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. Look forward to your questions!
Q. Stripper for a Daughter: I had been struggling to make a living at my job for a few years now and decided to apply as a bartender at a local strip club. After a few days of working there, the manager said he was low on girls for the night and asked if I would like to dance for the night. I was a little hesitant at first but decided it was just one night. I ended up loving it and made around $800 in a few hours! We talked, and I became a dancer overnight. This was about a year ago. The other night while doing a set, one of my parents’ friends comes up to the stage and asks for a VIP dance. The entire time he was telling me how he wants a cut of my earnings to stay quiet and not tell my parents what I am doing! I either have to come clean to my parents (who are VERY religious and would disown me), quit my job and get further in debt, or start paying this guy half of my nightly earnings.
A: Is this guy married? If he makes his threat again you could offer this deal: You won't tell his wife that he's a customer of a strip club and you two will call it a draw. Tell the manager of the club who this guy is, that he is blackmailing you, and you would like him banned. In the movies, places of employment like yours have big guys with shaved heads who bodily escort such customers to the door. If this old creep does tell your parents, so be it. Hold your head (and your pasties) high and tell your parents the last thing you wanted to do was to have to ask them to bail you out financially. Say you understand they hate your moonlighting job, but you hope they can respect that you're an adult and your choices are your own. I hear that pole dancing classes are the latest fad in fitness, and if your mother doesn't flip out, maybe you can offer to give her and her friends some lessons.
Dear Prudence: Repulsive Co-Worker
Q. Asking About Children: Since when did it become rude to enquire if someone had children? While at a party I was talking to my friend about our kids. There was another person standing next to us (someone I met that evening), and not wanting to make her feel left out of the conversation, I turned to her and asked, "Do you have any children?” She immediately looked irritated and answered gruffly, "No. I never plan on having any, either" and walked away. Afterward I heard that she thought I was rude and invasive for asking a "personal question." Prudie, I don't care if someone I'd just met has twenty kids or none. I was simply trying to include her in the conversation. Having children is hardly a secretive or intimate piece of information, and I don't understand why it's inappropriate to ask in a casual way. Was I committing some faux pas with this question?
A: No, but the childfree can live in a state of perpetual interrogation about their reproductive choices and that gets wearying. However, it's ridiculous to assume an innocent, appropriate question is the opening of an inquisition. The other woman should have said something like, "I don't, but I have a niece your daughter's age, so I've heard a lot about this." If she wanted to take pre-emptive offense, she was the one being rude.
Q. My Husband Sleeps With His Mom: When my dad-in-law passed away unexpectedly, my mom-in-law didn't take it well at all. After we found out she was on medication for depression we suggested she stay with us for awhile. We live in a two bedroom house and I've been sleeping in our baby's room (he has major sleeping issues) and Mom was originally going to occupy the sofa bed. One night she went and slept next to my husband after complaining of a back ache, and she has been there ever since. I once walked into Mom and my husband chatting in bed like a married couple. He stroked her hair back affectionately, and I felt completely weirded out. When I was pregnant I couldn't sleep well because of cramps, and whenever I asked my husband for a massage he didn't even bother getting up. He's never even helped me with nighttime feeding, either. Yet whenever he senses mom is having sleeping problems, he'll wake up and make sure she's feeling OK. I feel a crazy sense of jealousy, and I feel incredibly angry. I don't know if I'm being petty, but it's been four months. Should I say something here?
A: If your husband and his mother have you convinced you're being petty because they are now sleeping together and stroking each other, it may be time to grab your baby and run. You need to take an immediate stand that even though you have an infant, your marriage is in jeopardy if his mother doesn't move back into her own place—today. If she goes, you two need some therapy to re-establish the rules of your relationship. If she won't, I'm afraid you need to talk to a lawyer. In addition, it's one thing to decide you want an infant to sleep in your room with you because it's more convenient—but you should be sleeping in the marital bed. If you want the baby in his own room, get a baby monitor. Reclaim your pillow tonight and tell Mom to start packing.
Q. Boyfriend's Toxic Friend: My boyfriend of one year recently became friends with Fred, who he met through co-workers. Fred has hung out with my boyfriend and me several times, bringing along his girlfriend. This would be fine except he treats this poor woman terribly—insulting her in public, telling people that she wouldn't go anywhere without him, and demeaning her to everyone within earshot. His comments about women in general are indicative of someone who is very controlling. Several friends have seen Fred in action and all agree with me that his behavior is not just annoying, but also disturbing. 1) How should I approach Fred's girlfriend. She is very sweet and doesn't stand up for herself. I've tried to befriend her, but she's very shy. 2) I am actually having doubts about my relationship with my boyfriend for actually being friends with Fred. I grew up in a household where my father was verbally abusive toward my mother and I am very sensitive to these interactions. My boyfriend is aware of my history but gets angry when I refuse to hang out with Fred, even though I've explained to him why I have trouble doing so. Am I being unreasonable?
A: You don't need a family history of verbal abuse to find it repugnant. There's something off with your boyfriend that he thinks his pal's behavior is just fine. Tell him that you find Fred's treatment of his girlfriend appalling and you won't hang out with him anymore. If that means you won't be hanging out with your boyfriend, it's better to learn his character after a year than after tying the knot.