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How to Use Self-Tanners Like A Pro

How to Use Self-Tanners Like A Pro

Dr. Bailey's Skin Health & Wellness Blog

There are a few tricks to looking (and smelling) good in self-tanners! The problem is self-tanners naturally stick in the thicker areas of your skin like freckles and knees. They also dry out your skin and the active ingredient has a funny mayonnaise-like smell. I still love self-tanners and will take them over sun-damaged skin …

Loving Tan Deluxe Bronzing Mousse Ultra Dark Review

by Emily Andrews @

Comprehensive review of Loving Tan Deluxe Bronzing Mousse Ultra Dark. See what real experts and actual users have to say about this self tanning product.

Source: Loving Tan Deluxe Bronzing Mousse Ultra Dark Review by

The 10 Best Self-Tanners for Your Face

The 10 Best Self-Tanners for Your Face


Get your glow on.

Phallic Fears

Phallic Fears

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Q. Fiancé worried my genes will affect his son’s “package:” I have recently become engaged to my longtime boyfriend. Whenever the topic of children came up, he would insist he only wanted girls because his siblings were all brothers so another male in the family would be boring. Last week, however, he forwarded me an email from his brother (also his best man) with some information I needed for wedding planning, but the email was part of a much larger running conversation. I was mortified when I read his real reason for not wanting a son is that my “Asian genes” would mean his son would have a “small package!” My brother was bullied by jocks using this idiotic stereotype in high school so I was incredibly angered, but I haven’t said anything about what I read yet. He has begun asking why I am so distant lately, but I have no idea how to confront him!

A: I can understand why you have no idea how to speak to him about it, because finding out your almost-husband is a racist who’s bizarrely fixated on the size of his hypothetical son’s dick has got to be jarring and shocking for you (not to mention the fact that he’s dumb enough to forward you an email about it). I imagine that, were you to bring this up to him, he will likely sputter and try to explain why you’re overreacting, or that what he said wasn’t that bad, or that he’s not “really like that.” He is really like that. That’s why he said it. Is there an answer he could give you that would make what he said seem reasonable, kind, loving, intelligent, or in any way acceptable? I certainly can’t think of one.

He has given you a valuable insight into his character, how he sees the world, how he assigns value to people based on race, and how he sees any future children the two of you might have together. If what you saw doesn’t seem like something you want for yourself or for any children you may someday have, I think you should consider yourself lucky you got to see this before you married him, and call it off.

Q. Am I just jealous?: I thought I was happy with my life and making good progress. I have a job I like, my husband just went from contracting to permanent at his company, we are starting to look for a condo, we are saving for retirement. Then all of a sudden some of my friends are making major life changes, and I suddenly feel like I am failing or pathetic by companion. One is moving from the Bay Area to Sacramento to a house she and her husband bought, one is moving to Portland, one is going to grad school in France, and one is going to Ireland. While my husband points out that some of them are just running away from their problems and that none of them are saving for the future the way we are, I feel like I am somehow failing.

We are all in our 30s. Some of it is the idea of losing some friends who, while I didn’t see as often as I would like, will leave an absence for me, some of it is this feeling like I should be doing more. What is wrong with me? Am I just jealous that they are having an adventure and I am playing it safe?

A: Nothing is wrong with you, aside from, probably, “the human condition.” It is a fairly natural thing, to take the choice someone else has made as a pointed remark aimed at one’s own choices. They almost never are, of course, but that doesn’t stop us from making the assumption regardless. It does not help this impulse to assume someone else is “running away from their problems”—you don’t have access to the inside of someone else’s head like that.

It’s natural to feel a sense of loss at the prospect of a friend moving away, even if you’re also happy for them. It’s also natural to want to check in with one’s own progress and to ask, Do I want more adventure? Am I satisfied with my choices? Is there something I want to do differently? Maybe the answer is No, not really, and you’re simply experiencing the natural pang of dissatisfaction that comes with making any choices, not just safe ones. In saying yes to anything—a relationship, a job, a home—one necessarily says no to a lot of other things, and sometimes we like to think of ourselves as someone who might just move to Ireland tomorrow, or become a professional kickboxing announcer, or whatever, and realizing that life does not contain infinite possibilities and choices is always an ego-bruiser. If you want to do something a little exciting, you can; you don’t have to save for retirement every single day. If part of you just wants to feel a little sad and lonely and mourn the loss of some of your social circle, then you can do that too. Nothing is forbidden to you.

Q. Cat-obsessed mother-in-law: My mother-in-law really loves cats. She has about 10 of them and treats her particular favorite like you would a human child. I also really love cats and do not have a problem with her obsession! What I’m struggling with is my mother-in-law’s obsession with my cat. She asks about the cat every. single. day. When she visits, she literally follows him around, pursuing his affection (if you know cats, you can imagine how well this goes over). Her feelings get hurt when our cat hides when she visits (he actually doesn’t hide from anybody else but her). She pressures us to bring the cat on our visits, which is incredibly stressful and not enjoyable for him. She’s also made weird comments about how she looks out for our cat and makes sure he’s safe.

I’m trying to grin and bear it and treat it like a quirk. It really does get to me, but I’m trying to be Zen. But it’s so annoying. Do I have any right to ask my husband to ask her to tone it down? This will hurt her feelings and will likely make her think I dislike her. Is this a huge red flag for how she’ll treat our future children? Is learning to be Zen about my mother-in-law’s quirks truly the best course of action?

A: Learning to be “Zen” is not the same thing as passivity or never saying no to someone. It is completely reasonable to say, “No, we’re not bringing Meowcutio when we visit; travel is stressful for him and he doesn’t enjoy it.” If your cat hides from your mother-in-law when she tears through the house seeking total skin-to-fur union with him (yikes! I’d hide too), you, or better yet your husband, can kindly say, “When he hides, it’s because he’s feeling stressed out, and it doesn’t help to try to find him. Let’s go back to the living room.”

Q. Literally can’t even ... clean my house: I’m a stay-at-home mom who also works part time from home online. My kids are both under 3. My goals for each day are this: take care of the kids, clean the house, work. Sadly, by the time my husband comes home from work, I am spent, and have usually accomplished nothing but taking care of the kids and getting some work done—the cleaning seems to get shot to hell 99 percent of the time! My husband is nothing but helpful—he comes home, straps a kid onto his chest and starts dishes, laundry, et cetera. He isn’t judgmental of my lack of housekeeping, but I feel unaccomplished at the end of every day. Some days are worse than others, but I feel inadequate and unmotivated. When my kids both nap (rare), I am exhausted and usually crash into a short nap myself.

How can I better manage my time, get more energy, and stop beating myself up about what I don’t accomplish? Day care is unaffordable and not a good option for us right now.

A: I want to gently encourage you to reframe the sentence “have usually accomplished nothing but taking care of the kids and getting some work done.” The situation you’ve described does not sound like one where you’re failing to pull your own weight around the home.

You’re being hard on yourself for taking on the bulk of child care and not also having the energy to do the bulk of the cleaning around the house. Just because your husband works outside of the home does not mean that every task that needs doing within the home is automatically yours, and you should not feel guilty over the fact that he regularly handles the dishes and the laundry. If your husband is happy over the way the two of you split household tasks (and keeping two children under 3 alive, fed, and relatively clean throughout the day is a monumental task), then I think the best thing you can do is free yourself from the mistaken belief that you are somehow failing to do your part at home.

When you take those short naps of your own, don’t see it as a weakness. The fact that you’re often tired (and that your kids rarely nap!) is not a sign that you’re not doing enough. It’s a sign that you need rest.

Q. Zero-sum maid of honor: I got married last year, and my best friend served as my maid of honor. Since she’s very organized and an event planner, I thought she would do a great job, but she did not. She threw everything together at the last minute and asked the other bridesmaids to take on the biggest share of throwing my shower, bachelorette, et cetera, and then took full credit, and never asked if I needed extra help with anything. I did gently confront her about it at the time, but she took serious offense at being criticized, so I backed off. My wedding was wonderful, so I let all my animosity go—until now. She is engaged and wants me to return the favor and be her maid of honor. She keeps saying things like “You’re a pro since you’ve done this already,” and “I’m going to need so much help with XYZ,” and “Can you just plan it all for me?”

The frustration at her is rushing back, and I’m so tempted to pettily be the same kind of maid of honor she was for me (lazy and unavailable) or just refuse the job altogether. Plus it sounds like she’s going to ask me to do about five times the work that I ever asked her to. I know that serving as someone’s maid of honor shouldn’t be a zero-sum game, and I do care for my friend, but I don’t know how I’ll stop my frustration from slipping out when the daily wedding planning calls start coming. What should I do?

A: This is, if nothing else, a reminder to not put off difficult conversations with a friend because everything “sort of worked out,” and to not confuse genuinely letting something go with letting it fester. There’s a conversation to be had here about resentment and expectations, some of which should probably wait until after your friend gets married, because tensions and expectations are already running high between the two of you. That said, just because you’ve agreed to be her maid of honor doesn’t mean that you have committed to a full-time unpaid wedding internship.

Figure out what you are and aren’t willing to do, and when she makes a request, communicate your plans to her clearly—“I’m happy to help plan the shower, and I’m delegating X tasks to Y people, and I won’t be able to do Z errand for you.” If you can’t handle taking daily calls about her wedding, then let her know—that’s a perfectly reasonable boundary to set. “I’m not going to be able to take a call from you every day about the wedding. Let’s set a time to talk this weekend.” This will be good practice for the more big-picture conversation you two will get to have in the future.

Q. How do I diffuse this?: I’m a female truck driver who has one pickup and one delivery customer, so I see the same people multiple times a day. I apparently read one fella’s signals wrong and asked him to accompany me to a concert. Before I even got the whole question out he looked panicky, was shaking his head, and said, “No, thank you.” I really regret asking him because then he got super weird—he even started using his co-workers as chaperones! I didn’t have a chance to let him know I was cool with his refusal, as he kept getting the chaperones. So I wrote him a note and stuck it where I knew he’d find it. He stopped with the chaperones, and we were almost normal.

That was a couple months ago. A few days ago I discovered that one of my co-workers was talking about me with this man—he’s so freaked out it’s ridiculous! I have been nothing but polite, decent, and respectful, yet that doesn’t seem to mean anything to him. Do I speak to him? Ignore it? Help!

A: I think the wisest course of action is to ask your co-worker to refrain from speaking about you with your customers, continue to be polite and respectful to the guy you asked out, and not to press the matter further. Sometimes people don’t give us the benefit of the doubt, and even though this guy privately seems to think of you as much more overwhelmingly into him than you know yourself to be, as long as he does his job when you two interact professionally, you don’t have to worry about correcting his perception of you.

Q. Re: Literally can’t even ... clean my house: I could have written this exact letter a few weeks ago! I was feeling incompetent and inadequate, and definitely felt constantly that I wasn’t doing enough. I mentioned this to my doctor and he diagnosed me with postpartum depression. He started me on a low dose SSRI [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor], and I started therapy with a wonderful counselor. My life is so much more manageable now. I would suggest checking for a hormone imbalance or other things that may be causing these feelings. Postpartum depression doesn’t go away just because your children grew up a little. The imbalance stays and can get worse as time goes on.

