Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. Next week's chat will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 1 p.m. (Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon everyone. Let's get to it.
Southfield, Mich.: Thanks to Facebook, a woman I used to be friends with in elementary and middle school has reached out to me. The problem is that when I was in 7th grade (she was in 8th), she decided that she didn't like me anymore and starting threatening to beat me up. I was a passive person back then and she was bigger than me, so the threats lasted for about two or three years. Finally, when we were both in high school, it came to a head and we were both suspended for three days for a heated argument in the hallway. I have moved on since then and have forgiven her (since the forgiveness is really for me anyway). I have a wonderful life now, and I don't want anything to disrupt it. I spoke to my mom, and she told me that I was living in the past and to get over it. She also said that I need to give her the benefit of the doubt and that I should talk to her. I do not have any ill feelings toward this woman. I just don't want her back in my life. This is mainly due to the fact that while people are very capable of change, I don't want to take the chance on "re-friending" her only to find out that she hasn't changed at all. The only positive thing that has come out of this is the fact that I have become a more assertive person because of that fateful day in high school.
What do you suggest that I do about this situation? What (if anything) should I tell this woman and also my mother? Thanks for your help!
Emily Yoffe: Thanks to Facebook, everyone with a computer now has to relive their school years in a Groundhog Day-like loop. Of course, for many people it has been wonderful to reconnect with lost classmates, even if reconnecting means you have to read of their daily restaurant choices and favorite TV shows for the rest of your life. For some, it has meant the opportunity to relive the assignation under the bleachers by sneaking out to hook up with former flames. For others it has meant having to remember the torment at the hands of their former bullies.
You say this woman has "reached out" to you. Does that mean she has simply sent you a "friend" request? Or that she has sent you an e-mail saying she is sorry for the misery she caused you, but she would like to apologize and make amends? If she's simply friended you, you can send her request into cyberspace by deciding to put it in the "ignore" category. If she's offered an apology, you can write back that you are truly grateful, and you appreciate hearing that. Then you still don't have to friend her! There is no reason to be bullied into having this woman privy to what you post, or seeing her daily feed. Tell your mother you are hardly living in the past, and one way to keep yourself in your happy present is to keep former tormentors out of it. Don't let this former classmate or your mother guilt-trip you into being "friends" with someone you don't want in your life.
Holy Moley!: I have met a wonderful man through the civic organization I have been a part of for years. We are both in our mid-30s and at that stage in life where we are looking to settle down and perhaps start a family. We have put off having sex because we both share common stories of how "sex too soon" really caused problems in past relationships. This summer we went to the beach together. As we "stripped down" to our swim suits, I was in utter shock to see my dear boyfriend COATED, I mean COATED, in moles. I had seen a few on his face, neck and arms, but ... he is covered in them. He looks like a mushroom farm. When he asked me to put sun screen on his back, I about vomited. Here is my awful moment of decision. I really, really love this man, but the thought of making love to such a "moley" person is more than I can bear. Should I ask him to get extensive cosmetic surgery? Should I get therapy to get over all the moles? If I break up with him because of the moles, I will live with guilt and regret. If I marry him, I will have to deal with extreme intimacy issues. Help!
Emily Yoffe: Some moles are attractive—think Robert Redford and Cindy Crawford—but as superficial as it is, I understand that slathering sun block on a "mushroom farm" was a desire killer. Although I'd love to play one on the Internet, I'm no doctor, but having a trunk that looks like it's covered with fungi doesn't sound normal. You can certainly say to him that since you went swimming you've been concerned about the amount and type of moles he has, and you think he should get this checked out by a dermatologist. (Don't mention the thought of touching him makes you want to vomit.) Once you know more about this medically, that can help you discuss whether he needs treatment. Knowing what this is can even make you feel more comfortable. After all, if you really love him, you may start to see him less as a mushroom farm and more like your darling guy sprinkled with chocolate chips.
Butte, Mont.: I am a mother of three boys. My oldest, who is 16 years old, had his first job working at a grocery store. He was recently fired for shoplifting (about two months ago). He says he messed up and is really sorry. I can't get over it, I think about it all of the time, wondering if my child will ever be able to work (if he can get another job) without worrying that he will steal again. It was a good job. He was able to still do homework and be involved in sports. Why can't I get past this?
Emily Yoffe: Be grateful that he messed up at a time it really doesn't matter, yet it matters enough that he can feel the sting of doing something stupid and experiencing the consequences. He acknowledges he was wrong and he feels terrible about it. That's great news! You'd have to worry if he was blaming other people and saying he was treated unfairly. He's a good boy who made a mistake. Just think of what it would feel like if the person closest to you went into an emotional tailspin every time you did something dopey. Tell him you appreciate his recognizing what he did was wrong and not making excuses for it. Tell him you have faith in him, and you're all going to forget about it.
Indianapolis, Ind.: My husband thinks that, given our close relationship, he should be able to "let it all hang out" in front of me. I feel that his profanity, burping, and other noisy bodily functions are inappropriate, especially since I have said many times that I would prefer he keep it to himself (like he used to when we were dating). I wish I could make him understand what a turnoff it is! Any ideas?
Emily Yoffe: But this is the primary reason people get married—the pressure of holding it in is killing them! There is no way that over the course of the next 50 years you two are not going to be aware the other has expelled gas. That said, each couple has to work out what's comfortable for them. If you can say you understand it's never go to be as pristine as when you were dating, but you'd prefer not to feel like you were living with Mount Vesuvius, maybe your husband will try better to keep a lid on it.