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. Opposite Sex Roommate Troubles: I swear if this wasn't happening to me, I'd think this was a joke. I have a new roommate, two weeks new to be exact, and he had told me on three separate occasions that I cannot wear this particular perfume around him because he gets turned on and had trouble composing himself. The first time he said something asking the lines of "I don't want to be responsible for compromising your morals, heh, heh." He actually asked if I would go outside and spray it! If this were an allergy issue, I could understand. But I only spray it in my room, with the door shut, right before I leave. And it's a Bath & Body Works shower gel and bath spray, not Chanel No. 5. Am I in the wrong for not accommodating the request of a horny 23-year-old male? I am 32, and have made it perfectly clear that this is strictly a business arrangement, no romance involved.
A: If I were you I'd be tempted to switch from Bath & Body Works bath spray to good old Pepper Spray No. 5 and give him a shot right in the eyes. You are being threatened by your roommate in your own home. I know I will hear from the lawyers specializing in tenant rights, but this guy needs to be gone. If it's necessary to speed his departure, give him a full refund for the month and tell him you want him out. If he gives you trouble, you yourself might want to check with a lawyer about how to remove him. While you're waiting for him to go, you could get a jumbo container of Axe body spray and use it liberally. That might get him packed and heading for the door fast.
Dear Prudence: Culinary Madman
Q. Sick: I'm a twentysomething young professional with a job I really enjoy: My co-workers are great, there are growth opportunities, and I have a voice in what I work on. Over the past few months, I've been seriously ill and I'm not sure exactly how to address this with my managers so that I'm being appropriately open yet professional. It started with an extended hospitalization, and though I thought I would gradually get better, there have been complications that have resulted in a lot of missed work. When I am at work, sometimes I am unable to focus. I think I'm finally on the upswing, but I've thought that several times before. I want to ensure that my managers have whatever information they need, and that if they are concerned about the impact my health is having they let me know. How do I start that conversation?
A: In answer to a similar question about balancing illness and privacy in the workplace, I heard from employment attorney Philip J. Gordon who explained that managers cannot be expected to make accommodations for employees’ illnesses unless they actually know about the illnesses. So you need to have this conversation with your boss or bosses. This does not mean this has to become common knowledge in the office beyond what you want to explain. It's clear that you are doing everything possible to get back in the swing at work, but it's taking time because of medical complications. So explain that. I hope you will find your managers are supportive and sympathetic—and that you will finally be fully on the mend.
Q. Maybe There's Room for One More After All?: When my wife and I were married, we decided we didn't want children and have been adamant about that to all our friends and loved ones. We've been married for five years and I'm questioning that choice. First, how do I address this with my wife without causing a rift (we have great communication and are always open and honest). If she stands by no children, I'd be OK with it but maybe she's thinking the same thing? If we have a child, how do we address it with everyone else? It doesn't seem as simple as "We've changed our mind!" but possibly I'm overthinking.
A: If you have a decent marriage you address it by addressing it. All of us adamantly know many things about ourselves. But I've so often done things I've vowed I'd never do that I've given up vowing and have accepted that surprising oneself makes life more interesting. So present your thoughts by saying you never thought you'd find yourself saying this, but you've been thinking that being parents is something you want to reconsider. Since you don't know where this will go, do not worry about what people will say. But if it does lead to your having children, you don't owe anyone any explanation. I assure you that you will not be the first couple who were never going to have kids who end up pushing a giant cart up and down the aisles of Buy Buy Baby.
Q. Transgender Parent: My partner of five years and I are now attempting to have children. My partner underwent a sex change from a man to a woman a couple of years before we met. Although she was very happy with this decision, this is something we've divulged to very few individuals by her own choice—my mother is one of those who does know. In discussing parenting issues, my mother asked if we would tell our baby at some point that one of his/her mothers had once been a man. I immediately assumed we would, and said so, but when I went home and mentioned it to my partner, she became angered and said we most certainly would not! I was a little too shocked to continue the discussion, but I'm wondering what to say! I in no way shape or form think of my partner as a man, and I recognize that this decision was her own and incredibly personal, but I also feel that this was a huge part of her life that would be strange to entirely hide from our child. She spent more than 20 years of her life as a male—will we purge all photos from her past and cut off ties to everyone who knows? This may not have the same medical bearing as an adopted child knowing their parentage, but I feel it's important all the same! What should we do?