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.)
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Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.
Q. Rapport With Partner, Fashion Problems: My wonderful husband has this obsession with my boobs. After breast-feeding a few kids, they are not so discreet and tiny anymore, and frankly I'm not very happy with the new bulkier look. I used to be a small B, now I'm a solid C. My husband likes them like this, but I feel suffocated by his attention to them. Anything that is not a turtleneck gets the once-over and basically a passive-aggressive comment like, "You feel OK wearing that top?" At which point I generally say I do, sometimes asking him if he thinks it's too flashy and he reassures me that it's OK as long as I feel OK. At this point I go change because I don't want him thinking I'm trying to flash his mom at the family lunch or something. What can I do to get him off my back—err, chest? I'm modest, but I'm getting fed up with feeling like I never manage to dress appropriately.
A: So he's thrilled with your expansion, but is also strangely unsupportive of it. If I'm understanding you right, it sounds as if he wants to keep your cup size a family secret (or two family secrets). A healthy interest in and pleasure in each other's bodies is good for a marriage. An obsession over one body part isn't. From now on, instead of slinking away and changing, stand firm. Explain you're a grown woman and you don't want to hear undermining commentary every time you wear an outfit that is two steps away from a burqa. I hope your change in attitude has him looking at you like a deer caught in the headlights. As for you, there are a lot of physical changes women undergo because of childbirth. But instead of bemoaning your enhanced state, accept that yours is a development many women would envy.
Dear Prudence: Boss Turned Cougar
Q. Breast-feeding: I wanted nothing more than to be able to breast-feed my child. I had a medical condition develop postpartum that physically prevented me from doing so—my milk never came in due to this condition. I tried pumping, medication, and several lactation consultants, but nothing worked. It took me almost a year to come to terms with this problem because I was absolutely heartbroken. My partner now has a negative view of breast-feeding and sometimes comments to other breast-feeding parents about how miserable our baby was when I was nursing, which is true as I didn't meet his nutritional needs. I'd prefer to just not discuss the issue around others, because I'm still emotional. My child is now a toddler and I'm happy to no longer deal with the breast-feeding questions. How can I make my partner understand this?
A: I wonder if "I'm living with a boob" is going to be the theme of the day. You are making me so happy to be beyond the breast-feeding, toilet-training conversation stage of life and into the SAT-prep, college-touring maelstrom. Sure, you wanted to breast-feed, but given your physical limitations the choice was a bottle or starvation. So be glad healthy, nutritious food was available for your child and stop dwelling on your breasts. Many women want to deliver vaginally, but end up have C-sections for medical reasons. Again, that's better than having a catastrophic outcome. As for your partner, tell him or her that the commentary to other parents is intrusive and uncomfortable. Your child couldn't be breast-fed, other children can. What a revelation! Your child is very young, so please, right now commit to not being the kinds of parents who obsess about every milestone ("Isabella is speaking in full sentences, but our Aiden is just saying, bah, bah, bah, bah") making you, your child, and everyone else miserable.
Q. Relationship Woes: I am in a relationship with a wonderful man whom I've been close friends with for about five years. He and my son love to spend time together, and we are talking about a future together. Here's the problem: When I met him, he was best friends with my ex-boyfriend. Because of this, none of his friends condone our relationship (although they do acknowledge that they've never seen their friend so happy). Their social group took some hits after my breakup with my (abusive) ex, when he cut out everyone who was associated with me. I don't want to isolate the wonderful man that I am with now by ignoring the problem with his friends. How do I win them over?
A: This sounds like a social group that's worth ditching. First of all, there's nothing amiss with two single people dating each other who met through a group of friends, even if one previously dated someone else in the gang. Second of all, your abusive ex sounds like a controlling creep not just in private, but across the board. Too bad his group isn't telling him to lay off. I hope your boyfriend's social circle extends beyond this dysfunctional one. Instead of trying to win these people back, you and your boyfriend should look to stretch your social wings and make dates to get together with people less swayed by a big bully.
Q. Re: Fashion Problems: I too grew a full cup size after having my son. However, my husband truly likes it and, though he doesn't encourage it, he doesn't get upset if I wear a V-neck out of the house. I am the one who is annoyed with them! They get in my way and I would wear sports bras to try to minimize them. Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine who suggested getting a professional bra fitting done. I did and have found that a properly fitted bra makes all the difference! They still get in my way, but I don't look like "super boob" when I am wearing spaghetti straps!
A: Another woman who thinks her new cup size is a total bust! Good advice that proper fitting and support is a must.