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.)
Q. Should I Come Clean?: My identical twin brother had a drunken one-night stand with a woman two years ago. When asked for his name and contact the next morning, he gave my details—his idea of a joke. I looked her up on Facebook out of curiosity when she texted me, and realized she and I had a lot in common. I met up with her and eventually we became an item. I always had a nagging feeling that I should confess how we actually met. I keep putting it off, fearing her response. I want to propose to her, but feel like maybe I should come clean before we take the next giant step. I'm a fan of your column and I know you often advise people to keep mum about irrelevant sexual details that would only hurt the other partner. Does this come under such category?
A: I don't think you can say, "Will you marry me?" without also having said, "Remember that drunken one-night stand that started this romance? It turns out you were sleeping with my evil twin." I have to assume your girlfriend knows you have a twin and that you have "introduced" her to him. So the situation you're presenting is not a matter of keeping the details of one's previous sexual escapades private. Instead, you and your brother are conducting a long-running farce and both of you have engaged in a level of deceit that singletons find impossible to imagine. Your girlfriend and your brother got it on one drunken evening. I don't see how you ever feel comfortable with you and your girlfriend being around your brother if the drinks are flowing and his tongue gets loosened. Although, if he gives the best man's toast at your wedding after having too many champagne cocktails, he could tell the crowd quite a memorable tale. You have to tell your girlfriend now with the knowledge that it could torpedo your relationship. But surely you've seen enough entertainment to know the twins rarely get away with their nasty tricks.
Q. Wedding on the High Seas: I am a soon to be bride who has planned her dream wedding on a transatlantic liner. The wedding is very small (20 people all told) and my fiancé and I have worked hard to be able to pay for the tickets for everyone. Everything is now booked and almost entirely nonrefundable, and the voyage is supposed to be in three months. Recently, my fiancé's uncle has died in a boating accident. Now my prospective in-laws are baulking at the idea of the transatlantic wedding, and demand we cancel, losing several thousands of dollars, because “they now feel uncomfortable near the sea.” Prudie, we booked the wedding about six months ago, when my fiancé's uncle was alive and well, and everyone was OK with it. We have no money left because what we did not spend on the ceremony is going into our new flat. My in-laws' economic situation is not great, and they have made clear that they want us to cancel this ceremony without expectation of contributing, My fiancé is very unhappy at the thought of losing the money but also very unhappy at his parents threatening not to come to the wedding. What do we do?
A: How ludicrous that your future in-laws would want to capsize your wedding because of a totally unrelated tragedy. I assume if they had to fly to witness your marriage, they wouldn't be canceling if they had lost a loved one in the Malaysia Airlines disaster.* You two have picked up the tab for this event, which is remarkable and unnecessary, but it's outrageous that now your fiancé's parents want you to lose all this money so they can stay on shore. Your fiancé has to tell his parents that you both understand and share their distress at your uncle's death. But then he has to say that you two can't let this terrible accident scuttle your plans. He has to tell them their not being there for his marriage would cast a pall on this happy event, but the event is going on whether or not they come. Then let it go and focus on having a bon voyage.
Q. New Baby: My husband and I have a 1-year-old baby and we both work full time. Except that one of us is a teacher who has several weeks of vacation throughout the year and summers off. Our finances are tight, but we manage. Our baby goes to day care full time (a huge expense) and we cannot pull her out for the summer to save some money because we'll lose her spot. The non-teacher has raised the idea of the teacher finding a summer job (as many teachers do), but the teacher is 100 percent against that idea. The teacher has never worked over the summers and this would be the first year. The non-teacher thinks it's unfair for the teacher to sit around all day hanging out while there are bills that need to be paid, chores to be done, etc. Any advice on how we can work through this?
A: You magnanimously don't say who's the teacher and who isn't, but then present a totally lopsided version of the pros and cons of the teacher getting off his duff for the summer and contributing to the family instead of being a bum. So let's assume the teacher is your husband and for him one of the great attractions of his profession is the long summer break. So is just isn't going to work for you to say, "Hey, buddy, I've got news: You're working for that tutoring company this summer." However, it is fair that a partner with no obligations for a couple of months steps up and gets to those delayed chores, does the bulk of the grocery shopping and cooking, etc. But all this should be discussed not in a punitive way, but with a generous spirit. Sure you can acknowledge that he has a stressful job during the year and earns a well-deserved break. You can even say you feel a little jealous. But it is not unfair that someone who has a job with a built in hiatus gets to enjoy it.
Q. Breast-Feeding/Pumping at Work: I recently returned to work from maternity leave. I am breast-feeding my son, so while at work, I am pumping three times a day. There is a "lactation lounge" that is available for use, but it is a 10-minute walk from my office. To go there and back three times a day results in an hour of lost time, not to mention the time spent pumping (although I do bring my iPad and can catch up on email while I am pumping). Beyond that, there is often a line in the lactation lounge, and so I have to wait for up to 15 minutes before I can take my turn. I share my office with a female co-worker who is often out of the office for meetings. My question is this: Would it be appropriate for me to ask my co-worker to let me know in advance when she will be out of our office so that I can time my pumping with her meetings and pump in our office instead of having to make the trek to the lactation lounge? Or is that too personal/strange of a request?
A: This is a variation of the scarf on the door of the college dorm room indicating to the roommate, "Don't enter." What you want to suggest is perfectly fine, as long as you offer the caveat upfront that if she has any discomfort at all about this, you will drop the idea. As for the “lactation lounge” with the line around the door, surely there's a sitcom here waiting to be born.