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. I'm Delaying Marriage Because of My Dog. Am I Crazy?: I have a 9-year-old cocker spaniel. I've raised him since he was a puppy and I think of him as my four-legged son. However, my boyfriend of 10 months is allergic to dogs. He also dislikes them. He was attacked by one as a child and now won't go near dogs at all. As such, he almost never comes to my place. We are very committed to each other and wish to get married soon. But the problem is that I can't allow myself to give my beloved doggy away to another family. He has a few medical problems related to age and the vet has told me he will probably live another two years or so, although of course nobody knows for sure. I've asked my boyfriend if we could delay our marriage until my dog dies, and he thinks I'm crazy. We both want to have kids soon, but considering I'm now 34 and he's 40, my boyfriend doesn't want to wait another two years. He understands that I love my dog, but he thinks marriage is more important and I should just find another loving family for him. I feel heartbroken at the very idea. Am I really nuts for putting my furry baby ahead of human babies?
A: Your boyfriend sounds as if he's being overly dogmatic. If I were you, I'd like some more confirmation that your boyfriend is actually allergic to dogs. If he was attacked as a child and has avoided them for the rest of his life, I'm wondering if he truly knows he has allergies, or that is just a more convincing way of keeping dogs at bay than saying he was traumatized as a kid and has never gotten over it. However, your plan to wait until your beloved pooch dies before you move on with your reproductive plans is ill-conceived. You'd be astounded, with medical advances and the potential of large veterinary bills, how much life can be eked out of an ailing, aging dog—and 9 is not that old. As your dog is declining, so is your fertility. You might easily be able to have children in your later 30s, but if you know you want them now and you've found the partner you want them with, it's not a good idea to wait.
Perhaps you can have your dog bathed and then the three of you can go for a walk. He'll see how unthreatening your baby is, and maybe he won't start wheezing. Perhaps if you move it together, your dog can be limited to certain areas of the house. Possibly your boyfriend can investigate allergy shots (if he really is allergic). I think he owes you the opportunity to have it all—his love, your children, and your short-timer of a cocker spaniel.
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Q. Leave Me Alone Now!!: Last week I got very drunk at a party, and my girlfriends asked our friend "Stewart" to take me back to my apartment. Stewart has harbored a not-so-secret crush on me since our freshman year in college. I have no memories of that night after my third drink, but when I woke up the next morning Stewart was naked in my bed, and it was obvious we'd had sex. He told me the night before that I'd come onto him when we got back to my apartment, and he thought I meant it. He admitted that he was fairly sober during the encounter. I would never sleep with Stewart if I were sober, and I feel violated because he had sex with me when I wasn't fully cognizant and because he had promised my friends he'd take care of me. I never said the word rape, and I'm not sure I'm comfortable classifying what happened to me as rape. But I still feel violated and no longer want Stewart in my life. Even though I've told him how I feel and have asked him to leave me alone, he keeps calling me. He's very upset. He said I'm treating him unfairly and that a guy who kicked a female friend to the curb after a "one night stand" would be classified as a real jerk. He told me I asked him to have sex with me, so I was part of what happened, and a mature person would be more accountable. I just want him to leave me alone, but I don't know how to get him to go away without turning this into a big mess.
A: It sure sounds like rape to me. He knows you, knows you are not interested in him, knows you were drunk and therefore not able to give consent, and he accepted being tasked with getting you home because you were in a diminished state. Now he is harassing you for more sex. I've stated before that I think it's very important for women going out for the night not to get so drunk that they are not capable of exercising judgment about themselves (well, this goes for men, too). I'm more concerned about women because being in a walking blackout puts them at risk for rape. I've also said that I'm concerned about mutual, drunken consent being turned into a rape accusation if there are regrets the morning after. But your case sounds quite clear cut—Stewart knew your condition and had nonconsensual sex with you. He also sounds like a disturbed creep. I think you should at the least call a rape crisis center and describe what happened and get some advice on your legal options. Given the passage of time and evidence, it might be hard to make a rape case, but it's possible calling the police could be your next step, if you so choose. If you don't want to make this a criminal matter, you might want a lawyer to send Stewart a letter explaining his contact with you must cease.
