey Anthony will never pay for her crimes. I am not the kind of person to wish ill on anyone. So why am I so outraged and angry over this? How can I stop the hatred that I feel?
—Where's the Justice?
I understand your righteous indignation at the outcome of this case, but you are only poisoning yourself by dwelling on the punishments you'd like to see meted out to Casey Anthony. You're an adult, so sadly you already know that sometimes guilty people walk and innocent people get convicted. You know there are people so depraved they would kill their children and feel no remorse. If it would help you to vent, you could go to one of the pages about the case that have popped up on Facebook and share your anger with others who feel as you do. Then you should move your thoughts toward Caylee, and how you can put your energy toward making the world better in memory of her. Do something positive for children who are here but are not getting a fair shot at life. Perhaps you can volunteer at a shelter for homeless families, or read books at a nursery school for disadvantaged children. Don't give Casey Anthony the power to turn you into someone you don't even recognize.
My little sister has a beautiful 18-month-old boy. Four times since his birth, she has entered him in "most beautiful baby" photo contests. During these contests family members receive email and Facebook reminders every day. Sometimes the competitions are open for a month or longer. I told her after the second contest that I do not want to be asked to vote anymore. I explained that I love my nephew but am uncomfortable with a competition where children are judged on appearance. I also told her that the contest rules allow these companies to use her child's image for free in any way they like. She has ignored all this and once again started with the email reminders. I feel harassed. Am I justified in my disdain?
We are constantly hearing about social trends (fast food, texting, gay marriage) that supposedly have the power to destroy the American family. But with the "most beautiful baby" contest I think your sister has actually found one that will turn evolution on its head and make people come to loathe their youngest and cutest family members. Anyone receiving such daily reminders would be temped to pour the contents of a sippy cup on the parent responsible for this pestering. Tell your sister you understand she gets a kick out of these contests (leave out the moralizing), but the reminders are clogging your inbox and you'd appreciate if she could she take you off the list. If she doesn't, just keep hitting "delete" and try to remember this is not your nephew's fault.
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.