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

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
June 29 2009 3:29 PM

Grampy's Got a Gun

Prudie counsels a woman whose in-laws refuse to lock up their weapons when her children visit—and other advice seekers.

(Continued from Page 1)

While a lot of us genuinely enjoy working with him the majority of the time, he seems to enjoy these games a bit too much. It's really not his role, and he's not a supervisor to anyone.

What do you think is the best diplomatic way to get pseudo-boss co-worker to back off?

Emily Yoffe: "Thanks, 'Elmer', but I understand what I'm supposed to do, and you'll excuse me because I have to go do it."

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Seattle, Wash,: Dear Prudence,

I am nearing the 6 month anniversary with my new boyfriend whom I love very much. He and I work so well with one other and have been great at understanding difficulties in one another's past. I have been honest with him in telling him about how I struggled with being overweight for several years. He is very proud of the fact that I've lost over seventy pounds and encourages me constantly. Unfortunately, I struggle with wearing certain articles of clothing (i.e. sleeveless shirts, swimsuits, and such) because I am ashamed of the extra skin that just hasn't tightened up. I fear this will hinder my ability to express my love for him in physical ways. What should I do? Is this something we should discuss, should I have a procedure done, or should I just get over this?

Emily Yoffe: He knows you've lost 70 pounds, so surely he also has realized—even if you do wear long sleeves and haven't gone swimming with him—that you don't have the fanatically toned body of Madonna. He loves you, and it's likely he's not going to care very much about loose arm skin. One thing that makes a woman appealing and attractive is confidence. So take pride both in your body, and that you've found someone you feel is worth knowing intimately. You might ultimately want to get the loose skin fixed surgically. But your decision about whether to become sexual with your boyfriend should not hang on plastic surgery.

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Albuquerque, N.M.: Is it possible to start over with a clean slate with relatives? I lived in Manhattan for many years, and never really cared for my in-laws. (Yeah, it was mutual.) My husband died 8 years ago, and things got quietly ugly between my husband's family and me.

I left New York a few years ago and am now getting ready to move back. I'd like to start things clean with the extended family for my kids' sake. I still don't LIKE them (I -really- don't like them), but they are my kid's aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc.

Is it possible to start clean? Do I talk to them and say "let's start over" or will that make things worse? Do I just try to start over on my side and not say anything? Is it a pipe dream?

Emily Yoffe: This is a great idea. Even if you want to keep your contact to a minimum, it will surely mean a great deal to your kids to have connections with this side of the family. They will have the kinds of stories, photos and other memorabilia about their late father that will mean so much to them. Even if the problem was because of bad behavior on both sides, or even primarily their side, you should be the big one and start by making a gesture. Put together a photo album of the kids, or some other small but meaningful gift your in-laws would enjoy, and send it with a note saying you are sorry relations became so strained, and you regret many things you said and did. This is not because they weren't equally or more at fault, but you are trying to get past the past and provoke a reciprocal sense of generosity and forgiveness on their part. Say that now that you are moving back to town, you and your kids would really enjoy being more a part of their lives again.

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Chicago, Ill.: Prudence,

I've always been the sort of person that doesn't hang out with others a lot. If I had to guess I'd say I spend 80 percent of my time alone. This has never bothered me, I prefer to stay home and read, but it has had an unfortunate byproduct: I'm incredibly rude. On more than a few occasions I have been rude or mean to perfectly innocent people at airports and bookstores, and I often don't realize how rude I've been until after the fact. I guess I'm trying to figure out how to recognize I'm rude in the moment. How do I recognize when I'm being rude? What are the signs that I am? And when I am rude and realize it, do I acknowledge this fact by saying something or apologizing, or does that sound like excuse making?

Emily Yoffe: It sounds as if you might be somewhere on the Asperger's spectrum and social interaction has always been difficult and somewhat baffling for you. It's great that you recognize that you are behaving in ways you don't like, or are offending people without meaning to. So build on that awareness and take some action. Look up support groups for Asperger's and find out how you find out just what's going on with you, and where you can get help. It really can make a difference to get training in how to respond in social situations. You may even find that you want to spend less time alone! And reading the etiquette books of Miss Manners, Emily Post, etc. can help give you a better understanding of how to behave in everyday interactions with others.

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Monroe, La: Thanks for the advice. You would be surprised at the things that shock some people. Some actually were shocked to hear that I don't plan on hosting many parties (just doesn't appeal to me). I was also surprised at the number of people confused as to why I continue to work despite my husband's ability to support me. It takes all kinds I guess.

Emily Yoffe: (This is from the woman whose husband's family won't accept she's kept her maiden name.) I know that even when you cross the Mason-Dixon line it is still 2009. Southern states have women governors, representatives, business leaders, etc. People cannot be that shocked. However, you should surprise them and yourself by hosting some parties, even if you're not a natural hostess. You will have more fun than you expected, and will create a lot of goodwill.

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Just back from the AT: and it's sorta a symptom of my issue. My husband and I don't do anything together anymore. WE just coexist quietly or stressfully, but never anything together. He refuses any suggestion to talk, communicate or plan. I'm ready to give up. Maybe I'd have a fraction of an iota of a chance if he was gone. I do things to have fun on my own with friends and family (like go hiking), but he never wants to do it. He makes less than half than I do, and I'm tired of supporting a mean, uncooperative, dependant, angry, immature burden. I do all the finances, pay taxes, do the taxes, make sure every bill is paid on time, organize work on the house, pay for that work, arrange for the dog to go to the vet, pay that vet, plan, buy and cook every meal. I can't believe this is my life. Any advice?

Emily Yoffe: Thank you for an Appalachian Trail question, although I was hoping for one in which the hike ended with a tango session in Buenos Aires. Since you say you arrange for the dog to go to the vet, but not the kids to go to the pediatrician because there don't appear to be any, what are you doing with this dog of a husband? You could make one last effort and say you're going to be out of the marriage unless he goes to counseling and your relationship changes. But your situation sounds both miserable and unnecessary to me.

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