A: Thanks for this! I don’t want to in any way suggest that I think the letter writer is in need of a diagnosis of any kind, but it’s always helpful to share a variety of similar experiences, and if anything resonates for the letter writer in reading this response, then it’s all to the good. I’m so glad you’ve gotten the help and support you need.

Mallory Ortberg: Thanks, everyone! See you next week. Stay wise.

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

10 Under $20: Self-Tanners

10 Under $20: Self-Tanners


Self-tanners have come a long way. The newest formulas—rich creams, fine mists, and towelettes—now produce believable color without streaks. And you don't need a gold card to get your bronze on—these ten at-home tanners deliver at drugstore prices.

Let Them Eat iPads

Let Them Eat iPads

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Q. Resentment over free food: Because of circumstances beyond my control, fate, and bad timing, I am underemployed and having to use the local food bank to help supplement my family’s grocery needs. I only go once a month and only take what we can use. While having to deal with my own embarrassment and shame, I find myself resentful of the other people there.

I get extremely angry when noticing people with expensive accessories and clothes vying for a limited number of resources, when I have had to sell pretty much everything I own just to stay in my apartment and keep my daughter in clothes and shoes. How can they justify coming for free food or other amenities while still owning an iPad, $500 purse, and more jewelry than Mr. T?

I am trying to contain my jealousy and downright envy, but it is difficult.

How can I avail myself of features that I need and still be civil? This is eating at me. I feel so guilty judging the others that I get nauseated when it is time for my trip. This is not me and I do not know where this attitude is coming from.

A: Let this be your mantra whenever you visit the food bank: “Everyone is here due to circumstances beyond their control, fate, and bad timing. I don’t know the details of anyone else’s situation. No one else’s life is my business.”

You don’t know how long ago someone bought their $500 purse; losing a job can move a person very quickly from being able to splurge on a status item to needing help keeping food in the house. The iPad might be a loaner from work, the jewelry might be costume or inherited. Most people who use a food bank are not bored, rich dilettantes looking to game the system. Many of them, just like you, may have never thought they would end up needing the help a food bank provides. They might even be dressing their best before picking up groceries in order to avoid embarrassment and looking like they “need” help.

On your next visit, take a few deep breaths and pause before stepping inside. When you find those judgmental thoughts rise up—and they will, if only to distract yourself from your own embarrassment and shame—say to yourself, “That’s none of my business. I don’t know their situation,” and refocus your attention on the task at hand. Remind yourself that it is not your job to determine whether someone else is “genuinely” suffering from food insecurity. It’s your job to look after yourself and your family. Best of luck.

Q. Lesbian woes: I’m a 27-year-old lesbian living in a major metropolitan city. Most of my friends are straight women. When I’m out with them, and being a wing woman, men hit on me a lot. I usually just try to say I’m gay and dance away from them, but sometimes they’re really persistent. And since I look really “femme,” often they either don’t believe me or get this whole shocked vibe like, Oh, wow, a lesbian?! Last weekend some guy gave me this whole life story about how he wasn’t OK when his little brother first came out but now he’s fine with it and yadda yadda. It’s honestly really exhausting.

Walking home last weekend, after all my friends paired off with men they met, I just felt so out of place. Is there anything I can say to get guys to just leave me alone? Also, how can I avoid getting down when it feels like everyone else can find someone but me? I know there are queer women everywhere and I’m likely just overlooking them. I feel like I’m throwing myself a pity party here, I don’t know.

A: Go out dancing with your straight friends less often! That doesn’t mean you have to move to Lesbian Separatist Island tomorrow, but you sound drained and exhausted, and that suggests to me that you need to spend less time operating as a wing woman in straight bars and more time cultivating relationships with lesbian and bisexual women. Go to gay bars, go to lesbian meetups, check out your city’s Pride schedule (there are often events all summer long, not just in June).

Treat dancing with your straight friends like the “fats, oils, and sweets” block on the old food pyramid—as an occasional treat, not your usual Friday-Saturday night mainstay. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon them. You can still go to movies and get dinner and go on hikes or whatever it is that you do together; just skip the meat market three times out of four. Your friends don’t want you to be miserable, and what you’re doing now is making you miserable.

When it comes to the short term (namely, how to deal with persistent men on the soon-to-be-rare occasion that you go out dancing), it’s an unfortunate truth that a lot of the time—especially with drunk strangers—saying “I’m a lesbian” to a would-be suitor does not result in “Oh, OK, best of luck, thrive and be well in the sisterhood of women.” A lot of guys take it as an opportunity to either try harder or to discuss any and every thought or feeling they’ve ever had about homosexuality with you. Since your goal is to cut a conversation short, not open up a new topic for discussion, you should stick with a simple “No,” without offering a reason. It’s hard for someone to gain conversational purchase on “No” and nothing else. These men aren’t your friends, and you don’t owe them a reason for why you don’t want to dance with them.

Q. May–December fantasy: I’m in my mid-20s and happily married to someone close in age. The older man/younger woman pairing has always been a turn-on for me (in fantasies, porn, etc.), but I would never want to be in a real partnership with someone 20-plus years my senior because I want to be on the same path as my partner and build our lives together. I have an older, attractive co-worker that I’ve found myself sometimes fantasizing about. We’re friendly, but nothing inappropriate, and I am sure I would never cheat on my husband by taking things further. I’m definitely sexually attracted to my husband and loyal to him.

Is it OK to fantasize about someone you know in real life if you are assured that you’ll keep it at just that, a fantasy? Furthermore, this co-worker and I have a chance to work together more closely on a freelance project. Should I turn it down because of my attraction? I’m fairly certain this is just a fantasy-level attraction and I know I would not act on it.

A: The answer to your first question is an unqualified Yes. It is not immoral to fantasize. But your second question is substantially different—you’re asking whether or not it’s wise for you to base your actions on increasing your proximity to the object of fantasy, and my answer to that is No.

That’s not to say that if you agree to this freelance project that you’re doomed to cheat on your husband, but it is true that the times we’re likeliest to lie to ourselves about our own motives are generally also the times we’re overestimating our own willpower. If you want to keep this fantasy a fantasy, why would you go out of your way to spend more time with this guy?

Q. Re: Resentment over free food: My cousin is a single mother with almost no income and I often give her my old clothes and accessories, including designer bags that I no longer use. I have also given her gift cards for clothing, massages, and manicures for her birthday/Christmas. Maybe these people have friends or relatives who do the same for them, or maybe they’re buying the items at a thrift store. Maybe they’re just trying to keep up appearances.

If they’re at the food bank I’m guessing their situation isn’t great and there’s probably nothing to be jealous of. All you can do is focus on your family, and it may take time but you’ll get where you’re going. Good luck.

A: I’m getting a lot of comments like this one. Having one nice handbag or single luxury item doesn’t mean someone still doesn’t need help making ends meet. It’s easy to underestimate how important “keeping up appearances” is to people, especially when they’re experiencing a sudden, surprising downturn in their personal fortunes. My guess is a lot of the customers at the food bank are putting on their nicest clothes, or bringing their iPads or expensive purses on purpose—no one wants to look like they “need” help.

Q. Is an open relationship the solution to mediocre sex?: I’ve been seeing a great guy for just over two years. Our relationship is fantastic on every level with one exception: sex. I’m very experienced, but I’m his first sexual partner. Our sex is OK, but despite our best efforts it doesn’t seem to be improving.

Recently, I suggested moving to an open relationship. He’s known about my skepticism toward monogamy and exclusivity. Many gay couples are open. It’s an easy solution for the 10 percent of my life that isn’t fantastic, and having casual sex isn’t going to make me love him less. But I also feel selfish, since he isn’t interested in sex with others. He also doesn’t want to “restrain” me.

I love him more than I love sex (which is saying something!), so I don’t want to end our relationship. Do we keep trying to make our sex work, or is sex with others an acceptable workaround?

A: There are ways and there are ways to have an open relationship. You say that your boyfriend knows about your disinclination for monogamy, but you don’t say anything about his inclinations, other than the fact that he doesn’t want to have sex with other people. What are his feelings about you sleeping with other people? Is he indifferent? Excited? Does he hate the idea, but wants to make you happy? What specifically isn’t working about your sex life right now? Would having sex with other people genuinely help you care less about having less-than-great sex with the man you love? You can certainly give an open relationship a shot, but make sure you continue to make your sex life together a priority so that it doesn’t fall by the wayside.

Q. Re: Lesbian Woes: Buy a cheap but flashy cubic zirconia engagement ring to wear when you’re out dancing with the gals. That should ward off all but the grossest offenders, whom you should feel free to treat with utter disdain.

A: I think that would address the symptoms but not the underlying cause! The letter writer already feels isolated and out of place; adding a fake fiancé might discourage a few guys, but in the long run will only exacerbate her feelings of alienation.

Come to think of it, why not ask one or two of her friends to act as her wing woman at a gay bar? She’s been such a sport about helping her straight friends meet guys, I think she should enlist a few of them to help her meet women.

Q. Moral question about my work: We have two security/maintenance guys who work at my office. In the last few weeks, one of them has really been slacking off on the job, not cleaning out the garbage cans and vanishing for hours at a time. Very often I end up opening for him.

A few days ago, I saw him walking up the block, away from the building, in the morning. I got to the office around 7:30 a.m. and found the front door left unlocked and wide open, with no one in the building. He didn’t get back until well after 9 a.m., so if I hadn’t arrived early (my shift starts at 9 a.m.), the building would have been left open and unattended for 90 minutes. I didn’t want to get him fired, so instead of telling our boss, I told the other security guard, technically his supervisor, asking him to keep it low-key.

This morning, after this employee left early, I was sitting at the security desk. We have two teenage interns who have been helping out this summer, and one came down and asked for the first-aid kit. While getting it, I noticed several porn DVDs in his desk. While this would be unacceptable in any office, it’s especially bad because we have two underaged interns in the building.

At this point, I’m really not sure what to do. I’ve known this guy for years, and I really don’t want to get him fired. But at the end of the day, he’s doing things that are putting my office at risk for huge liability issues. And not to mention that he’s just not doing his job even on a good day.

A: I think “not doing [your] job even on a good day” and “putting the office at risk for huge liability issues” are very good reasons to be fired. Tell your boss. It’s possible the guy will be put on a performance improvement plan or given a warning; it’s also possible he will be fired for cause and have to make some changes in his life. Either way, it’s not your job to protect him by covering up these huge lapses in judgment.

Q. Should I leave another note on the car I hit?: Last week, while helping a friend move, I parked on a hill in my small pickup truck with manual transmission. I was a bit nervous about moving it, so my friend offered to back it up for me. She (lightly) hit the car parked in front of mine. We decided that we would split the cost of whatever damages resulted. I took pictures of a very small smudge and even smaller dent on the other person’s car (with plates visible) and left a note with my first name and phone number on the windshield. I did not leave my insurance information because for a very small bumper dent, I would rather pay cash than see my rates go up.

I have not heard from the owner of the red car. It is parked there often, as I continued to help my friend move during the week. I’m considering leaving another note on the car. My moving friend agreed that might be a good idea, but she thinks the owner is probably letting it go. She’s left it up to me.

