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: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.
Q. Friend Has Revised One-Night Stand Story: A friend recently called me and said she had a one-night stand after drinking too much. She was beating herself up over drinking too much and going home with a guy she met at a bar. I reassured her that everyone makes mistakes and didn't think much more of the account. However, since then, she has told many people that she was a victim of date-rape—that the guy must have put something into her drink . She spoke to a rape crisis line, and they said even if she was drunk, she couldn't have given consent so she was a victim of rape. She now wants to press charges—she has the guy's business card. I have seen her very intoxicated on previous occasions, to the point she doesn't remember anything the next day. I'm not sure on what my response should be at this point. Pretend she never told me the original story?
A: Trying to ruin someone else's life is a poor way to address one's alcohol and self-control problems. Since her first version of the story is that she was ashamed of her behavior, and since you have seen her knee-walking drunk on other occasions, it sounds as if she wants to punish the guy at the bar for her own poor choices. Yes, I agree that men should not have sex with drunk women they don't know. But I think cases like the one you are describing here—in the absence of any evidence she was drugged—where someone voluntarily goes home with a stranger in order to have a sexual encounter, makes it that much harder for women who are assaulted to bring charges. Talk to your friend. Tell her that she needs to think very long and hard about filing a criminal complaint against this guy if there's any way her behavior could be construed to be consensual. Say you understand her shame, but you're concerned about her drinking, and if she addresses that, she won't find herself in such painful situations.
Q. Washington: This is about as rough as it gets, I think. For the last two years I've been in the best relationship of my life with a beautiful, fun, kind, smart woman. Honestly, I could go on and on. I just adore every fiber of her being, so why, you ask, am I devastated? She absolutely doesn't want children. I've known this for awhile. And I know that's something I absolutely do want out of life. It's an impasse, and after nearly a year of searching in vain for some middle road, I know I have to end the relationship. I just don't know how. How do I break the heart of this person I love so dearly?
A: It's a mutual heartbreak because having children is one of those make or break topics. You've both been honest with each other, given your relationship time, and it sounds as if both of you have been open about considering the other's perspective. But neither of you is willing to change your mind about something so fundamental. Because it seems unthinkable to end a gloriously happy relationship, I think you have to be firm about the finality of your romantic involvement. Sort of breaking up, then trying again because you miss each other so much, will only drag out the pain for years. Each of you wants and deserves a partner who shares your vision of what a fulfilling life should be. Investing more time in a relationship that won't get you there will just poison what you've had.
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Q. Baby Name Poaching?: Two years ago some family friends had a daughter and named her Mia. A few months ago my husband and I had our first child and named her Mia too. We named her after his sister, who introduced us and died from cancer two years ago. I've now found out, through mutual friends, that the other Mia's parents are angry, seriously angry, with my husband and I for "copying" their name. Some of our friends even seem to think we owe them an apology and should change our daughter's name. I never put much credence into so-called "baby name poaching"—but are we on the wrong side of an etiquette issue? My husband and I value the other couple's friendship, but we also love our daughter's name and its significance.
A: Momma Mia! Since every third girl is named Emily, maybe I should go a country-wide rampage against the parents who have made common my once-unusual name. And maybe Mia Farrow should sue both of you. Maybe everyone named Sue should sue the other parents who "stole" that name. The other Mia's parents are nutty, as are the friends who think you owe them an apology. If anyone brings this up again just smile and say you know there is room in this world for two more beautiful Mias.
Q. My Immature Sister's Petty Comments: My brother recently brought home his newest girlfriend. My family discovered she's a little person. We're a little surprised. My little sister, perhaps not the most mature 15-year-old in the world, thinks the relationship is "really weird." I know she and her friends have been making jokes at my brother and his girlfriend's expense. I'm worried my brother and his girlfriend will hear and feel (rightfully) offended. I am not sure what will make her listen to me, though, as I am not much older than her. Do you have advice?
A: Being obnoxious is almost a job description for a 15-year-old, and you can't control what she says with friends. But it's your parents’ job—and I hope they step up and discharge it—to explain to her that she is never, ever to make a disparaging remark to your brother's girlfriend, or to anyone, anytime, about their physical qualities, disabilities, race, accent, etc. So tell your parents about your concerns and ask them to speak to your sister so that she doesn't embarrass your family. And if you hear her making mocking remarks, keep it simple and say, "Mia, those kinds of comments just aren't acceptable."
Q. Daddy Issues: I fell in love with my husband in part because of how enthusiastically he fathered his son and daughter from his first marriage. I was so excited when I got pregnant with our first child, because I knew he would be a wonderful dad. At first he lavished our daughter with attention. But then something in him changed, and he became more focused on work and my stepchildren. I feel like our daughter became an embodiment of all the stress he felt over becoming a dad again: his financial obligations, still being a good dad to my stepchildren. When we learned I was pregnant with twins, my husband began working even more and spending more time with my stepchildren. He lives with our daughter but spends maybe five percent of his free time with her. She is three and a little too young to notice his behavior, but as a pregnant mother, I feel wounded. I have tried discussing how I can help him manage his stress, and I have asked him to spend more time with our daughter. I have tried showing him how we can afford our twins and daughter. But he doesn't take me seriously. What advice can you offer? I need him to spend more time with our daughter (and our twins when they're born) or I might leave him. Am I doing something wrong?
A: Think about the solution you're contemplating to the problem of your husband not spending enough time with your child. You want to blow up this marriage and raise your brood on your own with your stressed out husband trying to support three households and five children. Please get your husband to a counselor with you now. What you perceive as unfairness to your daughter might just be the fact that your husband is under enormous financial stress. It also could be that he feels your daughter is benefitting from being part of an intact family (for now), while his first set of children have to shuttle around and he's trying to compensate. Giving him ultimatums is not going to get you what you want. Having a third party help you both look at your situation objectively—and even help you see better ways to ease the stress and time management problems that go along with this—is really important for you to do now.
Q. RE: Daddy Issues: I like all the points you made, Prudie. Also, some dads (and moms, for that matter) just don't enjoy very little kids as much as older kids that can actually do activities. I think of my dad as a great father, but that's based on my memories of him from when I was school-aged. Having now seen him with my own daughter, I realize he's really not that into babies and toddlers and doesn't know what to do with them. I have also seen cases where the mother is so absorbed in the baby that the dad ends up feeling like there is nothing important he is "allowed" to contribute until the child gets older.
A: These are excellent points. It's true that some people—fathers and even mothers—are just not baby people and their kids become a lot more interesting the older they get. The mother would also do well to examine how she facilitates, or maybe unconsciously undermines, Dad's interactions.
Q. RE: Mia: "We named her after his sister, who introduced us and died from cancer two years ago. " I think the solution is just to put this fact out there, and if these people still think that you 'stole' the name and owe apologies, then you know just what caliber of people you're dealing with.