Dear Prudence on Facebook philandering.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
April 6 2009 5:18 PM

Facebook Philandering

Dear Prudence on affairs via social networking—and other readers' quandaries.

Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com every Monday at 1 p.m. to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. (Read her Slate columns here.) An unedited transcript of this week's chat follows.

Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.

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Jacksonville, Fla.: My partner of eight years recently joined Facebook and connected online with many old friends, and since then, has been moody, withdrawn, disinterested, etc. with me around the house. She recently went to a 9 p.m. "meeting" at a bar, for which she was overdressed, and conveniently, she also did not pick up her own tab. I asked her then about Facebook, but she does not want me to see her Facebook page and insists that it should be private, although we have several mutual friends who have access to her page. We have had issues in the past with her secrecy, some dishonesty and deceptiveness, which causes me to have some trust issues with her. Am I overreacting to the Facebook thing now or should I be worried about her behavior?

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Emily Yoffe: I love the idea of Facebook—this social network that is supposed to bring people together and let everyone you've ever known know what you've eaten for lunch—be a furtive method of cheating. It's more than a clear violation of Facebook etiquette not to let your significant other "friend" you. The problem is not Facebook, it's just a utility your partner is utilizing to cheat.

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Arlington, Va.: Dear Pru,

I need your feedback. I am a "woman of size". I have been all of my life. I work out regularly, don't overeat, but here I am. I'm not asking for diet advice. What I need is something different. I need advice on how to deal with the country's hostility towards overweight women. Women of size are not seen as date-worthy, have insurmountable negative connotations associated with them (lazy, slobs, smelly... I'm none of those things!), and are in general treated poorly. Being judged for your looks is the last acceptable form of "prejudice". I guess what I'm most sad about is that this is such a tiny part of who I am, yet never gets overlooked. However, I'm still invisible. So, I guess my question is: how do I overcome my anger at people who feel it's okay to judge me?

Emily Yoffe: First of all, remember you're not alone. Most American are "people of size" so at any workplace or social setting you are hardly going to be the only overweight person. Remember, often the way you are treated is in response to the way you act. You say your weight never gets overlooked, yet you are invisible. This sounds as if you spend a lot of time looking for ways to interpret encounters as being about your weight. I am not saying there is no fat prejudice out there. But if you are comfortable with yourself, and act as if you are, you will notice a lot less hostility.

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Broad Run, Va.: Dear Prudence,

I am a parent of a 2-year-old boy. As one of his regular social activities, we take him to a Gymboree-style place.

Recently, at an "open play session" (i.e. multiple age groups), there was an older autistic child, who looked to be about six or seven. (I overhead the parents telling someone that he is autistic.) I've never spent a lot of time around autistic children, but he seemed to have a lot of the mannerisms traditionally attributed to autism (lack of eye contact, unable to control enthusiasm, etc.) My introduction to him was when, out of nowhere, he came running up behind me and started pounding on my back, screaming at the top of his lungs.

Like (I suppose) most people, I'm all for mainstreaming as long as it doesn't put my child at risk. However, the play session seemed to be an ongoing litany of the autistic child shoving down smaller children. Every couple of minutes, crying would start and there would a toddler that had just been shoved to the ground by the autistic boy. While the autistic boy's parents stayed close and interceded after the fact, it almost seemed like the other children were unwitting therapy dolls for their trying to get their child used to other children.

The autistic child's parents saw what was going on, as did the moderator of the place. I felt like my choice was confronting the parents and/or the owner (thus making a scene), picking up my child and leaving (thus making a scene), or spending the entire session glued to my kid in case the much older and larger autistic child came charging at my child so I could step in between them. I chose the last option.

Was there a better option that I missed? If not, did I do the right thing? I understand the other parents' plight and the other boy's need for social interaction, but the boy's parents putting their child in a play situation with much smaller children, and letting him tackle smaller children over and over again, seemed to be pretty thoughtless on their part.

Thanks for your help.

Emily Yoffe: It's important that you understand the painful situation the parents of the autistic child are in. However, it's to no one's benefit to have a child there who cannot behave within the bounds of safety and respect for others. If you want to continue at this place, you should make an appointment with the manager and explain what happened, and say one child can't be a danger to others no matter what the reason. This setting simply may not appropriate for a child with the disabilities of the one you describe. And if you felt this boy could have hurt your toddler, it wouldn't have been making a scene to quietly leave early.

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Prudence, I have been dating someone for the past 3 years. He is in his mid-30s and I'm in my early 30s. He is a wonderful, sweet, and caring person. We have a great friendship and share a lot of great memories. My problem is that I while he is deeply in love with me, I'm not sure I feel the same. I love him and enjoy our relationship but don't feel some crazy, teenage-type passion that most people claim that they feel in their romantic relationships. He has asked me to marry him and I'm considering saying yes. I'm a big believer in marriage being about shared values, deep friendship, and of course love. Is it wrong for me to say yes to this proposal? Mind you, I have discussed with him my lack of gushing emotions when it comes toward him but have affirmed my love, respect, trust, and admiration for him. He seems to be OK with our relationship as is and frankly so I'm I. I'm I crazy or do I need help for even considering his proposal?

Emily Yoffe: What are your alternatives? Years of awful dating in a search for someone who sets off (temporary) fireworks? There are many different ways to approach enduring love. Feeling a deep commitment, respect, and admiration sounds pretty darn good. I'm sure a lot of women who would adore a decent partner would read your letter and say, "If you don't want this, I'll take it!" You don't even say that you have experienced the kind of boiling passion in previous relationships that this one lacks. You may not intrinsically be a high-boil person when it comes to love. What you've got sounds awfully good. I say say "Yes."