This leaves me in a difficult position. I have mixed feelings about leaving another note, or providing my insurance information—I’ve got student loans! I’d rather not spend more money, but I’ve been feeling really guilty because, to me, leaving another note feels like the “right thing to do.”

A: If you left a note over a “very small” dent and smudge, and the car’s owner declined to call you, I don’t think you should assume they lost your phone number or forgot to get in touch. The simplest explanation—that the car’s owner did not consider this minor ding worth getting professionally fixed—is the likeliest one. You’ve already done the right thing, and can let it go.

Q. My friend is an idiot: My pregnant friend, Kat, is staying with me because her boyfriend threw her out to bring another woman in. Their relationship was always bad but this was the last straw—or so I thought. I found out Kat’s been texting him and asking if she can come back. Should I kick her out? I’m thinking about taking back the baby items I bought her, too.

A: Will the baby need these items any less just because your friend is contemplating dating a guy you don’t approve of? If the answer is “no,” don’t take them back.

You can certainly encourage her not to get back together with her ex—he sounds like a total dirtbag. You can also set a deadline for when she has to move out, although I think out of consideration for her circumstances you should give her a little time to make other arrangements, rather than kicking her out today. You’re not obligated to take on her problems, or to support bad decisions, but you also shouldn’t behave vindictively in order to get her to do what you want. Those gifts for the baby were just that—gifts. Don’t give anything, or try to take anything back, in order to control your friend.

Q. Re: Broke and scared: Most importantly, use a birth control method that your boyfriend cannot tamper with! If possible, look into long-acting reversible contraceptives, like an IUD or implant.

A: That’s excellent practical advice, although it should come with the added caveat that if even a part of you believes that your boyfriend would tamper with your birth control in order to trick you into getting pregnant, then you should break up with him immediately.

Mallory Ortberg: Thanks for helping to maintain the delicate social balance for another week. See you next Monday.

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

What the Appointment of LGBTQ-Friendly Anthony Scaramucci Means for the White House

What the Appointment of LGBTQ-Friendly Anthony Scaramucci Means for the White House

by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles

The appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director introduces a weird and interesting wrinkle into Donald Trump’s sporadic efforts to position himself as a champion of gay rights. It could also be an indication that the administration’s social conservatives, led by Vice President Mike Pence, will see themselves increasingly marginalized.

It’s easy to forget now, but at certain points during the 2016 campaign, Trump presented himself as more LGBTQ-friendly than Hillary Clinton. Following the Pulse shooting in June 2016, Trump tweeted: “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.” A few months later, he held up an upside-down rainbow flag that read “LGBTs for TRUMP” at an event. He declared that transgender people should “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate” and said that Caitlyn Jenner could use whatever bathroom she preferred at Trump Tower. And he had his friend Peter Thiel speak at the GOP convention.

None of this was particularly surprising, since Trump seems to hold no clear personal animus toward LGBTQ people and professed his support for gay rights laws as early as 2000. But after his November victory, Trump outsourced many personnel decisions to the Republican Party and Vice President Pence. An outspoken evangelical conservative, Pence stacked the transition team with anti-LGBTQ zealots (and Thiel, probably to appease Trump). When Trump began appointing White House advisers like Steve Bannon and cabinet members like Jeff Sessions, it became clear that an aversion to LGBTQ rights would not be disqualifying in this administration.

Scaramucci, whom Trump eyed throughout the transition for various White House positions, was the notable exception to this trend. In November 2016, he told the BBC that he was “a gay rights activist” who strongly endorsed marriage equality. Scaramucci’s record backs up this claim. His company, Skybridge Capital, has donated to both the Human Rights Campaign and American Unity PAC, a pro-gay Republican group. In 2016, Scaramucci participated in a roundtable discussion about “advancing workplace equality” with then-Vice President Joe Biden, HRC president Chad Griffin, and international business leaders. “Equality is not just a good investment, it is the right investment,” Scaramucci declared at the time:

HRC is actively engaging top-tier global business leaders and industry influencers in its campaign to change hearts and minds worldwide. As corporate leaders we have the responsibility to support this movement; stand up for inclusion; and foster an organizational culture that reinforces the basic inalienable, democratic rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“We don’t want to be on the wrong side of history,” Scaramucci explained to the Huffington Post. He later invited Caitlyn Jenner to SALT, his hedge fund conference in Las Vegas.

In January, the Washington Post reported that Trump had picked Scaramucci to lead the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, a position previously held by Valerie Jarrett. This speculation spooked Christian conservatives, and Republican operatives—including, allegedly, Sean Spicer—blocked the appointment. Scaramucci’s gay rights record wasn’t the only impediment to a White House job, but it couldn’t have endeared him to the pack of anti-LGBTQ ideologues with whom Trump was now surrounded.

Since then, the Trump administration has been about as anti-LGBTQ as you’d expect given its personnel, revoking transgender bathroom protections and appointing anti-gay judges to the federal bench. Trump has, however, refrained from issuing an anti-LGBTQ “religious liberty” executive order that sharply restricts the rights of gender and sexual minorities. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner allegedly quashed the order behind the scenes—a major loss for the Pence faction. In the spring, Pence reportedly pressured Trump to issue a revised “religious liberty” order, once again to no avail.

Scaramucci’s sudden reemergence marks yet another blow to Pence. It makes sense that, according to Politico, Scaramucci had the backing of Ivanka, Kushner, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell—the administration’s social moderates and “globalist cucks.” It is also unsurprising that Scaramucci is apparently being groomed to replace Reince Priebus as chief of staff: The brash financier is much more Trump’s speed that the milquetoast social conservative.

Of course, Scaramucci’s presence does not mean the White House will suddenly strike a pro-gay, pro-trans stance. Trump’s judicial nominees, which are managed by the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society, will remain anti-LGBTQ, as will his cabinet appointees. But Scaramucci’s appointment is further proof that Pence and his allies have been pushed aside in this administration. Pence came to Washington to fight culture wars. And Trump just hired a man from the other side of the trenches.

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A Cheerful American Cookbook Memorializing the 1948 Berlin Blockade

A Cheerful American Cookbook Memorializing the 1948 Berlin Blockade

by Caroline Lieffers @ Slate Articles

In the summer of 1948, nearly 1,000 American women, wives of military and civilian occupation personnel, found themselves in the middle of what would become the first major crisis of the new Cold War: the Berlin Blockade. By the end of June, the Soviets had cut off road and rail access to the city, severely rationed its electricity and water, and hoped to drive Western forces from the war-damaged German capital. The Allies responded with an ambitious plan: an airlift. Approximately every 30 seconds, around the clock, for 15 months, a plane would land or take off, supplying the beleaguered city with more than 2 million tons of goods.

The American women—and their 744 children—would have been forgiven for abandoning their new home front. Yet, they stayed. They were committed, the Chicago Tribune reported at the time, to “encouraging Berliners frightened by the prospect of Russia taking full control of the city.” The American Women’s Club of Berlin even created this cookbook, Operation Vittles, published in January 1949, to commemorate their resolve and finance their charitable activities. (You can read a scan of the whole cookbook at this link.)

Operation Vittles is stuffed with a postwar spirit of international aid, cheerful sacrifice, and collective responsibility. Some of the recipes are simple, like cheese on toast, while others include lemons and sherry, tastes of Western prosperity and hope in the middle of geopolitical crisis. The book celebrates the “happy group of wives who attempted to obtain American meals,” and anecdotes make light of shortages and shutdowns: Children charmingly nickname the planes “noodle bombers,” while electricity cut-offs mean that one lamb roast played a 22-hour game of "musical ovens" around the city. The Americans didn’t just teach German women about the joys of refrigeration; rightly or not, they also modeled the potential and benevolence of their country’s power and values.

Yet, these anecdotes also reveal an American character perhaps overseasoned with self-assuredness. Though affectionate, the authors all too often cast “the many excellent [German] cooks” they encountered as culinary conservatives, simpletons who complained about “the puzzling variety in the American diet” and its tendency for newness. In one instance, they roast a German cook who foolishly “stuffed [a chicken] with one cup poultry seasoning and one tablespoon breadcrumbs!” Elsewhere, they playfully mock the Germans’ taste for heavy bread and cold food, not caring to mention if these preferences stemmed from cultural difference or lingering habits of wartime conservation.

Operation Vittles is a testament to a group of Americans who tried to make do and do good. The quotidian work of cooking and eating was political action during the Cold War, holding more than just a culinary front against a Soviet menace. In taking large responsibility for a free West Berlin and a free world, American soldiers and their families shouldered much of the burden of constructing a liberal global framework. But this postwar order, so essential for European prosperity, would also carry the seeds of American hubris and exceptionalism that we still reckon with today.

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The Lonely, Heroic Work of a Gay Libyan Refugee Living in America

The Lonely, Heroic Work of a Gay Libyan Refugee Living in America

by Nick Pachelli @ Slate Articles

Late last week, in a West Village townhome, Hass Agili scrolled past the Facebook messages containing death threats and hate speech, past the harrowing notes disgracing him and his family, and tapped on a message from a college student living outside Tripoli. For privacy reasons, we’ll call him Ali. He’s 18 years old, and the cover photo on his Facebook profile is an image of Hass standing in front of the Statue of Liberty.

Their message chain is written in both Arabic and English, mixed with heart emojis and screenshots from secret LGBTQ Facebook pages with posts praising Hass. Exchanging messages with Hass, a gay Libyan who successfully gained refugee status and resettled in the United States, is like talking to a celebrity, says Ali. Ali asks Hass for advice on how he, too, can escape Libya, and wants to know what the U.S. Supreme Court ruling partially reinstating the travel ban means for potential refugees like him. Ali risks his life by sharing so much with Hass about how he survives as a gay person in Libya. If anyone were to find these messages, he would be outed and likely killed. Ali is just one of many gay Libyans now coming to Hass for help.

“They are really scared and desperate to get out,” said Hass.

Out of the nearly 85,000 refugees admitted to the US in 2016, Hass was the only Libyan, and there hasn’t been another since. He’s now 34 years old, living in New York City with a Social Security number and refugee status that expires this month. As required by law, Hass applied for a green card, and now he waits on the status of his application.

“I worry that the Trump administration and repercussions from the travel ban might affect my application. But nobody will tell you anything. There’s nothing I can do but wait and see,” said Hass.

In the meantime, Hass has found purpose in advising gay Libyans on how they, too, can find refuge from a country with harsh realities for gay individuals.

Hass arrived in the U.S. six months before President Donald Trump listed Libya among the Muslim-majority countries whose nationals would not be allowed entry into the United States, but it wasn’t until a month after the executive order that word of Hass’s story spread. A CNN story emerged that detailed Hass’s escape from Libya. It explained how, in 2011, after the Gaddafi government fell to the Arab Spring, the situation for gay Libyans was dire. Hass remembers watching videos of gay people he knew being beheaded.

“They put him in the center of a soccer stadium,” Hass said, “with kids and men and women watching, and killed him. He was a nice guy. We went out for drinks once.”

