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.)
See Emily live! She will be talking to Slate editor David Plotz and taking questions at Sixth and I in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11. For tickets and more information, click here.
Q. Help, My Husband Looks Ridiculous: My husband has been self-conscious about his crooked front teeth his whole life. He rarely ever smiles or shows his teeth. Once we were able to afford decent dental insurance our first priority was to have his teeth straightened. Imagine my surprise when he returned home from the orthodontist with gold-colored braces decorated with rhinestones. This is something called a "grill" and is very popular with rap musicians and professional athletes. My husband is a 42-year-old software engineer and we live in the heart of the Midwest. At first I thought it might be some kind of a joke—something that he'd bought that just slipped over his teeth but no—it's not a joke and they are semi-permanently attached to his teeth for the next 12–18 months. I'm embarrassed, our kids are embarrassed, his parents are confused, and my parents think he's lost his mind. I can only imagine what they think of them at his work. He says he loves them and they make him feel sexy. He also says that the people he encounters smile when they see them and he is not having them removed. He looks ridiculous and I find myself fantasizing about taking a pair of pliers to his mouth and removing them myself. What can I say to him to convince him to go back to the orthodontist and have these things replaced with something an adult should wear?
A: When my daughter wore braces I was surprised at how they have become a cosmetic accessory, coming in a rainbow of colors. I loved that instead of keeping their lips hugging their teeth for several years, the kids proudly showed off their fuchsia smiles. Your husband has been hiding his teeth for as long as he can remember. Now for the first time he is experiencing that when the smiles the world really notices and smiles back. I fully understand the bad taste his cheesy choice has left in your mouth, but as you've seen neither mockery, outrage, embarrassment, nor pliers have dissuaded your husband from being a grill master. As hard as it will be, it's time for you to shut your own mouth. One last time tell him you've made your displeasure clear, but since the braces are cemented in, you're going to try to live with it. It's possible that if all of you back off, and the thrill starts to wear off, when your husband goes in for orthodontic adjustment he comes back with something less rap and more software engineer.
Dear Prudence: Blackballed Son
Q. Gifts for the Host: I have a friend I have visited (and stayed with) once or twice a year for the past seven years. During visits where he was in a relationship, I would treat him to a few dinners and drinks during my extended weekend stay. When he has been single, we have always had sex. I would still buy him a drink or two, but I always assumed someone I was having (albeit casual) sex with did not require as many expressions of my gratitude for hosting. It's never seemed to be a problem, but I mentioned this to another friend during an appropriately themed conversation and he informed me that intercourse was not a substitution for flowers, dinners, or wine. I am visiting my (single) friend next week. Should I plan on bringing a gift to go along with any possible adult fun?
A: I'm wondering if this could be a special filter for Airbnb: number of bathrooms; proximity to a city; intercourse. I've read a lot of etiquette books and I can't remember the entry about gifts for the host when not only is he providing you with a bed, he is sharing it with you. You two certainly have a flexible understanding, but I think you should separate your gratitude for the place to crash from the crashing waves of sexual satisfaction. So arriving with a good bottle of wine will mean you're a thoughtful guest no matter what the sleeping arrangements. Then as the visit progresses you will have a better idea of what feels right as far as further thanks.
Q. Re: Grill master: Everyone needs a little crazy in life. If you've gotta wear braces as an adult, why not make a joke/statement out of it? Let him live. It might be the creative outlet he's been looking for, and at least it's not a stripper.
A: Good point. And finding the grill is hilarious might make the novelty wear off faster.
Q. Permatern: I'm a recent college graduate who has been job-hunting for the past 16 months. During this time I've done three internships, and it looks as if this one may actually have an opening. Trouble is, I've been placed on a job with another potential hire who doesn't seem to care about the job as much as I do. I've been consistently doing twice the work, putting in longer hours, and running myself ragged trying to impress my boss. Now I've learned that they want to hire both of us, and keep us working together. How should I explain to my supervisor that this work setup is awful, and how do I keep from exploding from all of the pressure of a potential job?
A: First get hired. Then have a conversation with your slacker co-worker and say you two need a clearer division of duties. Then go over daily and weekly expectations and say if he or she doesn't get the stuff done, you will not be able to keep doing it. Let's hope that's enough to get a change in attitude. If not, wait until a few egregious episodes occur, then go to your supervisor and say you need a clarification about how the office functions. Say that you've talked to your co-worker but you find you often have to scramble to cover that person's obligations and you're concerned that this takes time away from your own duties. Keep it cool and factual. Let's hope you have a boss who's good at fixing problems.