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

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.

(Continued from Page 2)

Emily Yoffe: Your bully is now making the world a better place. That's great, but that doesn't mean that everyone's former bully is an Albert Schweitzer, or even that you have to friend Albert if you don't want to.

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New York: My wife and I are expecting our first child. My mother keeps saying how excited she is to be a grandmother for the first time—except that it's not true! Yes, this will be her first biological grandchild, but she has been a step-grandmother (and a doting one, at that) to my (half-)nieces and nephews for over a decade. Should I risk being a huge buzzkill by saying something to her before she potentially hurts someone's feelings?

Emily Yoffe: Yes, tell her you understand that being a grandmother to the biological offspring of one of her children is thrilling to her but that you admire what a devoted and loving grandmother she has been to the grandchildren who came into her life through marriage. Explain that if she keeps talking about her "first" grandchild she is going to cause pain to your sibling and to the children who have long known her as their grandmother. Someone who has been sensitive enough to be a wonderful step-grandmother should understand this.

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State of Confusion: Help! My four-year relationship ended because my boyfriend needed to explore his sexuality. We have mutual friends in an open marriage, which apparently means to them that everyone's sex life is perfect fodder for small talk. This means that if I spend time with them, I end up hearing the explicit details of my ex's current exploits. Hooked up with a guy on Craigslist but kept it strictly to oral sex? Apparently this is something to tell me. I can't seem to make it clear to this couple that while not a prude, I am grieving for the end of this relationship, and learning things like this exacerbate, my hurt, even though on a level I'm happy for my ex discovering himself. I can't seem to make it understood why this would be hurtful and unwelcome. Obviously, I'm about to drop our "mutual" friends, but I also want to alert my ex to the fact that his every encounter is coffee talk for this couple to anyone who might slightly know him. Should I?

Emily Yoffe: I would think that the kind of news they are passing on would help cut short the mourning for your relationship. If your ex is telling the swingers he knows his exciting adventures via Craigslist, he has to assume he is not talking to people with Sphinx-like capacities to keep the news to themselves. It sounds like you want to alert the ex because you're having a hard time letting go. Your guy is gay and the relationship is over. Maybe down the road you can be friends, but for now, let it go.

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Boston: I'm having a destination wedding in the Caribbean but will have the reception at a five-star hotel ballroom. After attending weddings where I've seen guests wear jeans and flip flops, I've contemplated adding a dress code on the invitations: "Formal wear and black bie invited. Exclusively no T-shirts, jeans, shorts, sneakers, flip flops." Am I being a bridezilla by doing this? The guests are mostly family and some our close friends, yet I don't want to offend anyone. I just want to keep the beachwear where it belongs—at the beach, and not at my wedding!

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Emily Yoffe: I don't want to start a wedding war, but here's part of the problem when you force people to use extensive vacation time and money to go to your wedding: They start to feel they're on their own vacation. This is why honeymoons were invented—so married people can go to the Caribbean without worrying about what all their friends are wearing. But destination wedding it is. There's nothing wrong with putting a dress code on the invitation—it's helpful for when people are packing. But you don't phrase it in terms of, "No shirt, no shoes, no reception." And surely you don't want your male guests to have to travel with rented tuxedos. Why not skip the idea of black tie and simply note that for the reception the attire should be dressy.

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shoplifting: I did something more arcane and probably more thought-out than shoplifting when I was 17. I had to appear before a local judge and ended up with probation. After probation, it disappeared from my record, which allowed me to fill out my law school and bar admission applications honestly many years later. It definitely shook me up, and my only other interactions with the police have been for the occasional speeding ticket and when my apartment was broken into. Sometimes a little juvenile misbehavior can serve as an inoculation.

Emily Yoffe: Mom, still listening? People can make big mistakes as teenagers and go on to have exemplary lives. The mistake can even help!

Woodbridge, Va.: My husband and I have been married for several months. I have long heard that the first year of marriage is the hardest, but it has been harder than I thought. We frequently fight to the point of tears (me) and yelling (him). Part of me knows this is because I am prone to overreaction and can be somewhat controlling, and because he can be too laid-back and stubborn. I think we are learning a lot about each other, but the fighting is hard on us—and bad. Is this what the first year is like? Or do we need help?

Emily Yoffe: Next time you feel you're about to overreact or say something to "improve" him, think to yourself, "At least he's not farting." For some people, the first year is hardest; for some it isn't. But you're right to be concerned about getting into a destructive pattern that will dog your marriage or make you consider ending it. Sure, you might benefit from counseling, but before you do that, why not concentrate on curbing the faults you know you have? Just do this because you want to be a less overreactive and controlling person, and see if that doesn't significantly improve the dynamic of your marriage.

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