Hass was outed as gay by a university classmate shortly after. He was ostracized and harassed. No longer safe in Tripoli, he scrounged up $300 dollars and set off for Jordan, then to Lebanon and, later, Slovakia. Hass spent 563 days enmeshed in the dizzying process of seeking refugee status with the UNHCR and jumping through every hoop required of the few who are granted resettlement in the United States.

“I had six in-person interviews, went through I don’t know how many federal agencies”—there were eight—“had three sets of fingerprints taken and a retinal scan.” Hass arrived at JFK Airport on June 6, 2016, thanks in large part to the support of journalist Andrew Solomon, who Hass met while Solomon was reporting in Tripoli in 2005. Hass now lives with Solomon and his family.

Hass’s story made a splash in English-speaking media. The CNN video was viewed over 1 million times and the article reached over 150 million people on social platforms. Quickly thereafter, it went viral in Libya after being translated into Arabic.

“I immediately got all these messages on Facebook, English, and Arabic, from around the world,” said Hass. The messages convey everything from support to disgust, and collectively, they paint a salient image of the seldom seen complexities that gay refugees face.

“A friend from high school, he’s actually a Libyan refugee in Norway, sent me an angry message. He said, ‘Did you ever think of your family before doing this? You’re a horrible person,’ ” said Hass. Other past classmates taunted him on social media. “They made fun of my mother, for some reason, and started arguing that I’m not even Libyan.”

The death threats came, too, from both home and abroad, from people of every creed. One note from a New York City resident read We are in the city. We’ll find him, and we’ll kill him.

The cultural hostility against homosexuals makes Hass hesitant to engage with fellow refugees or Libyan communities in the U.S. “To many of them, I am like a dirty animal. To them, gay is sodomy, simple as that. They’d say, ‘He deserves to die and no one should shed a tear on you.’ ” This, compounded with the rejection of human diversity and celebration of exclusionary nationalism that has rapidly spread since the 2016 election, further isolated Hass.

The negative response spurred a bout of depression. “I felt like I had this IV in my arm, and there was this poison going inside my veins. It felt like I hadn’t left Libya,” he said.

But the messages from gay Libyans brought an unexpected salve. Despite only knowing a handful of other gay men and women from his life in Tripoli, Hass became an overnight hero among Libya’s LGBTQ community.

“All these gay people and groups in Libya found me and told me they watch the video every day,” he said. One of the first was Ali.

“When I responded to Ali, he could not believe it was me. And I could relate to that. I can imagine myself still in Libya, and the thrill I would feel if I could speak to that person, to know that this escape is doable. If someone can leave, I can too,” said Hass.

Many of Hass’s former counterparts wonder about the travel ban. Hass regrets that, to this day, he can offer them no material help. “I have to tell them that the U.S. is probably not going to be up for resettlement right now,” he said. “Even if they manage to escape Libya, and are granted refugee status, they won’t end up in the U.S.”

For years, as the UNHCR referred individuals with refugee status for resettlement—less than one percent of the more than 22 million refugees are resettled—the United States accepted more refugees than any other nation. (The year Hass arrived in U.S. so did 12,587 refugees from Syria and 9,880 from Iraq.) Those numbers have since declined. Last October, 9,945 refugees resettled in the U.S. In March 2017, there were only 2,070, according to the Pew Research Center. This coincides with Trump’s two executive orders stating that refugee admissions should observe a cap of 50,000; the Obama administration’s annual ceiling was 110,000. Of course, Trump’s pen stroke also excluded all nationals from six Muslim-majority countries, including Libya.

“It was already bad,” said Hass. “With the U.S. leaving the picture, chances hit the floor. Waiting times will be longer now.”

In his recent messages with Ali and other gay Libyans, questions arose about what subsequent rulings from the Supreme Court might mean for them as asylum-seekers.

“I told them it doesn’t look much better, unless someone has close family in the States,” Hass said.

Hass told me that If Ali did manage to leave Libya legally, he’d have to go to a neighboring country and maneuver his way to a city where the UNHCR has an office. He’d apply for refugee status and have to convince officials that he is indeed gay and faces persecution back home. While Ali is in a vulnerable situation, in the grand scheme of the global refugee crisis, he lands somewhere in the middle of the hierarchy of risk. If Ali managed to get to Europe, some countries—like Holland and the Scandinavian countries—would provide him an allowance while he waits on his application. But the odds of being stuck in limbo, waiting on emails, letters, interviews, and approvals for years, are higher than ever. The system is inflexible and unconcerned by its own complexity.

“I wish I could tell them it will work, that I could say, ‘This is exactly how it will happen.’ But it’s a gambling process. You put your life at risk and wait. Meanwhile, there’s nothing left in your country, you are running away for your life. So, you have to be willing to take the risk.”

The time to leave may never come for Ali. He’d need great financial backing to leave Libya and sustain him during the arduous application process. Hass tells him that it may not be until the end of the Trump administration that he can offer substantive help. Nonetheless, Hass remains Ali’s source for counsel and hope, and, in turn, Hass has come to rely on Ali and other gay Libyans to find purpose in his new life.

“It makes me feel like it was all worthwhile. One day, once I’m a citizen, I’ll be able to provide some real material help to these people.” Hass still wants to become a doctor in the U.S., but his chances of doing so are slim. He’d have to start over from the undergraduate level. He may have a better chance of forging a new path working with asylum seekers tied up in the fraught system.

Hass says that, if anything, his experience thus far has taught him about the tenuous and volatile role of the country he now calls home.

“Regardless of what’s going on in this country with Trump, people all around the world are still looking up to the U.S. ... And being here now, I have to realize that when I’m fighting for my rights, I am fighting for everyone’s rights all around the world.”

Hass likes to think he will make the road easier for others who might follow someday—that his story, and hopefully Ali’s too, will alter our understanding of the term refugee.

Kissing Cousin

Kissing Cousin

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

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Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online here on Slate to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

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Dear Prudence,

A few years ago my cousin married a guy who has always squicked me out, mainly because of the hateful and homophobic things he posts on Facebook. So, I’ll admit, I wasn’t Googling him out of “healthy curiosity.” It was a hate-search—I was hoping to confirm what I suspected, which is that he’s an alt-right jerk. But (as it always goes) what I found was way weirder and more complex. I Googled his Twitter handle, which is the first result after Googling his name, and the first link I came across was a page of adult photos of my cousin. This was shocking in itself, but three links in there was a Tumblr post filled with pictures of my cousin having sex with another guy (which the husband had posted). My impulse is to leave well enough alone, bleach my eyes, and spend the next 30 years snickering with my husband about these phonies—consenting adults should be free to do whatever they want to do—but there’s a part of me that worries that my cousin might not know what’s out there, not to mention the fact that it is so easily accessible. Do you think it might be worth sending her an anonymous message? If they’re kinky, let them be kinky. But they also seem like private people, and you don’t have to be Encyclopedia Brown to find out that they’re living a very different life than the one they project. But if I do say anything, I want to make sure I minimize the damage and am doing it for the right reasons.

–Concerned Cousin

I think you have been relatively honest about your reasons for doing what you did. You wanted to uncover something embarrassing about your cousin’s husband that would “expose” him as a hypocrite, and you did. If you were able to find these pictures after a cursory search, then I think you can safely assume that your cousin is aware of them too. If she’s computer-savvy enough to have a Facebook profile and email account, then she is aware what comes up on a Google search of her (or her husband’s) name. If they’re that easily accessible, then she has probably accessed them. If you want to send her a brief, anonymous message about decoupling the pictures from her husband’s easily identifiable Twitter account, you certainly can—but drop the subject after that, and stop Googling the names of people you don’t like looking for trouble.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I briefly dated a guy who I’m now just friends with. If he was on board with the idea, I’d still be up for exploring our connection. We broke up after a couple of months because I got pregnant and miscarried, and neither of us were prepared for the situation. He then left for an internship without giving me a way to contact him. When he came back two months later, I told him I’d needed his support and wanted to rely on him. He apologized and said that while he couldn’t commit to me, he was interested in being friends. I suspected he just wanted to save face and wasn’t actually interested in my friendship.

Recently I didn’t hear from him for about five months (we live a few hours apart): no emails, no texts, not even when I forwarded him school-related stuff he would be interested in and wished him a happy new year (not the Gregorian one but one specific to his culture). At one point I asked him for advice with a school-related problem, and he asked me to call him. After we had talked, I asked him if I had done anything wrong since I hadn’t heard from him all this time. He said that he had just been busy. Later I wrote him an email to thank him for his time and told him I would add him on Google Hangouts to keep in better touch. He turned the invitation down. I sent another one, and when he turned it down again, I wrote to ask if anything was wrong. It’s been a month, and I haven’t heard from him.

I’m not going to contact him again, but I’m anxious that I did something wrong and didn’t realize it. I worry I pushed the Google Hangout invitation too much, and look like someone who can’t take a hint. I still feel drawn to him, which I beat myself up about. I’m wondering how to move on from this, and how to be less of a basket case when dating new people.


I think it’s worth spending some time figuring out why you’d still be willing to “explore a connection” with a guy who’s spent your entire on-and-off relationship in full retreat. It’s true that he never came out and said, “I don’t want to be your friend,” but every time he’s pulled away—whether by leaving town or going radio silent—you’ve responded by trying to get closer.

Mutual enthusiasm is a crucial component of any good relationship, romantic or otherwise, and you’ve never had that with him. In the future, it might help you to think of an obvious lie like “I’ve just been busy” to explain five months of no contact as an out-and-out no, rather than pushing for more explicit rejection. Whether this guy was trying to save face or was simply afraid of hurting your feelings is beside the point. You should be on the lookout for friends and dates who make their enthusiasm for your company clear. Don’t try to read between the lines or look for reasons to contact someone who’s half-hearted or inconsistent about wanting your company.

Most importantly, you should stick to your decision not to contact your ex again. You say you don’t plan to try to talk to him now, but in the past you’ve interpreted his silence as permission to try again. That strategy has never worked for you, and you should drop it and focus on the people who want to be a part of your life.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

My best friend, “Jen,” and I are in our mid-30s; we met as college roommates and have been a huge part of each other’s lives since then. I’m divorced with two young children, and she’s never been married. Jen has always been very particular, but lately it’s gotten much worse. She’ll ask a waiter 20 questions before ordering a sandwich, and sometimes even asks to see a sample of the sandwich before deciding. It’s the same thing with home furnishings and other simple decisions. Unsurprisingly, Jen has never found a guy who could meet her exacting standards but is now obsessed with the idea of having a baby to “pass on her genetics.” I was surprised by this since she never shows any interest in children. She talks about passing on her love of travel and books and music, but when I mention the realities of motherhood, she waves her hand and says that’s only for the first few years—that she can put up with it to get to the “good stuff.” Before she brought up this baby idea, I was actually toying with the idea of telling her to talk to her doctor since I’m pretty sure she has some form of OCD. I don’t bring my children to her place anymore because she gets upset if they touch her carefully arranged magazines. I can’t think of anyone less suited to single motherhood. Should I have a frank talk to try dissuade her? She’s already looking into sperm banks.

