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.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions and comments.
Q. Touchy-Feely Husband Is Rough on My Clothes!: My husband likes to rip my clothes off—but not in the fun way. He is intelligent, gentlemanly and swoonably handsome. He is also very physically affectionate, always absentmindedly rubbing, scratching or stroking me. That part is lovely. However, I favor delicate, feminine clothing, most of it second-hand or vintage. Just in the past few weeks he’s ripped a flower applique off of a satin dress, shredded a silk-cashmere blouse under the back of the neck, where he likes to scratch, and torn holes in the waist of a vintage lace dress while we were out dancing. I love the loving, but it’s like having a rambunctious 6-foot-3 kitten around. I don’t want him to stop being affectionate, just a little gentler on my frocks. Do I pull his hands off when he gets too rough, or—gasp—start living in T-shirts?
A: I’m glad you mentioned cats, because your description of your husband absentmindedly rubbing, scratching, and stroking you sounds as if he thinks of you as his giant pussycat. I have had cats all my life, and when a feline is fed up with getting affection, it walks off with the flick of a tail. Press the matter, and you’ll get a swat with unsheathed claws. If your loving clod of a husband paws you to the point of disintegrating your clothing, it’s time for you to stop purring. But before you start hissing, sit him down—with a table between you—and tell him you love his physical affection, but sometimes it’s so rough that your clothing falls apart. Say that if he fails to be more conscious of how he touches you, you’re going to bring it to his attention because your tailoring bills are sky-rocketing. Then if he continues in his ways, remove his hand and say, “Sylvester, please, not so rough.” I also think you might want to obtain an actual cat. Ours like to sit between my husband and me so that if either of us are in the mood to give idle affection, they end up being the recipients.
Q. Kids Birthday Parties: A family member is hosting a birthday party for her child. The invitation specifically states only cake and ice cream will be served at the party, which is being held at 4 p.m. Is it wrong that I am incredibly irritated by this? She has made comments in the past about how it’s “too much work” to cook for everyone. The way I see it, because she is lazy, I am expected to feed my kids cake and ice cream for dinner because she can’t be bothered to provide anything more. Am I off here? It just seems rude.
A: Now you’re making me wonder whether during all those years of cake and ice cream birthday parties I hosted for my daughter, if everyone left saying, “And again, no beef Wellington! What a rip-off!” However, since no one else served anything but sweets at their kids’ parties, I’m probably in the clear. Yes, your kids will be hopped up on sugar and might not eat much for dinner. This, however will be fun for them, and not a tragedy for you, so drop it.
Q. Son Hangs Off Tall Buildings: My 27-year-old son is obsessed with hanging off the side of tall buildings, water towers, radio station towers, anything that is high up. I am scared to death about what he’s doing, but he refuses to stop. He posts pictures and videos of it online and seems to be even more encouraged by the responses. A cop friend of mine advised him of the danger and possibility of arrest for trespassing but that didn’t phase him a bit. What to do?
A: Talk about terminal velocity. This is terrifying, and I can understand your dread and despair about this hobby, imagining that one retires from it by falling off tall buildings. I see from a quick search that this is actually a thing—people record themselves engaging in this suicidal game, and get encouraged by those who can applaud from the safety of their computer screens. Your son is a thrill-seeker, unfortunately to the point where he is jeopardizing his life expectancy. But he is an adult and while what he’s doing would get him arrested, I don’t know how you prevent it, unless you know his plans in advance and can alert the authorities. Try having another heart-to-heart with him in which you explain that the people who are encouraging him don’t care at all whether he lives or dies—there will be someone else they can follow. But you know he loves you, and you love him more than anyone, and you are having a very hard time getting through the day for fear of a phone call that brings you news of the worst. Explain to him there’s no way to put this out of his mind and frankly you are begging him to find an activity that gives him excitement which doesn’t come with such grave risks. Then accept that you’ve done what you can, do not follow him in social media, and if you need to, find a counselor to help you handle your understandable anxiety.
Q. Out of Town Make-Out: I went out of town for work a month ago. I was a little lonely for two weeks I was there, so used a common dating app to find someone to have dinner with. I was up front with everyone that I talked to that I had a wife back home. I ended up meeting a girl, and we had a lovely dinner together. At the end of the night, after a few drinks, we ended up kissing while waiting for each of our taxis. I did not mean for it to happen, but it made me feel good about myself. Should I tell my wife about this?
A: I’m trying to imagine how this goes: “Honey, have you heard of this thing called ‘Tinder’? It’s a great app if you’re looking for hook-ups—you know what those are, Honey. Anyway, I get lonely when I’m traveling, so I used Tinder, and a lot of attractive women are interested in going out with a married man! I picked one and we had such a good time that we made out at the end of the evening. It was so great! I didn’t feel like an old married guy anymore, I felt young and available, and sexy. Also, I didn’t mean for it to happen, so you can’t blame me. Oh, and were you able to pick up my dry cleaning while I was away?” Here’s my advice: Shut up and delete Tinder. If you’re traveling for work, ask someone you’re working with (given your tendencies, preferably not the most alluring single female) to join you for dinner. Absent that, take a good book to a restaurant, then go back to your room and watch some porn.
Q. Re: Kids BD Parties: How about feeding the kids a late lunch or snack of protein so that they will have something substantial in their tummies before going to the party? This could serve two functions: They may be less hungry for the sugary stuff and eat less or, even if not, the protein can help stabilize their blood sugar so they won’t get as hyped (or fall as hard when the blood sugar tanks).