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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Q. Do I Tell?: I am in a committed two-year-plus relationship with a great guy whom I love. We are both in our late 30s. I am not interested in marriage or having children. I am in the relationship until one of us stops enjoying it. I have been open and honest since the beginning with my feelings and desires. He really wants children and I think hopes that I am going to come around; he brings it up constantly in a light-hearted way despite our many serious talks about it. Despite being responsible, I got pregnant and chose to have an abortion and did not tell him. I really just didn’t want to hurt him, due to how much he wants a child with me, but is this something he deserves to know? Normally I am a very direct and honest person, so having a secret to keep from him is an odd place for me to be.
A: You had the biggest possible test of whether you could change your mind about marriage and children. Having an abortion without telling the partner you love, because it would break his heart, seems a very good indication that this relationship is built on profound cross-purposes, and that both of you need to rethink why you’re together. Your boyfriend’s situation is one I often hear about from women. They are in a relationship with a man they love who just won’t take the next step toward marriage and children. I always say that if two people ultimately don’t have the same goals, then they have to make the painful decision to end things. Of course, your boyfriend is an adult, and is responsible for staying. He also isn’t facing the biological clock that women do. But if he wants to be a father, he needs to move on. I do not think you have to tell your boyfriend about your abortion. But consider that if you do, it will force the two of you to really come to terms with what you want from each other and from life.
Q. Playground Peanut Butter: Recently I was at the playground with my toddler, and gave her some peanut butter and crackers while sitting on a bench. Another parent came up, scolded me for potentially exposing her son to allergens, and demanded we leave the playground so her son could play. I was flustered so I left. I feel for her son’s allergy but it seemed slightly unfair that the solution was our banishment. Is this the status quo now?
A: The status quo is that when confronted by a nut, it’s best to keep one’s composure and if the situation calls for it, slowly back away. No one wants to inadvertently harm another child. But as this blog post by an allergy doctor points out, there is virtually no risk to child allergic to peanuts by being near someone eating peanut butter; it’s ingesting peanuts that’s the problem. This mother needs some clarification with her own doctor about how to protect her child, but of course that’s not your problem. She also needs to rethink her approach to being in public if she see the world as one big goober. You did nothing wrong, but you shouldn’t have skulked out of the park. Switching benches would have taken care of it. And I feel sorry for the teacher who’s going to have to handle the demands of this mother.
Q. When a Friend Becomes Your Boss: My good friend recently became my boss. Prior to this, we would joke around and have a lot of fun, even spend time together on the weekends. Since he has become my boss, however, I have noticed him behaving a little differently than he has in the past. I don’t feel as comfortable talking to him at work—he is taking the boss thing pretty seriously—and it makes me sad that our relationship is probably changing. What can or should be done in this type of situation? Should I talk to him about this, or should I just let it go and accept that our friendship (as it was, at least) is probably a thing of the past?
A: When someone has the power to fire you, unfortunately that changes the dynamic when you’re hanging out. Yes, your boss is behaving differently, but you probably feel more constrained about shooting the breeze over a beer—after all, you’re not going to want to complain about the boss. At work, you two have to be professional, and it sounds like he’s feeling out what it means to be a manager. Because a person is your boss does not mean you can’t socialize, but you both are going to be aware that there is a new barrier between you. At the end of the day sometime, if you normally would have suggested going out for a drink, drop by his office and ask if he wants to join you. That opens up for him the option of talking out the change in your relationship, or just going out for a drink and talking about the World Cup.
Q. Death of a Friend and Moving On: My best friend lost her fiancé a year ago. His death was unexpected and has been hard on all of us. I was really close friends with her fiancé as we had all met in college. She recently moved to the same city as me and we decided to live together. I spent many nights the first few months she moved in with me consoling her about the loss, which I figured would happen. About six months after his death she started online dating, which I had a problem with but was still trying to be the supportive friend. Now she wants to have the guy she’s dating over at the apartment but I’m not OK with it because I’m still hurting from the loss of my friend and really can’t believe she has moved on. We aren’t speaking and she’s basically not coming home anymore. Am I in the wrong? Should I just look the other way and deal with her new guy being around?
A: You all are obviously young and have suffered a shocking loss. You have lost a dear friend whom you can continue to grieve while you go about your life and even pursue a love life. The young fiancée was clearly shattered by his death, but he is gone, and she is alive. It sounds perfectly appropriate to me that after six months of mourning, she is ready to look for companionship, even love. Please stop imposing some Victorian mandate that she must wear widow’s weeds for some period of time that you dictate. You are in the wrong, so apologize to your roommate, and tell her you’d like to meet her new man.
Q. Re: Peanut allergy: Just a quick note: it actually totally is possible for a person with a peanut allergy to have a proximity reaction. I couldn’t bring peanuts into my school’s music room for years as two of our classmates could potentially have a serious anaphylactic reaction from being touched by/being in close contact with someone who had recently touched or eaten peanuts. Not saying that mother wasn’t overreacting—she definitely was, and there is no need to be that harsh—but some people’s allergies really are that serious.
A: Thanks. I did some quick searching on this issue and I understand that at elementary school kids are all over each other and it’s just easier to ban peanuts if there are allergic kids in the class. As you mention, you are talking about touching and close contact. But I did not find confirmation that simply being in an area where someone is eating peanut butter is a danger. Unless society is going to have a blanket ban on all peanut products, the parents of kids with allergies are the ones who have to make decisions about safety. In the letter I got, it was clear the allergic kid wasn’t reacting to someone eating peanut butter in the vicinity, it was the mother who was blowing up.