–Unqualified Mother

If being rude to waiters or picky about houseware disqualified a person from parenthood, there would be a lot fewer parents in the world. Moreover, almost every first-time parent is characterized by a certain naïveté about the realities of child rearing; part of the fun of watching your friends have children after you is knowing what they’re in for before they do. Nothing you have described sounds like a particularly endearing quality, but neither does it sound like Jen is likely to be a dangerous, abusive, or wildly incompetent parent. The real question before you is not “How can I dissuade my friend Jen from having children?” It’s how you can address her current behavior as it affects your friendship with her.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is not the same thing as being fussy or high-maintenance, but if you genuinely believe that Jen experiences needless, frequent distress over everyday tasks or suffers from repeated intrusive thoughts, then you can and should encourage her to talk with her doctor about it. There is no reason to peg this conversation to whether she should have children. If, however, Jen is merely picky, exacting, and prone to a tiresome sort of perfectionism, then, as her best friend, you should offer her some constructive criticism. Your goal should be not to convince her that she’s unfit to parent but to figure out whether she needs either therapeutic support or social feedback in changing some of her behaviors.

* * *

Dear Prudence: How do I spice up my sex life when my partner is a prude?

Hear more Prudie at

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I got engaged two weeks ago and my parents are throwing my fiancé and me an engagement party to celebrate. My little sister and her boyfriend are “pre-engaged” and seemingly irritated that I “got to go first.” Last week, she announced that they intend to elope, and announce it at my engagement party. My initial reaction was, “That’s like announcing your pregnancy at someone else’s baby shower!” I love my sister, and I am awfully fond of her partner—but I’m irritated that they both think this is an OK thing to do. I don’t want to start an emotional war within my family, but I also want my own thing for one day. Help me find inner peace with this.

–Announcing Elopement

I thought the whole point of eloping was forgoing all the usual announcements and hoopla around getting engaged and having a big wedding ceremony. Do they intend to get married in the coming week and present themselves as newlyweds at your engagement party, or are they planning to announce the mere intention to elope at your engagement party? Both possibilities are more than a little ridiculous. Regardless of the timeline your sister has envisioned, you don’t have to find “inner peace” with her plan to borrow your party for herself. Tell her not to make any announcements at your engagement party. That’s a perfectly reasonable request. If she and her boyfriend would like to get engaged or elope, they are perfectly free to do so, and they can have their own engagement party (or wedding party, or “we just ran off and got married” party, or whatever sort of party they like) on any other day.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I am the oldest of several cousins, most of whom are toddler-to-elementary-school age. (I’m in college.) My girlfriend and I have been together for two years, and she often makes appearances at large family events with me. My immediate family loves my girlfriend, and she gets along pretty well with my aunts, uncles, and grandparents too. But just about every time the family plus other family friends, who also have small children, get together, some of the littlest ones start asking me “why [my] friend is here,” and who she is. I have been out and proud for many years, and I would never try to pass my girlfriend off as just “a friend”—however, I’m really afraid I’ll invoke the ire of aunts, uncles, and family friends if their young kids start demanding to know how two girls can be girlfriends. And honestly, it doesn’t feel like my responsibility to teach my cousins that gay people exist or to subject myself and my girlfriend to questions like “But do you kiss her?” that grown-ups think too but know better than to ask—especially when I’m trying to enjoy Thanksgiving. What do I do?

–Gay Cousin

You’re of course not obligated to answer the questions other people’s young children may have, but there’s nothing inherently ire-provoking about saying, “She’s my girlfriend” when asked. It doesn’t sound like your family is asking you to attend these events with your girlfriend as an “open secret.” Since the adults, even the ones you’re not related to, already know that she’s your girlfriend, I think you can safely assume you won’t be drawing anyone’s ire if you acknowledge that fact when asked.

If the kids try to follow up with a bunch of age-typical questions, you can either offer age-appropriate responses (“Do you kiss her?” “I sure do! Hey, do you like Transformers?”) or deflect politely (“Do you kiss her?” “Hey, that’s a really personal question! Do you like Transformers?”). Think of it less in terms of responsibility and more in terms of an opportunity—these little kids will get to see you and your girlfriend with the rest of the couples in the family, casually acknowledging your relationship and talking about Transformers. You’re not taking on the entire job of teaching them that gay people exist. You’re just saying, “Yep, that’s my girlfriend.”

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I have always been an emotionally intelligent person, which I find fulfilling and useful in my personal life. It can also be useful in my career, but I often find it difficult to stop myself from crying, especially when it’s not a good time to be crying. It doesn’t happen every day, but when I get stressed out at the office, it can be hard to keep the tears from falling. I know that some people cry more easily than others, but crying just feels so dramatic. It can make me appear devastated, or unstable, when all I really feel is frustrated, misunderstood, or stressed.

As I’m bound to feel one of these three things at some point at work (duh, it’s work), I don’t think the tears are necessary. I end up saying to anyone who happens to be there when I cry “This is a thing that’s happening, don’t worry, it’s something I do, I’m fine.” Even though mentally I can grasp a situation and contextualize my feelings, it’s not enough for me to stop myself from crying. Are there any techniques I can use to help? I don’t want to seem like a delicate employee when I’m not.

–No, Really, I’m Fine

Your strategy of addressing the tears without apologizing for a difficult-to-control natural function is a good one. There’s a risk that apologizing unnecessarily will only increase the discomfort of anyone who happens to be nearby while you’re crying, but it should be helpful for them to know that you’re not actually devastated or on the verge of panic—you’re just an easy crier. If you feel yourself getting close to tears, try taking a few deep breaths or getting up and going for a brief walk, even if it’s just a loop around the office. Plan a few natural breaks for yourself throughout the day to meditate or briefly recenter yourself so you’re not trying to push through unassisted while fighting your instincts. You can also, whenever possible, excuse yourself when you feel a crying jag coming on, so that you can ride it out in your office or use the cover of a bathroom break before rejoining a meeting or work-related conversation without distraction.

At a certain emotional point, crying becomes inevitable, and trying to hide or avoid it just makes things worse—you start gulping back tears and breathing erratically. When it’s totally unavoidable, make sure you’ve got some tissues handy, go somewhere private, and take a few minutes to compose yourself before getting back to work. (Also, run some cold water over your fingers, then gently tap them under your eyes to reduce swelling.) Good luck.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

More Dear Prudence

Let Them Eat iPads: Prudie counsels a letter writer who resents other shoppers at the food bank because they appear less needy.
Forestalling the Routine
: Prudie advises a letter writer who wants to convince a brother to leave his newborn son uncircumcised.
Maybe It’s Not You
: I’m a woman, and my law firm said I won’t make partner unless I “smile more.”
Playing Daddy?
: Prudie counsels a man whose girlfriend is jealous of the attention he gives to two orphaned relatives.
Burnt Toast
: Prudie advises a maid of honor whose wedding speech offended the groom and jeopardized her friendship with the bride.
Colleagues With Benefits
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Rekindled Romance
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If you have fair skin, a gradual tanner is going to give you more control over the color and allow you to avoid uneven color and that unappealing orange tinge. The LORAC selfTANtalizer Body Bronzing Gradual Self-Tanner is a great, natural color and very buildable—plus it smells like vanilla and moisturizes.

I Tried Out Self-Tanners And Became Orange So That You Don't Have To

I Tried Out Self-Tanners And Became Orange So That You Don't Have To


I became orange so that you (hopefully) don't have to.

Burnt Toast

Burnt Toast

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Mallory Ortberg: Good morning, campers. A few announcements before breakfast: Archery and Saying No to Your In-Laws will both be at 9:45 behind the boathouse. Will everyone who has not yet broken up with their boyfriends please gather by the flagpole after lunch for the Feelings Hike. It’s 80 and sunny. Have a great day.

Q. I ruined my friend’s wedding—now what?: I was the maid of honor in my best friend’s wedding a few weeks ago and I gave a toast. My friend and I have known each other for over 20 years. It was a beautiful wedding, but during my toast I apparently said something the groom took great offense to, and he and the bride ended up fighting because of it, which then caused the bride to yell at me in the hallway outside the reception, saying that her new husband was mad at her because of what I had said in my toast. Had I known it was such a touchy subject I never would have brought it up. I felt awful about what happened and apologized profusely to my friend, who said it was OK. We had a long talk, and she apologized for yelling at me and wanted to make sure I wasn’t upset. I also asked her to extend my apologies to her husband, as I didn’t have a way of contacting him directly. I felt better after our talk, but apparently some hurt feelings remain because all of our interactions after the wedding have felt forced and awkward, and then she stopped responding to my texts and calls entirely.

I feel awful that I ruined her wedding—they wouldn’t have fought unless I had made that comment. But I also feel like I have apologized enough and that my friend is throwing away 20 years of friendship over an offhand remark I made during my toast that I didn’t even realize was going to be offensive. I also feel like it’s possible that her husband is still so upset that he’s asked her not to talk to me anymore—apparently he was livid. Is there anything else I can do to fix this?

A: Can you give us the gist of what you said? It’s hard to figure out whether you owe him any further apologies without knowing what exactly set him off. If it’s possible to do so without identifying yourself too obviously, let us know.

Leaving aside whether you owe further apologies, I think you should give her some space. It’s only been a few weeks, so assuming that your friend is “throwing away 20 years of friendship over an offhand remark” is jumping the gun a little. (It’s also extremely relevant what the offhand remark was. Some offhand remarks change your perception of another person!) You need to give them both time and space—apologies don’t make everything OK overnight. Whether you said something truly shocking or she married someone extremely thin-skinned and prone to tantrums, your friend is going through a lot right now. She got in what sounds like a semi-public fight with both her husband and her maid of honor on her wedding day, and is likely still humiliated and distressed. Don’t crowd her. Give it another month or two before reaching out again, and let her know that you’re not going to push her, but that you’re available if and when she wants to see you.

Q. Should I have given up my reservation to an expecting mom?: I made a reservation at a nice restaurant for my anniversary. Our reservation was for 8:30 p.m. but the hostess said they were running a little behind. After 20 minutes of waiting, a couple walked in behind us and asked for a table. They didn’t have reservations and the hostess said they were looking at a 45-minute wait. The couple stood behind us discussing options, then five minutes later the hostess said our table was ready. The woman pointed out that she was seven months pregnant and would really appreciate if she could sit before us. I said no because we had a reservation and they did not, then suggested two places across the street that always have seats available. The couple was visibly annoyed and said something under their breath.

Did I do the right thing here? I know to give up seats on buses, spots in a bathroom line, aisle seats on airplanes, etc. for those expecting, but am I really expected to yield my dinner reservation to a pregnant woman when there are options across the street? What is the protocol? Had they made a reservation I would have gladly switched so they could sit a few minutes early, but they were basically asking for our reservation. We were looking at having to wait another 45 minutes.

A: No, there is no social obligation to give dinner reservations to pregnant women. The reason it’s polite to give one’s seat on the bus to a pregnant woman is because it’s generally understood that people have to take public transit to get to work or doctor’s appointments, and pregnancy makes standing for long periods of time physically uncomfortable. Riding the bus is often unavoidable. The same goes with restroom lines—pregnancy is hard on the bladder and having to urinate is a basic bodily function that needs relatively quick attention. Eating at a specific restaurant does not fall into the same category. This woman and her husband could have either made a reservation, asked to sit down while they waited for an available table, or chosen to eat elsewhere.

