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

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
June 1 2009 3:03 PM

Can My Mom Come Along?

Prudie on a mother and daughter who double-date a pair of brothers—and questions from other advice seekers.

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Emily Yoffe: Of course! He ran into some trouble, and then worked his way out of it. He accomplished his goal. Those are all good reasons to celebrate.

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Minneapolis, Minn.: Dear Prudence, Everybody tells me that high school is the point in your life where you should be starting to form romantic relationships with people, but the concept is lost on me. I've always been a more solitary person, but recently I've been reaching out and am now on the social scene more than ever before. Because of this, I'm being noticed by some of the guys in my grade in a different light. I've been asked out about 2-3 times and have turned every offer down. I do this because not only do I have no interest in a boyfriend, but also I think I would make a poor girlfriend. Being a teenager, I have the overly active hormones we are known for and habitually pick out any attractive man I see (generally on television or in movies) all the time. It's something that I think is fun, but would put a lot of strain on a relationship. My mom says it's normal, and most of my friends agree. Save for one. One of my semi-close guy friends claims it's mean and unfair for me to not give these potentials a chance. I've explained to him numerous times that I don't want a boyfriend and don't feel ready for that kind of commitment, but he still says I'm being rude and refusing them for all the wrong reasons. Am I right that I'm not ready for commitment, or am I just refusing them for my own bizzare reasons? Are they even the right reasons? And if I have the right to refuse, how can I let people down in a light manner without seeming cold? Please help!

Emily Yoffe: Even if you pine for Chris Pine (Capt. Kirk in Star Trek), he is simply not going to return your attention. Plenty of people don't date in high school—they aren't interested, aren't ready, etc. But if you aren't dating because you're not ready for commitment—and find actors more attractive than classmate—that's just fine. But a date does not a boyfriend make. It's good to get some practice in finding out what it's like to go out with a real person. You don't have to confess your secret, and you don't have to go steady. Just have fun.

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Chicago, Ill.: I recently accepted a volunteer position with the intent of pulling myself out of my own personal doldrums. I really wanted to get involved and put my talents to good use. The place where I'm volunteering is extremely prestigous and very well-known. I have committed myself for two nights a week for the rest of the summer.

Last week was my first day, and I'm very disappointed. The work is extremely tedious and boring (think data entry and alphabetizing), and there's a lot of it to do with no end in sight. The work must be done regardless. I was really hoping I'd have a chance to put my professional know-how to good use, but quite honestly the work is beneath me. (I interned at this same place many years ago, and the work I'm doing now is further down on the totem pole than what I did before.) It's clear to me there will be no other tasks to do at this organization other than what is before me. Volunteering is having the opposite effect on me than what I'd originally hoped for.

I spoke to a friend of mine who thinks I should quit. She told me that although volunteer work on a resume is always a plus, she thinks prospective employers would look down on me for taking such a low-level volunteer position and question my professional capabilities and how I value myself. I have to admit my friend has a point.

I don't know what to do. My life hasn't been the greatest, and I really had high hopes for this. I'd just like to bail now. There are plenty of others lined up behind me to help so my presence won't make a difference. Should I quit after just one day? Do you think this will hurt my job prospects in the long run? Is there a graceful way to back out of this? Should I put this on my resume? Right now, I'm too ashamed.

I don't know what to do.

Emily Yoffe: You probably don't want to put on your resume, "Alphabetizing at The Salvation Army from May 28, 2009—May 28, 2009." Before you do anything, you need to have a talk with your supervisor, or the person in charge of interns. Explain that you chose the organization because you volunteered there before and had engaging work that made you feel you were furthering their goals. But now you are concerned that if you are only going to be expected to do data entry, that is not the best use of your abilities. And since it's not the best use of your abilities, if you're working for free, there are plenty of other places where you could put your real talents to work if this place won't change your duties.

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Sacramento, Calif.: Dear Prudie,

Several months ago I ended a bad relationship with a man I'd been seeing for about 9 months. I was verbally and emotionally abused by him and it took every ounce of my strength to finally walk away from him and not look back. About a month ago I began dating again, feeling like I had come a long way and had healed enough to put myself back in the game, and have started seeing a man who is everything I could have possibly hoped for. He's smart, ambitious, kind, gentle, considerate - basically everything I've ever wanted. However, my ex got wind of my new relationship and has done everything possible to tear me down and make me feel insecure about myself and my ability to be in a relationship. He tells me all of the imperfections of my body, how horrible I am as a lover, has been 'fessing up to lies he told me throughout our relationship. I try to ignore him, but somehow I still feel battered and bruised and I'm worried that my new guy will decide I have too much "drama" with my ex constantly harrassing me. Any tips about how to make my ex leave me alone? We don't even live in the same state!

Emily Yoffe: Why is this guy in your life in any way? Next time he contacts you tell him your relationship is over and you both need to move on and end contact completely. Then do not pick up the phone when you see it's him, don't answer his emails, don't respond to his tweets, etc. If he continues, then tell him if he doesn't understand you meant no contact, you will be forced to take legal action to get him to leave you alone

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Philadelphia, Penn.: I'm a graduate student in mathematics, and my particular area is very abstract. When people ask me what I do, or see me with a textbook and ask what I'm reading, no matter how simplified an explanation I give them, inevitably the person remarks that my area is "way beyond" them or that they'd "never be able to grasp that". I always want to tell them, "You definitely won't with that attitude." To me, all of these concepts are perfectly intuitive, and while I'm certainly aware that not everyone has my capacity for, or interest in, mathematics, I am still annoyed by all of these people putting themselves down to me—did they ever try to understand the subject? At least some of them might find it easier and more interesting than they expected! For some reason, they all seem to take pride in how poor their math ability is, or at the very least they aren't troubled by it. Should I be harsher and just say "Yes indeed, this is much too hard for you"? How do you suggest I respond to these kind of comments?

Emily Yoffe: A few years ago, in an attempt to help my daughter with her math homework, I enrolled in the elementary school math prep program, Kumon. I scored at the first grade level. Even if I tried, I probably couldn't truly understand what you're doing. But I would be interested if you could explain what this math is used for—modeling subprime mortgages? Global warming? Then we'd have something to talk about. So ignore the self-put downs, and don't add any of your own. Instead think of it as an opportunity to show that what you do is interesting and can—on some level—be grasped.

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Arlington, Va.: Please, please, please advise the woman whose husband is trying to quit smoking to discuss this side-effect with his doctor immediately. My family has been devastated by a member who committed suicide shortly after beginning a drug-based regime designed to help him quit smoking. A reaction like her husband's shouldn't be ignored or trivialized. (Not that your original answer trivialized it, but please have them make sure it's not something more serious.)

Emily Yoffe: Medical alert! Wife with the husband quitting smoking who has developed a terrible personality—have him call his doctor immediately. Thanks for the heads up.

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