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Recently I decided to get a job teaching English abroad. I felt fortunate to get hired exactly where I wanted to go and am now happily living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The problem is my parents. I knew they would be appalled at the idea of their young daughter going to live in the Middle East, even in a relatively safe place like Dubai. So ... I told them I had accepted a job in Tokyo. I’ve been living in Dubai for eight months, and as far as I know they haven’t caught on. I’ve made up stories about struggling with sushi and the Japanese language and even spent a fair amount of time learning about Japan to make my lie more believable. My parents don’t use social media, so there isn’t much danger of them finding out via that route. I love my life here in Dubai and would like to renew my contract, but I feel awful for lying to them! I also feel awful imagining how they will feel if they ever find out the truth. Please help me figure out what to do that will hurt my parents (and me!) the least.
—An American Abroad
Oh, wow. First and foremost, I’m so impressed by your ability to sustain a lie of this magnitude for over half a year. This was sort of a plot on Friends, but you’re pulling it off in real life.
You’ve probably considered your options, but let’s lay them out. You can spend your life hoping they never find out. You’ll periodically make up facts about Tokyo and feign a familiarity with the Japanese language you do not actually possess. If your parents ever introduce you to a Japanese-speaking person, you will be sunk. This will be a lot of work and a lot of stress, probably for nothing; they’ll almost certainly find out somehow, at some point. They’ll be mad at you, and you’ll fight, and they’ll do whatever it is that they do when they get mad at you.
Or you can tell them and save yourself years of stress every time you pass a sushi restaurant. You’ll have to have a lot of difficult conversations in your life, and you won’t be able to get out of them by pretending to move to Japan. That can’t work more than once or twice.
So: Should you tell them while you’re still abroad in Dubai, or wait until you come home? My vote is to do it now, while you’re still overseas and thus harder to yell at. (I’m afraid you are going to get yelled at. That can’t be helped.) There’s not much to say beyond, “Mom and Dad, I told you a stupid lie because I couldn’t handle the thought of your getting mad at me, and it’s gone on for too long, and I have to tell you the truth.”
Tell them you’re not in Tokyo, get yelled at, renew your contract, enjoy Dubai and the peaceful sleep of the honest, and learn to face your parents’ wrath head on in the future. The good news: This has to be the maddest they’ll ever get at you. After this, everything they get mad about will feel like nothing.
* * *
I've been in a wonderful relationship with a man I adore for the last 14 months. We have a fantastic sex life and have sex at least four to five times a week. One day about six weeks ago, we had sex twice during the day, and then I went out with friends for a girls’ night. When I came home, I found my lover furiously masturbating to a soft-core porno on TV. I was more than happy to help him finish, but the next day—after another morning go-around—I had some time to think and worried whether I am enough for him. When we discussed the issue, he completely put me at ease saying all the right things, but I was still shocked when he told me he still masturbates once a day, even on days we have sex. Stupidly, I blurted out that he’s behaving like an adolescent. He was hurt, and I immediately apologized and suggested that whenever he has that need for release, I could be his muse at any time. Well, he’s taken me up on that offer. Prudie, I feel like we are having sex all the time now. If it’s not intercourse, I’m providing oral or my hand. Seriously, the man can go all the time. It was fun and all at first, but now I’m getting concerned he has some medical problem. How can I tell him I need to recant this offer and take it back down to our previous frequency?
I don’t think you have to worry about a medical problem. It sounds like you have a high libido and he has a very high libido, and once upon a time you had a balance that worked for the two of you. You tried to make up for a thoughtless comment with a blanket promise, and now you’d like to take it back.
Which is fine! It’s only been a month or so that you’ve been joining in his masturbation. It’s not as if you’re asking him to give up your sex life altogether; you simply want to return to the state of your first year-plus, in which you were perfectly happy having near-daily sex. Tell him you made that promise without realizing how much you were offering and that you’re happy to let him masturbate by himself for the most part again. (Don’t tell him you worried he had a medical condition; who knows what you’d end up promising after he heard that one.)
* * *
My wife and I both work full-time in careers that we love. Her work keeps her away from home for about eight hours a day, while mine is more like 11–12 hours a day. By the time I get home, she has already been on the couch for 2–3 hours watching TV, and it doesn’t stop once I arrive. This often dashes any drive I might have had to take a walk with her or do something outside together. Too many of her weekend mornings start with the TV also and turn into whole days of laziness. She expresses a desire to “do fun things” together but then I struggle to get her off the couch. We are in our prime, and seeing us waste away like this is just awful. Some days I just want to put a brick through that TV, drop to my knees, and beg her not to waste her youth like this. How can I step up my game to get her more excited about being active together?
