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.)
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Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.
Q. Wife Walks Around Nude: I am having a rather silly problem with my otherwise wonderful wife. She gets up early every morning before work to go to the gym, and then takes a shower when she gets back to our small one-bedroom apartment. After her shower, she says she gets overheated easily while we’re both getting ready for work. I can understand that—I’ve already showered while she’s gone, she’s been exercising, and then she’s showered, plus she needs to use a blow dryer to style her hair. But her way of dealing with this is to walk around almost naked (in just her bra and underwear) until she absolutely has to get dressed to leave for work. She eats breakfast like this, puts on her makeup this way—she basically just goes about her morning routine with barely any clothes on and sometimes she skips the bra entirely. Under other circumstances, I would enjoy this. But when I’m trying to get myself ready for the day, this is kind of distracting. I find myself getting aroused, and since we’re both trying to get out the door for work, it’s a bad time for sex. But then I get to work and I’m frustrated all day long. I’ve tried raising this issue with her (delicately) and she gets offended that I can’t control myself after we’ve been married for eight years, which I find offensive. She’s the one walking around half-naked. How can I try to resolve this with her peacefully?
A: Ah, tempus fugit! At this stage in my life, the way I turn off my husband is to walk around naked. This is a sweet dilemma, so it’s too bad you both get so annoyed with each other over the fact that after eight years the sight of your undressed wife bouncing around the apartment is so arousing. I get letters from women wishing that their husbands weren’t lounging around with the family jewels draped over the upholstery (they do not find it a turn-on). But I think yours is the first from a guy who finds his wife’s toilette so distracting he can’t get out the door. But surely, once you’re at the office, you are able to focus on the marketing data and don’t spend the whole day moaning over your morning testicular vasocongestion. If you’re not able to move on and save it for later, you sound very juvenile. Instead of continuing to fight over this, try taking action (not the kind of action that will make you late for work). Buy a pretty, short, sheer robe for your wife and give it to her as a gift. Explain that she’s so damn attractive that if she were a little more covered in the morning it would help you focus on the day ahead. Tell her she of course doesn’t have to wear it, but you know that color looks great on her, and you hope it’s lightweight enough that she can put it on without getting overheated. Let’s hope that she takes your gesture in good spirit and likes the robe. Of course, if it’s silky and sexy, seeing her in it may have the unintended consequence of overheating you.
Q. Teens and Alcohol: My oldest daughter turned 16 this year. She’s known her best friend since she was in kindergarten. I was talking to her friend’s mom, whom I’ve known and been friends with for almost 20 years, about teens using alcohol. I told her that my husband and I plan on having our daughter drink a few beers or mixed drinks while at home so that she understands how alcohol will affect her. We think this will decrease the likelihood that she’ll abuse alcohol when she’s with her friends. I don’t plan on having her get so drunk that she can’t see straight, but we will allow her to have two or three drinks. My friend is appalled and told me that she doesn’t want her daughter interacting with my daughter anymore. She told me she doesn’t need to have her daughter drink alcohol, she knows without even asking that her daughter would never drink or do drugs. My daughter is crushed, as is her friend. I’m not sure there’s anything I can do to resolve this.
A: I agree with you to some extent about exposing your child to alcohol in a home setting. I’m not sure saying, “Drink up!” to a young, inexperienced drinker is the best way to go. Instead of getting her drunk and saying, “See, see how miserable you feel?” I think you should be instructing your child in how you learn to drink responsibly. First of all that comes from modeling this behavior. Second, your teen can occasionally have small servings at home of wine or beer with a meal, learning how to drink slowly and keeping track of her intake and how it’s affecting her. I agree that it is a very fraught time when your kids enter the world of parties, booze, and, most ominously, driving. But your friend sounds as if she’d prefer to enter the realm of denial and fantasy than deal with the fact that unless her daughter is the exception, she will experiment with drinking at parties. Given your friend’s attitude, surely her daughter will never come clean with her about what’s going on. The fact that she would forbid her daughter and yours from seeing each other indicates this woman is having serious issues with trust and control. (And in the absence of ankle monitors, how do you forbid two 16-year-olds from hanging out with each other?) Talk to your daughter about how out of the blue and out of line your friend’s admonition is. I hope the friend is able to persuade her mother that her demand is hurtful to her and accomplishes nothing. You should try making one more attempt with your friend, taking her out for lunch and saying her reaction has gotten you to think more about your plan, but that you hope she will reconsider hers to end your daughters’ dear friendship.
