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.