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.

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Is it okay to send them this late? Do I have to explain why they are so late?

Emily Yoffe: I like the range of your excuses from mother-in-law's escape from rehab to, well, going on vacation. No, it's not too late to write the notes, and no, no one wants to hear that the reason they are coming this late is because granny got sick and you were at the beach working on your tan. Sit down and write the notes. Add a one-line apology for the long delay, but don't clarify the reasons.

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The Steamy South: Dear Prudie,

I've recently decided I'm tired of people asking me if I'm expecting another baby/and decided to lose some weight. My mother, who has been complaining about her weight ever since I can remember, said that she was going to join me in my efforts. But every time I go to her house for dinner, she serves the same old things she always cooks—mouth-watering ribeye steaks, creamy mashed potatoes, decadent desserts. Even the vegetables are smothered in butter before they reach the table.

My eating plan allows me to eat anything in moderation, but she always cooks enough for ten people and then pressures me to eat more than I should. If I refuse, she acts hurt. To make matters worse, she's an excellent cook, so I really want to eat what she's offering.

My parents split their time between the town where my brother lives and the town I live in. I've managed to lose 15 lbs since May in spite of my Mom's food pushing, but we're going to visit my brother and his family in 2 weeks. I already know I won't be reducing while I'm there, but I don't want to put on the pounds I've already lost. How do I deal with my mom's insistence that I eat more than I know I should?

Emily Yoffe: Once you're out of her house, and she no longer has the power to physically put a spoon in your mouth or punish you if you don't clean your plate, your mother cannot make you eat more than you want to. We live in a fortunate world where it's harder to avoid food than find it. You will always be surrounded by temptation, so you need to strengthen the ability to say, "It looks great, but I'm full, thanks" to your mother or whoever might be pushing calories on you. Take a look at The End of Overeating by David Kessler or The Beck Diet books for ideas on how to change how you interact with food.

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"Loan": The "lender" and the "giver" both have tax implications. This looks like a gift, so one needs to claim it as so and the other has to file a gift tax return. If a loan, it was still below market, and thus had a gift component. The IRS is not really happy with people who do this without filing, and they do come after you years later. See a CPA, stat.

Emily Yoffe: You mean you can't say to the IRS, "But what about 'paying it forward'?" Thanks for the information that "Loan" needs to bring this up with her husband.

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London, U.K.: We have several young children, all the same gender, and (surprise!) are suddenly expecting another. We haven't yet shared the good news, but it is inevitable that people will ask us if we were trying for that elusive other gender. We weren't. I don't want to tell the world this child was a surprise, and I don't want to be rude, tempting though it may be considering the question is so personal.

My honest answer is that I would prefer this child be the same as the others, but I don't think I should say that. The trite answer is that "we just want a healthy baby." How would you respond?

Emily Yoffe: There are good reasons that some situations already have a trite answer. This one is excellent, so use it.

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Prudie,

I'm a 27-year-old woman who's doing pretty well in life. I've traveled the world; I'm getting my Master's degree and have a great job lined up; I'm in perfect health and in great shape. People always tell me I'm really pretty, smart, fun, nice, and adventurous. I'm really happy with every aspect of my life except my love life.

I've tried meeting guys in all sorts of situations, such as in class, at work, through friends, at events, online, etc., and sometimes I'll get a few dates. Things tend to end with the guy offering me casual sex or nothing, and plainly telling me that he has no desire to have a relationship with me, and that's when I'm lucky, as I've had worse endings on numerous occasions. I'm left mindboggled and bitter, because I really want to be in a relationship.

I would think that being an attractive, accomplished person would make me good relationship material, but apparently that's just not enough. I know lots of people who are less nice, less funny, and less interesting who manage to find boyfriends. What can I do differently that will make guys think I'm girlfriend material?

Emily Yoffe: I've said before that I've often wished I could put together all the "attractive, smart, nice, accomplished" people who have somehow managed to get pretty far into adulthood without ever having a romantic relationship. You should start by asking your friends to have a blunt conversation with you as to why they think you've never connected with a guy. Is there something you're doing that they haven't wanted to mention to you? Beyond figuring out what signals you may be sending, you've got to work on not getting angry and bitter—that would make any potential partner flee. Keep trying, keep open, keep your expectations low, and ask your friends to help you connect with men who have expressed a desire to have a serious girlfriend.

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Philadelphia, Penn.: Two good friends of mine have been dating for about six months. I cheered on the relationship in the beginning, but am now wishing I had completely butted out. Friend #1 is head over heels in love with Friend #2, and is currently planning a cross-country move to be with her. In our phone conversations, he tells me how great she is, how he's in love with her, etc. Friend #2 is clearly not as interested. When we talk on the phone, she'll just say he seems "cool" and "pretty nice", and how he's "probably good for her" after the jerks she's dated. (A fiancé broke up with her two years ago). I honestly think she wants to like him, but it's pretty obvious that the feelings aren't there. I know I should stay out of their business, but the thought of Friend #1 uprooting his life to move to the West Coast is heartbreaking—especially since I'm pretty sure he wouldn't if he knew how lukewarmly she talked about him.

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