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. Hottie Helper: I recently went back to work after the birth of my second child. My husband and I have been floored by how challenging it is to have two kids and two working parents in one household. We have arranged to have a young woman live rent-free in our basement, in exchange for being our family helper. She drives the kids to preschool, cooks occasional dinners, cleans the house, etc. It’s a sweet gig for all involved, the girl is a great fit for my family, and we are happy to help her out while she goes to college. There’s a hitch. She’s incredibly sexy and dresses in a way that leaves little to the imagination: skin-tight leggings, spaghetti-strap tanks with nothing underneath. I don’t get the feeling from my husband that he even notices, but it wigs me out. Should I just acknowledge this as a non-threat and work on my own insecurities, or address her and ask her to cover up?
A: What you describe her wearing is standard for college students, and absolutely standard for someone relaxing at home. The issue is not her clothes, but that she is a gorgeous, taut young woman, and you are feeling like a less taut, overwhelmed, not-so-young woman. I’m assuming your husband actually has noticed, but he’s a gentleman and has learned how to keep his eyeballs in his head. You, too, have to keep your head screwed on right. This is about you, not her, and not your husband. You have solved one of the grinding problems working people with young children face. So congratulate yourself and enjoy the extra pair of hands, and stop dwelling on the fact that the hands are attached to someone stunning.
Q. Work From Home Frustrations: I am lucky to have a job where I can work from home two days a week. My husband is not technically allowed to work from home, but does so when I am home with the blessing of his boss. It’s driving me nuts. We are not able to work in separate areas because we live in a small condo, and he works in cold calling sales, so I am not able to get the quiet I need. When I leave the condo to work elsewhere, he comes with me! His idea of “being by ourselves” means with each other, but focused on other things. How can I help him see that I need some time to be truly alone?
A: I work at home, and occasionally my husband does, too. Usually we’re on different floors, typing away like quiet little mice. But occasionally he has a phone call, and when he does he likes to bellow into the phone and walk in circles, so that I hear the rising and falling of his voice as he makes his circuit. I’ve very sweetly said to him, “If you don’t lower your voice and stay put, I’m going to take your phone and throw it out the window.” Give me your address; I can come over to your place and say it to your husband, or better yet just toss the phone out the window. Help him see he’s driving you around the bend by saying something to the effect of despite how much you love him, you’ll have to hit his phone with a hammer because you can’t work when someone is cold-calling people 5 feet away from you. Tell him that if he doesn’t stop working at home, you’re going to, because you need a room of your own to be able to think in peace.
Q. Kitchen Clean-Up Time Limit: What is the maximum time between when one prepares food and when one cleans up? My wife thinks that as long as it is cleaned up before bed, it’s OK. The result is a litter of cutting board, plates, etc., from breakfast through dinner attracting ants to our kitchen. I think one must clean up as one goes, and everything should be cleaned up within a few minutes of eating the meal. My wife says that robs the meal of enjoyment. Where do you come down?
A: I come down on hoping you two have a killer time in bed, otherwise I have a portrait of your marriage as an endless cycle of conflict over sloth and compulsion, focused on the cutting board. I hate a messy kitchen and my more casual husband has come to recognize it’s more pleasant for him to clean up after himself rather than deal with me hating a messy kitchen. But I will clean his mess myself rather than look at a dirty counter and sink. You two are out of sync on this issue. She’s a slob and you’re more than meticulous. If you can’t move her, surely it’s better to just sweep up the crumbs and wash off the cutting board yourself rather than fight over the parade of ants.
Q. Re: Hottie Helper ...: What if the letter writer insists the girl wear one of those French maid costumes while on duty?
A: Thank you for the laugh!
Q. Missing Gift?: I got married two weeks ago, and invited my boss, whom I have a good relationship with. He is very generous when people have babies, get married, etc. However, he did not give a gift for my wedding. I found it odd, but the money is not what’s important. However, when I mentioned this to a co-worker who is also a close friend (I would never speak about this to a casual colleague). She says she swears she saw him with a card, she remembers it was bright blue, and he was holding it when he walked in. Now I’m afraid it was misplaced or lost. Is there anyway to bring this up with him without coming off as a present-grabber? I can’t think of a scenario that wont be extremely awkward.
