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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Q. Kink Disclosure: I recently started dating a new girl. I'd known her and secretly loved her for years and our friendship has blossomed into an amazing relationship. It's still young, but seems to be getting serious fairly quickly. I love everything about her and we get along unbelievably well. My only problem is, I'm a little kinky and I have this “fetish,” you could call it. It is very common as far as fetishes go—the most common, I've read, and it's perfectly harmless in my opinion. It's something I would enjoy in addition to our already healthy and amazing sex life. I have not yet had a chance to tell her about this kink of mine, although I thought I'd dropped some hints. The problem is, in a group discussion about “adult themes” she expressed total disgust with people who were into this particular fetish. I didn't bring it up, someone else did. I'm a little lost with how to proceed. It's certainly not a deal-breaker and I could just try and ignore or suppress it, but I fear, down the road I might seek out other avenues to fulfill that desire (not with another person, via pornography) and I don't want to run that risk. I'm typically pretty open about these things but her comments have me apprehensive about how I can go about letting her know this about me without grossing her out or scaring her off. What should I do?
A: I'd wish you'd told us what your kink is: Plushies? Handcuffs? Rubber gloves? I'd also like to hear how you dropped hints about your fetish: "I was thinking that a fun thing we could do over the weekend is to take a drive and see local wineries. Then that night I could dress up as Rocky Raccoon, and you could put on some rubber gloves and handcuff me to the bed." Thank you for giving me an opportunity to express one of the rules of sexual behavior I've gleaned from this column. That is, if you have a fetish, that's news the other person needs to hear before your relationship gets serious and sexual. I have heard from too many people who had fallen deeply in love then found themselves blindsided by their partner's new, and to them awful, demands. If you bring this up early enough your new love can say, "Sounds like fun, let's try it," or "I appreciate your telling me, but I'm sorry I find that to be a massive turn-off." You've waited too long, but tell your girlfriend now, before she stumbles on your fetish website and you are forced into a long overdue talk.
Dear Prudence: Litterbug Smoker
Q. These Eyes Do Lie: I'm madly in love with this funny, sweet and cute guy! I feel we were made for each other in every single way, except one. My eyes. He adores girls with blue eyes, and I'm brown-eyed. The problem is I found this out from a friend (who set us up on a blind date) before I had even met him in person. So on our first date I wore colored contacts, and as far as he knows, I have beautiful sapphire blue eyes, which he told me he loves and gazes into lovingly. We've been going out for a couple of months now, and I think things are going to get real serious between us, but I'm afraid he might not love me anymore if I reveal my true eye color. I think he'll probably think of it as lying to him. Prudie, I didn't think we'd ever go this far (do blind dates ever work?) or I would have been upfront to begin with. I would honestly rather use these contacts for as long as our relationship lasts, but I'm not sure how long I can pull this off. Do I have to come clean, and if so, how can I keep from looking too silly?
A: Leave your contacts out one day, buy the Van Morrison CD with "Brown Eyed Girl" on it, hand it to your boyfriend, bat your eyelashes, and say there's something you've got to show him. Look, I sympathize with your situation. My mother has spectacular turquoise eyes, my father had small brown ones. Guess what I got? Yes, I was robbed of my baby blues, but I've never gone the contacts route because it would seem kind of silly to at the end of each day to Cinderella-like revert to a brown pumpkin. But eye color is a deeply trivial matter, and if this makes a difference to your guy, then you didn't want to get serious with him anyway.
Q. Furry Problem: Last year, my boyfriend wanted to have sex with me in my Halloween costume. I was dressed up as a cat. I went along with it, and I thought that was it, except for some inside jokes here and there. But now he's pestering me to get another costume this year, and he's put a lot of thought into it. He wants me to dress up as a fox, and this costume includes an accessory that doubles as a sex toy, and I'm not OK with it. Plus, he wants to role play—as in me crawling on all fours, and he catches me—you can imagine. I'm less and less comfortable with this. He thinks since I went along last year, that I'm into this sort of thing, and I'm just not. Help!
