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.)
Q. Weight-Loss Surgery: After much consideration and years of yo-yo dieting, I have made the decision to have weight-loss surgery. How do I tell people (family, co-workers, friends) about my decision? Many people have strong opinions on the topic. I do not see this as an easy way out. I have struggled with my weight all my life, and at the age of 41, I realized I need more help than just diet and exercise. There are certain people I have to tell, like my boss. I am not very close with my co-workers, and they tend to be a gossipy bunch. My husband and mother are supportive about it, and their opinions matter most to me. I am doing this because I want to be healthier and see my daughter grow up. How do I handle the naysayers and know-it-alls?
A: Before you get the surgery, get some therapy. You need to be able to stand up for yourself and not be so affected by the opinions of others. It's your private decision what to do about your insides, even though the results will quickly be apparent on your outside. You do not need permission or approval about this from the people in your life. When they start noticing your weight loss, you can either decide to say you got the surgery, or explain you're eating less—which you will be. Then, with the help of a therapist, you will work on ways of changing the subject or refusing to be drawn in to further conversation about how your relatives, friends, and co-workers feel about your body.
Q. Wife Wants Me To Stop Seeing Female Friend: I have a female friend who I've known since we were kids. My wife has always been uneasy over this friendship but generally tolerated it. That is, until recently when she discovered that this friend and I had a one-night stand a couple of years ago while my wife and I were dating. Since she discovered this, she's been badgering me to stop seeing my friend. I can honestly say this happened only once and it will never, ever happen again. We have no romantic feelings for each other. Who's in the right here?
A: It does complicate a platonic relationship to have had it be consummated, though only for one night. It sounds as if you were realizing this thing with your future wife was turning serious and either this would be a last chance to sleep with another woman, or that you lifelong friends had better find out if you two actually belonged together. You found out you don't belong together. In a way, your wife should be relieved that you and your friend dealt with the sexual tension and declared, "Let's not do that again!"
I bridle at husbands or wives who declare their spouses have no business being friends with people of the opposite sex. You say your wife "discovered" this one-night stand, so it sounds as if you never volunteered it. You should apologize to your wife for not telling her, explain the psychological circumstances around the event, and reassure her that it confirmed you and your pal have zero chemistry. Then you need to talk to your wife about the unfairness of asking you to give up a lifelong friendship when there's no reason for her to doubt you.
Q. What?: "My boyfriend really does seem to have quite an effect on older ladies—they all just want to take their pants off for him." Older women are taking their pants off for him and she's just breezily saying so? Even if this is about his sexual history and not his current sitch, it makes me wonder if he developed some sort of pattern as a result of his early experience. If it really was good, I'm not one to judge, but if a woman who'd been with a 30-year-old at 12 had a reputation for canoodling with older men, I suspect some klaxons would be going off. Are you sure this guy's OK post-Humberta?
A: Excellent point. The girlfriend should be aware that her boyfriend may have some long-term issues stemming from his sordid introduction to sex.
Q. Blinding Obvious Favoritism: My brother and his wife have two children, but listening to them talk; you would think they had one gifted, amazing, beautiful, incomparably perfect child and the other one. The favoritism is blindingly obvious, but I cannot figure out why. In fact, in my heart of hearts, I think they praise and favor the less admirable of the children. The preferred child is given special treats and privileges to the point of being ridiculous. The other child, while not neglected, clearly does not measure up in the eyes of the parents, and doesn't merit the extra treats or attention. These children are pretty equal in their achievements scholastically, athletically, and socially. As an aunt, is there anything I can do to even up the playing field for the overlooked chick?
A: Here's the rotten parent letter for today. As many people who were the victim of childhood abuse wrote last week in response to a letter about observing abusive parents, it really makes a difference when an adult steps in and says, "This isn't right." You should do two things. One is to spend time with the neglected child, showing that child how wonderful you find him or her. The other is to sit down with your brother and his wife and have a difficult conversation. Start with the usual pap that they're wonderful parents, they probably aren't even aware of what you're about to bring up, blah, blah, blah. Then say that you've noticed over the years a favoritism that's painful to watch. Say you are obviously speaking very reluctantly because both the children are great and you don't want to interfere with their child-rearing. But sometimes an outsider's perspective can be valuable, and you want to make sure both children get the praise they deserve.
Q. Bridezillas: I recently got back from a five-day wedding cruise for one of my best friends. It was a complete disappointment, and I'm wondering if it's even worth trying to continue the friendship at this point. It was a considerable expense on the behalf of the wedding party—plane tickets, bridesmaid dresses, the cruise, wedding gift, shower gift, transportation to/from the airport, hotel, not to mention a week's worth of vacation time. She spent minimal time with her guests, giving excuses such as she couldn't sit in the sun or that her new husband didn't have anyone else to hang out with. She made almost no effort to see or talk to her guests. We really only saw her at dinnertimes. Furthermore, when we did see her, she kept making comments about how cheap the wedding was and what a great way it was to get married. Cheap on her end, yes; but on everyone else's, no. She showed a complete lack of appreciation for the time and money everyone spent to be there with her. She never even thanked me! I feel like she needs a lesson in basic manners and wedding etiquette. How do I get the message across?
A: What you were on was not a cruise with your friend; it was a honeymoon. It's traditional that the honeymoon couple go off together and have sex relentlessly, and then during their breaks they stare moonily into each other's eyes. This is why they should do this alone, and not have to be entertaining friends, or have friends hanging around feeling neglected. I know there are many bridal couples and guests who've had a fabulous time at destination weddings, but I continue to think they're generally a bad idea. But once you signed up for the boat ride, you should have been prepared to entertain yourself—or hang out with the rest of the wedding party—after the nuptials were performed. That said, what a crude, rude bride to crow to all her guests how their giant tab meant a small outlay for her. Forget telling her how she didn't pay proper attention to you. But if all the bridesmaids are feeling there's a big thank you that hasn't been said, you can go to your friend and explain there are some lingering hurt feelings and a bunch of notes to everyone for making her event so special would go a long way.
Q. "Platonic" Friend: My husband and I have many friends of the opposite sex. However, I don't think I'd be all that comfortable if one of them was someone he had slept with while we were dating. To me, that is some pretty strong evidence that the friend does not have a lot of respect for our relationship. I don't know how I'd feel in a similar situation, but I do think the letter writer has some valid feelings.