Q. Re: Domestic Violence in Dorm: My friend heard domestic violence from our college dorm room during our senior year. She called the police. The next day there were sticky notes on every door in our building saying "thank you" to the unknown person who called the police. Please call the police.
Q. Stinky House: I have dear friend "Rachel" who generously fosters cats. The number of cats that she fosters has grown to around 15. She also has a dog and three cats of her own. Unfortunately, her house smells like it has 18 cats and a dog! She likes to entertain and has thrown holiday parties over the last few years. Each party has been more and more sparsely attended until this last party in which only one person of 20 invitees showed up. I, myself, also decided to go elsewhere. She is incredibly hurt by the fact that no one is coming to her parties and is at a loss to understand why. How do I diplomatically and gently tell her that reason why attendance is so low is because her house, literally, smells like crap?
A: See above letter. Substitute "dog's behavior" for "house smells like piss and crap." Before you do that, if you can find out what organization(s) she's fostering from contact the group(s) and explain your friend is way over the limit and the conditions are not good for animal or human. Your friend is crossing, or has crossed, into hoarding.
Q. Birthday Party Favoritism: The daughter of a friend of mine recently had her fifth birthday. At the party my friend caught her husband deliberately rigging a party game so that the birthday girl could win. When she spoke with him afterward, he said that it was a harmless way to make the day more special for her. As an ethics question, this has my group of friends pretty split. The mother of the birthday girl and my boyfriend both see this as spoiling a child, and being completely unnecessary. The father of the birthday girl and myself both see it as a harmless ego-boost. As the arbiter of manners and morals, where do you stand, Prudie?
A: Even the birthday girl has to learn to be a good loser. However, unless Dad tries to put the fix in on everything in his daughter's life, once everyone has stated their position, this is the kind of thing that should be dropped.
Q. Re: Domestic Violence through the walls: I would venture a guess that someone near Yeardley Love heard and saw the same thing and never spoke up. Please do for this young lady's sake.
A: Thank you for mentioning this. I thought of the horrific death of the beautiful, accomplished college student Yeardley Love at the hands of her boyfriend and classmate. More reason to always speak up about domestic violence.
Q. Absent Father: For my entire life, my father has been a drug addict. I have many memories of him stealing my things, disappearing for days, etc. Since I've become an adult (I'm 28 now), I've had limited contact with him as I realized he was not going to change his ways. A couple of years ago, however, he stopped responding to my messages. I accepted that this was for the best and moved on with my life. The other day, I received a Facebook message from a teenage girl who says she is my father's stepdaughter, and that she would like to get to know me better as well as put me back in contact with my father, going so far as to provide me with his cellphone number. I replied back to her that while I appreciate that she is just trying to do something nice for someone she cares about, that I am not going to reconnect. Now, she thinks that not only am I rejecting my father, but her as well. That is not my intention, but I don't know how to speak with her and not to my father, and I assume she will continue to try to get me to call him since she has already sent me two “guilt trip” messages telling me about how my father “cries to know” I don't want to speak to him. Do I owe something to this girl who seems to love my father, or can I block her from contacting me further with a clear conscience?
A: Sadly it sounds as if your father is up to his old, manipulative games. How dreadful of him to try to make his teenage stepdaughter his go-between, and use her to pressure you. You can send her one last note saying that you are glad to hear your father has been able to be an important person in her life, but it's not fair of him to make her try to get you two back together. Tell her as much as she cares for her stepdad, your lack of relationship with him is for many complicated reasons that you don't want to burden her with. Say you wish all of them the best, but not being is contact is the right decision for you. Then if the guilt trips continue, go ahead and block her.
Q. Re: Birthday Party Favoritism: How will the birthday girl feel when/if she finds out that her own father didn't trust her to win, and rigged the game?
A: I agree he shouldn't have done it, but one rigged game of pin the tail on the donkey should not ruin a childhood.
Q. Flirtatious Boyfriend: My boyfriend and I have been together for about eight months now. I am very happy with him. He is loving, attentive, caring, and overall a great boyfriend. The thing that bothers me is that he is very flirtatious with other women, even his female friends. He never does it in front of me, but I know he is like that. He is starting up his company and is now desperately looking to bring in sales. I know he flirts with female clients and other women who can potentially bring him some business. He calls it networking. Even though I don't quite like him flirting with other women I understand his point. The thing is, he left his phone at my place the other day and I felt curious; and even though I shouldn't have, I checked his messages. Most of the messages were from friends or family but there was one to some woman I never heard from in which they were talking about meeting for coffee. He was calling her pretty and beautiful, like, "Hello beautiful" and "You look very pretty in your picture." These messages bothered me. A part of me got very jealous as the messages weren't really clear what was the coffee meeting for. I don't want to think he is cheating on me, a part of me tells me this could be some "prospect client" but a part of me isn't so sure about it. Should I say something and if so, how? I know it was wrong checking his messages, how do I deal with this now?
A: "Hello beautiful" and "You look very pretty in your picture" sounds like pitches for a very special, one-on-one kind of service industry. Perhaps he's in the mattress-testing business. Sure you don't want to think he's cheating, but that's exactly what you do think. So tell him you snooped, that you found concerning evidence, and listen to what he has to say. Then be tough-minded enough to recognize when you're hearing baloney.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks everyone, talk to you next week.
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