Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is online 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. My Husband Tried to Compliment Me by Calling Me an “8”: Am I being too sensitive? My husband and I were reminiscing after a few drinks about the night we met a decade ago. He was telling me about how he told his friend the next day that I was a “solid 8.” I have heard this story before and I was always described as a “9 or 10” until now, and he didn’t understand why I was offended. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m a 10 or anything, but if that version of me, the 20-year-old who hadn’t had any babies yet, has gone downhill in my husband’s eyes, what does he think of me now? I can’t seem to get over it and he just doesn’t get it ... How do I make him understand?
A: Being a mother is the most important thing I’ve ever done and I’d rate myself a 7.5. (At this late date—my daughter is 18—it’s unlikely I’ll break an 8.) But I consider that a solid grade. In life, no matter what you’re measuring, few people are 9’s or 10’s (even if everyone thinks they are). And when you’re talking about looks, the number who top out are obviously very few, or else everyone would be on the cover of Vogue or have their mug shot go viral. You are offended by the truth of what your husband said about the night you met. But it sounds to me as if your husband was boasting to his friends about the babe he’d just met. Liquor loosened your husband’s tongue, but his accidental reminiscence is the kind of thing two married people who are still in love would find very funny. If he actually thought you’d dropped to a 1 or 2 at this point, believe me, he wouldn’t even be recalling this story. I bet your husband thought you looked great then, and still look great now. And if you can laugh this off, he will be so grateful.
Q. My Daughter Is NOT Gay: My daughter is a beautiful, successful woman now in her mid-20s. A few weeks ago, she tried to come out to me as bisexual, and I refuse to believe it. I honestly feel like she set herself up to be labeled this way. She had a gay friend in high school, was part of the “Gay Straight Alliance,” and has expressed sympathy for the issues homosexuals have to deal with. I’ve always told her it will either end up rubbing off on her, or she’ll be pressured into living the lifestyle as well. My daughter is straight! She’s always dated men, and experienced long-term relationships with men. I told her that I believe she shouldn’t broadcast this kind of thing to the world because, whether any of us like it or not, she’ll be perceived differently. She didn’t become angry, but she did close off from me in a way, becoming very distant. How can I tell her that she needs to take a step back and look at herself for what she is—a STRAIGHT woman being influenced by the homosexual lifestyle?
A: Rubbing up against people of the same gender does not make one gay or bisexual. It’s the desire to do the rubbing that’s key. I hear your protests, Mom, and I doth say they’re too much. Announcing in all caps, even all caps, italic, and bold, that your daughter is straight will not make it so if that’s not her orientation. Your anxiety and insistence have only had the effect of driving her away. If you want to permanently lose any sense of intimacy with her, keep on this path. But if you want to restore a loving and open relationship, then apologize. Explain to her that you’ve been thinking about your reaction and you realize part of it is because you’re from a different generation and have been responding out of the kind of fear that would have been more appropriate for a time that is now blessedly passing. Say you love her and you’re going to work on yourself so that you can be happy about whomever she loves.
Q. Fetish: I am a married twentysomething man with no children. Over the past couple years, I have become increasingly enthralled by a fetish I haven’t had the guts to share with my wife; I enjoy buying and handling women’s panties. I do not wear them. I just keep them hidden in the house, taking them out when my wife is away on business or out with friends. The guilt I feel from hiding this from my wife is confusing me. I know she would be crushed if I came out and told her that I had been hiding this interest of mine from her. I also don’t want her to think sex or being with her is unfulfilling for me (we have sex 4 to 5 times a month and I love it). My wife’s panties don’t do anything for me though sadly. The forbidden fruit factor, the mystery of getting someone else’s panties excites me. How would I possibly come clean about this to my wife? Should I really feel so raw about it? I’m really in a knot.
A: Even married people deserve a zone of privacy. I think that if people have thoughts or desires that they don’t act on, and which would be disturbing for a spouse to hear, it’s kinder just to keep them to yourself. But you don’t just fantasize about other women’s panties, you are now collecting them. So it seems that your internal debate is whether your wife would be more crushed to find out you are withholding crucial information about yourself, or to find out that you have a panty fetish (with the added fillip that hers leave you cold). You know your wife and your relationship, so this is for you to weigh. If you simply shove a few thongs in a manila envelope, play with them when she’s not home, and then stick them in the back of a drawer, that seems fine. (Of course if she ever discovers them, she’ll probably think they’re trophies and you’re cheating.) What concerns me is that you describe yourself as “increasingly enthralled” by the panties. If this is taking over your erotic life, that’s a more significant issue. Additionally, it’s fine if you’re a shopper at the women’s undergarment section of the department store. What’s not fine would be if you feel the need to snatch a few of these items from the hamper when visiting friends. Some people would encourage you to be open about this aspect of yourself and even see if you can incorporate this into your sex life with your wife. But there is another side of this, and that is that when a spouse not only isn’t interested in the fetish, but finds that it is a libido killer. I can tell you that I simply wouldn’t want to know this about my husband and would appreciate that he has known me well enough to keep his panties to himself.