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. I look forward to your questions.
Q. Dancing Daughter: My only daughter recently came out to me as a stripper. For years she had said she worked in a standard office job. I feel as if I've been slapped in the face for all the years she lied to her father and me. I love her so much and this revelation has turned my world upside down. I had to tell my husband and he is furious and refuses to talk to her. Not only am I unsure as how to take this, but I don't know how to handle my husband. I don't want my family torn apart by this and I do not support her career choice. Help?
A: I understand that hearing that your daughter makes her living by taking off her clothes for leering men is a shock, but think of what it took for your daughter to finally reveal the truth. You and her father need to talk out your hurt and pain together, so that you can then go to your daughter and jointly say how hard you know it must have been for her to tell you this and that you appreciate her honesty. Then you can start a conversation about her life. The point you want to make—and which surely she knows—is that her job is not a long-term sustainable one. Say that you two want to support her in helping to figure out how to integrate back into the more traditional workplace so that she can find a more satisfying career. So put aside the judgment and the outrage. Slapping down your daughter will only make her regret coming clean.
Dear Prudence Live in New York: The Dirty Bra
Q. Married but Financially Separate: My husband and I have been married for five years and have totally separate finances—bank accounts, credit cards, nothing is shared. He makes significantly more money than I do and pays all of the bills with the exception of the mortgage, which I pay. He "gives" me money weekly for groceries and incidentals. Regardless, I am pretty much broke all of the time. We don't have a joint credit card or bank account and I get really resentful when he spends lots of money on something and I am relegated to the local discount store, a place he wouldn't consider gracing. He refuses to join our finances or have a joint credit card. This isn't a partnership. As he would say, what's mine is mine and what's yours is yours. Is he on a power trip or paranoid? I know I blew it by not discussing how we would handle our money before getting married but I didn't and now this is a serious issue for me.
A: Since you don't mention other more pleasant aspects of life that you do share, I'm wondering if there is any part of your union that does feel like a partnership. (I hope your weekly stipend isn't for services rendered.) If not, what are you doing in it? There is something you two need to do together and for which your husband should pay: marriage counseling. Tell him that you thought you married the handsome prince, but you feel like Cinderella before the ball. Explain that you have become so resentful of your disparate financial conditions that your marriage is at stake. Do keep in mind that since you are chronically broke, if you two do split, you're going to have to learn to live within your own means.
Q. Cousin Was Abused: My 24-year-old cousin was recently abused by her boyfriend. He broke her rib and wrist. She moved out of the house she shared with him and her two young children and moved in with her parents, but did not report him to the police because he told her if she didn't report him, he would buy her a car (which he did). She also didn't go to the hospital, I'm assuming because the doctors would recognize the signs of physical abuse and report him, so she's dealing with a broken wrist without medical attention. I feel as though I should make an anonymous call to the police and report him. The only problem is that I live 500 miles away and only occasionally talk to this cousin via Facebook and I heard this news from my mother, so the details could be muddled. I only know the man's name; I don't know his address or where he works or anything of the sort. My mother told me it was best to not get involved, but I feel terrible that this guy hurt someone so badly and has basically gotten off scot-free.
A: I totally agree he needs to be reported immediately, and my only additional suggestion is to first call the National Domestic Violence Hotline—1-800-799-SAFE (7233)—to get their advice on your best course of action given the secondhand nature of your information and your cousin's reluctance to get help. This man needs to be prosecuted and your cousin needs to see a doctor; she could be setting herself up for problems down the road if her bones don't heal properly. She also needs mental health care. If she's willing to risk her life for a car, she's got some deep-seated problems and I'm concerned about her competence as a mother. There's no easy answer here, sadly. But you've got to take action before your cousin gets back together with her boyfriend and endangers the lives of herself and her children.
Q. A Baby by Any Other Name: About nine years ago my husband found out about an affair I had been having with a co-worker. My stupid mistake almost cost me and my husband our marriage, but thankfully many counseling sessions and one branch change later I was finally able to regain his trust and we held our marriage together for us and our two kids. Fast-forward to now, my oldest daughter is pregnant with her first child and just told me that she and her husband have picked out a name for him, the same name as the guy with whom I had the affair. I am immensely worried that when my husband finds out his future grandson's name it will rip open an old wound and he'll start resenting me again or worse that being reminded of that painful time in our marriage every time he sees his grandson may cause him to love the baby less. Prudie, how do I get my daughter to reconsider her baby name without revealing my affair, which I know would crush her?
A: Unless your lover was named Crispin or Zebulon, there are many other people with XY chromosomes with the same name, some of whom your husband surely knows and may even work with. He can't go nuts every time he meets someone who shares the same first name as your paramour, so your worries may be strictly in your own head. Your affair ended nine years ago and your marriage was put back together. If your husband would be ripped up, or not love his grandson (!), because the child shares the name of your erstwhile lover, then your marriage is built on quicksand. What you do is say nothing. If your husband privately complains to you when he hears the baby's proposed name, you tell him that you understand it may sting, but once he sees darling baby Romulus, he will surely forget the world contains another one.