Q. Re: Lightweight robe—get cotton!: I have the same problem as the wife in the first post—I get a shower in the morning, and then as I get ready for the day (drying my hair, putting on my makeup, etc.) I get really warm. (Even if the house is cool.) Wearing a sheer or silky robe is absolutely out of the question ... they are all made of synthetic fabric, which is not breathable. Basically you would be marinating in your own sweat. A lightweight cotton robe is the way to go. (I went to Amazon and searched for “lightweight organic cotton robe” and I bought the first search result and have been very happy with it.)
A: Cotton it is! Another benefit, it will be light but not sheer.
Q. Testosterone Trauma: My husband is 66 years old. I’m 62. We’re both in good health and stay on top of medical exams and labs annually to maintain good health. Last year, my husband’s testosterone levels were extremely low. We’ve been married 40 years and had become fairly accustomed to an almost nonexistent sex life. Frankly, Scarlett, that suited me just fine. He never has been that great in that department anyway, so I felt kind of relieved. Anyway, my husband’s physician prescribed testosterone pellet therapy for him to help aid in protecting cardiac, offering higher energy levels, helping him to sleep better at night, etc. Problem is it’s fired up his libido to the point where he’s going extremely overboard. It’s every single night and/or morning. He can’t keep his hands off me at home. He’s gone totally berserk with this, like he’s some 20 year old again and I almost flipped the other night when he started talking about how he wishes he could get me pregnant again. Prudie, I’m 62 years old for gosh’s sake! Jokingly I told him I was going to have a chat with the doctor and he was slightly offended and told me I should be happy he’s so frisky. How can we find a happy medium?
A: I wish a cotton robe was all it would take to turn off your lousy lover. You’ve got a couple of issues here, one, your aging horndog wants it day and night. Two, whenever he gives it to you, you’re left unsatisfied. I think there is a happy medium. As long as his interest is revived, you should tell him it needs to be coupled with an increase in technique. When you’re outside of bed, talk to him about you want in the sack. He’s 66 years old so it’s time he learned that a few minutes with a jackrabbit does not a satisfying encounter make. Additionally, either he’s being seriously overdosed, or there’s some amazing placebo effect going on here. There is increasing evidence that testosterone replacement is potentially dangerous, so your husband’s doctor sounds not very up to date. Do some research on testosterone replacement and heart attacks, give it to your husband, and have him discuss the studies with his doctor. An adjustment of the dose—and your husband’s fear of a crushing pain in his chest—might be just the medicine you need.
Q. Right to Privacy of Celebrities: My wife comes from a large family. Her sister is a big name in show business and as you can imagine she’s not around too often. So when she is, we talk about family, kids, friends from her high school years and so on. Certainly not about her newest projects or celebrity gossip. While my side of the family for the most part has got used to the VIP among them, a few seem to forget all their manners. The requests for autographs, tickets, etc., we can handle, but not everybody is satisfied with that. My cousin’s daughter wanted me to inquire if she could have her 18th birthday party at my wife’s sisters house, even though the two of them have never met. An uncle asked me to find out if she really had an affair with that guy from the news. My father-in-law’s 60th birthday is coming up. He’ll have a big party—all of his kids will attend and I’m afraid a big part of my family will too. How can I make sure they’ll behave like normal people and not like family paparazzi?
A: Who is she? Who! I’m dying to know! And is the affair with a newsman or just a man who’s in the news? Hmm, I guess I’m getting myself struck from the guest list. I agree with you that your family is behaving appallingly, as if the celebrity among you is some kind of performing seal who can be rented out at their whim. But is it realistic to worry that at your father-in-law’s 60th birthday party, people like your own cousin will be invited? I assume your father-in-law is actually not close with your cousin, or your other relatives who don’t know your celebrity but think she’s a commodity who exists to make them feel important. In this case, have your wife go over the guest list with her parents and advise them that if they want to include your family, the invitations should go out selectively. Then to the people who are invited, before the event give them a heads up that the celebrity is off duty and needs to be treated like any other family member.
