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

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
June 23 2009 3:49 PM

Boyfriend Gives His Teeth the Brushoff

Prudie counsels a woman whose partner is lax at oral care—and other advice seekers.

(Continued from Page 1)

I'm a 33-year old professional man who has had very long hair since my teens. Men in my family have had long hair for generations. My friends and family don't even think about it—it's normal. The problem is how to respond when a co-worker or random person says, "You ought to donate it."

First, I don't like people telling me what to do. Second, I had cancer when I was a child and don't like talking about it. If someone really wants to help, they should donate to Ronald McDonald House instead of telling me to cut my hair. Not every kid with cancer, like me, goes bald, but they do need toys and their families need support. Saying this only seems to embarrass folks and then I have to explain my whole life story. Been there, done that. Not interested. Third, I have cultural and religious reasons for not cutting my hair and don't feel the need to explain those, either.

How can I politely tell these folks to stop telling me what to do without guilt-tripping them and having to re-hash a difficult and very personal time in my life?

Emily Yoffe: I admire you for not saying, "And that's a nice watch—you ought to donate it to Goodwill." What you do with your hair is none of anyone's business. It's up to you whether you want to tell people that you have religious reasons for keeping your hair as it is. But you don't even have to offer that. To strangers, you can simply walk away. To friends you can say, "That's not for me," and leave it at that.

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Anonymous: Dear Prudence, I recently found proof that my husband of 24 years has cheated on me with a secretary from work.

I confronted him with the evidence. At first he denied he knew anyone with that name. Then he tried to alter the evidence while I was out of the room.

Finally he admitted his infidelity.

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He has never said he was sorry.

He has refused to seek therapy.

He refuses to answer any questions about the affair.

Do I owe him a "second chance"? I have always thought that an affair was something that a marriage should be able to weather. But I don't see how we can reestablish trust given his lack of remorse. Would I be justified to seek a divorce and move on with my life?

I want to be fair.

Emily Yoffe: If by second chance you mean his having another affair, then it sounds as if you're all set. It's hard to move into the "We're renewing our commitment to each other" stage if your husband seems only committed to continuing to cheat. Since at every opportunity he's taken the tack of compounding his deceit, he's left it up to you to decide to accept his behavior as it is. You, however, might want a good divorce attorney on your side in case your husband has plans for the marital assets that he's also not letting you in on.

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San Juan Islands, Wash.: About eight years ago, my husband and I decided to help two of his sisters—both single mothers—buy their own houses. We wrote up no official papers, had no formal date for being repaid. (Yes, I know now this was all a bad idea.) One of them paid us back several years ago. The other has never mentioned it. As I saw her become financially stable, her children grown and moved out of the house, I kept expecting her to bring up how she might begin to repay us. My husband refused to ask her about it, saying she'd bring it up when she was ready. After a couple of years of wondering, I finally wrote her a letter saying this uncomfortable matter was still between us and asking for us to talk about it. She responded by writing a letter only to my husband, saying she was surprised that the "private agreement" that existed between her and my husband of his "generous gift" might be causing him pain. My husband was angry that I had gone "behind his back" to write a letter to his sister. He says now that he has always hoped that one day she would "pay it forward" to another family member but that whatever she does is her own business. I feel like she --and he-- have cut me out of the discussion of what happens to our money($20,000!). What should I do?

Emily Yoffe: Yes, the original mistake was not clarifying the terms of the loan. Since enough time has gone by for your sister-in-law's children to have grown and left, even a low interest rate would be a nice return for you now. Your second mistake was taking action without your husband. This has backfired by making it his family against you. "Pay it forward" is a lovely idea, but it sounds as if your sister in-law just decided to stick with the "pay" portion of this aphorism and has no use for "forward" let alone paying it back. Given the high feelings, you should apologize to your husband and say you want to let the issue go for now. Then in a few months say to your husband you know you behaved inappropriately by writing to your sister-in-law, but you wanted to bring it up again with him to see if you both could get some recompense from his sister for your long ago and generous loan.

_______________________

Virginia: Hi Prudence, My husband of one year is in the military and was recently sent overseas for a two year stint. It is hard for both of us, but he especially is having a hard time. I am trying to be as supportive as I can for him. While clearing out his closet to make room for some of my clothes (he knew I was moving some of my stuff in), I came across a stash of pictures and letters he had saved from an ex-girlfriend. The pictures were mostly all sexy—no nudity, but she's in a bikini in a lot of them. I did not look through the letters. I didn't want to make myself any more upset than I already was, and I didn't want to violate his privacy.

Anyway, my question is what do I do now? I don't want to make my husband's life any more stressful than it already is, but this is really bothering me. The sexiness of the pictures he saved is I think what upsets me most. He knows I have always been insecure about this ex. And he has had other girlfriends which he dated for much longer than her, but he only had pictures of this one girl. I don't know if I should say something so that we can try to work through it together or if I should keep quiet about it, since he really is going through a tough time right now. Thanks for your help!

Emily Yoffe: Put the pictures away and forget about them! Everyone is entitled to have a stash of memorabilia and his is pretty mild. You and your husband are physically separated and he's under duress. You need to be a loving supportive, presence for him now. Think of what he would do if you brought this up to him. He would reassure you that he forgot about the pictures, she means nothing to him now, and it's just some stuff he forgot to get rid of. But the conversation would leave you both feeling uncomfortable, especially at such a great distance. So pretend he's reassured you, remember he's chosen you, reseal the envelope and put it out of your sight and your mind.

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Embarrassed: My husband and I married over a year ago and were blessed with many generous gifts from our friends and family. I began the thank you notes when we returned from our honeymoon and then life happened. By "life" I mean we applied, were accepted to and started grad school, we held an intervention for his mother, assisted her enrollment in rehab, assisted her search when she escaped from rehab, attended family counseling sessions with her and now try to avoid her daily crises; cared for a grandparent in between nursing stays; helped a friend leave an abusive spouse, testified before family court and local law enforcement; and tried to celebrate some good times and holidays with friends and family. So now I have a thousand excuses and hundreds of thank you notes left.

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