Q. Update—Come to my office window: I wrote to you a year and a half ago about developing feelings for my boss—we had gone out for drinks on a Saturday, she gave me a “look” I didn’t act on, and I sent you a frantic question about it the Monday after. I wanted to thank you for your advice, which I took to heart. I waited to see if my feelings would privately lift, and when they didn’t, I got a fantastic reference and ended up finding another job. A couple months ago I reconnected with my old boss at a work conference, and while we were reminiscing and trading stories, she mentioned the Dear Prudence article to me and said it reminded her of us! Prudie, I confessed it was me, we had a good laugh, and she confessed that those feelings were mutual. As she is no longer my superior and because we both have similar job titles now, we started dating. We’ve been together for three months now and we couldn’t be happier. Thank you, Prudie, for helping us find each other!

A: Oh, well done to the both of you. Congratulations on the new job and on starting this new relationship off on the right note. Please invite me to the wedding.

Q. Tank tops and fur: I am a person of fur: In other words, I am hairy. While I am not quite a Sasquatch or Chewbacca, I do have a furry back and shoulders. While in a resort town this summer, we went into a dockside restaurant for a late lunch. I had a tank top on and thought nothing of it as we dined on the outside deck. As we were sitting at the table finishing up, a woman came over and remarked that I ruined her lunch because of my exposed fur. She recommended that I “put a shirt on” and when I pointed out the fact that a tank top was indeed a shirt, it escalated.

I ignored her and she eventually went away, but only after embarrassing me in public. Was I wrong to wear a tank top to an outside restaurant? And what would the proper response to her have been?

A: Good Lord, people do too much. I am of the opinion that a person whose lunch can be ruined by proximity to human shoulders—even, quelle horreur, fuzzy shoulders—is a person whose lunch is too easily ruined. A tank top is a perfectly appropriate shirt to wear on the deck of a waterside restaurant during summer vacation, and this woman was incredibly rude to talk about your clothes and body in the first place. The fact that she didn’t drop the subject immediately and move to a remote island to quietly contemplate her life choices once you declined to engage suggests that she is not currently interested in developing better social skills. I think you did just fine in ignoring her.

Q. Co-worker blames me for not getting the job: A co-worker who I have always gotten along well with applied for a position in my department. I was put in charge of the hiring committee, which just means I handled setting up the meetings and interviews—my boss was the final hiring authority. We all assumed he’d be the best candidate but, surprise, his interview was lackluster, his presentation ill-prepared, and he came across as thoroughly uninterested in the position. By the end, everyone agreed that he was by far the worst choice.

Well, it’s been months now and he still brings it up to me at every possible opportunity. I gave him the benefit of the doubt—he was upset and a little younger, so maybe he was a little loose with his tongue. But last week he let me know exactly how he feels: He personally blames me and nobody else. He says that I should have recommended him above all the external candidates and that other hiring committees have done that before. He was so cruel about it, I literally cried.

My dilemma: I recently got a new job and am going to be leaving this one by the end of the week. I really want to reach out to him about this to make clear that whatever his perception of his qualifications, he came across entirely different in the interviews. My boss thought he had zero interest in the job, and he submitted a cover letter for a different position at an entirely different company. He’s completely deluded if he thinks I had some personal vendetta against him that made me conspire not to hire him. I want to set him straight. What do you think?

A: My guess is that based on the way he acted after not getting the job, this soon-to-be-ex-co-worker isn’t going to gracefully consider any further information you give him about the hiring process. If any part of you wants to correct him so that he can figure out how to handle rejection more professionally in the future, you’d be doing him a favor. But if you’re hoping you can somehow convince this un-self-aware entitled jerk to stop blaming you for his own failure, I think it would be a waste of time. Whatever you decide, resign yourself to the fact that he may choose to ignore your advice.

In the future, please don’t let anyone repeatedly hassle you about a decision that’s already been made and was never in your hands just because you think they’re a little young. You should have nipped this in the bud weeks ago and said, “Grelliot, you need to stop bringing this up. The decision was not ultimately mine to make, and the hiring committee offered the position to the candidate they thought best suited for it. I’m not going to discuss it with you again.”

Q. Don’t want to let my abusive father win: My father was physically and emotionally abusive to me and my two brothers throughout our childhood. As my brothers got bigger, he then focused on me. My parents divorced when I was a senior in high school. I was glad. My dad got married the day after the divorce was final and quickly made it clear that he had a new family. All I remember is him taking my mom to court to pay less child support. About 11 years ago, I broke off all contact as I realized that he really didn’t care for me and would never apologize for the years of abuse and hurt. Once in a while he sends friend requests through Facebook, but I have ignored them and blocked him.

One of my brothers insists on having a relationship with him, as he is the only grandpa my nephews have. Earlier this month my brother told me that my nephew wants my dad at his baptism into our church. Dad used to use public functions to show affection and act like everything was fine because he knew we didn't dare do anything in front of people. He showed up to my dear maternal grandmother's funeral and when I refused to speak with him, I was tracked down and given a lecture by my cousin and uncle. I thought I would be OK, but a week after my brother told me, I ended up in the hospital with a massive anxiety attack. A mental health counselor helped me realize the idea of seeing my dad again was one of the triggers for this attack.

I spoke with my brother about it and he said dad would not be there. But today I got an email saying that he didn’t dare break his dear son’s heart, so dad is coming, and can’t we all just forgive and get along? He told dad he can’t approach me or talk to me, but I don’t trust that man.

My nephew has asked me to sing, and I want to be there for him. I also don’t want my abuser to win. I’m hurt, and extremely pissed, and feel that my brother picked my dad over me and my mental health.

Plus, how do I act or react? It’s probably not a good idea to yell, “Get your damn hands off me!” at a church function. I don’t want to ruin my nephew’s special day, especially because he is completely clueless in all this family history. Please help.

A: If it’s not possible for you and your father to be in the same room, and your father is going to be at your nephew’s baptism, then I think you should decline to attend. That’s obviously sad, and it may put on a strain on your relationship with your own brother, but that strain may be necessary if your brother decides to have regular contact with your father. For you that’s simply not possible—it’s too great a threat to your mental and emotional well-being. If you can, try to find a time when you can come by your brother’s house, alone, and celebrate his son’s baptism privately. But if your brother tries to demand that you re-establish a relationship with your abusive father just because he’s done so, then you can, and should, refuse.

Q. Follow-up re: I ruined my friend’s wedding—now what?: I’m hesitant to disclose exactly what I said because I feel it’s too identifying, but it was something that was meant as a compliment and was supposed to illustrate how I knew they would eventually get married. It’s also a sentiment that is often used in wedding toasts. For what it’s worth, no one else who heard it found it problematic (i.e. it wasn’t a politics/religion/other sensitive topic dig).

A: OK, that doesn’t sound too horrifying. With the benefit of hindsight, you might have shown a draft of your toast to your friend before the wedding to make sure it looked all right to her—one person’s “fun, common joke” is often another person’s “painful jab”—but it doesn’t sound like you owe any further apologies to her. Just give her some time. If you two speak again in the near future, you might ask if she thinks it would be helpful for you to speak directly with her husband, just to reiterate that you never intended to hurt his feelings. If she says no, your work here is done. Time and space will (hopefully) do the rest.

Q. Re: Should I have given up my reservation to an expecting mom?: Former hostess and maître d’ in NYC here—no, you should not have given up your table. I’ve seen this exact situation many times. (It’s weird! Do they recommend doing this in What to Expect When You’re Expecting or something?!) She didn’t become seven months pregnant that day, so being pregnant didn’t come to her as a surprise. She and her husband knew they were taking a chance walking into a busy restaurant without a reservation and then she used her situation to try to manipulate you into giving up your table for them. I mean, if you wanted to, that’s your prerogative, but you shouldn’t feel badly saying “no.”  She was out of line.

Q. Re: Should I have given up my reservation to an expecting mom?: I am currently seven months pregnant, and I think the expectant mom and her partner were rude to ask for such a thing and then mutter under their breath. While I sincerely appreciate when people hold doors open for me and the like, I would never ask for special treatment unless medically necessary and certainly would not expect it.

A: There you have it. Both another hostess and another seven-months pregnant woman agree that you’re in the clear.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

Helping After Harvey

Helping After Harvey

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Mallory Ortberg: Good morning, everyone! Let’s chat.

Q. That’s not what I had in mind: I come from the Houston area and have been heartbroken about the damage and scenes from Harvey. I decided to donate $250 and asked my girlfriend if she would match it. She agreed, and then when I asked if she had given to the Red Cross or someone else, I learned that she donated to the Humane Society. I know she’s absolutely nuts about animals, especially our own dogs, but to give to animals when people are in trouble seems heartless to me. She’s much more politically active than I am, and I finally asked if she did that to avoid the possibility of giving money to someone who voted for Trump, and she admitted that was one of the reasons. I think that’s awful, and we’ve been fighting about it ever since. She thinks as a gay woman I should see her side, but I just can’t. There are good people everywhere, and she went out of her way to avoid helping. We’ve been fighting about this ever since. Who is right?

A: It took me a few times to parse this letter, because at first I thought your girlfriend was somehow concerned that someone in the Red Cross might have voted for Trump, but it sounds like she is actually reluctant to support human flood victims on the off chance that they may have voted for him, which is nonsensical and unconscionable. “As a society, we should help victims of natural disasters” is a complete sentence that does not require additional clauses, addenda, or stipulations. This is worth fighting with your girlfriend about, and you should strongly oppose her bizarre moral calculus.

There are numerous ways to support the Red Cross’ relief efforts: You can text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a one-time $10 donation, visit, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. The Center for International Disaster Information recommends donating cash over supplies in the wake of a national disaster because it comes with “no transportation costs, shipping delays, or customs fees. It also enables relief organizations to spend more time providing aid by spending less time managing goods.” You can also donate to local food banks, shelters, and other organizations; there’s a longer list here.

Q. Parents helped sibling buy condo: My brother’s seven years younger. He quit high school, could never keep a job, and stole from them until he was in his 20s. I got top grades in university and went to grad school. My parents helped him buy a condo about 10 years ago—and told me they couldn’t afford to also help me get into one but would someday (I was busy then paying off student loans). Since then, prices here have more than tripled, and I can’t afford to get into the market, but his condo is nearly paid off. My parents have since retired and say all their money is locked in investments.

I can’t get over it. It really shouldn’t bother me—but it does, pretty much every day. I feel like a whiny, spoiled brat. How do I get over this?

A: At the risk of sounding like a total cliché, I think this is about more than just the condo. One of the sadder themes of this column is how often parental favoritism has painful repercussions for their children their whole lives long. However you decide to deal with this emotional sticking point—whether that be therapy, limiting your contact with your parents, or whatever else—I think the most important thing to bear in mind is that your parents are unlikely to change and that they have long favored your brother over you, and that hurts. It’s a simple, painful truth, and it’s not one that’s easy to come to terms with. Whatever your financial future looks like, it’s going to be one that comes without assistance from them. That’s a loss, to be sure, but you’ve also got things your brother doesn’t and never will. You’re self-sufficient, and you’ve built a life that doesn’t require frequent bailouts from your parents.

