Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at

Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at

Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Sept. 21 2009 2:55 PM

Boyfriend's Looks Make My Skin Crawl

Prudie counsels a woman whose new guy has unsightly moles—and other advice seekers.

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New York: I have tried to live up to one of my husband's many admirable traits, which is to keep other peoples' matters private, even trivial stuff. If you tell him something, he really is a "vault," and I respect that.

What is bothering me is this: My mother, who has never adhered to this code, many years ago told me something about my sibling's health that I shouldn't know. I've never let on about that to my sibling.

It is something that would bother my husband and that he would want to know about—not because he would treat my sibling differently, but because we are both hygiene freaks and he would want to take precautions after any close interactions.

I'm torn because I love my husband dearly, we tell each other everything, and I want to tell him this, but I know it would violate "the code," not to mention my sibling's privacy. I'd like to think he would understand my not telling him based on these reasons.

For the record, it is not a particularly dangerous issue, because I lived under the same roof with the sibling for many years and I'm fine, but it still leaves me (and I know it would him) a bit squeamish. Should I say anything at all to him? Thanks for your help.

Emily Yoffe: I'm wondering if this condition involves being covered with lots of moles? I believe in cones of privacy, but usually when you grow up if a sibling has a medical condition, everyone in the family knows about it. Privacy is wonderful, but taboo subjects can just make the sufferer feel shame when none is necessary. That said, this is the kind of thing spouses tell one another, especially if the spouse you're telling is known for his Sphinx-like posture. However, if your sibling has a slightly contagious condition, and since you two know you are germ nuts, make sure you don't bizarrely run for the hand sanitizer every time you greet your sibling.


Shoplifting: I messed up once, too, when I was 13. I felt terrible. Truly terrible. But my parents forgave me, and moved on quickly. I never stole anything again and I am a fine, upstanding citizen now.


Kids do stupid things. Hopefully, they learn from them. It doesn't mean you messed up, or that he's a messed up kid. It's just a mistake. People make them all the time. There's no reason to fret yet.

Emily Yoffe: Hear that, Mom? If everybody who shoplifted or did something equally stupid as a teen chimed in here, we'd run out of bandwidth.


To Southfield, Mich.: You have nothing to lose.

I had a person who bullied me in high school contact me on Facebook.

This person is now working with at-risk kids and is ultra religious. I have not even thought about the past because that is so obviously not who either one of us is anymore.

So ... relax. It is only Facebook. Not the lunchroom.