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

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Nov. 16 2009 5:00 PM

Must We Bear Hugs?

Prudie counsels a woman wary of her father-in-law's inappropriate embrace—and other advice seekers.

(Continued from Page 1)

_______________________

Sacramento, Calif.: I have been dating a man for almost a year. Before we became sexually involved, we both got tested for some STD's and the results were negative. But I have never had the guts to tell him that I have had genital herpes for many years. I take daily medication so I won't have outbreaks or pass the virus on to him. The problem is, I feel really guilty for not being honest. At this point, is it better to tell him later than never, or just let sleeping dogs lie?

Emily Yoffe: How is it when the two of you were getting tested for STDs that you neglected to mention, "Hey, guess what, I've got one!" This isn't a sleeping dog, this is a sleeping virus, and yes, while you've got it under control, wouldn't you rather be the one to tell him, then have him stumble on a bottle of your acyclovir and wonder what else you haven't told him. This isn't going to be a pleasant conversation, but the good news is that you've demonstrated how low his risk has been because of the care you've taken. Nonetheless, you need to come clean, even if doing so puts your relationship at risk.

_______________________

Advertisement

Mexico: Hi Prudie, I hope you take my question as I have been struggling with this issue for years without finding a solution. I am 29 years old and my boyfriend of six years and me have been wanting to get married. The problem is my father. He is a very traditional, macho Mexican man who won't have his daughters marry anyone. I understand he is being unreasonable, since I think is normal to get married but the problem is should I tell him and risk him disowning me and having my entire family suffer his rage (I know he will take it out on my mother and siblings) or should I get married secretly and not tell him. I want peace in my family but I am not willing to sacrifice my own happiness. What am I missing here? Thanks!

Emily Yoffe: If such a tradition was truly traditional, the human race wouldn't have lasted long enough to pass on this tradition. I find it hard to blame on your father's culture, because every culture expects their offspring to find someone suitable and celebrates when that happens. There's something seriously wrong with your father and all of you need to stop letting him hold you hostage. You're 29, you don't need his permission to wed. If he will "take it out" on the rest of your family, they need to flee. Read the story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Her monstrous father didn't want any of his children to marry, but she wrote some of the language's most beautiful love poems when she defied him, and ran off to Italy with her poet, Robert Browning.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Re: Long Hugs from FIL. I bet you get a lot of responses to this! This kind of person knows you will try to stay polite at all costs. The best thing to do (perhaps after the sons' talk) is to say loudly, Stop. Don't do that again please. (I would include the please only the first time, and maybe not even then).

I had a great-uncle do the same thing to me and all my cousins, and we were all too young and respectful of elders to say anything. I've often wished for a time machine to correct that. This guy is being slick and is not participating in a social behavior. Standing up to him is paramount.

Emily Yoffe: I like your suggestion that after the grabby father-in-law been warned, to call him out and stop him if he persists. You're so right, many people get away with horrible behavior by taking advantage of others' natural instincts not to cause a scene.

_______________________

Fairfax, Va.: Re: eating at cocktail parties. Husband sounds like he's been told at some point in his life that he was eating too much, hogging the good stuff or whatever, and has over-reacted. Yes, it is inappropriate at a cocktail party to try to make a dinner of the food that is passed, but you certainly can and should eat some of it. Anything else insults the hosts.

Emily Yoffe: I remember now that a variation on this was a recent Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. Larry David rebuked Christian Slater for violating the rule about hogging the caviar. The answer for the caviar hoggers is to take less, not put a "no food" injunction on everyone.

_______________________

New York, N.Y.: I got married to a great guy a little more than 2 years ago, and received many wonderful gifts. I wrote about three quarters of the thank you notes, but never finished that last quarter. I still feel very guilty about this, but my husband says that it's too late to write the remaining letters and it would just be more embarrassing to do it now than to not do it at all. Do you agree? Is there anything I can do?

Emily Yoffe: What a perfect opportunity to turn a late thank you note into an early Christmas card. Sit down and finish the notes. Apologize for your tardiness, tell the gift-givers how much you've enjoyed the gift, fill your friends in a little on the past year, and wish them the best for the holidays.

_______________________

Washington, DC: Can you give me advice on how to get my Blackberry-obsessed boyfriend to a) put the phone down more when we're together and b) to call me more rather than texting? He's driving me batty! Thanks so much for your help.

Emily Yoffe: I'll take B) first. If he needs to communicate something to you, what difference does it make if it's a text or a call?

As for A) you need to say something like, "Darling, I love being with you, but we're really not together if you're texting the entire time. Let's put away our PDAs when we're out for the evening." Then if he keeps thumbing, keep your cool, get up and say, "I see you've got a lot of important texts to deal with. So I'm going to go home now. Let's get together when you're not so pressed."

_______________________

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 30 2014 10:10 AM A Lovable Murderer and Heroic Villain: The Story of Australia's Most Iconic Outlaw
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal. But… What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.