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 look forward to your questions.
Q. Single Dads and Sleepovers: I'm a single dad raising four girls. My oldest is turning 12, and she wants to have a sleepover party at our home. My concern is would other parents think it's inappropriate for a single dad to supervise all the kids? I haven't had the opportunity to know other parents very well, but most know I'm a single dad. Should I have a female friend stay the night and help me supervise to put other parents at ease? I just want my daughter to have a great birthday, and I'm worried her friends' parents will say no because they feel uncomfortable about a man looking after the kids by himself.
A: Unfortunately, I have heard from people who refuse to let their daughters stay the night at the home of a child being raised by a father, not because the father makes them uncomfortable in any way, but solely because he's a man. This is ugly and pernicious, and I'm hoping the other parents in your circle are not like that. I don't think you should mention your single status at all nor should you bring in a surrogate "wife" to ease the concerns of the other parents. If a single dad explained to me that he was doing this, that information itself would actually make me uneasy. Just come up with a guest list and send the invites, and with a houseful of 12-year-olds, in addition to your other three excited daughters, expect to get very little sleep, Dad.
Dear Prudence Live in New York: Prudie’s Toughest Question
Q. Stinky, Sensitive Husband: I'm concerned about my husband of nearly six years. Recently, his hygiene has taken a hit. He's showering maybe every three days, has let his hair become unkempt, has infected toenails he won't treat, etc. I don't think that he's depressed, but he is (and always has been) very sensitive about any comments regarding his appearance. When I try to kindly mention that fungal infections are easily treatable or invite him along to get a haircut with me, he says that I'm being critical of him, and he becomes very defensive. I'm honestly not trying to be critical, but I find myself becoming less attracted to his grungy appearance. Is there a way I can help him clean up without causing offense, or do you think he's simply "given up" after being married for a few years?
A: Letting standard hygiene go is a warning sign of mental illness. If your husband has fallen into a clinical depression or has some other kind of mental troubles, defensiveness would be part of the problem. Shift the conversation away from his appearance and to your concern about his health. Gently say it's not like him to not be unclean or to let an infection fester. Say you're worried and you would like to make an appointment for him with his physician, and go with him to talk to the doctor. (I have suggested many times a concerned loved one accompany people to doctor's appointments and gotten feedback that this is inappropriate or violates HIPAA privacy rules. But as long as the patient agrees to let a loved one sit in, no privacy is being violated. And there can be occasions at which it is helpful for doctor, and patient, to get the feedback of another perspective.) If he utterly refuses, then you have to tell him that he may not understand the seriousness of your concern, but this turn in his behavior has you worried about the foundations of your marriage.
Q. Relationships and Sex: I've been dating a wonderful woman for 3 1/2 years (we're both 27) and am strongly considering marriage. We're both committed Christians, which has been a deep source of our compatibility. However, I'm concerned about our sex life after marriage, since we've decided to wait to go all the way until then. My current girlfriend isn't nearly as physical as I am, and I don't want to take the plunge and have a major aspect of our relationship potentially lacking. I suggested we may want to go to couples counseling to talk through her feelings and our issues as a couple, but I am not sure what to do.
A: If you're a reader of this column, you must know you've come to the wrong place for support of virginity until marriage. I get that there is a religious underpinning to this, but seriously, won't God give you a pass if you take the plunge before taking the plunge? Of course, no matter how well you know each other, all marriages are a bit of a gamble—the mystery of another person is part of what makes marriage fun. But even factoring in the stumbling-around virgin factor, finding out on your wedding day that you seem to be incompatible in bed has to put a damper on how you view the rest of your life. You're already getting the sense that your girlfriend is happy to keep her virginity because sexuality is troubling to her. That should be troubling to you, and I think you not only need to talk about this but take this issue to its logical conclusion.
Q. Office Crush: I developed a crush on a married co-worker "Jason" shortly after I was hired one year ago. Since he is married, I have been very careful to hide my feelings and not stir up any trouble. To my knowledge, I have been 100 percent successful. But Jason and I have a lot in common, and lately he has been inviting me out after work. As much as I would enjoy his friendship and company, I do not want to go. I am worried that if we end up alone together I am going to jump him. So far I have excused myself by saying, "Sorry, I agreed to help a friend <insert whatever> that night." But if he keeps asking me, eventually I am going to run out of excuses. He is of the rare breed—mature, gentle, and honorable—and if I told him the truth, I am sure he would be discreet and politely respect my wishes. However I suspect he is unhappy with his marriage, and the thought of a beautiful young woman pining over him is bound to stir fantasies, doubts, and crack any rifts further open. If I told him I am just not comfortable one-on-one with any man and not to take it personally, he wouldn't believe me since I have several other platonic friendships. How do I handle this situation without it blowing up in my face?
A: Stop coming up with excuses about helping a friend "insert whatever" and let Jason bluntly know that he's not going to insert his whatever. I can tell you that you haven't been 100 percent successful in hiding your desire. Jason has picked up the vibe emanating from you, Ms. Beautiful, and despite his being "mature, gentle, honorable" and married, he's been incessantly asking you out on dates. Next time say, "Jason, I'm uncomfortable with your asking me out after work, so that has to stop." Then find someone more appropriate to be an object of your desire.