A: It may be possible you are the girlfriend of the letter writer with the kink, and "Hey, foxy lady, I want to have sex with a fox," is your boyfriend's idea of dropping a hint. Time for that long-overdue talk about paraphilias and how you are uninterested in his. You need to tell him that Halloween comes once a year and even when it does, you aren't interested in being his trick.
Q. No Wine at the Wedding?: My fiancé's father is a recovering alcoholic. He's been dry for one year, but stays strictly away from any functions that serve alcohol. He chose not to attend our engagement party for this reason and we respected his decision. The problem is, he asked us not to serve alcohol at our wedding. He says if we do, he cannot go because it would risk his recovery. My parents are bewildered at the idea of not serving any alcohol at our wedding. They think we will come across as stingy and very odd if we had a wedding at a hotel with just juice and soft drinks. My fiancé thinks we shouldn't have alcohol at our wedding so his father can attend. My parents think my future FIL is making an unreasonable request. They asked if there were other ways around it, like bringing his recovery mentor/therapist to the wedding or assigning a relative to watch over him and make sure he doesn't drink. Is there any compromise to this problem?
A: If your future father-in-law cannot be anyplace that alcohol is consumed then he has a long way to go in his recovery. I agree that bringing a support person is a good compromise because sooner or later your father-in-law is going to have to learn to go out to dinner with friends who want a glass of wine with their meal. If a wedding is not the place for him to try this, then as with the engagement party it's sad he won't be able to attend. Your fiancé should tell him that when you two get back from your honeymoon, you will take him to dinner and raise a glass of cider to celebrate.
Q. Re: Brown eyed girl: Your colored contacts are no more deceitful than a push-up bra.
A: I basically agree, but lots of people are slamming the letter writer for her lying eyes.
Q. Tacky Halloween Costume: I am having a problem with my three daughters. They have been watching a new "reality" show. The family in this show is crude, very poor, and spends ridiculous amounts of time and money on pageants for their youngest daughter. My girls have decided that they want to dress up as this family for Halloween. I am not comfortable with this, as I think it is mocking and in poor taste. My girls don't see it that way. They think it is funny. One of them wants to dress up as the mother of this family—she is over 300 pounds, and she seems to burp and sneeze whenever she is on camera. Another wants to dress up as the pageant daughter—in full regalia. The third wants to dress up as the oldest daughter, who was pregnant and just had her baby. This child has a minor birth defect, and they plan on using this in the costume too. They've already modified a doll to be the new baby. They are practicing using Southern accents, adding in bad grammar and crude slang to imitate these people. I can't seem to get my wife on board to veto this tacky idea; she actually thinks it's funny, too. Am I being a big grouch, or am I right that this will completely offend our neighbors?
A: I agree with you that dressing up as Honey Boo Boo and family is a tasteless mistake. It's not a matter of offending the neighbors, it's a matter of explaining to the kids that even though these people are on television, they are real human beings leading dysfunctional, even depraved lives. You understand the impulse to laugh, but mocking the poor, uneducated, and disabled will make your own children appear mean and insensitive.
Q. Re: Kink Disclosure: Don't you think you had a kind of mocking tone there? C'mon. We all have something (sometimes deep) in our psyche.
A: Yes, and what goes on in one's head is fortunately encased in a skull so our little private movies are just that. The problem is when your partner become Cecil B. DeMille and recruits you to star in an actual production of "Plushies in Chains."
Q. The Cock Doesn't Crow: Our neighbors bought several chickens and a rooster and raise their own fresh, organic eggs. The rooster would wake us up every morning before dawn and crow incessantly throughout the day. I gave my teenage son a BB gun for his birthday, and not long afterward the neighbor's rooster went missing. I asked him if he had anything to do with the rooster's disappearance (for which I am very grateful) and he denies having anything to do with it. Unfortunately, my neighbors are convinced that he killed their rooster, despite having no evidence to support their claim. They are insisting that my son replace the bird, but I don't think that would be fair unless we were sure he did it. Besides, I'm enjoying the peace and quiet. We have put up with the neighbor's noise to keep the peace, but I don't want to take this. Is it ok for us to stand our ground this time?
A: Speaking of foxes, I assume people who raise chickens understand that incessant crowing is a siren song to predators for miles around—and I don't mean kids with BB guns. A fox or a dog could easily have taken out your local Chanticleer. Stand your ground (not in the Florida sense, just the moral one) and tell your neighbors your son has denied any involvement, they have zero evidence, and they just need to be more attentive to guarding the hen house.
Q. Re: For the alcoholic FIL: Perhaps some of the other guests at the party don't drink much and they could have a designated sober table (with all of the guests agreeing of course). That way he wouldn't feel alone. There are always people at a wedding who don't drink.
A: Good idea, thanks.
Q. Tried To Help Someone Out: My son has a friend who is a good kid. I knew the friend's mother and she lost her home and job. She told me that she was trying to get her housecleaning business off of the ground and even though I don't need someone to clean my house, I hired her to help her out. She is a single mom, and my mom was, too, so I have a soft spot for ladies in that position. I've also loaned her money (which I don't expect to see again but I wanted to help her child). Long story short, I recently realized that she has been stealing from me, mostly jewelry that I don't wear much but has great sentimental value to me. Obviously, I can't have her clean my home any longer, but how do I handle things so that her child is not hurt?
A: You're entitled to contact the police, but even if you don't want to, you should fire this woman immediately. When do so, you can tell her that you're sorry for her situation, but items have started going missing and you're letting her go. You don't have to say anything to her son, and he can continue to come over. Just bring him to the door to meet his mother when she picks him up.
Q. Husband's Prejudiced Grandfather Ruined Wedding: My husband's grandpa has always made uncomfortable racial comments. In the privacy of his home, I'd keep my mouth shut and not say anything, as I knew it would cause a rift in my own relationship. I was married a month ago, and three of the couples invited were gay and lesbian friends of ours. Another couple, my cousin and her girlfriend, also attended. During the dancing at the wedding, my husband's grandpa approached my cousin and asked, "Are you a boy or a girl?" She answered him politely. Later on in the evening, he was retelling this in a crowd and blurted out, while I was in earshot, "It told me it was a girl. I can't believe those (epithet)s throw it in our faces out in public." I was furious—and pulled him aside to tell him how hurtful his comments were. He left in a huff with my husband's grandma. It has been three weeks since we got back from our honeymoon, and my husband's family has gone almost completely silent on us. Except for one message from my husband's grandmother, who has asked me to apologize to her husband! She's either gotten a very edited story of what happened, or she's a fool along with her husband. I haven't responded. What should I do?
A: Where's your new husband? He needs to respond to his grandmother's message by explaining to her that grandpa repeatedly, and loudly, insulted your friends at the wedding and that you quite properly pulled grandpa aside and told him to cut it out. If your husband's family wants to cut you two out because you refuse to be entertained by racist and homophobic rants, then that frees up a lot of time to be with more agreeable people.
Q. Am I Unfaithful?: My husband was laid off, and has been feeling worthless and struggling with unemployment. At the same time, I have a very fulfilling friendship with a guy on the other side of the country. We IM and text all the time, and he makes me feel happy. It's not romantic (although he does make me feel like a desirable woman again). I love my husband, and what I want most is for him to be feel good about himself, and for us to be happy—but I worry I'm being unfaithful, being so close and getting so much support from my friend, while I try to help my husband. I find myself looking forward to his calls, and think of him a lot—I feel as though I should cut him off, but I really don't want to, he's really helping me at the moment.
A: It sounds as if you'd have some serious explaining to do if your husband saw the written evidence of this guy's "support." You probably know that if he weren't across the country, he'd be "supporting" you in a hands-on fashion. Yes, it's a drag being with someone who is feeling worthless. But if you're wondering in writing whether your behavior is a violation of your husband's trust, you already know the answer.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.
In a new approach, we’re publishing the chat transcript in shorter, more digestible pieces. You will still be getting all the questions and answers, and we may even publish bonus letters Prudie didn’t get to address during the chat hour.