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.)
Emily Yoffe: So, while I was on vacation, I missed an earthquake and a hurricane. Please tell me I won't be here for pestilence.
Q. Confessing to an Ex-Boyfriend: About two years ago my then-boyfriend got a job offer at a large, global company for nearly a 40 percent pay raise. He was contractually obliged to give a month's notice at his old job and during that time I found out he cheated on me, amongst other things. To get back at him I logged into his email (he gave me his password previously) and wrote an email pretending to be him. The email detailed a drunken weekend out using recreational drugs, racist vents about my ex's then boss, and the last paragraph contained offensive remarks about the HR manager who recruited him. I sent it to the HR manager to make it look like he'd accidentally sent it to her instead of a friend, then deleted the email from his sent account. Naturally the company withdrew the job offer with the excuse that his position was no longer available. My ex was also not permitted to have his old job back, so he spent four months unemployed. To be honest, I feel no guilt over this event considering how much he lied to me, but something keeps nagging at me and I feel like I have to confess it to him. He probably has no idea what happened. Am I morally obliged to tell him, or should I keep it under wraps?
A: I always appreciate it when I hear from the people who behave horribly (the insanely jealous, the rageaholics) to get their perspective on what it's like to be the person who damages those around them. So thank you for this letter about your diabolical plot to try to destroy your ex's career. He cheated on you, which makes him a louse who you should have (and did) broken up with. If in the course of breaking up you broke a few of his plates or his high school football trophy, OK. But being cheated on does not then result in a free pass to try to annihilate his professional life. You say you don't feel guilty, but obviously you do because what you did justifiably nags at you. Your ex-boyfriend is lucky that your email only resulted in a short period of being out of work. The consequences of what you did could have dogged him for years; his former employer could be providing the kind of reference that sends someone permanently to the bread line.
It will be a very difficult conversation to have, but I think he's entitled to know why his great job offer was suddenly withdrawn and also be prepared in case this ugly episode re-emerges somehow. So tell him that in your rage at his cheating on you, you hacked his account and sent an inflammatory email to his former HR manager. You don't have to give chapter and verse of everything you said in the email, but adding an apology would be a good thing to do.
And please, everyone who is in love, keep in mind you can share your body and your soul with your beloved, but sharing your password is not such a good idea.
Dear Prudence: I'm Dating a Chimney!
Q. Stop Sending Me Presents!: When I had my first child I had dozens of family and friends sending flowers, gifts, and cards. They usually arrived as I was struggling to feed my newborn or just as I lay down to nap. The constant deliveries drove me crazy and combined with postnatal hormones, I went berserk at the never-ending ringing of the doorbell. I also found it stressful dealing with numerous phone calls throughout the day as family friends often called again and again until I picked up the phone. I'm about to give birth again next month and I really do not want anybody to send me anything. I don't want to be rude to people who are kindly sharing our delight in a new baby, but the one thing that will help me the most is for people to not phone me or send me anything. Is there any way of communicating this strongly but politely?
A: There really isn't a polite way of saying, "Please stop knitting those booties and monogramming those baby blankets because the sound of the UPS guy leaving your loving gift on my door makes me crazy." However, the advent of social media, which means it is expected that expectant mothers will post sonograms of their gestating offspring, as well as give everyone they know an eyeful of their swelling bellies, could be your ally here. Post to your network that they can go to your Facebook page for timely updates about the little one after you get home from the hospital, but that you ask their indulgence that in those first few hazy weeks you won't have the strength to talk on the phone. And keep in mind that having people who care about you and your child is the good kind of problem.
Q. Mother-in-Law Wants To Join Our Honeymoon!: My fiance and I are going to get married this year and plan to go to New Zealand for our honeymoon. Recently his mom was diagnosed with cancer and the outcome is bleak. The two of them had a lengthy conversation the other day about how she never flew on a plane or went on an overseas vacation—so now my fiance says he wants to take her. On our honeymoon. I want to support her as much as I can in her final year of life, but it is our HONEYMOON. Am I being selfish here?
A: Now is the time for your fiance to book tickets somewhere his mother always wanted to go—and since she's done very little traveling, that could be many places far easier to get to than New Zealand. Then the two of them should have a wonderful weeklong holiday together in Paris, or Barcelona, or wherever. That will then allow your fiance to go on his honeymoon alone with you guilt-free. No, you are not being selfish; even a mortally ill mother should not accompany her son on his honeymoon.
Q. Singing With Husband: My sweet, wonderful husband and I have a baby. We love to sing to the baby. Though my husband is a music lover, he is tone deaf. This never bothered me before—in fact, I always thought it was cute. But now, when we sing together to the baby, it's terrible! The song sounds awful, I change my pitch to match his, he changes his pitch to "match" mine ... there's no fixing it. I don't want to hurt his feelings, but I want to stop singing as soon as he starts. What to do?
A: In a few years when your child is old enough all of you can do what my family does on long car trips: have a "Worst Singer in the World" contest. I assure you your husband will not steal my crown. As I attempted to sing lullabies to our baby my husband would comment, "Do you know you sound like a police scanner searching for a frequency?" or "I thought the cat had swallowed poison and was dying." I do recall when our daughter was first born reading with alarm a study that said out-of-tune parents can imprint their a-tonality on their young children's brains, and that really shut me up for awhile. (My daughter, fortunately, ended up with a lovely voice.) However, if you husband wants to squawk to your baby it will probably do your child no harm. But you should be able to say in a loving, humorous way to him that your two-part harmonies are not harmonizing and that when you sing to your darling, you'd like to take turns doing it solo.