Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at
Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at
Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Oct. 12 2009 2:47 PM

Girlfriend Keeps STD a Secret

Prudie counsels a woman concerned about her pal's sins of omission—and other advice seekers.

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My husband was livid after reading the e-mail and is really angry at my sister (and me, to an extent, although he isn't sure that I had insulted his family also). I'm really sad at everything that has happened. I love my sister and husband dearly, and I really wanted them to get along with each other. My sister has apologized multiple times but my husband just doesn't want to hear it and doesn't want her visiting us (as well as our 6-month-old son) anymore. I want us all to be close again. Is there any way for me to rectify this situation? Will it just blow over by itself?

Emily Yoffe: This e-mail meant for you ended up "being seen" by your husband. So it's not as if your sister accidentally sent it to him, but that he accidentally (?) came across it? I think you have to make the case that even in a marriage people are entitled to their privacy, and that you need to know you and your sister can e-mail, blow off steam, and say things that you wouldn't want other people to hear but which have therapeutic value. Frankly, everyone's in-laws (including your husband's) are ridiculous to some degree, if only because every person is ridiculous to some degree. There must be something in the Constitution about the right to blab in private about your in-laws. Your sister has apologized, so you need to impress upon your husband that no harm was actually done to his parents, but he is now inflicting harm on you and your child by turning this into a grudge.


Re: Stepson: I am mightily confused. This boy is this woman's stepson. Her husband picked him up. Presumably that means her husband is the father? Yet "we" are appalled that "his own parents" didn't keep him home. Poor, poor child.

Emily Yoffe: Thank you for pointing that out. I agree it's Dad and stepmother who are appalling.


Big City, US: We need advice on a strange co-worker. He constantly drums his hands on his desk during the workday. I don't mean the occasional tap-tap that we all do once in a while. This is an all-out drum solo that occurs 20-plus times during the day, progressively getting louder and more intense as his "song" goes on. He breaks into rhythm randomly, like when he gets off the phone or when he's bored. This cacophony is happening more and more often throughout the day and is totally disrupting, especially when there are three of us sitting, essentially, desk-to-desk (no cubes here). Everyone has their quirks, but he's also incredibly forgetful, can't follow through with tasks, and works weird hours. (We're a 9-to-5 workplace, but I came in to find him sleeping on the floor one morning.) We're beginning to think there's something else going on here.

Emily Yoffe: Thank you for the opportunity to cite this wonderful quotation from George Washington: "In the presence of others sing not to yourself in a humming voice, nor drum with your fingers or feet." The father of our country anticipated the tortures of cubicle-land. (Maybe the Continental Congress was our founding cubicle.) In any case, you can pass on this quotation with a smile and tell your co-worker that his drumming is painfully distracting and he needs to end the Phil Collins imitations. If that doesn't work, then it's time to notify the boss. However, hasn't the boss noticed that in between drum solos your co-worker is either absent or unproductive?


re: "his own parents": I believe that was referring to the stepson's friend's parents.


Emily Yoffe: OK, that may be, but it's confusing because she mentions sending him back to the "ex." However, the rant was directed at the unprecedented teenage behavior of both the stepson and his friend.


For Annapolis: I would urge your friend to educate herself about herpes and discuss it with a potential sexual partner before going forward with any relationship. It's true 25 percent of the population has genital herpes and most don't know it, but even with condoms she risks exposing her partners. She's most likely terribly afraid that no one will want to be with her if they know. Remind her that any man worth marrying will take the time to weigh the risks and talk to her about it. I'm proof of that—I have herpes and have been married several years to a wonderful man who was willing to have this tough conversation before we jumped into bed the first time.

Emily Yoffe: This is the rational, adult approach to this problem. And thank you for showing people can do it this way and still find a loving, uninfected partner. Let's hope Herpes Mary will come to this conclusion, fast.


Williamsburg, Va.: I am a 22-year-old lesbian who recently became engaged to my partner of a year. About six months ago, I came out to my entire extended family. The responses ranged, but generally everyone is supportive or at least tolerant now. The problem is, I have one uncle who refuses to be at a family function if my partner and I are present. We have always been a very close family and with the upcoming holidays, no one knows what to do. What is worse is I can tell my mother is very stressed and reluctant to have to deal with her brother, and generally feels like the outcast of the family now. Should I skip the family holidays and hang out with my partner's family instead? Should I try to speak to my uncle for my mother? How do I handle the inevitable situation of seeing him face to face after learning of his tantrum about the holidays?

Emily Yoffe: I hope your family makes it clear that your uncle's decision to exclude himself from the family holidays is his unfortunate choice to make, but that the rest of your family is not going to ban you because of the happy news that you have gotten engaged. I hope they tell him he will be more than welcome to attend but that the rest of them won't be coerced into barring you and your partner because of his narrow-mindedness. Sure, you can speak to your uncle. Say you've heard about his holiday stance and that it saddened you, and that you hope that's not his final position. But don't you be bullied into not showing. And if you do see him, just wish him much happiness this holiday season.