Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. ( Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie's Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
A: It really helps to know millions have people have had the same forbidden thoughts: "I love you, but I must have been out of my mind to think I wanted to be a parent."
Q. Adoptive Parent: As an adopted child myself my mom often tells a story similar to yours. My parents tried for years to have a child of their own and adopted me at 3 months old. According to them I cried nonstop for about a year. My mom, being the main care-giver, got very little sleep. It got to the point that my father found my mother crying at the kitchen table telling him that they had made a mistake. Eventually I grew out of the constant crying—and 27 years later I think my mother misses the days when I was crying upstairs now that I live five hours away from home.
A: I promise you she misses those days. OK, maybe not the year of crying days. But the days she could just pick you up and knew where you were every minute. And it speaks to how good your relationship is that she could tell you the story about thinking she made a mistake! Adoptive Mom, hang in there!
Q. Yup, We're Still Married: I'm the writer with the cheatin' husband and, yes, we're still married. We're in therapy (both together and separately), and I wouldn't place any serious bets on where we'll be a year from now, but with two kids and 15 years of marriage invested into this relationship, I'm willing to try and find a way to make it work.
A: Thanks for clarifying, and I hope it does work. I also hope your husband knows he's full of it when he says it's no big deal for a married man to have a separate social life with his girlfriend.
Q. Barkeep Boyfriend: I've been with my new boyfriend for a few weeks and everything is great. He's a bartender at a local place, so sometimes when he's working a slow day, I'll stop in and have dinner or a drink while he works to keep him company. The problem is what to do about tipping. ... Last time, I ordered food and some drinks and when the bill came, I left him $35 on a $28 tab. I didn't think anything of it. We were discussing our dinner plans for this week with one of his regulars and the man commented, "I hope she tipped well since you're probably paying!" My bf responded "I don't want her money" and then to me in aside, told me to take the tip back. I was a little stunned. I make significantly more than him and upon thinking about it, I'm MORTIFIED that he thinks I was giving him charity or something. I don't know if I need to address the past incident the next time I see him or would that hurt his pride? And further, what do I do next time? Buy him a drink instead? HALP!
A: I'm not sure someone you've been dating for a few weeks fully qualifies as a boyfriend. You gave your guy a generous but not ridiculous tip, which upset him for some reason. Having someone become your boyfriend means being able to talk through awkward situations. So next time you're alone with him, ask if when you're at the restaurant and he's serving you, he wants you to leave a tip at all, or just pay the bill. Being able to sort out who pays for what when a couple is first dating, particularly if they have disparate incomes, is part of the process of being able to become a real couple.
Q. Slightly Larger After a Year Abroad: I am just about to return to my small town in the U.S. after a little more than year overseas. Due to a combination of the fabulous local food and a lot of personal stress, my figure is somewhat more ample than when I left. I am quite looking forward to getting back home and seeing my friends and neighbors again, but I am somewhat trepidatious about seeing people's reactions to my new silhouette. I am sure that most people won't say anything, but I expect to see some facial reactions. Any suggestions as to how to handle this?
A: You don't have to respond to facial expressions. If they say you must have loved the pasta/crepes/tortillas just say, "I sure did!"
Q. Help!: My friends and I were involved in another couple's public fantasy! I belong to a local chapter of an international organization, and we get together periodically for dinners and such. During a recent gathering, the female half of a longtime couple appeared in a long blonde wig (nothing like her usual hair color or style) and repeatedly asked that we call her by a different name. At first I thought she was kidding, but then she said she was just trying to keep things interesting for her husband, who quietly sat apart from her all evening, watching her interact with the rest of the group. Several of us discussed it after the fact and have concluded that we were unwilling extras in some sort of fantasy scenario. I don't think any of us are prudes, but in retrospect it made us uncomfortable. This isn't something that we think should be taken to any authority figures, and the couple could always deny it and just say that it was all in good fun (for them, at least). How should we handle the situation if this couple decides to do this again in our presence? Should we just laugh it off?
A: It must have made the discussion of the organization's dues or the next convention a lot more interesting by having "Barbara" be "Lolita" for the night. Be grateful to them for giving you something to talk about on the ride home beyond how interminable the after dinner remarks were. When she shows up as a redhead named "Ginger" just go along with the show.
Q. Loving Aunt: You need to report your brother. Thousands of adults who were abused as children state that they wished that SOMEONE who watched this happen would have done something. You are that someone. Be the hero for this child. Step up and report your brother. Either your brother will shape up (unlikely, but possible) or your nephew will be removed from his father's house. They will try to find a family who is willing to take the boy in. Would your parents or you be willing to do this? Then he'll still grow up with his family, can see his father, but not be continually crushed by this abuser. You have the power to save a child's life from abuse. Why wouldn't you do that?
A: I agree—do it now.