—Not Getting Through
I have to start by confessing I have the TV on mute as I write this. (I’m sorry!) This is clearly causing you a lot of distress, and you need to tell your wife before you reach the point where you hurl a brick at your television set. Not just “wouldn’t it be nice if we turned off the TV and took a walk right now,” but “I am experiencing emotional anguish at how much TV eats up our social time.” Give her a real sense of how much this bothers you—nothing furthers alienation more than bringing up something you find deeply troubling in an offhand way to try to keep from bothering someone else. If she thinks you’d just occasionally prefer to go out while you feel like your love for her is being strangled, you need to let her know what’s going on with you immediately.
It’s worth gently asking her whether she might be depressed. She may very well not be! Not everyone who falls into a rut or watches a lot of TV is depressed, but if this is relatively new behavior for her and she’s finding herself unable to get up and do things she says she’d like to do with you, it’s something to consider.
* * *
I’m a happily married mother of two. At work, I pride myself on maintaining a professional demeanor and care much about how my integrity and character are viewed. One evening, at an industry conference out of town, I had too much to drink on an empty stomach and became extremely intoxicated. A guy I work with walked me back to my hotel room to make sure I got home safely. Apparently, colleagues in the lobby saw this man walk me upstairs and told others in our industry about it, and now there are rumors that I cheated! Prudie—I’m so embarrassed about having too much to drink, but nothing happened with this person. Do I reach out to the colleague who saw me and explain? Do I ignore it? I’m horrified by the thought of these rumors going around. Help!
—Subject of Chatter
I’m glad one of your colleagues made sure you got back to your room safely that night, and I’m sorry that someone misinterpreted his kind gesture for confirmation of an affair you weren’t having. You could contact the person who saw you and say, “I think you might have mistaken what you saw that night for something that isn’t true.” It’s also possible someone else saw you and spread the story, and your bringing it up now would only make things more uncomfortable. That’s the awful part about rumors. They’re slippery enough that trying to set the record straight can feel like an admission of guilt.
As unpleasant as it is to just sit tight when you know folks are gossiping around you, I think your best bet is to wait this one out. It doesn’t sound like this has cost you any work, and eventually, as you carry on with your daily life of doing your job and not cheating on your husband, people will get the message.
* * *
My 1-year-old son was recently diagnosed with some very serious food allergies and given an EpiPen. Following our doctor’s advice, we are very vigilant to make sure he doesn’t accidentally eat anything he’s allergic to. My father-in-law (who watches him regularly) has expressed that he feels the best way to deal with allergies is to give him small amounts of what he is allergic to. I was worried my very stubborn father-in-law might ignore our instructions, but my husband convinced me I was being ridiculous. Recently however, at a family dinner, I came back from the bathroom to find him feeding my son something that had an ingredient he is allergic to. I asked him to stop and he said, “Don’t worry about it.” I got very upset because this is really dangerous, but he told me I was overreacting. I am furious now and worried about having my father-in-law spend time alone with my son in the future. Am I being crazy, or is he?
—Allergic to Father-in-Law
You’re not being crazy. You have a diagnosis from a doctor confirming your son’s allergies are severe enough to require an EpiPen on your side, and your father-in-law has a feeling things are going to be fine on his. Your side wins. There may be some preliminary evidence that “microdoses” of allergen-containing foods may be somewhat useful in treating food allergies, but it’s certainly not a recommended treatment, and exactly zero medical professionals consider “whatever amount your father-in-law thinks is cool” to be a standard serving size. If your father-in-law can’t cope with the fact that he doesn’t get to decide how many peanuts your 1-year-old gets to ingest, he shouldn’t be alone with him.
* * *
I just opened a 529 college savings account for my 5-week-old daughter. The website offers a handy link which any party can use to contribute. I want to post the link to Facebook, with the message: “Feel free to help my daughter go to school in lieu of giving gifts this year!” Maybe some people would impulse-donate or actually would prefer to give money to this account rather than buying us gifts we don’t need. My wife thinks this is “money-grubbing” and “gross.” I think college is expensive and if Great Aunt Moneybags impulse-donates $1,000, then it’s more than worth it. What do you think?
—Not Made of Money
I’ve always thought of college savings accounts as falling under the provenance of parents, grandparents, and other close relatives. Posting a donation link to Facebook might not be the most effective targeting method. If you have older relatives who might be interested and able to donate to your daughter’s college fund, a phone call or a friendly email might be a better way of getting them to chip in. Maybe your wife would feel better about you reaching out to a handful of interested good friends and family members than to every Facebook acquaintance.
