Dear Prudence: My boyfriend is a reformed swinger.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 12 2011 3:30 PM

Am I Dating a Swinger?

Dear Prudence advises a woman who craves a monogamous relationship but can't seem to find one—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.

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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 prudence@slate.com.)

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A: Unless you work at the Republican National Committee or some other conservatively affiliated organization, people's personal political preferences should not be a criterion for employment or comfort in the workplace. Sure, people talk about all kinds of stuff at the office, but surely everyone has better things to do than sound like they're auditioning for Fox News. You should try to ignore most of it. Think how much productive you'll be if you focus on your work, and not the election. And you're the one who knows the dynamics of your workplace well enough to know whether, if the atmosphere gets too thick and vitriolic, it would advisable to talk to a supervisor about asking that there be some limits placed on the amount of political name-calling in the office.

Q. Defending My Food Choices: In the past year and a half, I've made some dramatic changes to my diet and my life. I've gone gluten free, lost over 50 pounds, and am more active and fit than I have ever been. However, I find I am constantly having to defend my food choices to others. Whether it is about cajoling me to eat something I can't eat ("Thanks, but I'm allergic to that"), what I am eating ("Full fat dairy can be part of a balanced diet"), or how much or how little I'm eating ("Thanks, but I make sure I eat enough/not too much") I'm getting sick of having to go into in-depth conversations of my methods of eating with every person who has a problem with a facet of my diet. I feel rude falling back on the "Mind your own business" tack, but I'm tired of having to explain myself to others. Can you think of any more tactful way to defuse these situations?

A: It is a mystery why people think they need to act as their friends' dietician, nonetheless it's common. You do not have to have long discussions about what you're eating or not eating. If they push food on you, all you have to say is, "No, thanks." If that provokes a diet diatribe, then reply: "Discussing what I eat is so boring. Seen any good movies lately ? I loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

Q. Husband's Affection Gone Overboard: I know your husband is very happy about your long-waited-for daughter, but he needs to see that what he's doing for her isn't going to make her happy in the long run. It's actually going to make her LESS happy. Some of the most content children on earth are children who play with rocks and sticks, while some of the most miserable are the "princesses" with everything. Happiness truly is about an attitude of gratitude, and if you get everything you want, you won't be grateful for what you have. Good luck at steering this Titanic away from the iceberg.

A: Exactly right about creating an entitled princess. Let's hope it won't be too hard to get Dad to see the potential harm he's doing.

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Q. Older Men: I'm in my 20s, a graduate student, and one of my professors is wonderful. I have a huge crush on him. He's very attractive, very smart, dresses nicely, has a lot of compassion, and is also very good at communicating (which is rare in my field). But he's also 45—I'm 23. He isn't married, but he has kids (teenagers). I think he also finds me attractive. I'm wondering if you think it would be inappropriate for me to (potentially) date this man—after I'm done taking his course, of course. I've never in my life been attracted to an older guy before—so I don't really know what to think!

A: I know there are many happily married couples with similar age differences, but I'm going to speak from my own experience. I spent most of my 20s dating older men (daddy issues, anyone?), and I really wish I had spent that time dating men my own age who were going through the same experiences I was. I totally understand the appeal of a mature, dashing older man over fellow twentysomethings who are still figuring things out. And, true, a fling with an older man can be instructive in many ways, and no doubt he finds you attractive. But I think you should just privately enjoy your crush, learn as much as you can from him in the classroom, and look to the young men around you who have the potential to grow into a middle-aged man you'd eventually like to be with.

Q. Politics in the Workplace: I'm the mirror image of the original poster—a Republican in a heavily liberal office. The poster said that there was a lot of "nasty name-calling and ugly generalizations." Are they directed at her? If not, I suggest she just grow a thicker skin and not care what these people think of her preferred political candidates. If she's not being personally insulted, then she can just shake her head at how close-minded these people are and (as you say) just ignore them.

A: Thanks for this wisdom. But as the election season heats up, it's also perfectly reasonable for there to be an office policy to minimize the political rhetoric at work.

Q. Overboard for Daughter: Maybe your husband can be encouraged to see that spending the money more wisely by, say, putting any extra you both can afford into a college savings plan would be much more helpful than buying her expensive toys now.

A: Excellent suggestion. Setting up a college fund would be a great way to redirect the tangible evidence of Daddy's love.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone! Talk to you next Monday.

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Emily Yoffe is the author of What the Dog Did: Tales From a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner. You can send your Dear Prudence questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

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