Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the 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 email@example.com.)
Emily Yoffe: At Rosh Hashanah services yesterday we read Hannah's story in Samuel. Hannah suffered from infertility and neither her husband nor the high priest gave her comfort because instead of truly listening to her distress, they were dishing bad advice based on selfish or wrong assumptions. A suitably chastening lesson I will keep in mind.
Q. Uncomfortable Work Situation: I have a wonderfully satisfying job at a small nonprofit organization. I love my co-workers and more importantly the cause we advance and the people whose lives we make better. But recently there was an incident with my boss, "Mr. Johnson." He's a great leader and we couldn't function without him, but he's also kind of forgetful and seems to always have his head in the clouds. Mr. Johnson frequently neglects to adjust his wardrobe so that his pants zipper is up after using the gentleman's room. After a meeting we had yesterday it also seem apparent that he doesn't always wear underwear as his bull escaped from the barn. It wasn't intentional or sexual in any way, but every time I see my boss I can only think of his privates that didn't keep so private. I'm not even sure if he noticed it got out when this happened as he didn't react or seem embarrassed. Should I talk directly to Mr. Johnson about this, or should I report the incident to his supervisor? Or should I just let it go and hope it never happens again?
A: Oh, yeah, sweet, absent-minded Mr. Johnson is so busy making the world better that he often forgets to keep his johnson in his pants. I have gotten so many letters about nutty people running around nonprofits that I am developing a theory that this field attracts loons because under the guise of doing good, they get to behave badly. Normally when a man realizes he's forgotten to zip his pants, the humiliation makes him want to secure his fly with a padlock. But there's Mr. Johnson letting it all hang out day after day, seemingly oblivious. If this guy is really that out of it, I wonder if he has the capacity to be running an organization. Alternately, he may be pretending to be a ding-dong because it's good cover for exposing his ding-dong. Since this has happened more than once, I think it's gotten past the point where someone needs to quietly mention, "Dick, your zipper is down." It's fair for you to go to a supervisor and say you are too uncomfortable to have this conversation with Mr. Johnson yourself, but he needs to be told that the wardrobe malfunctions must come to an end.
Dear Prudence: Supermodel Envy
Q. Crush's Gay Dads: I really like Audrey, a woman I met in one of my classes. We get along really well and have acknowledged we are attracted to one another. What stops me from asking her out is that she has two dads, and for religious and personal reasons I feel homosexuality is a sin. I do not treat gay people differently than straight people and I do not want harm to come to gay people. That said, I do not support gay marriage. Audrey is very outspoken about gay rights, and I worry that if we began dating I would have to compromise my beliefs to suit her. I know her dads did a great job raising her but on a basic level will never be comfortable with them. I really like Audrey, but is our potential relationship doomed from the start? I respect Audrey's right to believe what she believes and want her to respect my right to believe what I believe.
A: Leave Audrey alone. You're entitled to your beliefs, but it's ridiculous for you to get involved with a woman who in any way would have to defend her loving parents to you. In matters like this minds are changed one person at a time, so it's most unfortunate that knowing the background of this great woman hasn't made you question your own bigoted assumptions.
Q. Didn't Believe Rape Accusation: Seven years ago, when I was in college, I fell in love with and dated Hannah. We were together for almost two years, and I almost married her. Then she accused my best friend Anthony of raping her one night while she slept at our apartment; I was in my apartment's common area studying and didn't see anything. Anthony denied her accusations and told me she came on to him. Hannah did not have any signs of a struggle on her, and she had drunk a few glasses of wine, so I believed Anthony over her. I broke up with her, and many people shunned her when they learned that she accused Anthony of rape to cover up hitting on him. Anthony and I have remained good friends, and he and my wife Caroline get along really well. Two weeks ago, the police in our town arrested Anthony for raping two women. One was 17. He denies his guilt, but now I suspect I made a horrible mistake in trusting him. I am terrified Hannah was right and Anthony did rape her. Hannah never pressed charges so the police have no idea Anthony's been accused of rape before. I feel like I should tell them, but I don't want to harm Hannah any more. I also want to apologize to her, but maybe that's too much.
A: What a chilling conclusion to your youthful decision. I think that both the prosecutors and Hannah should know about this horrible turn of events. First you should contact Hannah. If it's possible, this is the kind of news that should be delivered in person. Yes, this will be a painful meeting, if she agrees to see you. If she doesn't want to talk to you, you must find some third party to get the news to her. You want to give her a warning that you feel you should tell the authorities about what happened to her seven years ago. As painful as reliving the entire episode may be for Hannah, it could also be therapeutic for her to tell her story to people who finally believe her.
Q. No Question, Just a Comment: When I adopted my first daughter, my adoption announcements were a paraphrase of Hannah's statement to the priest after Samuel was born: "I am a woman who stood praying to the Lord. It was this child I prayed for and the Lord has given me what I asked. What I asked, I have received, and now I lend her to the Lord. For her whole life she is lent to the Lord."
A: I've got tears in my eyes. Thank you for this.
Q. Opposite-Sexed Friends: My spouse has an opposite-sexed friend who doesn't behave well. This person has tried to snuggle with my spouse and hold my spouse's hand while socializing with the two of us. My spouse agrees this is not OK. My spouse clearly rebuffs the friend when physical contact is initiated but the friend does not take the hint. My spouse is willing to talk to the friend and say that they do not feel comfortable with what the friend does. If this does not work, is it OK for me to ask that we do not see this friend anymore? My spouse would be very sad to lose this friendship, and I want to be fair to everyone. What should I do?