A: This is awkward, so the best thing to do is go to him and acknowledge this. Tell him his presence as your wedding was all the present you need, but you have something awkward to run by him. Say that when you were talking to a colleague who was at the wedding, she mentioned that the boss arrived with a bright blue card. Tell him you don’t know if she’s misremembering, but it concerned you because you never got said card. So if he did leave one on the gift table, you need to try to find out what happened to it. Tell him that if he didn’t, it will relieve your mind and reassure you that no one at the wedding was light-fingered.
Q. Re: Working From Home: Oy—I also work from home, having lost my corporate job two years ago and had no luck in finding a job. I have worked hard to develop a law practice from home, which allows me to spend time with my husband, who is a health care professional and keeps unusual hours, be around for my teenage son, and to help with a variety of eldercare responsibilities. Everyone is happy with this situation. But my husband and son will sometimes convene in my home office during working hours to discuss the latest football or hockey game. Threatening to get a lock for the door, or reading my very boring legal documents aloud seems to help.
A: You don’t need a lock if you can just start intoning, “The party of the first part …”
Q. Jewish Santa: My fiancé and I are set to get married next summer, and surely kids won’t be too far off. For most disagreements, we’ve been pretty good about finding a compromise or one person ceding ground where it doesn’t matter. For instance, she is Jewish and I was raised Catholic but am an atheist. She asked that our kids be raised Jewish (to which I agreed as I think there is a great benefit to having a moral structure). However, one sticking point we have is Santa. I strongly believe Santa (and Christmas) is a cultural holiday and want to celebrate it as such. She’s fine with celebrating Christmas, but for her, Santa is a religious symbol and is out of the question. I’m struggling to see if there’s a middle ground here and how to solve our predicament.
A: There seems to be some major Judeo-Christian confusion in your home. I do not understand your Jewish wife’s embrace of Christmas and rejection of Santa. Santa is a far step removed from the celebration of the birth of Christ, so maybe your wife needs an introductory religion course. It’s good you two are talking this out, because too many interfaith couples wait until it’s time to the trip to the mall for the photo with Santa to air their differences. However, there is also something a little odd about getting hung up more than six months before the wedding about how your nonexistent children will celebrate Christmas. I suggest you two take some classes offered by a local synagogue or Jewish community center for interfaith couples. That will give you a forum to figure out Santa, and a lot more issues.
Q. For Your Eyes Only: My husband and I have had a rocky sexual relationship. One day, while looking for something on his computer, I stumbled across websites where he’d posted compromising pictures of me. When confronted, he admitted it and apologized. I’m feeling betrayed because these photos he took of me I expressly said I wanted to be for his eyes only. “But your photos made it into the top 10!” he told me, based on the rating system. Please help.
A: Revenge porn is a horror. But this is the first I’ve heard of “My wife is hot, and she doesn’t know I’m posting this” porn. The violation here is stunning. You don’t just have a rocky sex life, you have a rocky marriage. Your husband’s behavior is shocking and grounds for you to be reassessing this marriage. First of all, insist he take everything down and never post anything about you again. Second, go to a marriage counselor together. You may not even want to salvage this relationship, but talking to a third party will give you some clarity about your next steps.
Q. Re: Missing Gift: This happened at my wedding too, and many more I’m sure. Please, Dear, Dear Prudie, tell people NOT to bring gifts to the wedding! Ship it before, ship it after, whatever, but a table at a wedding reception is not a safe place for a gift.
A: Miss Manners has hit this important point for decades to little effect. There are always going to be people who bring gifts. So at the venue it’s a good idea to have some kind of locked closet or secure room, or even the trunk of a car, where the gifts are stored to reduce the temptation.
Q. Re: Hottie Helper: I had an extremely beautiful au pair when my children were young and I was a little worried. The au pair coordinator said something that helped me a great deal: “The attractive au pairs can do so much better than your husband!” That made me giggle.
A: Love it! Thanks.
Q. Just Not Quite There: I’m a happy woman in her 20s with a lovely boyfriend, and am starting a new career. The problem is, I can’t seem to have an orgasm. Ever. Not even by myself. I’ve read books, spent time on it, and now just fake it for my partner because I just want him to be happy and satisfied enough for the both of us. But Prudie I am so frustrated, is this just something that happens to some women and am I doomed to be forever sexually frustrated?
A: I answered this question recently here, and among my suggestions was the purchase of the Magic Wand, available on Amazon. Read the explosive reviews. And if you do get the wand, and it does do the trick, in between climaxes write back and let us know.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.
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