Help! Should I Offer To Pay for My Wife’s Plastic Surgery?

Advice on manners and morals.
March 22 2012 6:35 AM

Skin Deep

Should a husband tell his wife how he feels about her physical flaws?

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photograph by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I've been happily married for more than 10 years to a great woman, and we have two amazing kids. I still find my wife very attractive, and I enjoy our intimate sessions. There's one thing that I don't know how to address. My wife works out frequently and has a great body for a mom of two. However, she has a significant amount of cellulite in her thighs, mostly in the back and some on her buttocks. I know she's got an issue with it. If she's undressing in front of me or is in the bathroom naked, she always turns to make sure I'm not seeing her thighs. When swimming she wears a towel and takes it off just before she enters the water. We have never discussed this in all our years together. Her thighs are a bit of a turnoff, but not a deal killer. We can afford treatment to remove the cellulite, but I'm unsure how to best approach this option or create a space for her to come to the conclusion on her own. Or should I just ignore it?

—Unsure Husband

Dear Unsure,
You have come to the right place, because I have solved the problem of cellulite-ridden thighs and buttocks! My solution has been not to look at myself in a three-way mirror from behind for the past 10 years. I have no idea what’s going on back there. I’ll share another secret with you: Be grateful you’re not complaining to me that your wife has turned into an elephant seal, one who won’t have sex with you. Almost every woman has cellulite, the degree to which is partially genetic. I grew up near where the Boston Marathon is run, and one gratifying thing about going to cheer on the participants was seeing that even some women who run marathons have cellulite. It would be a relief for both of you if instead of covering herself in shame your wife could joke, “Do my thighs make you think of Pebble Beach?” But since she is uncomfortable about this, I think you should gently bring it up. Try not to mention the phrases “turnoff” and “deal killer.” Instead, say something like: “Sweetheart, I get the feeling you’re self-conscious about your thighs. You shouldn’t be. I hope you know you look incredible.” You’ll notice I skipped over your suggestion for getting her treatment for this totally normal condition. That’s because while there are plenty of treatments available, there is no guaranteed safe and effective one. In the years you and your wife have been together, perhaps your own hairline and waistline have shifted. But she’s probably done you the favor of accepting that while you’ve inevitably changed, you still look good to her. Instead of trying to fix her, embracing her, thighs and all, might make her feel more comfortable about her body, and that should turn both of you on.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence: Lying, Stinking Adulterer

Dear Prudie,
I'm a graduate student in evolutionary biology. I think science is the best way to understand the mechanisms by which the universe works. I also occasionally attend Catholic Mass and remain drawn to the story of Jesus. My problem is that the people I work with frequently say terribly insulting things about religion and religious people. Many members of my department seem to think that anyone who isn't a militant atheist must be a creationist. Usually, I just keep my mouth shut. Do you think I should continue to keep quiet when my co-workers insult religion, or is there something I could say to get them to stop, without making them dismiss me as a brainwashed idiot?

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—Praise the Lord and Pass The Origin of Species

Dear Praise,

Self-described “critical thinkers” can get mighty critical when someone thinks differently from the way they do. Every day they are at work trying to unravel the mechanisms of existence. You’d think they could accept without mockery that religion helps others get through their existence—and that turning to the comfort of religion doesn’t make one a creationist. Unfortunately, however, since you are just starting out in evolutionary biology, you don’t want to have your remarks twisted and office gossip turn you into a proselytizing defender of the faith. If you mostly keep quiet, don’t feel guilty. After all, this is just office chit-chat and your own faith is a private matter. But that doesn’t mean that when the moment seems right you shouldn’t speak up. Be ready to drop into a discussion the fact that a Pew Research Center poll of members of the American Association for Advancement of Science found that half of them believe in God or a higher power. Another time, you could mention that a successful scientific career and religious belief are not necessarily incompatible. Geneticist Francis Collins is a devout Christian and has written a book about being a believer and a scientist, The Language of God. That he’s also director of the National Institutes of Health should help clinch your case.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence:
I am in my late 20s, and I had a big fight with my adoptive mother. She and I have had a rocky relationship, which included verbal abuse during my teenage years. When I moved across the country to be with the man I eventually married, she said that I was an embarrassment and a disappointment to the family. I sent her an email saying she had hurt me, and she replied with more nasty comments and a demand that I not talk about her to anyone. I said I wanted an apology or I would cut off the relationship with her. I got an email back with information on my biological mother, information I neither asked for nor wanted. That was the last I heard from her. In the meantime, curiosity got the better of me and I have made an attempt to contact my biological mother. My question is twofold. If my biological mother decides to respond to my message and asks me about my adoptive family, what do I tell her without being disrespectful toward my mother? And what should I do about my adoptive mother? Should I cut her out of my life or try to explain again why I am looking for an apology?

—Not Knowing