Dear Prudence: The best Gist follow-ups of 2014.

Dear Prudence’s Five Most Surprising Follow-Up Calls to Letter Writers

Dear Prudence’s Five Most Surprising Follow-Up Calls to Letter Writers

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 26 2014 9:43 AM

Prudence Calling

The most surprising follow-up conversations from a year of Dear Prudence on The Gist.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

Thanks to Mike Pesca, host of The Gist, we now have the Post-Prudie Impact Statement. Over the course of the last seven months, Mike and I have interviewed a number of people who have written to Dear Prudence to find out if they took my advice and how they fared. Here's a sampling of these interviews (including one amazing Post-Post Prudie Impact Statement from a young man who should have listened to me in the first place!). Find out what happened to the fiftysomething widow who was going to die if she didn't get laid, the untenured professor who discovered his department chair was paying a student to have sex with him, the newlywed who discovered that at her wedding her mother was spreading false rumors that her father had molested her, and others. (I encourage anyone who has had a letter published in the column to do a Gist follow-up. Write to me at prudence@slate.com and put Impact Statement in the subject line.)

—Emily Yoffe

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Dear Prudence,
When I was in high school my parents had a nasty divorce: nasty because my mother was nasty, spreading lies, slashing tires, you name it. She never took responsibility for all the terrible things she did, but apologized generally, and we have built a decent relationship since. Or so I thought. I'm 30 years old and just found out that over the last decade my mother has been telling people my father molested me. Unbeknownst to me, she even spread this lie to guests at my wedding. The idea that people have been looking at me and at my father, with whom I am close, with that thought makes me sick. But when I confronted my mother, she denied everything and claimed these multiple people all misheard and are victimizing her. I don't want my poisonous mother in my life, but I also don't want her to keep spreading this disgusting lie. Is there anything I can do?

—Unmolested (at Least Sexually)

Dear Unmolested,
You can take comfort in the fact that the people who were reporting the news back to you were likely skeptical about the claim, considering the source. I hope that after watching you happily share a father-daughter dance, those who heard your mother’s malicious tales assumed that that the person who needed help was your mother. After all, consider how bizarre it is to go around your own daughter’s wedding pulling people aside to whisper that the bride’s beloved father is a monster. Even so, your mother has spread one of the most vile lies that can be told about another person, and I agree something has to be done. Given that she’s been going on about this for a decade, it’s lucky that these calumnies don’t seem to have affected your father. When people told you about what your mother's been saying, you surely responded by explaining that she is lying and unstable. So let’s hope that word has been spreading among family and friends. But you and your father should talk to a lawyer. It may be that receiving a cease and desist letter, with intimations of a slander suit to follow if she doesn’t stop, could shut your mother up. When you confronted your mother about what you'd been told, she denied all and had a pity party. I agree you should tell her that you are taking a possibly permanent hiatus from your relationship. You can say that if there is ever to be a glimmer of hope that you two speak again, she has to acknowledge the gravity of what she’s done and seek mental health counseling. If she does come to you to say she’s sorry and she’s gone to a therapist, ask to see the receipts. It’s going to be a long time—if ever—before you believe anything your mother has to say.

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—Prudie

Q. Swinger Boyfriend: My boyfriend of six months is an ex-swinger. He is not currently participating in the lifestyle, and I have no desire to enter into it. I don't have any reason to believe that he is cheating, but I do notice occasionally that he gets wall posts on Facebook from women who I am fairly certain are actively swinging, suggesting they hang out soon. He also maintains his accounts on some swinger online forums and checks local personal ads daily. His explanation of why he does this is he finds it humorous. Should I let this go as something he still likes to see, if not do, or should I be concerned that he has no intention of truly becoming a one-woman man? I've already been married to a closeted swinger once, and I really would rather not go down that road again!

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A: I can't get the image out of my head of your boyfriend looking like Frank Sinatra, drink in hand, fedora cocked, as he peruses the swinger websites saying, "Ringa Ding Ding." Where did you meet this guy, at a support group for exes of swingers, or of ex swingers? I think the definition of someone who's still a swinger is a person who remains signed up on swinger websites because they're "humorous." If you'd been married to an alcoholic and found yourself dating someone whose couch cushions were stuffed with empty bottles, you might conclude you're part of the problem and are attracted to men who are going to keep making you miserable in the same oh-so-familiar way. I think you should look to date someone for whom the idea of a swinger website makes him want to slather himself in sanitizing gel.

Dear Prudence,
I am a relatively young, male, and not-yet-tenured professor at a university. My department is overwhelmingly older (55-plus), white, and male. Several of the senior professors in my department, including the chair, have attitudes toward women that are downright sexist. On a number of occasions I have heard these faculty members make comments about the physical appearance of young women that are inappropriate and creepy. However, recently a female student confessed to me something that truly disturbs me. She said that two of the senior faculty, one of whom is the chair of my department, pays her for sex. She said she does not want to tell anyone else, partly for fear of getting in trouble because prostitution is illegal, but also because the two professors are essentially paying her college tuition in exchange for her services. I feel this is an extreme ethical violation, and judging by the character of the two professors probably only the tip of the iceberg. But I am at a severe power disadvantage in this situation. My boss can easily fire me. The dean and provost at my university are also member of this misogynistic “old boys’ club” and I don’t feel I can trust them. If the student refuses to testify, then the perpetrators can simply deny it and no one would believe me. What should I do?

