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. Hot and Bothered Volunteer: I met a celebrity through my volunteer work, and we have flirted ever since we met. I'm young, unattached, and enjoy the occasional one night stand. This man has made it clear he wants to wine and dine me and then take me back to his place, and I'd take him up on the offer—I’m wildly attracted to his intensity and his passion for this cause—except for his tumultuous past. You can't believe everything you read, but he has a pretty dodgy reputation, and his outbursts have sent him to jail before. He has always been kind to me and the people around me, but it's also difficult to ignore how poorly he's treated women in the past. Would I be a bad person if I threw caution to the wind and had a brief fling with this person? I'm not interested in his money, his fame, or having a future with him.
A: Don't leave us hanging! Who is it? Charlie Sheen? Mel Gibson? Mike Tyson? You hardly will be the first woman who wanted to throw caution, and her panties, to the wind in order to bed a sexy, bad-boy celebrity. But since you are hesitating, try to project yourself 10 years in the future and weigh whether you would see this fling as a fun memory, or a secret shame. If the former, go get wined and dined, and when it's time to cap off the evening, make sure your celebrity uses a condom.
Q. Did He Really Threaten Me?: My husband and I have been together for seven years, married for three. We are very happy together with no problems in our relationship. We get along great with each other's families and we have a wonderful circle of friends. We meet one couple, Jack and Jill, every Friday evening for dinner and drinks. They are a lot of fun and our best friends. A little over a week ago, Jack came to our house to tell us that Jill had left him for another guy. They have a 2-year-old daughter and always seemed to have a great relationship. Jack was devastated and my husband stayed up talking to him until very late. When he finally came to bed, I asked him if Jack was going to be okay and he didn't say anything for a minute, then he said that if I ever cheat on him or leave him for another man, he will kill me. I was shocked. My husband has never been the jealous or possessive type. He's never been controlling or aggressive or abusive. I knew he was very upset for Jack so I didn't say anything at the time but it really bothered me. I brought it up to him a few days later and told him how hurt and scared I was when he said that. I thought he would apologize but he didn't. He just said for me to not "make" him do it, then. I started crying and he said that he was only joking but he sure didn't look or sound like he was joking when he said it. We have even been talking about starting our family this year, but now I am full of doubts. Should I let this go as a bad joke, or should I take this threat seriously and insist on counseling?
A: It would have been a hideous thing for your husband to say even after being upset by seeing his friend Jack falling apart. But to repeat it a few days later is really disturbing. It is important that you've been together for a long time and he's not the jealous or possessive type. But I agree death threats are haunting things. I think you should tell him you just can't get what he said out of your mind, he knows it wasn't a joke, and you'd like to hash this out with a neutral party on a short-term basis because it's left you shaken.
Q. Boyfriend's Grieving in-Laws: I am dating a widower who is still very close to his late wife's parents and her brother's family. I respect his relationship with them and would love to get to know them, too. My boyfriend and I have been dating for more than a year and are in love, so it's not too pushy that I want to know them. They have no interest in knowing me, though. They have told my boyfriend multiple times that I am not welcome at the gatherings to which they invite him—birthdays, parties, memorials. When my boyfriend had his birthday and invited his in-laws, his late wife's mom burst into tears when she saw me and said she would leave unless I left. My boyfriend is bewildered by their behavior and apologizes profusely when they have a reaction to me. I know how difficult it would be for him to not have a relationship with his in-laws. But their behavior really hurts me. Am I unreasonable for asking them to at least be pleasant to me? Their daughter passed five years ago.
A: This is an interesting variation of the letter I usually get about women dating widowers. I most often hear that the new girlfriend wants to banish the memory of the late wife and doesn't like that the widower is still close to his late wife's family. But you, generously, are glad he has kept this connection and would like to get to know these people. Their behavior is indefensible. The death of child is not something you get over, you just get on. But only the most stuck or cold-hearted don't want the widower or widow to find new love. You leave out the most important piece of information—does your boyfriend have children? If so, then he is going to want his children to have a close, continuing relationship to their grandparents. But even if there are children, the in-laws' are being horrible. Your boyfriend's wife died five years ago. You have been seeing him for a year. It's way past time everyone accepted these facts, and if the in-laws want to have a relationship with their former son-in-law, then they need to wrap their minds around the new reality. You need to have a talk with your boyfriend in which you explain there doesn't seem to be any way forward for you with his late wife's family, and you hope he can talk to them about this. You need to tell your boyfriend you can't subject yourself to such treatment, that you understand he wants to continue to see these people, but you can't see them with him. They need to see the light, or your boyfriend needs to tell them their interaction is going to dwindle.
Q. Re: Volunteer: My great-aunt had an affair with Tyrone Power when she was a sweet young thing. Do it! It will become a cool family legend.
A: I bet that made you see auntie in a different light! Still, I think our letter writer should let us know who her bad boy is.
Q. Annoying, Competitive Parents: My daughter does dance (cultural) and loves it. The problem is that the nature of the dance is so competitive that I find there is friction between me and other parents. My daughter is not the best dancer in the school, but loves to dance. However, the parents of some of the other children go to the competitions and act like their kid if winning the Super Bowl every time they get a medal. My daughter is starting to feel quite sad about not being in the group that always wins and I am not sure how to help her handle it. The parents are obnoxious with their competitive nature and need to win at any cost. One of them actually said rather loudly "go so and so, I hope you get a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd." My daughter heard this and was upset that the parent didn't also encourage her. I encourage all the children, but find that some of the parents do not do so to my child. Any suggestions?
A: You need to talk to the people who run this activity. There should be clear rules for parental behavior and it sounds as if this bunch is violating them. You also need to tell your daughter you understand how these parents are making her feel bad, but they are in the wrong. Dance should be about love of creating something beautiful—which is what she is doing! —not a bunch of medals. Tell her you're proud of her for doing her best and loving what she does, and tell her you feel sorry for the parents who are ruining this activity for everyone. And if the whole organization's perspective is distorted, find another dance group that's about the skill and the joy.
Q. Son's Horrible Widow: My son died of cancer three years ago when his daughter was 4 and his son was 2. Shortly before his death he discovered his wife was cheating on him. She refused to end the affair because her partner gave her the emotional support she needed to care for my dying son; as a result, my son was miserable for the last few months of his life, and his marriage was in limbo when he died. A year after his death, my son's widow introduced her affair partner to her family, her friends, and eventually my grandchildren as her "new" boyfriend. It is very painful to watch the man who cuckolded my son assume his position in my son's family, but I remain civil to my daughter-in-law because otherwise I won't see my grandchildren. My son's widow now plans to marry her affair partner, and she and her new husband want my son's children to take the other man's last name and to adopt him. I am struggling very hard to accept my son's widow's attempts to make my grandchildren her affair partner's. What can and should I do?