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. Hubby’s Secret: My husband is a lifelong bed-wetter. He wears a fairly thick cloth diaper and plastic pants to sleep each night. We are both completely comfortable with his bed-wetting and diapers and it’s actually fun getting him ready for bed. I took over getting him diapered and its really made us closer. The only issue is hiding his special nightwear from the kids. He has an 8-year-old and I have a 2-year-old. Is this something that should be hidden and if so, from what age range? So far, the 8-year-old has not discovered the secret, but routinely comes to our room at 4 a.m. after waking up. We’re wondering what impact that discovery would have on the kids.
A: I don’t think you should spill about daddy’s Dy-Dee. Not because it’s shameful, but because unless his son also suffers from enuresis, this is a private matter. The diaper issue wouldn’t even come up if your husband wears pajamas. If the 8-year-old does find out, then your husband should be matter-of-fact about it and explain he has a condition—fortunately the child doesn’t—that means he sometimes wets the bed at night. But if your husband hasn’t seen a doctor about this in years, it would be very worthwhile to go to a urologist and find out if there are new treatments. I understand that the diapering ritual has become a bond. But are thick diapers and plastic pants really necessary? The advertising for adult diapers would have one believing that these highly absorbent, thin products allow you relieve yourself in undetectable comfort while running a marathon. If you two want to keep dad’s privacy regarding this, there are more discreet ways to protect the sheets.
Q. Take It to the Grave: I’m only a few years older than my niece and we are quite close. Recently I was introduced to her new beau, and discovered she is dating a man I had a very brief fling with a few years ago. I was recovering from the unexpected death of my husband, had younger children, and “John” was a neighbor’s son who moved home for a few months to assist with his ailing father. It was a cliché all around but both of us were lonely and struggling. We quietly flew under the radar and parted ways with fondness. I never told anyone. Discovering my niece is now dating him is a shock to the system—they work at the same company. I had a moment to talk with him and he was just as shocked to see me. Both of us feel we should never reveal our short fling. We weren’t in love, we weren’t in a relationship, no one knew about us. Are we right to keep this from my niece?
A: I have had a spate of questions about people spilling shocking secrets on their deathbeds. But of course, endless millions have gone on to the next phase of (non)existence while taking their secrets to the grave. It sounds as if you and John have that rare, shared confidential knowledge that is known only by the two of you. You and he had a lovely and healing interlude at a time of great pain for you both then parted with affection. I can imagine the shock you both had when Juliette presented her beau to her favorite aunt, but it’s good you both are apparently convincing actors. There is a large distinction to be made between telling the truth and right to privacy, and I think your affair comes under the umbrella of the latter. If your niece were to hear about this long-ago romance it would be one those things that would run as a horror movie in her head and likely damage her relationship with both of you. You and John jointly agreed to renew the covert status of your interlude. Keep that promise in good conscience.
Q. I Reversed My Vasectomy, Kids!: At what point, if ever, do you tell your kids you reversed a vasectomy to conceive them? My wife and I have three wonderful kids. A lot of relatives and friends know I had a vasectomy, and then reversed it. We figure we should be the people to tell them. Or should we cross our fingers and hope they never hear? And how much do you share, if sharing is indeed the right decision to make?
A: As with daddy’s diaper, Dad’s nether regions may be of seminal interest to the offspring, but that doesn’t mean there’s no zone of privacy around them. The vasectomy was a form of birth control, yes, a radical one, but usually once children get old enough to understand birth control, they just assume their parents are doing something to prevent more siblings. I don’t think your medical history requires your sitting the kids down and saying, “Kids before I had you, I really didn’t want you, so I went to a doctor …” Maybe when the kids are old enough, and you are having a discussion about how people’s minds can change about you want out of life, you can say that when you were younger you didn’t even think you wanted children—which still doesn’t require your saying you didn’t want them so much you got snipped. If relatives talk to your children about your vasectomy (notice to relatives: There is no reason you would talk to kids about their father’s reversed vasectomy) then just handle it straightforwardly. Say that you are thankful every day that you could get it reversed because you can’t imagine life without them.
Q. Re: Bed-Wetting: Before your husband puts on the diapers, make sure that he is not constipated. Recent research (published in Slate, no less) has shown that in many cases bedwetting can be caused by constipation. As a former adult bed-wetter myself, I was amazed what a bit of fiber drink each night did for me.
A: Great point—that was a revelatory, revolutionary article for lots of people. It’s very encouraging that you say you’re a “former adult bed-wetter.” I’m going to bet, however, that even if the husband of the letter writer solves his problem, diapers will still be part of their lives.