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—Ethical Dilemma

Dear Ethical,
I’m sure you’re right that this young woman is not the first student this pair of predators has targeted. Perhaps, long ago, they were somewhat more dashing figures accustomed to inviting female students to office hours for “private meetings”—back when such things were tacitly tolerated. Then they aged and codes of conduct changed. But lucky for them, tuition rates soared, which allowed these now AARP-aged lotharios an opportunity to offer their own financial aid program. This student didn’t get a Pell Grant, so instead she’s been roped into taking a Repellent Grant. I wish you could just blow the whistle on this sickening pair and end their academic careers. But as you note the blowback to you could be severe. For suggestions on courses of action, I turned to employment law attorney Philip Gordon. First of all, Gordon said you have to find out if you are a mandatory reporter, meaning you have an obligation to report this sexual misconduct. If so, that will force your hand. If you aren’t, then I agree with Gordon when he says that before telling anyone else, the right thing is to get the consent of the student who confided in you.

She came to you because she is in distress over the mess she’s in. So you need to have further conversation with her about what she wants to do, and whether she would consider exposing what’s going on. (Gordon said it is unlikely a prosecutor would go after her for prostitution, as the professors seem a better target.) She has to be prepared that revealing what’s happened could potentially be as traumatic as living through it. If the student is undecided, encourage her to seek out a confidential counselor on campus, one who can give her support and guide her through her alternatives. She could also go to the school’s Title IX coordinator, but in that case her confidentiality may not be guaranteed. If you become part of this process, whether or not she wants to tell, you might also want to consult an employment lawyer on your own. Find one with experience in Title IX to see how best to protect yourself. I’m hoping that this pair of faculty members, who have violated every tenet of their profession, get caught. If they do, I bet a generation of female students will come forward to tell their own appalling stories,

—Prudie

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Dear Prudence,
Several years into my widowhood, I think I’m going to die if I don’t have sex soon. Before I was widowed I had always had a vigorous and enthusiastic sex life, but now it’s like I’m dead to the world in my 50s. I’m lively, reasonably charming, interested in the things going on in the world, and not a dog. I’m self-supporting and self-reliant, so it’s not like I’m looking for a sugar daddy. It’s true that I don’t get out as much as I should, but when I do meet men around my age, they seem to be so weary. But at the same time they appear to be angling for women 10 or 20 years younger than I am! I live in a young and lively area, and I must confess that I am getting somewhat entranced by a few men around here who are a couple of decades younger. I know it’s a ridiculous fantasy, but a one-night stand would be fine. Am I weird, perverted, crazy? I miss rolling around with and holding a male body. I want to get laid. Help.

—Cut Off From a Sex Life Too Soon

Dear Too Soon,
Maybe one day you can contribute your own experiences to the literary subgenre of the adventures of older women seeking a firm male body. Here’s a summary of the book by 60-year-old Brit Monica Porter of her year spent seeking casual sex with younger men, My Year of Dating Dangerously. She was able to take advantage of new hook-up apps, such as Tinder, to find local men interested in experienced women. A few years ago teacher Jane Juska also wanted to connect with many male bodies. The sixtysomething put a personal ad in the New York Review of Books explaining what she wanted, and wrote about what happened in A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance. You are not weird, perverted, or crazy. You’re a woman who loves sex, who has lost her husband too early in life, and who shouldn’t be consigned to celibacy. If you pursue this, you must do so with an awareness of attending to your safety, and an understanding that, as with anyone searching for sex partners, the majority of your correspondents will be creeps and cheaters. (One of Porter’s hook-ups had a “mummy” fixation and tried to strangle her.) But I guarantee if you want partners, you will find them. This article gives some tips on how to convey on dating sites what you’re looking for—and what you’re looking for is going to be a lot more popular than a lifetime commitment.

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
I'm a 26-year-old guy in graduate school who has been dating the same amazing girl since college. We get along great, rarely have any serious fights, and just purchased a house together. I plan on proposing soon. One night at a party last spring that my girlfriend couldn’t attend, I ended up drinking too much. I crashed at a friend’s house and slept with a female friend of his. It was the only time I strayed outside of my long relationship. I spent the next couple of months feeling horrible about this. However, taking advice you had provided in the past, as well as not wanting to destroy our whole relationship over one mistake, I decided not to tell. But the girl I slept with contacted me to tell me she was pregnant and keeping the baby. She slept with two other men, unprotected, the same month and is not sure who the father is. It’s important to note that I did not, um, finish with her that night. I'm now living a terrified life every day knowing that this could destroy everything. Part of me wants to just wait until the baby is born; if one of the other guys is the father, then I can move on with life, I suppose? But if the child is mine, everything is ruined. What should I do?

—Please No Baby Daddy

Dear Please,
Given your description of the night’s events, and your onetime partner’s behavior, you have a far higher chance of having contracted an STD than having impregnated her. But for that reason alone, you should tell your girlfriend. You could have passed on an STD (chlamydia, for example) with neither of you being aware of it. The fact that you didn’t ejaculate almost certainly means you’ll have good news when the paternity tests are done (and I hope the new mother gets a group discount on those). Yes, I have often advised that living with a much regretted one-off indiscretion can be punishment enough. But this thing has taken on, shall we say, a life of its own, and it’s time you came clean. Of course your girlfriend will feel crushed. But I also have written that an infidelity—especially one as unsatisfying as yours—should not necessarily mean the end of a relationship. When you tell her, I’m sure it will be clear to her what agony you are in over this. Let’s hope that when she gets past the pain of the betrayal, she can put it in perspective and weigh it against all your years of happiness.

—Prudie

In a Gist first, Prudie’s follow-up to the follow-up, after everything changed for the letter writer.

Listen to all Post-Prudie Impact Statements from 2014 below: