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. Girlfriend and Cat: I have been dating my girlfriend for three years, and I am mostly sure that this is the woman I will marry, except for one thing. The only thing we have any real disagreements about is our cat. She thinks it is just fine to kiss it right on the nose, repeatedly. She basically kisses it, and makes this "om nom nom" noise while doing so. I think it's gross, and she thinks my reaction is funny. I honestly feel ill when she does this, and can't stand the thought of kissing her afterward unless she washes up first. She thinks that makes me a loon. And yet, I can't help the ick factor. She has begun to wonder why we aren't engaged yet, and while it is quite true that I don't want to deal with wedding plans until I am done with grad school, the really big reason to me is I can't decide if this is a deal-breaker, or if I am being overly squeamish. So, please tell me, am I overreacting, or is she just being gross?
A: I understand your bafflement and distress. When kissing one's pets on the nose, the sound one makes should not be "om nom nom" but "num, num, nuu." Everyone knows that. I would feel better about your objection if you then said that your girlfriend suffers from constant bouts of feline-related flu. But it sounds as if she's just fine. This is no deal-breaker but one of life's little quirks that requires partners to indulge each other. So while you roll your eyes at her cat kisses, don't try to stop the smooching. And while she rolls her eyes at your hygiene commands, she rinses with mouth wash. This should make all three of you purr with contentment.
Dear Prudence: Young White Supremacist
Q. "What ifs" and "the one that got away": Nearly a decade ago, in the midst of a very long relationship, I had a brief affair with a woman I'll call B. B and I fell for each other fast and hard but after a few months she got tired of waiting for me to end my relationship with my then girlfriend and broke things off. Through the years, B and I kept in intermittent contact. I ultimately decided to leave my ex even though I knew a relationship with B wasn't possible at the time. It's now about a decade later and I have been in a relationship with my current girlfriend (A) for almost four years. Having been a serial cheater in my past relationships, I made a commitment to A and myself that I would never cheat again. Though I had given up hope of a relationship with B long ago, she still has a special place in my heart and we have spoken from time to time. A couple of weeks ago, B sent me an email that simply said "I miss you." I did not respond. I'm happy in my current relationship and don't want to jeopardize it, however, the "what ifs" have been nagging me ever since I read B's email. B's always been "the one that got away." The slightest thought that she may still be interested has made me question a lot of things about my life and happiness. My girlfriend and I have a house (in my name), pets, we share finances, and speak regularly about having children and getting married. Am I being completely idiotic for entertaining the thought of leaving and starting something with B, a woman that lives three time zones away who I can't seem to get over?
A: B remains that dazzling "what if" because you two never got past that thrilling stage of going at each other like ferrets in heat. By your own admission you get chronically itchy once things get too domestic and go lookin’ for the buzz that only a new relationship, preferably an illicit one, can offer. If you were to make B the main act in your life, believe me you'd find yourself inextricably drawn to X, Y, and Z. You decided to reform and make a commitment. Then a test arrived in the form of an email from B. Since you've remained friends with her, write back. Say it was nice to hear from her, but you are in a very happy relationship that you hope will go the distance. Say you will always think fondly of her, but you two have to remain to each other the ones that got away. Then end the correspondence. Put all your focus on a single letter of the alphabet; in this case it's easy to remember because it's A.
Q. Spoiled: My older brother has been treated like a king his entire life, both by my parents and one grandparent. We joke now about how my brother used to go on long weekend stays with my grandmother and come back with armfuls of toys and games, and I was never invited on such occasions and never allowed to share in his good fortune. (I can tell you that I wasn't laughing back then, and even the laughter now is tinged with a little bitterness.) To my parents, he is like the prodigal son who goes off, screws up, comes back, and the parents hold a party in his honor, except he's now done this multiple times, and my parents have had to "bail him out" for almost $100K over the years; meanwhile, they wouldn't help me with anything, not even college. My parents say it's because I was the responsible one: I didn't "need" it, so I didn't get it. I know that the thought is that since I did it on my own, I would feel more pride in my accomplishments, but I honestly don't. I constantly wonder why everything in my life has had to be so difficult while he has been skating through. How do I just get over this? I'm angry and bitter and I'm tired of being this way.
A: I completely understand your bitterness at this unequal treatment, but look where it's landed your brother. He's one of life's screw-ups. He's always been indulged and now he's apparently incapable of making his way in the world. There's no excuse for the ugly family dynamic of one child being the golden one and the other the goat. But as you demonstrate, sometimes the unfavored child comes out on top. You've worked hard for everything you've gotten; you were responsible for your own education, and now you've made your way in the world and don't need bailing out. Your family failed you, but you have succeeded in life. The best thing for you may be to put in place severe limits on your interactions with your family so that you enjoy what you've accomplished without constantly renewing the bitter taste they leave in your mouth. And since you cannot fully enjoy your own life, seek out a counselor who has a special interest in childhood neglect and abuse.
Q. Domestic Violence: Ten years ago a friend who I've known for 14 years told me her husband beats her. Through the years she's continued to keep me updated but in the past few months she's started texting me pictures of the abuse. He's her high school sweetheart, they don't have any kids, and he's now the sole provider (which wasn't always the case). The thing is she won't leave him because she doesn't want to leave her pets. I've tried to get her to leave repeatedly, but I don't know what to do. I have these pictures, but no proof that he committed these acts because she won't put his name on them, something that I gently suggested she should do for evidence or the police can't prosecute him. I toss and turn, at night worrying that one day I'm going to get a phone call telling me he killed her. What can I do?