Q. Dutiful but dull: I don’t want to feel this way, but I think that my relationship with my girlfriend is failing. We don’t seem to enjoy each other’s company anymore, she resents my long hours at work, and I resent her lack of interest in getting out to do stuff when we have free time together.

The problem is that she has done so much for me. She came out to her family for me (this year her mom called on her birthday—three years that took), we moved to this city because I got a job, and she supported me when I had a small cancer thing (it was fine! I’m fine! She was great!). Now I feel like I can’t be the one to start breakup proceedings. What sort of terrible human being breaks up with someone who has done all that for them?

A: Your girlfriend came out to her family for herself. You may have acted as a fulcrum in that decision, but the person who directly benefited from that particular coming-out was your girlfriend. It was not an act of charity directed at you; it was a necessary part of her own individuation. There is no need for you to consider that a reason you are now not permitted to end your relationship with her.

We stay in relationships because we love our significant others and want to be with them—not because we look back at a laundry list of credits and debits and decide we owe them more than they owe us. The fact that your girlfriend has been supportive while you were sick or that the two of you decided as a couple to move together does not mean you have to stay together forever. Breaking up is not a referendum on whether she has been a good girlfriend to you.

That doesn’t mean you should dump her tomorrow, either. If you haven’t even talked about the fact that you two are starting to resent each other, then what needs to come first is a frank conversation about what’s not working, and that will never happen as long as you feel like you’re not “allowed” to be honest about your feelings with her. The worst possible thing you could do is continue to stay silent while internally pulling away and checking out of this relationship in the hopes that your girlfriend ends things for you. That will only increase your feelings of guilt and cause her unnecessary pain and bewilderment. You need to have this conversation with her—you owe it to her, and to yourself, and to do anything less out of a misplaced sense of guilt would be a serious mistake. You’re not a terrible person. You’re in a bad relationship. Whether you two can improve things or decide to ultimately part ways, it’s only going to come about if you’re honest with her and yourself.

Q. Missing the party: About a month ago I received a text message about an upcoming bachelor party for a close friend. Due to my own forgetfulness and being quite busy with grad school and work, I forgot all about it and didn’t reply. I completely forgot about it until the day before the event, when the groom told me that something was planned for him the next day, but he didn’t know what. I contacted the person planning the event to see if it was too late for me to attend and sadly discovered that it was.

I know that I am to blame for not responding to the event, but I’m feeling a little annoyed at the planner. One text? That was all I got. Doesn’t a bachelor party require a little bit of effort on the organizer’s part to coordinate with friends (a group email, or at least a second text to remind the person)? In addition, my partner is equally good friends with the groom and didn’t get a message at all (only a mention in my first text). Now both of us are missing a very good friend’s bachelor party because of one missed text. Does this land squarely on my shoulders? I’m feeling angry, but maybe I am just mad at myself for forgetting.

A: I think you are mostly just mad at yourself for forgetting! It’s very rare in life that we are 100 percent wrong while someone else is 100 percent right, but don’t let the fact that there are always imperfect scores to be doled out on all sides obscure the pertinent fact, which is that you failed to respond to the initial invitation. It would have been great if the organizer had followed up with a reminder, but the primary breakdown in communication originated with you, and no subsequent rudeness on anyone else’s part can change that fact. You missed out on something you wanted to attend because you didn’t prioritize it. I can certainly sympathize! That’s happened to me. Let the sting of missing out propel you to change the way you respond to future invitations.

Q. Move: My husband wants to take a job across the country. We have moved so much that I just don’t want to move again. We have four kids who are happy here. I know that in a year or two he will just want to move again. My kids haven’t even been to one school for more than a year. What should I do?

A: Can you tell us a little more about why your husband has moved you and your family so often? Is it the nature of his career, or does he seem to suffer from frequent wanderlust? Is there anything wrong with the job he has now? Are you financially stable where you’re living? It certainly sounds like, absent a very pressing reason to move again, you and your children would all benefit greatly from staying put for at least a few years. Can you talk to your husband about the many reasons you might have for staying?

Q. Re: That’s not what I had in mind: For the woman who’s upset about her girlfriend donating to the Humane Society instead of helping people, keep in mind that they are the ones rescuing and housing pets that are not allowed in emergency shelters, which is a huge help to pet owners—many of whom consider pets as family members. There are plenty of organizations that help people in need; don’t begrudge those that help beloved animals that might otherwise be left to starve or drown.

A: Oh, it’s absolutely laudable to help animals as well as people during a time of crisis. The fact that the letter writer’s girlfriend supported the Humane Society certainly isn’t a problem, but I imagine the letter writer picked up on a certain reluctance or discomfort in talking about helping humans, which is why she asked the question in the first place. It’s a pretty serious sticking point to disagree about whether one has an obligation to help victims of a natural disaster (if one is in a position to do so) based on their ideology or possible past behavior.

Q. Bull in a china cupboard: Recently, while visiting my friend “Nancy,” I was chatting with her while she put away dishes from the dishwasher. At one point I noticed that she’d left a cupboard door open, so I helpfully closed it. She then turned around with her arms full of plates, for some reason expected the cabinet door to be open, and clumsily dropped some of the dishes. I honestly thought she was done in that cupboard and helped her clean up the mess. I also suggested that next time she put things away one or two pieces at a time so that she could keep the doors neatly shut in between. Nancy never complained to me but must have told our friend “Paul” because he told me that I owed Nancy an apology and should offer to pay for her broken dishware. I admit that open cabinets and drawers are a pet peeve of mine, but I find it ridiculous that I should apologize or pay for attempting to be helpful. Do I owe Nancy anything here?

A: I don’t know that I have a formal, official ruling here—you were trying to be helpful, but closing a cabinet door while someone else is in the middle of unloading the dishwasher is not practically helpful. You say that “for some reason” Nancy expected the cabinet door to be open when she turned around with an armful of dishes; the reason is that she left the cabinet door open mere moments ago—she had a very good reason for expecting it to stay open!

Why don’t you speak directly to Nancy about this, if you’re unsure of what she wants? Maybe she told Paul herself that she’s angry with you and wants an apology, or maybe she merely mentioned what happened to Paul and he decided you owed her repayment. The only way to find out what Nancy thinks is to ask her directly—although I don’t recommend (for obvious reasons) that you start with, “Nancy, I find it ridiculous that I should have to apologize to you. Do you want me to apologize?”

For what it’s worth, apologizing doesn’t mean you have to don a hairshirt and take full responsibility for what happened. It was an accident, and just because you’re sorry that you (however indirectly) contributed to the dropped dishes, it does not also follow that you think you were being wholly rude or irresponsible. If you don’t want to offer to pay for new dishes, then don’t make the offer, although it would be a kind gesture between friends.

The one thing I would advise you to reconsider is what you did after Nancy dropped the dishes. You don’t describe apologizing in a general sense (“Oh, how awful! I’m so sorry.”) or helping her to clean up, just that you offered her unsolicited advice about how to put her own dishes away. If you like closing and reopening cabinets repeatedly while you unload your own dishwasher, that’s your affair, but others don’t, and there’s certainly no one right way to put away dishes. Next time you’re visiting a friend who’s doing chores, if you want to be useful to her, ask her if there’s anything you can do to help—don’t decide you know what she should be doing better and make the decision for her.

Q. Re: Missing the party: The “invitation” to the bachelor party was a single text? That’s hardly an invitation. When you’re not glued to your phone 24/7, texts are ridiculously easy to miss or forget about, especially if you have a lot on your plate (like grad school). The organizer should have called, made a Facebook invite, or sent out an email or paper invitations. Forgetfulness on the letter writer’s part, but bad event-planning on the organizer’s part.

A: It’s possible the organizer did send out an email or Facebook invite to everyone who responded to the initial text, and it’s possible the organizer was more than a little slapdash about getting everyone together. The point, I think, is that while it might feel easier to focus on what the organizer could or should have done differently, (say it with me) the only person’s behavior the letter writer can change is his or her own.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

Taboo Says Who

Taboo Says Who

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Q. Kissing cousins: I am in a relationship with someone who is distantly related to me. We are something like third cousins. We did not grow up together, met as adults, and were not “set up” or “arranged” by our families. These types of relationships are common and accepted in our family’s culture (as in many cultures), but we both grew up as second-generation Americans and are well aware that there is a lot of disgust associated with cousin relationships in this country, especially in the region where we live. Though we are not ashamed of our relationship, we don’t want to deal with the judgment of people who find it gross. How do we answer the inevitable question from friends and acquaintances about how we met, when the truth is it was at a family gathering, because we are technically family?

A: You can simply say you were introduced by a family member (or friends, if you’d prefer to remain nonspecific). There’s no reason to divulge the fact that you two are distantly related, because in no meaningful sense have you two ever had a familial relationship, nor do you share a close biological connection.

Q. Con man ex(?)-boyfriend: My close friend was seeing a man for many years who by her own telling treated her progressively worse. He was cold and secretive, excluded her from normal “girlfriend events,” borrowed large amounts of money, and was not upfront when he began seeing other women. She drew the line when she caught him with someone else and had her friends defriend him on social media, with which we happily complied. He was and is a con man and a terrible person. But now they’re back to working and hanging out together, and she is helping him through some health problems (real ones? Who knows!).

The problem is that since we refuse to spend time with him, my friend is often in the difficult position of choosing us or him for social events. Is it unfair for us to exclude him at our gatherings, depriving her of this person she cares about if she attends? And worse, she’s declined several invites lately; are we enabling him to isolate her? Her self-esteem is already in the garbage, despite being one of the brightest people I know.

A: That is such a difficult needle to thread. While I don’t think you should welcome him with open arms, I think you’re right to be concerned about social isolation, especially since your friend is already struggling to see herself as a person who deserves better treatment.

Can you invite her out more often for one-on-one activities like getting coffee or seeing a movie, or try to call her more often? Would you be willing to occasionally invite both of them to a party, bearing in mind that’s not the same thing as endorsing his behavior? Have you talked to your friend about what she might like? I think your best bet is to make sure she knows she has your support, that you believe he has not treated her as she deserves, but that she does not have to choose between being with him and being a part of your life.

Q. Am I too good a friend?: One of the few things I am very confident about is that I am a good friend. I always remember birthdays, I send postcards when I am away, I contact people often just to say “Hi,” etc. The issue I am running into is I feel a little unappreciated by a lot of the people I do this for.

I am naturally an extrovert, so things like arranging get-togethers come naturally to me, but I am feeling resentful that all of my “introvert” friends never return the efforts. I am not expecting a one-for-one, but on occasion it would be nice to feel like they want to see me and are not just hanging out because I am the only one who can put something together.

I haven’t confronted any of them about this because I am scared of what could happen, but in the days of social media it is hard to see photos of them at parties and not want to post, “Who put this together since I was not invited? Can I get on the list for next time?” Please help.

A: Don’t “confront” your friends for failing to reciprocate. Be honest and ask them for what you want. Sometimes we assume that if we have to ask our friends to pay attention to us, to make time for us, to plan to see us, that it’s somehow less “authentic” than if they had spontaneously anticipated our needs. That is not true.

