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

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
July 20 2009 2:27 PM

The Right Candidate With the Wrong Idea

Prudie counsels someone vetting a strong job applicant with repugnant personal beliefs—and other advice seekers.

Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com every Monday at 1 p.m. to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. (Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)

Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.

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Washington, D.C.: I have a workplace dilemma. I'm on a team of about 15 people, and we are hiring a new manager from within the company. One of the candidates is probably the top contender, is very qualified and presents very well. I have little doubt that this person could perform the job well. But, I happen to know that this person holds personal/political views that are absolutely repugnant to me—it's an issue that could not be more important for me. The thought of taking orders from a person with such views is horrifying to me. It blasts everything I've ever believed in. What would you do? Thanks!

Emily Yoffe: If you work for Planned Parenthood and your potential boss spends all her time lobbying for the reversal of Roe v. Wade I could understand you might have a problem. However, it sounds as if this person's views are irrelevant to the business, and so you should make them none of your business. You concede this person is highly qualified; unless he or she proselytizes at the workplace, you should recognize the fact that a great thing about the U.S. is that people with all sorts of viewpoints can leave them aside and work amiably together. This person is not going to be ordering you to accept his or her personal views, this manager is going to telling you how to do your job.

St. Louis, Mo.: Dear Prudence, I was married to a man for 20 years. We had many ups and downs. I left him, it was the hardest thing I have ever done but his negativity was so overwhelming I felt I had to leave or my soul would be totally sucked away. After 2 years, I married again to a wonderful man. My problem is I still have feelings for my first husband and dream of him often. While I love my current husband, my feelings are often confusing: the love is not as intense as my 1st which was intense for many years. My first husband has changed and mellowed and wants me back. He never wanted me to leave in the first place. I don't know if I made a mistake in leaving him and wonder if going back to him is idiotic.

Emily Yoffe: Ah yes, how to recapture the intense thrill of the soul-sucking love? You say you ended your marriage to save your life, but now that you're in a decent relationship, you miss the passion of the rotten one. Number one sounds like a lonely vampire hoping to lure you back for more sucking. However, you sound like you need some help figuring out why you would jeopardize a new marriage to go back for twenty more years of misery. I assume you know how hard it is to find someone "wonderful". Concentrate more on being a committed wife to your current husband than mooning about the bad times with your previous one.

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Toronto, Canada: Dear Prudie,

I live in the city and work closer to the suburbs, involving a 20-minute commute by car. A few months ago I discovered that a co-worker of mine lives close by to me and takes the bus every day. I offered to give him rides to work since we live so close and have been doing so several times a week, both there and back. Now after some time has passed, I realize he is not that close after all. Technically, we live on the same street (a long one), but I actually timed it and on average, picking him up adds an extra 15 minutes to my 20 minute commute. I am beginning to want to take back my offer. Part of me feels like I should be a good citizen and help out another person. I also would feel guilty about giving him the boot to take the bus (about an hour's ride, including wait times). But I am not really enjoying having to almost double my time in the car. He is a very nice person, and I wouldn't want to hurt his feelings. He does not drive, so cannot return the favour. He also does not contribute money for gas, though I have never asked, and really is beside the point for me. I feel so selfish even thinking about "ditching" him. Should I politely tell him it's not working out for me, or suck it up because it's only 15 minutes and it's a nice thing to do?

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Emily Yoffe: You need to just talk this out with you colleague. Perhaps there's a half-way solution—you can drop him in the evening at a nearer bus stop and cut his commute time. Or perhaps you don't mind giving him a lift one way, but don't want to do it both ways. Or, if you realize you just want to get back to your short commute, you need to tell him you don't want to make this a regular thing anymore, but you'll do it when it's convenient for you. He may be a nice guy, but that he's ridden with you for months without offering to pay gas or give you any other gift of thanks means he's not a very thoughtful one.

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Houston, Texas: Dear Prudence,

Six months ago, I became engaged to a wonderful man who is the love of my life. As we announced our engagement and began planning the wedding, we realized that the last thing we really wanted was a huge, elaborate, expensive church wedding with tons of guests. We're both shy and not very close to our families. It seemed more appropriate to limit the size of the wedding as much as possible. So, on a whim two weekends ago, we flew out to Vegas and got married. We haven't told our families or friends about what we did yet, because we know they'll be disappointed to have missed out. Is there a delicate way of telling everyone what we did without hurting their feelings?

Emily Yoffe: "Hey, everyone, guess what? We're married! We did it in Vegas! We won the marriage jackpot." Stop acting like you've done something TO everyone. Instead act like you've done something FOR yourselves. Sure, your parents may be disappointed, but remind them that your trip to Vegas is a gift to their retirement accounts. And now that you're married, you can throw a big barbecue so everyone can celebrate your happiness.

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Berkeley, Calif.: I've heard it's impolite to blow your nose at the table. But my nose runs whenever I eat hot soup or spicy food. What should I do about this if I'm at a restaurant or formal dinner?

Emily Yoffe: It's more polite to address your nose issues than season your soup with the drippings. Always carry with you a fresh tissue or handkerchief and use it without making a big show. Surely you can do a mopping operation without sound effects.

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Annandale, Va.: What do you say to a spouse that is so unhappy and miserable in his current job that he is thinking of leaving? I support him in what he does, but I am terrified that with the current state of the economy, it will be hard to find another job. And our family needs two paychecks. But his current job is slowly out sucking his soul and is detrimental to his health—physical and mental.

Emily Yoffe: It sounds as if he is operating out of desperation, not rationality. Missing mortgage payments, or not being able to afford the groceries also has detrimental effects physically and mentally. Obviously, if his goal is to find another job, he needs to do that while he has a job. Instead of quitting, and having to explain while he voluntarily joined the ranks of the unemployed, his misery should be motivating him to use every contact to find a better situation. If he needs to quit to keep from being destroyed, then that's what he has to do. But before he takes that step, tell him you will support whatever decision he needs to make, but you want to help him figure out the best one for himself and the family.

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