Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. A transcript of this week's chat is below. (Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. I look forward to your questions.
London, U.K.: A very dear friend of mine seems to be going through a sexual identity crisis. He has dabbled in cross-dressing, sexual relationships with other men, and has even experimented a bit with female hormones. I want to be a supportive friend, especially since his family may or may not accept his sexuality, but there is a catch. He has a girlfriend, who seems to be completely in the dark about all of his "extracurricular" activities. I've mentioned my discomfort with this state of affairs, but this only elicits vague promises that he will have an honest conversation about this with her "one day." Lately, he has assured me that he is done with "that life" and that he is perfectly happy with his girlfriend. But I'm so afraid that he's turning his back on his own sexuality and settling for a life of miserable conformity. Now that he and his girlfriend are getting married, the stakes are even higher. Please, Prudie, what should I do? Should I tell the girl what I know about her fiancé? We live quite far apart, so a face-to-face chat is impossible. I hate the thought of devastating this sweet girl, but I'm also consumed with guilt at the thought of keeping her in the dark. Is action a moral imperative, or an unforgivable interference in another person's life?
Emily Yoffe: If your friend was taking estrogen and his girlfriend didn't notice that they could swap bras, then either she is hopelessly thick or willfully ignorant. It's generally the safest course to stay out of other people's intimate affairs. But your friend has confided important, personal information to you along with the fact that he hasn't shared it with his fiancée. I agree that knowing your future husband is bisexual, a cross-dresser, and has explored becoming transgendered is the kind of information people tend to wish they had before they go and have a couple of kids with a guy. I suggest you tell your friend that your knowing and his girlfriend not knowing of his sexual exploration is weighing heavily on you. Tell him you don't want to interfere in their relationship, but unless he tells her, you feel obligated to fill her in.
The Bedroom, USA: I am in a loving relationship with a woman and we're going on two years. My only issue is that our libidos don't match. She is fine having sex once a week while my ideal would be everyday, once, twice and maybe three times. We talked about it, and decided to try for once a day. That lasted a few weeks, and then petered to 2-3 times a week. I've been looking online for suggestions, but all I get is advice to keep it in my pants and get over it, but she is my physical ideal, I love her deeply, and it's pretty much asking the impossible for me to quell my sex drive. Two other things, because she works a lot, I pretty much take care of dinner, the pets and cleaning. She gets massages to take care of the stress. Plus she's on anti-depressants AND the pill, which I know can't help. I know that the easy thing is to call me a horn dog and to cherish what I do have, but it's literally driving me up the wall. What can I do to help us figure this out? Because the chances of me finding a woman this wonderful with the same sex drive looks pretty small.
Emily Yoffe: Horndog, if your ideal is three times a day, it's no surprise that your girlfriend's attempt to accommodate your libido petered out. You're right, it would be hard to find a woman willing to quit her job (unless she is a sex worker) to provide thrice daily relief to her boyfriend. That said, the pill can be a libido killer for some, and maybe your girlfriend would be more interested if she tried another form of birth control. Since, however, she works long hours, and you're at home alone a lot, you should take care of your own needs before she gets home, then you two will have a better chance to enjoy each other's company before you jump her.
Mobile, Ala.: Recently my children (ages 4 and 2) have been invited to birthday parties for their friends. My children get very excited about going shopping to pick out a gift for their friend(s). They spend quite some time picking out the perfect present. We go to the party and the kids have a wonderful time playing with everyone. Then the time comes around to have pizza and cake then play time is over. The Birthday child never opens their gifts at the party anymore.
Even though my children had a great time playing with their friends, they always ask me why so-and-so didn't open their present they picked out for them? Did they not like it? Lately the parents haven't even sent any thank you cards to at least acknowledge that the children actually did open their present.
Has there been some sort of etiquette change that I have not been aware of? Has this become a common occurrence among parents to not let their kid open the presents at their birthday parties?
I've had a few discussions with some friends about this and some say they believe it's a personal preference as some people might think it's rude to open gifts in front of others. I say I think it's rude to not open them at the party. Please help clear up the question.
Emily Yoffe: In my childhood the main event of the party was ripping open the presents and having everyone "play" with them until they were smashed to bits. Somewhere along the line that changed because when my (now-13-year-old) daughter started going to birthday parties, I was surprised that the presents were stacked pristinely in a corner of the room and then later we received a thank you note. Why this shift occurred, I don't know. Of course, at your own party, you are free to let the birthday child open the gifts, but I think it's a good idea to get the kids in the habit of writing a thank you note—even if it's a scribble on the card. And the yes, there's something remiss when you bring a gift even for a toddler and you later don't get an acknowledgment that the gift is being enjoyed.
Lillington, N.C.: I have two daughters, ages 3 and 6. My husband's mother has recently moved to the same town as us. Last weekend, she requested my children to come to her house and visit for a few hours. When she came to pick them up, I told her that if they misbehaved, please tell me when they get home and I will deal with them. When she later brought them home, she told me that she'd had to put my 6-year-old on time out and slap my 3-year-old's hands away from something. It didn't sound too extreme so I took it in stride.
The next morning, I was getting my 6-year-old ready for church and talking about her visit yesterday. She said she didn't like being spanked by everybody there. When I asked her who, she said Grandma and a man she didn't know. I called my mother in law to ask her about this and she said yes, she had "popped" my child and her daughter's boyfriend (whom I've only met twice) had also. I told her I am not comfortable with her disciplining my kids and had not given her permission. She then told me I was out of line and that she was the grandmother. I also requested that she inform me of who would be at the house in the future. She became very hot-tempered and said I was a stupid girl, would not bow down to my stupid rules, didn't appreciate me interrogating the kids, and then hung up on me. She later came by when I wasn't home to try to coerce my husband (her son) to side with her.
I am unsure how to deal with this situation and starting to worry about the family I've married into.
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