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. Husband Hates My Glasses: My husband and I have worn glasses since we were teens. We're now in our mid-30s and have two boys together. A few years ago, he started feeling really uncomfortable to be in glasses. He doesn't like how he looks in pictures with them. He tried contacts, and didn't like them. Last year, he went for eye laser surgery, and he has been happy with his vision and feels good about himself. Since then, once in a while he would ask me if I wanted to get the laser surgery as well. I said no. I'm comfortable with the way I am. The past few months though, he's grown more persistent in wanting me to either change to contacts or getting the surgery, because he said the glasses make my eyes look small. I'm Asian, so I think it's just how I was born. He pointed out a photo where he said I look like I was sleeping, while in fact I was smiling at the time. Prudie, how can I ask him to stop? I'm really comfortable with my glasses, and really if we have the money for the expensive laser eye surgery, I'd rather spend it on a nice family vacation.
A: From the sound of your letter your husband is not Asian, so it's a bit of a shock to hear that after many years of marriage he is just discovering that Asian eyes have an epicanthic fold. If a co-worker repeatedly pointed out his interesting observations about the size of your eyes, or that when you smile your eyes make it look like you're sleeping, you'd probably be marching over to HR. It's great that your husband is happy with his change. But pressuring one's spouse to have elective surgery for cosmetic reasons is a very dangerous game. Tell him the conversation about your eyes is closed. And if his commentary won't stop (and are the kids hearing any of this?) tell him you two need outside help.
Dear Prudence: Lesbian on the Brink
Q. Acquaintance With Drinking Problem Wants to Reconnect: I have an acquaintance with a child my son's age. They played together in preschool and kindergarten and she and I were friendly. But her son was not always a good playmate for mine, so we started drifting a bit. After not seeing them for a while, I had coffee with her and she confessed that she had a fairly serious drinking problem and admitted to drinking during the day, including when she was driving. I was floored and very freaked out, as I had trusted her to drive my son and hers to things like play dates. One of these play dates included a baseball game where she told me my son had wandered off and she lost him for a minute, and then proceeded to tell me she thought he had some kind of attention disorder and that she thought he should see a neurologist (she is a doctor). Now, of course, I am wondering if she was drunk and simply lost him at the game. My dilemma is that she has been inviting me and my son out a lot lately. She has gone through rehab and is trying to put her life together, but I am so angry and alarmed at the possibility that she have been intoxicated when my son was under her care that I don't really want to see her anymore. So I have two questions: Am I just being mean and unforgiving, and how, if at all, do I explain to her why I don't want to socialize anymore?
A: It's kind of a miracle this woman doesn't have her own entry in the CDC's mortality and morbidity statistics. So she's a doctor who likes to drive drunk with the kids! At least she confessed to you so that you can make your own considered decision. I hope what she made clear was that she is now sober and maintaining it. (If she was telling you she's still driving drunk, then you have an obligation to pursue this with the appropriate authorities—school officials, her physician partners, etc.) Since your kid doesn't like her kid and since you no longer trust her, you can have a blunt talk with her. Tell her you are having a hard time getting over finding out she drove drunk with your child. Tell her that you appreciate her coming clean with you, you are very glad she's gotten help, and you fervently hope she can stay sober. But right now your friendship needs a hiatus.
Q. Childhood Bully Running for Office: I recently found out via Facebook that the man who bullied me when I was a teenager is running for public office. At that time he was extremely cruel and acted violently toward me. We spoke once after I graduated from high school, but I've never understood why he targeted me and he seemed to have no remorse. I'd like to make public what he did to me in order to ensure that he doesn't become an elected official. Would it be appropriate to write a letter to the editor of the local paper? I'm already planning on donating what I can to his opponent, but since I live out of town I can't work for him.
A: During Mitt Romney's presidential campaign one profile of him contained an ugly story about a high school hazing incident he and some other students committed against another boy in their class, who later came out as gay. There was debate about whether exploring a candidate's teenage behavior (as long as it's not criminal) is fair game as a measure of someone's character. There was also debate in this column recently about whether the cheated-upon girlfriend of a candidate for state Legislature should reveal his work in the pornography business.
I think people are entitled to grow and change and not have their pasts constantly tossed in their faces. But good luck with that in the Facebook era. What you describe sounds as if it went beyond the typical high school bully jerk, especially since you mention violence. People who are running for public office have to know that they are putting their whole lives out there for public assessment—ask Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner. But how much the public cares about someone's past is also proportional to the office. If this guy is running for some local office, not very many people are going to be paying that much attention. You could write your letter, but there's no guarantee it would run. If it does, your bully could say he's sorry if a high school classmate continues to think ill of him all these years later, he doesn't remember these incidents, he apologizes if he behaved badly all those years ago, and he wishes his former classmate well. Then you are going to look like someone who never got over high school and the voters are not going to care. Weigh carefully the cost to you of taking this public. Talk to some trusted friends about what happened and whether they think you should go ahead and reveal your story. And if you're going to try to help get this guy's opponent elected, you could also have a confidential conversation with that person's campaign manager about why you feel so strongly your classmate shouldn't be in office. The campaign manager will be in a good position to weigh this opposition research and how useful and relevant it might be.