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 email@example.com.)
Q. Mom Invading My "Office": I write about social issues for a blog aimed at young women (ages 16–25 or so). Unsurprisingly, this subject matter sometimes sparks heated debates in the comments on my posts. Here's the problem: My mom, who has a hard time understanding the concept of "boundaries," has gotten an account on the site and has started showing up in the comments, usually arguing with people who disagree with me. The worst part is, she does this under a username that identifies her AS MY MOTHER. I've told her repeatedly that this is inappropriate, embarrassing, and has to stop (or that if she has to comment, to at least pick an anonymous username), but she won't; usually she acts hurt, goes silent for a few weeks, and then just starts doing it again. I'm beside myself—it's humiliating, I'm worried that my boss is going to think I'm encouraging her to do this and let me go, and there's literally nothing I can do to stop her. Do you have any advice?
A: This is an excellent subject for one of your blog posts! Lots of young women are dealing with overbearing mothers and your take on it, and the discussion that follows could be most illuminating. First of all, consider that very few people are probably paying any attention to your mother's embarrassing comments. The next time she posts, try dealing with this with this with a little humor. After her rant goes up, go into the comments yourself and say, "Thanks, Mom. But really, I can handle this myself." Following that, have another discussion with her. You can agree that your website is open to everyone, but that she has to recognize this is your place of work. If you worked in an office, she wouldn't barge in and berate your co-workers. Explain what she's doing on the site is the equivalent. If that doesn't stop her, surely your tech people have the ability to ban disruptive commenters. So the next time she posts, flag her comment and ask that this woman's IP address be blocked. Unless your boss brings it up with you, I wouldn't raise the issue—it's hard to complain about your mother at work without sounding juvenile and defensive.
Dear Prudence: Creepy Crawly Guest Room
Q. Sister's Untreated Postpartum Depression: I visited my sister for the first time since she gave birth in April. I spent a week with her, and I came away with the impression that she has serious postpartum depression. She struggled to get out of bed, she would cry for hours, and she sometimes expressed the wish that she had died during birth. She also berated herself for not being a happier, healthier mom. When I expressed my concerns to her husband, he told me to mind my own business. My family lives on the opposite coast as my sister, and she gets her main support from her husband and his family, who live near them. I know from past conversations that my sister's husband does not believe in antidepressants or depression. He has said things like, "Everyone has bad days," and, "People need to be accountable and solve their problems on their own." I worry that my sister is not getting and will not get the support she needs to work through her depression. What can/should I do to help her?
A: Oh, great, she's married to an idiot, one who is potentially endangering the life of his wife and their child. You have plenty of evidence your sister has suicidal thoughts. I think you need to tell her you've been very concerned about her since your visit and if she won't discuss her psychological state with her doctor, you are going to call and alert her obstetrician. (Make sure you have the doctor's name before you let her know this.) If she begs you not to do this, say hearing her in this state is alarming to you, and only confirms she needs professional help. Tell her, if she were bleeding dangerously, you'd call 911, no matter if she begged you not to. I know you are far away, but you, or other family members, might just need to show up to make sure your sister is getting the professional attention she needs. Becoming a mother can be overwhelming, but thinking you should have died in childbirth is a medical emergency.
Q. Insecure Husband: I have suffered from endometriosis and ovarian cysts for 20 years and because of the different surgeries and treatments I have lost some sensation. This means that it much harder to enjoy myself in bed. I have tried to explain to my husband that this has nothing to do with him but he alternates between feelings of rejection and aggravation over my inability to enjoy "quickies" or any sex that does not involve extended foreplay and consequently I have little interest when he suggests having one. At the same time, I feel guilty with rejecting him when he so obviously wants to have that connection so I usually given in once or twice a week. I finally resorted to faking pleasure but I'm fairly certain he knows when I do. Is there a way I can explain things better to him so that he can understand?
A: That's a lot of bad sex you're enduring to keep your husband's moods from making you miserable. First of all, stop faking. If you still can fully enjoy sex, but it takes you some time and attention to get revved up, that should be an incentive your husband to go slow and have a truly erotic encounter. Wham, bam, is fine on occasion, but it should done in a spirit of mutuality. The pleasure then doesn't have to be an orgasm, it can just be fun of having a quick, caveman encounter. But your husband's attitude seems bullying and crude—he needs it, and he's going to get it. I think your problems in bed are reflective of more serious problems out of bed. You need to tell him you feel pressured and guilt-tripped about sex and you'd like to talk this out with a third party. If he won't go with you, explain this has become so troublesome to you, you're going by yourself.
Q. Re: To the blogger with the Mom-troll: I would take Prudie's advice one further and, truly, write about boundaries in one of your blog posts. Young women are often expected to tolerate boundary-crossing to a degree no one else tolerates (ex: getting hassled by strangers in public), so I'm sure you could find lots of material to work with. Then use your mother as an example of someone who doesn't seem able to hear your request for respect and distance. She can be Exhibit A for a discussion of how hard it is for some people to get the concept "no means no." Think of it as a gift: your mom providing the perfect source material. If she responds by saying she felt humiliated, you could tell her that she might now finally understand how you've been feeling.
A: I agree this is a good idea. Before she writes it, it's fair to give Mom a heads up and tell her that her struggles getting Mom to respect the boundaries of her workplace are going to be fodder for a new blog post.
Q. Re: Insecure Husband: I disagree a little with your response. It's normal to want to have spontaneous sex with your spouse and it's not necessarily a bad thing to "give in" and have sex where you don't necessarily achieve orgasm to make your spouse happy or just to enjoy the human contact. I had a friend who told me she couldn't achieve orgasm from intercourse alone, but still enjoyed it. There are additional things the LW can try to stimulate herself, or she could focus on the other pleasurable aspects of sex beyond orgasm.
A: We don't disagree, I said quickies can be fine and fun, even if all parties don't have an orgasm. And even inorgasmic sex can be lovely and intimate. What's not OK is for a husband to force himself on his wife twice a week in a sexual style that is frustrating for her because he is unwilling to be a more considerate lover.