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.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. I assume you're all honoring our presidents by going furniture shopping!
Q. Cross-Training Husband: My husband changed jobs and was very excited about one of the perks—time off for exercise. We have a treadmill and stationary bike at home, so he comes home early to work out instead of the gym. Yesterday while putting his shirts away I found a pile of women's workout clothes neatly folded hidden in the back of his closet. I confronted him about it fearing the worst, and he confessed they were his. He put them on to show they fit and said he only wore women's clothes while working out because it inspires him and "makes me feel like Bo Derek running on the beach in 10." He insisted I go through his closet to make sure that he had no other outfits. Prudie, I don't know how to handle this. On the one hand it was totally unexpected and I fear a slippery slope if I let him continue, but on the other hand, if he only does it at home and it gets him to stay fit, should I just let this slide?
A: I sincerely hope he's not going to grow out his hair and wear those Bo Derek braids. Sure, you've gotten a shock, and I can understand you're not fully convinced your husband is limiting his fantasy outfits to this singular occasion. But now that you know that he has what he claims is a very limited quirk, it's not really up to you to "let" him continue. You two need to have some more honest communication about this. Tell him you're shaken—surely he can appreciate this—and now that this is out of the gym bag, he really does owe it to you to talk more about the role dressing in women's clothes has in his life. If it's larger than inspiration for the treadmill, you should hash this out with a counselor. As for him as Bo Derek on the beach, you can say you're sorry but that the image of him in women's clothes is so disturbing to you that when he works out in them, it has to be at a time when he's out of your sight. I have heard from readers in which one partner has a kink that leaves the other cold, and they've just agreed not to bring it into their marriage as long as the person with the fetish doesn't cross any bright lines. And to put your discovery in perspective, consider whether you'd be more or less upset if you discovered the clothes belonged to a workout partner he'd fallen for.
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Q. Parties and Facebook: Is it even worth it anymore to ask people to not post photos on Facebook of your party with the title "At Mary's party"? The point is I've asked people numerous times not to mention to others I'm having a party to avoid hurt feelings (obviously, I cannot invite all 350 Facebook "friends" but do not want to hurt any feelings!). I had one friend ask a small group of people "So, who's going to Mary's party tomorrow night?!" And no, that particular group wasn't invited, although luckily they handled it well and basically told HER she was being rude (LOL, then they got invited). I've asked in many different ways for people not to post on their Facebook "going to Mary's party tonight!" and other such things, but it keeps coming up again and again in various forms. I was thinking of asking the offender to simply change the heading from "all the details of Mary's party that you weren't invited to" to "hanging out with Mary," since the photos only show a few people at a time, but at this point, I'm wondering if I'm fighting a losing battle and should just give up and let people go ahead and act like idiots and make other people feel bad and figure I can only do so much.
A: I will never understand people's need to document for all the world to see the amazing fact that they got invited to a party. If people thought through the implications for a moment about posting about the good time with the gang, they'd realize they're posting either to a) people who don't care, or b) are going to have a pang as to why they weren't invited. However, I think this is a hopeless cause and you'll just drive yourself crazy trying to police this. Hope that your large circle of friends are adults and they understand everyone can't be invited to everything, and that the majority of them, when they are invited, won't feel the need to post about it.
Q. Sick Play Date: I have a 1-year-old daughter. On my days off, I like to try to get together with my friend, Stacey, a stay-at-home mom, and her 2-year old daughter and 1-year-old son. About a month ago, I accepted an invitation to her house and took my daughter to play with her children. My daughter had a head-cold—runny nose, occasional cough. I didn't think it was a big deal since I would still have taken her to day care had it been a day that I was working. Unfortunately, in the next week and a half, Stacey's whole family came down with stomach bugs, severe colds, possible flu, and all kinds of ailments from which they have all since recovered. Last night I sent Stacey an email to see if she wanted to get together today and she sent back a message asking if my daughter was "healthy, no runny noses or coughs" because she "can't have her family getting sick." Was I wrong to take my daughter to play with a head cold? Or is she out of line asking for a health report whenever we get together? For what it's worth, I don't think my daughter's cold was responsible for all of their ailments, it's cold and flu season after all!
A: Maybe you were absent the day "the germ theory" got presented at school. Of course there's no way avoid all respiratory and stomach distress when you have little children. But you're absolutely going to get get other people creamed with one if you bring over a snotty, germ-spewing child for a play date. (And I'd check with your day care provider about their rules about sending in sick children.) Stacy's response was perfectly reasonable.
Q. Husband's Family: I have been with my husband for 10 years and we have a 3-year-old daughter together. About two years ago, I had a falling out with my mother-in-law, words were exchanged, we argued, we discussed it and got over it. The relationship is not the same as before, but we are OK with each other, spend holidays together, etc. The problem is, my husband's family can’t seem to get over this incident. Some of his relatives’ attitude completely changed toward me in the sense that they limit themselves to a hello and do not go beyond that. One of the sister-in-laws does not even speak to me at times even though we both have daughters of the same age and might find something in common there. I can understand their anger toward me, but I cannot stand the attitude toward my daughter. I clearly see favoritism between my daughter and her cousin. The family celebrates every little thing this child does. My daughter just learned to write her name and I think it's such a big deal, but other than the grandparents, no one else seemed to care. Even when they greet both girls, I see a difference. I feel there is more love. How can I end this or turn it around?
A: It really is your husband's job to talk to his family about how their coolness toward you is affecting his child. But I wouldn't expect much from this grudge-holding group. On the other hand, you have to stop measuring the audience reaction as if your daughter and her cousin are contestants on American Idol. Yes, learning to write your name is a big deal and putting the results of this effort up on the refrigerator will be gratifying for your daughter. But expecting your in-laws to have a fireworks display for her every accomplishment is only going to make you resentful which will ultimately make your child miserable. If your husband's family can't treat you with minimal respect, you have to limit your time with them. But you also have to stop looking for slights on behalf of your daughter. Unless the disparity between the children's treatment is obvious and gross, your daughter will likely feel fine when she visits your husband's family.