Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at Washingtonpost.com.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
May 18 2009 3:34 PM

Shear Betrayal

Prudie counsels a woman who fears angering her stylist husband by visiting another hairdresser—and other advice seekers.

Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, chats with readers weekly on Washingtonpost.com about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. Next week's chat will take place on Tuesday at 1 p.m. due to the Memorial Day holiday. The chat will resume its regular Monday schedule the following week. (Read Prudie's Slate columns here.) An unedited transcript of this week's chat follows.

Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I'm looking forward to your questions and comments.

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Burlington, Mass.: I have a problem that needs very careful decision. My husband is a hair stylist and I am not happy with my hair color and the way he cuts it. We know a very famous friend/hair stylist close to us and I want to go to him. Do you think it is a mistake or embarrassment for my husband or the other hair stylist if I decide to take the steps? I am very, very dissatisfied with my hair color/cut as it is now. I want a change of style and color and every time I beg him to do something different he just does the same thing or worse. Please understand that I am not putting my husband down or anything just want to look little bit different from how I've looked for so long.

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BTW—I never gone to others since we've been married, over 20 years now.

Please help!

Emily Yoffe: Clearly it's a mistake and embarrassment for you to continue to go to your husband. If you are the spokesmodel for his skills, your unflattering results can't be good for business. I wonder if he's just not good at what he does and makes everyone look awful, or when he goes to work on your roots, it gets to the root of some hairy psychological issues. Unlike the rest of us, you just can't just go to a new stylist and come home and say, "How do you like my hair?" Tell your husband just as doctors don't treat their family, you two should stop mixing your personal and professional lives, and that you're going to try Mr. X. Maybe when he sees how good you look he will be inspired. Let's hope he's big enough not to take someone else cutting your split ends as a betrayal worthy of a split.

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San Diego, Calif.: Dear Prudie,

I've been living in the U.S. for a little over 10 years now, and I still have a British accent. I've found that people get the urge to mimic my accent—sometimes when meeting for the first time—and it's rather irksome. I'm not sure how to react to these people. Do you have any suggestions? I understand that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I'd rather just carry on conversations like a normal person. Thanks.

Emily Yoffe: When babies are born, within hours if an adult sticks out a tongue at them, they will imitate and stick out a tongue back. So this urge to mimic, which lays the groundwork for empathy, is really basic. Of course, being a civilized person means that you learn to repress this urge, and do not sound like Eliza Dolittle every time you hear a British accent. You could either answer, "Oh, brilliant! Your accent is spot-on. I'm gobsmacked!" Or you could, stiff upper lip and all, ignore the Masterpiece Theater attempt until your companion's urge to imitate passes.

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Plainview, N.Y.: I have a very close friend who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. She has a great deal of stress in her life—an important job, many family members pulling her in many directions, a young son to raise and she has recently moved in with someone. I am the only person she has told of her diagnosis. She says she will deal with the radiation therapy on her own as it can be done somewhat discreetly and only wants someone to know to occasionally talk to. I am trying to be as supportive as possible and have also encouraged her to talk to her newly moved in boyfriend at least. She refuses. She is also stalling on scheduling the therapy. I have been a pleasant but persistent nudge but am concerned that if I continue to nudge she will shut down and then stop communicating. What if anything should I do?

Emily Yoffe: This sounds awful and very much like the "April" plotline of the excellent, "In Treatment." In the HBO series a young cancer patient refused to get chemo and her therapist finally took her himself to the oncologist to get her to start.You could do something similar and offer to go with your friend to her appointment to get her radiation scheduled. Of course, you don't want to be a nudge, but this is life and death. If she keeps stalling, you can tell her that you want her to be able to confide in you, but you fear for her life and feel you need to take more action. You could possibly tell her that you want to include her live-in boyfriend in on this information.

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Dallas, Texas: Whenever we go out to eat, I am irritated whenever someone asks if they could have a bite of what I ordered. I believe that I shouldn't have to do so. What does proper etiquette dictate when someone asks to sample your meal? (Didn't you used to write for The Dallas Observer?)

Emily Yoffe: No, you shouldn't have to, but if you don't, it's awkward. But if you eat out enough with the same people, they will learn not to put their paws up and beg for a treat from you. You can say, "I'm sorry, I'm really looking forward to devouring this whole thing." Or if your issue is their fork in your food, you can cut off a piece and put it on their plate. And I used to work for Texas Monthly.

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Anonymous: A mutual friend and I had a long talk, and after I opened up, this person gave me direct evidence of an innappropriate relationship I suspected my spouse of having. I don't think it is a physical relationship, but I can't be certain. I've read many articles on emotional affairs but am confused. I would appreciate your definition of an emotional affair and the warning signs. If it is an emotional affair, what do I do? How do I break it up? Is it the same as a physical affair and will lead to divorce? I need help with this.

Emily Yoffe: You already know the warning signs, because you've realized something is going on with your husband that you're not part of. He's distant, distracted, he can't account for missing time, he's secretly calling or texting, he just feels "not there." I'm afraid you can't just break it up, because it also requires fixing something that's broken in your marriage. You need to sit your husband down, tell him he hasn't seemed to be in your marriage for a while, and that you've come to understand he's involved—either emotionally or emotionally and physically—with someone else. You can say you want to save your marriage, and that requires his being honest and present.

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