My final (and totally objective, legally binding) opinion on the tastefulness of posting a link to your daughter’s college fund on Facebook is that it isn’t grubbing, exactly, but it may be grubbing-adjacent. You’re asking for money for a nonemergency, but very real, expense. Call it money-scrabbling. It lacks that certain indefinable air of dignity, but so does, you know, the entire system of capitalism if you don’t already have money to begin with.
Also, congratulations on your new daughter! I hope you have a great time raising her.
* * *
I only have a few really close friends, who are really more like brothers. One of them, Chris, is getting married. The guys are planning a bachelor party, which includes hitting the strip clubs. My girlfriend hates the entire idea and is adamant I not attend. I don’t see the issue. This is not my bachelor party. I’m celebrating one of my dearest and closest friends’ final days as a single man. I’ve tried to communicate my feelings, but she’s not having it, and I can only think of all the trouble I’m going to be in when I do go. She reads your column religiously so I’m hoping you’ll agree with my view here.
It’s not unreasonable for a person to go to a strip club during the course of a bachelor party. It’s also not unreasonable for a person not to want her boyfriend to go to a strip club, no matter how married his friend Chris is getting. I don’t think there’s a magical answer I can give you that will keep the two of you from fighting about it. You’re going to have to just fight about it, I think. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t go, just that you’re going to have to make your case to your girlfriend—preferably in a way that makes it clear that, even if you don’t ultimately do what she wants, you’re willing to hear her side of things. Here’s where I can’t help but notice you wrote that you’re worried about “the trouble I’m going to be when,” not if, you decide to go, which tells me your mind is already fairly made up.
You say you only have a few close friends whose bachelor parties you attend, and it doesn’t sound like you plan on making strip club visits a habit. Whatever you decide to do, the two of you should come to a point where, even if you don’t agree, you don’t keep revisiting what’s clearly an infrequent issue.
* * *
Recently, my soon-to-be mother-in-law’s elderly dog passed away. Shortly after his death, she mentioned her desire to get another puppy of the same breed. My fiancé and his sisters decided to surprise her with a dog for Christmas. My fiancé and I are both strong supporters of rescue organizations and do not believe in buying dogs from breeders. He directed his sisters to many local rescue sites, some of which were dedicated to the breed of dog they wanted. Two days later, they contacted him to say they had purchased a dog from a breeder for much more than a rescue would cost—and they expected his share of the money. With my encouragement, he spoke to his sisters about the concerns he had about a breeder and his discomfort with their expecting such a large sum of money from him for something he was not consulted on. He also told them he would pay for care for the dog (e.g., neutering, microchipping) but would not contribute to the payment to the breeder. His sisters have not spoken to him since—last we heard, they had picked up the dog and are keeping it until Christmas to give to their mother. Did we do the right thing in discussing our concerns about the dog? And how do we begin to patch things up with his family, who will also be my family in only eight weeks?
—Concerned Animal Activist
Oh, no. Oh, I’m so sorry. This was supposed to be a fun present for your mother-in-law, and now everyone’s saving up all their fighting energy for a nice Christmas blowup. (Which, if my math is correct, is scheduled to happen right around your wedding as well.)
I think rescuing dogs is a great idea and often a much cheaper, less exploitative option than purchasing a dog from a breeder. But that’s not really the issue. You’re wondering whether it’s OK for you two not to contribute to the dog’s initial round of startup funding, given that your fiancé’s sisters bought it without consulting you and after you had told them you’d prefer to go with a rescue. I certainly think so! They bought a group gift on behalf of other people without getting their approval and then insisted they (you) pay whatever amount of money they like. That’s hardly dog-buying best practices.
But that was the easy part. The patching up of things, as I think you already know, is the hard part. The compromise your fiancé suggested, where he pays for neutering and microchipping the dog, sounds eminently reasonable to me. If his sisters are still giving him the silent treatment after that, they may not be terribly interested in being reasonable. Hopefully seeing this blameless, adorable puppy on Christmas Day will help bring you all together.
* * *
More Dear Prudence Columns
“To Catch a Professor: A student told me she has sex with two senior faculty members for money. What should I do?”
“Office Stalker: I wouldn’t leave alone the woman I was mentoring. Can I still fix things?”
“Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn: Should I warn the women I date that I’m a sociopath?”
“Let It Go: I’m a 27-year-old woman, and I’ve never had an orgasm.”
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“Insemination From Beyond the Grave: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman debating whether to have a baby using her dead husband’s sperm.”
“Campus Escort: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a father whose daughter wants to work as a paid companion to cover college tuition.”
“Jeepers, Peepers: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman whose husband tried to secretly film a 19-year-old staying with them.”
“No One Will Believe: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman who fears telling anyone her brother-in-law came on to her would tear the family apart.”