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. Rape "Lies" and a Baby: I was raped four years ago and became pregnant. Eventually a paternity test proved the rapist and not my husband was my baby's father. The rapist was never caught, so I have no idea who my child's biological father was. My husband decided before we knew our baby's paternity to raise and love him no matter what. We initially agreed not to tell anyone about our baby's origins, so we could eventually control if and how we told our son. My husband told my mother-in-law, though—and since then she has tried to convince him that I "cried rape" to cover up an affair. She thinks I knew about the pregnancy, faked a rape, and have been duping my husband into raising another man's child. She seems to love her grandson, but she also judges me harshly and behaves rudely toward me because of her beliefs. Sadly, I think a small part of my husband believes her. He pushes me for painful details of my rape and becomes suspicious when I do not immediately supply them. I don't know what to do. I love my son beyond all else. Being raped was hell, and it hurts so badly that my husband thinks I'd lie about it.
A: I'm so sorry for your trauma, and I'm assuming that following your rape you called the police. I hope your husband was by your side through this ordeal—which certainly should have made very clear to him that you were criminally assaulted. Even at this late date, you need support. Start by calling RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network to discuss finding a counselor and possibly a support group. Instead of enduring your husband's badgering, you need help getting him to understand how to help you recover from your assault, how you two keep your marriage strong, and how you tell your son about his origins. You both made a decision to raise and love your son. But this is being undermined by the vile accusations of your mother-in-law. After you and your husband get some counseling, ask the counselor for advice on your husband dealing with his mother. The message she has to receive is that either she shuts up and starts behaving decently, or all of you won't be seeing her.
Dear Prudence: Hair-Raising Dilemma
Q. Loud Yawning: My partner is incredibly awesome in every way—except one: He yawns louder and more ridiculously than anyone I know. When we're outside or with company, he may do a quiet, discreet yawn. But when it's just him and I at home, relaxing. then his yawns couldn't be louder and larger-than-life. Sometimes when I'm in a really good mood, I actually find it hilarious that out of nowhere, I hear "YEEEAAAWWWWWHHHHHHHHHH!" from several rooms over. But, more often than not this loud, random, long noise is startling and annoying. Even worse? It's not always the same noise—sometimes it's long and stretched out (like above), other times it's short and staccato-like, such as "YAH!" and other times they're the kind of sound that cartoon character makes falling down a well "EEEEEeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhuuuuh ............" I've told him that I find these noises unpleasant and often upsetting (every night or two, basically my partner randomly shouts) and how I wished he'd stop. He says that's just how he yawns. But! I say, if he can yawn like a normal person in public, then he can yawn like a normal person at home. What say you, Prudie?
A: There are lots of things people suppress in public that they let fly at home. If you think you've got a problem, go to the Dear Prudence archives and use the keyword "fart." So your partner occasionally sounds like a lion on the veldt. Let him enjoy this piece of wildness and don't try to tame it out of him.
Q. 71-Year-Old Dating 29-Year-Old: My parents had been married for 38 years when my mother died suddenly in 2007. Her death was a huge loss for my family. Over the years, my brother, other family members, and I have let my dad know that we'd be OK if he decided to date. He always said he could never find someone like my mom. Imagine my delight when he recently told me he found someone very special! That delight turned to shock when my 71-year-old father told me that he's dating a 29-year-old! (I'm 40.) I don't know what to do. I really cannot be supportive of this relationship but at the same time he seems very happy.
A: I can imagine he's happy. She’s probably happy, too, because your father is suave, sophisticated, and so much more mature than the average twentysomething. Then there's the size of his bank account! I'm relieved you don't mention that you're concerned that this granddaughter-aged girlfriend is going to work her way through your inheritance. Unless your father is mentally incompetent, which you also don't indicate, there's nothing for you to do. If he brings up his romantic life, you can say, "You seem very happy," then decline to hear more.
Q. Comments About Race: I'm a black male college student. In what's an apparent shock to everyone around me, I never did pick up on slang and I speak very proper English. The problem is that I'm now at a university in which I am the only black student and a large number of the other students seem to be taking an inappropriate fascination to how well I disprove the stereotypes. I get comments like, "You're one of the only black people I talk to, and I could easily confuse you for being white," or "all black people should be like you." It's almost like they think I should be honored that they've actually accepted one of my kind into their elitist group. And while I'm sure the other students think they're handing me compliments, I find these comments particularly aggravating. What is a quick response I can have at the ready that will squash the comments without creating conflict?
A: The admissions office at your university has a lot of work to do if they are unable to attract a racially mixed student body. I would be tempted to say back, "And I hope all white people are not like you." But you want to make your way through this place with as little hassle and possible. You could try something like, "I know you think you're giving me a compliment. But what you've just said is actually very demeaning to black people." Then let them sputter.
Q. Is My Child Intolerant?: My daughter Penny's first grade class visits her school's special education students twice a week. When they return from their visits, they get to eat their afternoon snack. Last week Penny was hungry and asked her teacher when they would return to their classroom. Her teacher chastised her for being rude and made Penny apologize to both classes. Penny was humiliated. Her teacher has now called a meeting with my husband and me because she thinks Penny is intolerant of her mentally delayed classmates. Last month I guess Penny asked a student in the special education class to not blow his nose on his sleeve. I'm having a hard time seeing how Penny's behavior is intolerant, but maybe I'm too biased in her favor. In your professional opinion, is Penny's teacher right?