Q. Dead Wife’s Remains: Nearly 20 years ago, I was widowed at the young age of 40. It wasn’t unexpected, her doctors had told her she would die by 30, and she was 45 when it finally happened. Since then, I’ve kept her cremains; first on the hearth, then after remarrying in the garage then shed where I could see them when out there. I still talk with her sometimes when there. I finally have decided to place her where she wanted me to, but am having massive depression hits from the decision. Any advice other than seeing the therapist I’m going to reconnect with?
A: I’m not sure why at this late date you feel compelled to do it. Sure, you don’t want to dishonor your late wife’s wishes, but she probably would understand that you preferred keeping her cremains with you. If “talking” things out with your late wife brings you comfort, why change that? My husband’s late, first wife was a much nicer person than I am, and while I wouldn’t want to listen, I would understand if he felt the need to talk things out with her. But if you feel it’s time to put her ashes where she desired, you must know that she doesn’t really reside in a container in your garage. Her spirit is with you. That means that whenever you want to think about her or “consult” with her, you can do so wherever you are, and wherever she is.
Q. Too Much Time With Boss: I am a professional woman who recently went on a six-day work trip, which my (female) boss and another female colleague also attended. Before the trip, our HR person asked if I wouldn’t mind sharing a room with the other women. I didn’t want to seem like a princess, so I agreed. It was just weird. Thinking it was normal, I changed in front of everyone, only to have them go into the bathroom and change. I shared a bed with a colleague I don’t know very well. It was awkward having phone conversations with my husband when the two of them were there. And since my boss was there, I was basically “on” for six straight days. There’s another conference coming up next month, and again I have been asked to share a room with another female colleague. Two male colleagues are also attending, and were not asked to share a room. How do I politely and tactfully request my own room? The firm is doing very well financially, so I don’t think this is about money. Do I suck this up to show I’m a team player?
A: There’s being a team player, then there’s being forced by HR to literally sleep with a colleague! You may not have known her very well at the start of the trip, but surely you knew her better at the end—asking someone to roll over because she’s hogging the mattress does that. I’m wondering what kind business your company does when an HR person thinks it’s acceptable to set up co-workers to sleep together. Tell HR that given the fact that the men in the company are given separate rooms, and that you need privacy during the hours you are off, you also would like this (very basic) courtesy.
Q. Re: Ashes: Maybe the widower could place some of his wife’s ashes where she wanted them to be, and keep some for himself? My father died recently, and last month I made a trip to a place that was very special to my dad. I know it would have meant a lot to him to have his ashes spread there, so I scattered a small amount, but kept most for my mom, siblings, and me. If the widower did that, he could have the comfort of fulfilling his wife’s wish, and the comfort (which I understand) of having a tangible part of her close by.
A: Excellent solution, thanks.
Q. Re: Hubby’s Secret: It’s not impossible that what’s actually happening is an “adult baby” fetish that neither spouse is willing to openly acknowledge. If so, definitely don’t share that bit with the kids—no one wants to know that about their parents!
A: Indeed. And also try Miralax!
Q. Babysitting In-Laws: My in-laws are kind, generous grandparents except that my mother-in-law has a problem with prescription drugs. Every evening after 8 p.m. she basically gets high. We already know not to pick up the phone in the evenings when she calls. My 3-year-old loves them and they love her. They constantly ask us to leave her there for a the weekend or over several days. Prudie, I don’t feel comfortable letting them watch her unattended. Everyone thinks I am being harsh and inflexible. Am I wrong to be concerned for my daughter’s well-being in their care? For the record, my husband doesn’t think its a big deal because “she just goes to sleep.”
A: At first I thought you meant the she in “she just goes to sleep” was your drug addict mother-in-law who after getting high eventually crashes. And if her pill-popping is bad enough, one day she might sleep the sleep of the dead because abuse of prescription drugs are a rising cause of accidental death. Who is the “everyone” who thinks it’s a good idea for stoned Nana to watch a 3-year-old? Her enabling husband and son? It’s very sad that your lovely mother-in-law has a serious, potentially life-threatening problem. Normally, I suggest the direct relative of the in-law with an issue take it up with the in-law, but if your husband won’t, you must. Tell your husband the relationship between his parents and your daughter is wonderful and you want to nurture it. But your mother has a profoundly serious problem that makes her an unfit babysitter, and you will not allow a sleepover. You shouldn’t even allow them to watch your daughter without your being there if you can’t trust she is not zonked. If you have to be the person to say it, explain to your in-laws that you love them, but until your mother-in-law deals with her drug problem, there simply can’t be an extended stay with your child.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks so much, everyone. Talk to you next week.
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