Q. Family Competition: I am a recent college graduate and I was lucky enough to find a job before graduation. I will be teaching in a middle school and am very excited. As many people know, teachers do not get paid a whole lot in comparison to a lot of other degrees. That's where my family comes in. My cousin graduated a few years ago and has landed a wonderful job making $80K a year and she is only 24. I, however, am 22 and am making about $30K a year. My aunt and uncle constantly tell people how disappointed they were because I "only" became a teacher when I "had potential for so much more." They also love to brag about how their daughter makes so much money and she's barely out of college. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching and I know this is the career path I want to take, but how do I deal with these snide remarks from my aunt and uncle? I've tried the whole "this is what I love" thing and they just brush me off. It hurts deeply to be compared based solely on the fact of how much money I make (and I've only been out of college for a month!).
A: If your aunt and uncle are going around bragging about their daughter's salary and disparaging yours, you don't have to do anything because they are making fools of themselves. When they bring this up to you at family events, just say, "Interesting. Excuse me while I get something to eat." If you're going to be a middle-school teacher, you're going to need to gracefully handle people who have no idea how to behave!
Q. Potential Co-Worker From Hell: I graduated from college last May and was lucky enough to find a job in my field soon after graduation. My boss is now looking to hire another young engineer, which I was really excited about, since everyone else in my group is closer in age to my parents. However, I recently realized that one of the more promising candidates is someone I had the misfortune of working on a semester-long project with. "Mike" was the team member from hell. He frequently blew off our meetings and was extremely unreliable. It got to the point where our team just stopped asking him to participate because we knew he wouldn't do what was asked of him. Everyone knows the job market is tough for new grads, so I would feel really awful if I sabotaged Mike's chances to get this job. At the same time, the idea of working with him is a little terrifying. Should I tell my boss about my experiences with Mike, or should I keep my mouth shut and hope my boss figures out on his own that Mike isn't a good fit?
A: If you know that someone is going to undermine your office's ability to get its work done, you need to speak. Because of liability issues (I know lawyers will weigh in), you have to speak carefully. Ask to have a private conversation with your boss. Say you're excited about having another young engineer join your group, but you were concerned when you found out Mike was a candidate. Give a brief outline of working with him and say he was unable to help complete the project with your group and working with him was very difficult. Your boss should feel grateful that you're saving everyone from the employee from hell.
Q. Disturbing Pictures and a Serious Dilemma: I was doing some work for my father on his personal computer and discovered disturbing photos of women—under the skirt, you get the idea. It was clear these were taken without their knowledge. One blurred shot had a woman's face which I recognized as that of my stepsister "Jill." Her mom and my dad met when we were in our early 20s (almost 10 years ago) so it doesn't involve any minors, but that doesn't make it any less disturbing for me. I confronted my father who confessed he used to take secret shots of unsuspecting women, including Jill. He broke down and said this was when he was a different man—he thought he deleted those pictures, but obviously missed one folder. I know my father was molested as a child by a caregiver, and he battled alcoholism. He also used to be verbally abusive to us when we were children. He received intensive therapy years ago after he married my stepmom and has been sober since. He made amends with me and my siblings over the years and we've come to develop a decent relationship. He begged me not to tell anyone, especially my stepmom and Jill. He is scared that he would lose his marriage because of the person he used to be, when he—and our family—know he's a different man. But I still feel disgusted and even guilty. I feel as though I have an obligation to tell Jill that this happened. I certainly wouldn't want to have any kind of a relationship with a person who used to take pictures of me secretly, even if they no longer do it. But I know this will bring serious repercussions on the family. What should I do?