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 Prudie's Slate columns here.) An unedited transcript of this week's chat follows.
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon!
Elk Grove, Calif.: Dear Prudence,
There's this really beautiful girl in my Pre-Calculus class that I like. I'm not insane about marrying her or something, but I can't help but feel infatuated by her beauty. She's smart, beautiful, and great with everything she does. I wouldn't be surprised if she came up to me and introduced herself as Aphrodite. But she doesn't know I exist. I've talked with only twice. Once to help her with a math problem and then later to comment her on her mother's cooking of an awesome quiche during a school potluck. So how do I impress her? Please help.
- Aphrodite's Lover
Emily Yoffe: You are right that a discussion of marriage is a little premature, given the problem of her not knowing you exist. But since you sign your self, "Aphrodite's Lover" thus imagining yourself in bed with her, perhaps you tend to get carried away with future scenarios. If this girl is everything you say, she is probably quite used to tongue-tied suitors with lust on their mind. Instead of trying to impress her, why don't you try getting to know her? Friend her on Facebook and let that help you see if you have any interests in common. Then use those to make conversation with her. Don't worry about ultimate outcomes, just act natural and enjoy her company. This goddess might enjoy being treated like a person.
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Wisconsin: Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend and I live together and have a wonderful relationship. We balance each other in every way. But we don't have the same aspirations. I am very career minded with high goals and he is more laid back, enjoying the moment and is happy with just financial independence in a low end job. I always saw this as a good thing since we are both of equal intelligence and talent and with our different interests we won't compete with each other. But lately we both lost our jobs due to the economy and I am living off of my student loans since I'm still in school. We both got new jobs but they don't start for a few weeks. I'm still in school and he sits at home all day. I find myself resenting him for his lack of responsibility. While he's at home, he doesn't clean up unless I ask him to two or three times. I just get angry that while I'm working for a future he is just slacking off instead of helping around the house voluntarily. I don't want to clean up the house when I've been at school all day. What do I say with out hurting his delicate feelings since he gets defensive easily.
From, A Perturbed Girlfriend
Emily Yoffe: This is what happens when life intervenes in wonderful relationships. And it sounds as if it's good you are finding out now just what your "balancing" each other means in practical terms. This is also why I have qualms about people who are so young moving to together. Have you two decided that you are making a lifetime commitment? Or is living together just more convenient? Because if you don't want to end up together by default, being under the same roof makes it very hard to decide this starter relationship is not going to take you to the finish line. I'm wondering if you're truly as okay about his lack of ambition as you say. It's not that he has to share your goals, but if he doesn't have any, and you do, that is going to grind at you over the long term. Instead of figuring out how to get him to clean up the house, you need to use this period to figure out why you two are playing house.
Richmond, Va.: Hi Prudence! Help! I am meeting the CEO of our company tonight at a fancy dinner/cocktail event. I am a young, female professional and fairly new to the company. Advice on how to make a good first impression? I'd love to think he remembers me in a good way (and remembers me at all!).
Emily Yoffe: Number one, stick to seltzer water. Nerves and alcohol can conspire to have him remember you (in a bad way). As with the young man who wants to impress Aphrodite, forget trying to make an impression. Use this opportunity to say how much you have enjoyed working at the company, then briefly mention something specific you worked on and say how that is exactly the kind of challenge you are excited to be part of. Prepare yourself with conversational nuggets -- something you read in the business page that applies to the company. Don't overstay your welcome during the cocktail hour, sense when it's time to move away gracefully. But if he's engaged with talking to you, don't calculate how you can impress, instead remember they hired you for a reason.
"instead of helping": Perhaps if you saw housework as a dual responsibility and not something he "helps" you with then maybe he might respond differently. Help implies it's your main responsibility and you're merely getting assistance. Saying that men should "help" with housework is equivalent to saying that men should "babysit" their own kids.
Emily Yoffe: Good point. But obviously this guy doesn't see it that way, and they have fallen into the eternal pattern of her nagging, and him resenting. If anyone has solved this, I'd love to hear.