Q. It’s 4:20 Somewhere: I like to smoke marijuana. It’s illegal in my state, but I buy mine from an old hippie lady who “imports” hers from a “friend” in Colorado. I only smoke on weekend nights, only at home, and all I do when I’m baked is munch on snacks and watch TV. Basically what I do on weeknights, except stoned. However, my pot habit gives my wife fits. She has told me in no uncertain terms that I need to stop until it’s legal. She’s also concerned about the amount of money I spend on it. I make about $50 per week doing work for a friend (besides my regular job) and spend half of it on a bag of bud each Friday. Prudie, we both have jobs, and I’m not spending my job money on ganja—I’m spending extra money that I earn apart from my job. Do you think I need to give up the habit, for the sake of my wife’s happiness?
A: I wonder if your wife would be having fits if every weekend you lay on the couch with a bottle of wine that you polished off while watching TV. If she would, then her issues are perhaps more about lassitude than substance intake. It’s true that engaging in illegal activity carries a slight danger, but at this point, the decriminalization of marijuana is so far along it’s very hard to imagine how your buying enough weed for personal use is going to become a criminal justice matter. But since you’re willing to work to get extra money for your leisure time, try mixing things up. Use your earnings to take your wife out to a movie, a restaurant, or to hear music. Instead of getting baked, just smoke enough to take the edge off but still be engaging company. You two need to have some conversations—substance free—to better understand each other’s perspective and how to relax together in a mutually entertaining way.
Q. Hot for Professor: A student in my grad program appears to be having an affair with a professor—normally this is not a huge deal, but the prof is supervising the student’s dissertation. This in itself violates university policy, but it also appears that prof is pulling some strings on student’s behalf in other areas. There is no conclusive evidence, but several other students have suspicions. No one wants to report it for fear of looking bad. Should we drop it or do we have a duty to report? If so, how should we go about it?
A: Your evidence sounds thin. And I’m also not clear that the “string-pulling” is not simply a matter of the professor using contacts to help the career of a promising student. Yes, there is a duty to report if you know academic code violations are taking place and some students are being disadvantaged because a professor is having an affair with a favored student. But since by your own admission you only have gossip and speculation, I agree you will look like nosy busybodies if there’s nothing more conclusive to report.
Q. What if I Don’t Want to Be a Ghost?: I had a phone call this morning from an editor at one of the largest book publishers. I am an adjunct at a state college, and have some recognition as a scholar for a specific narrow era. The editor—very arrogant and pushy—proposed I write a book about my specialty for a political figure of some notoriety. In turn, I would receive a flat fee, no author credit, no royalties. As an adjunct instructor, I could certainly use the temporary boost, but I think the cost is too high, especially since my politics do not jibe with the political figure. I have not agreed nor turned down the offer, but my hesitance was met with the editor’s derision. Also, my wife is horrified that I’m considering passing this by. She says I’m too prideful. By the way, I’m not young, so it’s not an early-career consideration. Yes, I would like to write and publish a book in my field, but if I have to sign a nondisclosure about my authorship, is it worth it?
A: You don’t like the editor and you don’t like the political figure, so this sounds like the beginning of a dreadful relationship. However, if you’d been able to be more objective about this, I find myself agreeing with your wife. Just think, with your expertise and writing skill, maybe you could even have influenced this politician to consider your subject matter in a more sophisticated way. You could also just be looking at this as being like a lawyer. You’re using your skills for a discrete (and in this case discreet) purpose; you don’t have to become the politician’s campaign manager. Additionally, you would want your contribution to be secret, so the nondisclosure is to your benefit. Unless the politician’s views are absolutely noxious to you, there’s something to be said—especially if you’re an adjunct—to taking the money and running. But given the start you’ve gotten off to, I expect the editor is already interviewing more amenable candidates.
Q. Re: Overheated wife: The LW could also try installing a better vent fan in the bathroom and keeping the thermostat turned down. If the ambient temperature is lower, his wife won’t need to worry so much about pitting out her work clothes or melting her makeup. I imagine arriving for work looking like you walked there from Miami, is just as much a problem for her as being distracted at the office is for him.
A: Many people have suggested that when the wife is at the gym the husband cranks up the air conditioning so that when she returns she can get ready for work without having her makeup drip down her face. She’d also be more likely to put on a T-shirt!
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