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: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.
Q. IVF Fundraising Party: I have a friend who is 26 and has been married for 23 months. She and her husband started trying to get pregnant right after they bought their house 20 months ago and did get pregnant but had an ectopic pregnancy and she lost the baby eight months ago. Now she has decided to take the step to do IVF because the stress of not getting pregnant is too much for her to stand. My issue is that she does not have the funds to pursue IVF, so she has fundraising parties. She sells home party items and all of the proceeds are going to her treatments. The first one she hosted herself and I went out of obligation. When you checked out and paid she gave you an item total then asked how much extra you would like to put directly toward her baby fund saying the standard was 20 percent of your item total. She then asked each person who would host a party for her fundraising efforts. When I informed her that I would not be hosting a party for her she got very upset and said I was not a good friend because I would not host and I only gave the minimum 20 percent additional to help her have a baby. Am I being selfish or is an IVF fundraising party as outrageous as it seems to me to be?
A: I wonder if at 26 she's explored all her medical alternatives for getting pregnant. But of course here we are speculating on your friend's medical decisions because she's made this profoundly personal question a matter of public obligation. I love her notion that the "standard" IVF tip for an item you didn't want in the first place is 20 percent. The woman's got chutzpah, I'll give her that. What she doesn't have, however, is the standing to insist that all her friends fund her fertility treatments. Wish her the best but continue to demur about hosting the Petri dish party. At the rate she's going, she should soon find herself fuming over all her selfish, former friends.
Dear Prudence: Desperate Single
Q. Not So Much a Cat Lover: I did not grow up with pets, am not a pet person, and am not used to all that comes with being a pet owner. Moving in with my boyfriend and his 6-year-old cat has been a slight adjustment. But I feel that I have been a good sport this past year of living together. I pet and play with the cat, brush her, give her treats, help feed her. I just really dislike the litter box and don't want to have the responsibility of cleaning it out. I ask my boyfriend to take care of this task. However, he gets a little huffy about my refusal to take turns cleaning out the litter box and often brings it up when we are doing household chores. I explain that I really dislike it, and this is his cat that he adopted four years before even meeting me, so it shouldn't be that much to ask that he continue to clean the litter box on his own. But still, I can tell that it bothers him and he feels the cat responsibilities should be split more evenly between the two of us. He does maintain sole financial responsibility for her. Any advice? Am I in the wrong?
A: He may want to offload her loads on you, but sorry, litter-box scooping is the responsibility of the original owner, especially if the new girlfriend is repelled by these duties. You can laugh and say you sure understand why he must be tired of the daily treasure hunt, but while you've come to enjoy Fifi, this is where you're drawing a line in the sand. Then ignore his huffing. And if his cat lives as long as my last one, he only has 15 more years of scooping ahead of him.
Q. Pedophile Co-worker: I am a team leader in a medium-sized arts organization. I recently discovered via Google that someone I work with closely, though only occasionally (several days a month), appears to have been convicted in the past several years for possessing an extensive quantity of truly disturbing child pornography. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was placed on probation. He was hired at a time when the organization needed someone to fill his role (which is a part-time substitute position) very urgently, and I am not sure due diligence was done as it would have been in a more formal hiring process. In any case, his ability to do the job, which he does well, is not related to his criminal past. He has little to no contact with minors at work. However, as the parent of three young children, I am revolted by the idea of working closely with this man, who is pleasant and chatty. Adding to the complexity, while his fairly uncommon name, age, and locale match that of the person in the Google search, I am aware that I have no evidence this is the same man. What do I do? Acting coldly toward him is not only potentially unfair, but jeopardizes my team's ability to do our job well, and will raise questions among other team members. Treating him warmly (if he is the same person) repels me. Do I bring this up with my supervisor? HR? On what grounds? And if they are aware of his (possible) past and chose to hire him anyway, how do I manage my own behavior going forward?
A: I'm left wondering what you mean when you say he has "little to no" contact with minors at work. That indicates there is some contact, and your company needs to know if the terms of his probation, if he is still on it, covers being around minors. I also don't know if your organization's policies would prevent having someone on the payroll who was convicted of a felony. It's also true that you haven't been able to confirm your suspicions. All this is sufficient grounds to go to your supervisor and say you stumbled upon this information, it is not substantiated, but you felt the organization should at the least know what you discovered. If they were aware of his past, or if they look into it and conclude his occasional work should continue (taking into account this issue of minors in the workplace), you put aside your personal feelings and act professionally. It should help if you can accept that he was caught and the criminal justice system rendered its judgment.
Q. Bad Time for a Baby: My husband and I have known each other more than four years, and have been married for almost one year. We are going through a rough patch, and have sought the help of a marriage counselor in addition to his personal therapist for anger management issues. While the frequency of our fights has diminished, I don't think we're yet at a comfortable place in the marriage to think about having any children (I brought my 5-year-old daughter into the marriage, so I'm honestly in no hurry right now). My husband, on the other hand, is desperate for children in the immediate future, and thinks that our relationship issues have no impact, because he grew up in a household where fighting was the norm, and thinks that it wouldn't impact our children at all. How do I get through to him that children won't make anything better, and could in fact make things worse?
A: If your husband, who has back-to-back therapists, has concluded that since his parents were at each other's throats, and so are you two, and all that is hunky dory for childrearing, he needs a lot more therapy or maybe a new set of therapists. I know people can change and grow, but from what you're describing I can't understand why you married him. There's nothing you've written that give me any hope he has the slightest understanding of what it takes to raise a child in a healthy home—which has me concerned about his effect on your little girl. If you have a marriage counselor, yet you feel you have to write to me for advice on saying, "You're too emotionally out of control for me to consider having a child with you," then you need to take a hard look at your situation. It would also be a good idea to double up on the birth control.