Q. Bathroom Manners: My roommate thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to open the bathroom door before washing her hands after using the toilet. I find this gross, as I have to touch the door in many instances where I’m not necessarily washing my hands. She thinks it’s my problem to deal with. Is it? I feel like I have to treat the bathroom in my own home as a public restroom.
A: It is a little odd to open the door before finishing one’s ablutions, but maybe your roommate just wants to clear the air. I don’t think, however, that this is something you need to keep trying to clear the air over, since you’ve both established your positions vis-a-vis the doorknob. I assume you don’t wear gloves when you go to actual public restrooms and you have no Kleenex boxes on your feet when you take the subway. We live in a world of germs and there’s not only no way to avoid them, we need them. But if you’re concerned about what’s crawling on the doorknobs in your home, wipe them off with soap and water (not anti-bacterial gel!) occasionally. Do it without making a demonstration in front of your roommate. Unless you live alone, you’re going to have to deal with someone else’s idiosyncracies and microbiome.
Q. Re: Bitter MIL: Don’t tell her the baby has been born until after you come home. Seriously. You know your mother can’t be trusted not to make a fuss, so you keep the information to yourself until you’re ready to handle a visit from her. Your sister should agree to this, too; no calling Mom to say, “Sis is in labor and we’re with the toddler!” or any communication until you’re back on your home turf.
A: I agree. If Mom stays silent, then she’s simply out of touch. If the letter writer does get some communication from her, and she’s conducting herself appropriately, then she should be rewarded for good behavior. Yes, it’s a pain to have to treat your mother as if she’s a toddler, but that’s what you have to do when she has the emotional development of one.
Q. Re: Houseguest Husband: If the husband thinks it’s fine for them to stay with his parents he should extend his wife the same courtesy.
A: But sometimes demanding the exact same treatment ends up becoming a tit for tat. A successful marriage requires accepting that things balance out in the long run, but not in every instance. She doesn’t mind staying in other people’s homes, he hates it. Accommodating this foible seems worth it.
Q. Wedding/Baby Navigation: I am getting married this week. We are expecting a baby in three months. Yay! My friends and family are as excited for us as we are. My future mother-in-law, however, has asked that we A) not inform her of the sex of the baby, even though everyone else attending the wedding already knows it, and B) not inform the groom’s two younger siblings (9 and 11) about the baby. Which, again, every single other person at the wedding, including those kids’ older siblings, is well aware of. I am six months pregnant, and shaped appropriately. These kids are home-schooled and devoutly Catholic, so I am sure that they have not received any sex education yet. Short of claiming that I have simply developed a profound love of doughnuts recently and informing all guests that they are supposed to pretend that I am not pregnant, how can I tiptoe through this event and subsequent relationship?
A: Congratulations! But surely, even the most bubble-wrapped home-schooled kid has absorbed what a pregnant woman is. This one is for your groom to handle. He needs to tell his mother that neither of you will mention the sex of the baby to her, but since the news has been widely disseminated, she might hear it anyway. He can also say that the wedding is not going to focus on the fact that by the time you two finish your wedding gift thank you notes, it will be time for baby gift ones. But neither are you going to pretend that a grandchild is not on the way. He can say if his little sibs ask him point blank, he’s going to tell the truth, because the truth will be cooing and squalling soon enough.
Q. Advice for Daughter Going to College: Like you, I have a daughter graduating next week. She is a wonderful, sweet, kind and funny young woman. I am proud of her and the choices she has made. She has a wonderful group of friends, both male and female, and they are not into partying. She will be going 2,000 miles away to college, to a technical school where females make up only 25 percent of the student body. When you read about the sexual assaults and harassment taking place at universities, I get worried that I haven’t given her enough advice to protect herself. What advice have you given your daughter?
A: Your daughter sounds like an extraordinary young woman who has negotiated the shoals of high school, and has the confidence to enter a largely male realm—which desperately needs more women! You should feel secure that the skills she’s developed, and her ability to find like-minded people, will guide her on her new adventure. Sure, college, with its freedom and temptation, is going to present her with different challenges from high school. But it sounds like she already knows that having fun and keeping her wits about her are not mutually exclusive. It think it’s too bad that so many recent portrayals of college campuses paint them as less safe for a young woman than a crack den, circa 1990. Yes, binge-drinking is a scourge, and extreme frat culture is repulsive. But there are far more people on campuses involved in social service or a cappella groups then committing crimes. Encourage your daughter to check out clubs where she can meet people who share her interests, and explore things she hasn’t tried. (This is the time for your future engineer to be in a play!) No, she doesn’t have to run from parties, or stand in the corner clinging to a soda. But she needs to understand that she is a novice drinker and at the intersection of alcohol and hook up culture, a lot of regrettable stuff happens. Last year I wrote a controversial story about drinking on campus. I still stand by its message: The best way for a young woman to reduce her chances of being a victim of a sexual assault at college is to know her alcohol limit and stay within it.
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