Tell your friends you miss them, you’re feeling a little left out, and it would mean a great deal to you if they would initiate plans to get together. If all the postcard-sending and birthday-managing is starting to weigh you down, consider scaling back. That doesn’t mean you have to become a bean-counter who tallies every single act of friendship and doesn’t make a move until someone moves a point ahead. It just means that you can take stock of what seems to be working for you, what doesn’t, what feels meaningful, and what just feels like unappreciated busywork.

Q. Driven crazy?: I was laid off about five months ago from a horrible law firm. I’m now working part-time doing research and writing that I love, but it’s really my husband’s job that is paying the bills. We’re not touching our savings, but we’re not able to put anything more into it either. I now have an unusual job opportunity as a hearing officer who decides whether hospitals have sufficient reason to put psychiatric holds on patients. It sounds interesting, but I’m worried it’s exactly wrong for an introvert like me: hours of travel for face-to-face and back-to-back contested meetings with often-dire consequences for the patients. Just writing that sounds exhausting and kinda miserable. It is part-time, so I can keep doing the work that I like, but it may end up limiting the amount of that work that I can take on. It’s also a regular paycheck. I’m worried it would make me an unhappy and always-tired person again, but I can’t see how I can say no. Where is the line for saying no to a job?

A: If you think odds are good that within three months you’ll either quit the job or go completely mad, then I think you have a good reason to decline to pursue the opportunity. You should talk the pros and cons over with your partner, of course, but you still have your savings and you’re not currently in dire straits or on the cusp of a financial emergency. You’re able to pay your bills, your husband’s job is stable, and you yourself are already working part-time.

If it were simply a dull-sounding job, you might be willing to bite the bullet and get that paycheck, but the mere prospect of the work involved makes you feel drained and miserable, which suggests that you’re not going to be able to do it for very long (nor would you be able to serve your patients well). Keep looking for something that, at the very least, sounds like something you could plausibly get through on a daily basis.

Q. Obligated to reveal I’m transgender?: I’m a trans woman who is still publicly presenting male, as my current workplace is not a safe place to start living full-time as a woman. A former co-worker and friend would like to start a business partnership with me. Am I obligated to come out to him before starting a business partnership, since it is very likely I will eventually go full-time (as soon as I can afford to leave my current employer)? He has shown some very homophobic behaviors in the past, so it seems likely he will not be accepting.

A: You are not obligated to come out to him, but you do have the right to consider your own safety, job security, and well-being before making any decisions. If you think there might be another, better opportunity for you to change jobs without having to deal with a likely transphobic business partner, you should feel free to take another job elsewhere. If you’d rather know now whether he’s capable of accepting the fact that you’re transgender before embarking on a new professional venture together, then you might wish to come out sooner rather than later. If you prefer not to disclose at all and want to find a way to work remotely or otherwise keep him at arm’s length (though that may not be feasible), you can do that too. Whatever you decide, your only obligation is to yourself and your own safety. You do not owe anyone else information about your gender.

Q. What do I say?: My daughter and son-in-law are going through a rough patch in their marriage. I work in the same industry as my son-in-law and am likely to see him at an event this weekend. If I bump into him, what on earth do I say?

A: Greet him politely and professionally, and leave it at that. A work event is no place to discuss his marital difficulties.

Q. Conflicted about education: I’m an atheist and have been a county employee for 11 years. I just finished my bachelor’s and have now started a master’s program that I receive a large discount on as a county employee. The problem is that it’s a religious school.

The county promotes the school endlessly—we constantly get emails encouraging us to sign up and take advantage of the employee discount. I was told during the admissions process that there was no issue with nonreligious students attending the school, that it was inclusive and open to all who applied. But I just started my first week, and that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. The curriculum is very heavily religious, which makes me feel super out of place and gives me concern that we won’t be focusing enough on actual educational material. The first day, the class wasted an hour discussing talking snakes and magic apples in an attempt to shoehorn attachment theory in with the Adam and Eve story, instead of discussing the textbook chapters we read to prepare for class.

I feel very conflicted about attending this school and about the fact that a government agency is promoting it as something that anyone should be able to attend, but the school is respected in the area, has the only schedule that works with my employment schedule, and allows the county discount program. I’m afraid that if I complain, I’ll either get kicked out of the school, get the county program taken away from everyone else, or both. What should I do?

A: If your school does not require students to sign a statement of faith, then it’s unlikely you will be kicked out either for being an atheist or for declining to participate in religious discussions. That said, it’s also unlikely that complaining about the curriculum’s focus on religious matters will result in serious or long-term change, given that it is a religious institution. The fact that it’s a well-respected school and the schedule is convenient aren’t the only factors you should consider—ask yourself if the school seems capable of offering you the sort of education that would actually benefit you and be of lasting value. It may be better to withdraw now, and research other alternatives, than to force yourself to try to stick it out for several years. You can—and certainly have the right to—discuss whether governmental promotion of a religious institution is beneficial (or even legal) at your workplace.

Q. Re: Am I too good a friend?: The pics on social media could easily be from events that were planned by another good planner among their group of friends, not events that they planned and didn’t invite you to.

A: It’s always good to remember that it’s so easy to assume conscious, malicious intent when so often happenstance, chance, and simply not knowing what someone else wants from you are the likeliest explanations.

Q. Unmentionables: I live in a row of townhouses and get along pretty well with my neighbors. Last week I was doing some laundry and noticed a pair of briefs next to our boundary fence that weren’t anyone in my household’s. I tossed them back over the fence in the general direction of the clothesline. My neighbor was in their courtyard and passive aggressively started (loudly) muttering how rude I am. The neighbors two down have found out and have told us there’s been a request that we get uninvited to our street barbecue. I find it a bit ridiculous; I inadvertently embarrassed the neighbor in an attempt to be helpful. Should I say something, or just wait for it to blow over and skip the barbecue that I was ambivalent about in the first place?

A: If you don’t want to go to the barbecue, give yourself the gift of not going. It might have been slightly more correct to have asked your neighbor, since they were already outside, whether the briefs in question were theirs, but everyone has the right to remove underwear from their home that isn’t theirs. The rudeness was your neighbor’s, and you don’t have to worry about apologizing for not leaving their underwear on your lawn.

Mallory Ortberg: Thanks for your robust and hearty participation, goodfellows. See you all next week.

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

According to Reviewers, These Are the Best Drugstore Self-Tanners

According to Reviewers, These Are the Best Drugstore Self-Tanners


While a little bit of vitamin D is healthy in moderation, self-tanning is the best option if you're looking to develop — or maintain — a tan

I Blamed the Victim

I Blamed the Victim

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Q. I’ve done something horrible: When I was 14, a friend was sleeping over. I heard voices and walked into the kitchen to find my dad with his hand up her pajama top. I was horrified and didn’t know what to do, and I took his side, screaming at her that she was a slut who was flirting with my dad. With my dad’s encouragement, I badmouthed her at school and cut her out of my life.

I also did everything I could to forget what I’d seen and succeeded until now. I have a 13-year-old daughter now, and we were visiting my parents. My dad wasn’t doing anything inappropriate, but I was hit with a wave of revulsion when I saw him hug her and it all came back to me. We left at once, but now I don’t know what to do.

I want to confront my dad, but I also never want to see him again. I want to find my ex-friend and beg forgiveness, but I can’t bear the thought of facing her. I don’t know how to tell my daughter and my mother that I never want her to see my dad again, and I feel so ashamed for taking his side that I don’t even know how to tell my husband. I’ve hardly been able to stop crying since. Please give me some advice about where to start.

A: I’m so sorry. More than anything, I hope you can realize that, although you profoundly regret your actions towards your friend, you were little more than a child yourself at the time and that your father was a fully culpable adult who not only molested a teenager while she was a guest in his home, but encouraged his own child to tarnish her reputation in order to keep from being found out. Please seek out a counselor immediately who can help you deal with this delayed realization and figure out how to move ahead.

Whether you should contact your former friend is difficult to say. It may be meaningful for her to hear, even decades later, that you’re sorry for not having been able to help and defend her, and that you know now your father was in the wrong—or she may find it additionally traumatizing and unwelcome. That’s part of why seeing a counselor (particularly one who deals with sexual assault and its aftermath) will be helpful to you, so you can figure out whether contacting her is a good idea, and how to do so in a way that makes it clear you won’t push if she doesn’t want to hear from you.

When it comes to your father, if you don’t feel prepared to talk to him in person, you might consider explaining briefly why you can no longer see him in a letter. He not only took gross advantage of your friend, but he also took advantage of you. He exploited the love and trust you had for him as your father and used it to continue to hurt a 14-year-old girl. That was a horrifying emotional perversion of a parent-child relationship, almost worse than his initial crime. You are right not to want to see him, and particularly not to want him around your own teenage daughter. Please take whatever steps are necessary to take care of her and yourself, and put as much distance between yourself and your father as you need.

Q. No loans: My husband and I will have five children in college in the next four years. We want to help all our children get an education without drowning in debt, but we are having trouble getting through to my youngest stepdaughter.

She is a junior and determined to go straight to a private university. A single semester would cost more than two years at a state school. Her grades are good but not great—I know she can get in, but scholarships are hard to find. Our two older children (her half-brother and my oldest daughter) are living at home and going to community college.

We can’t afford to send her to this school, and she is fighting us. She says she deserves to go and is insulted over the idea of her going to community college. She has said this in front of both of her siblings—neither are speaking to her right now because of it.

Her mother tends to promise the world and never deliver. She says she will help pay for college. She owes my husband over $10,000 in back child support and works a minimum-wage job.

My stepdaughter does not deserve crippling debt before she hits her twenties, but loans are going to be the only way she will be able to go. My husband and I have had multiple discussions with her but cannot get through to her. What can we do?

A: Continue to be clear and honest about the amount of money per year you’re able to offer her, and let her make an informed decision about what schools to apply to and what alternate financial arrangements she’ll want to make as a result. Insist that, as long as she’s living with you and her siblings, she respect their choices and refrain from insulting the very existence of community colleges. Encourage her to set up an appointment with her school’s college counselor, if it has one, who can help her apply for both need- and merit-based scholarships, as well as explain the differences between federal and private loans, and the various upsides and downsides to both.

Do not go into debt yourselves, or promise money you don’t have, just to humor your stepdaughter.

Q. No takebacks: Several years ago, my father passed his saxophone on to my son, who was just starting out in middle-school band. This saxophone is beautiful and extremely valuable, and my son has treasured it and cared for it as his prized possession. My dad has not played in more than 15 years, but his grandson has inherited his gift for music and is starting college at a prestigious school for music in the fall. He is planning to take his beloved saxophone with him.

The problem is my father wants his saxophone back. He says that the instrument was given as a loan to spark my son’s interest and encourage him to pursue music. Now that he’s on that path, he feels it’s time to reclaim the sax, probably to sell. My son does not know about his grandpa’s request, and I know he would be devastated to part with what he and I both thought was a thoughtful and generous gift.

My dad and my son have a good relationship and I can’t help but think this will cause some resentment, especially since good saxophones can be extremely expensive and we’re already strained paying for tuition. Do I tell my dad “no takebacks,” or should I tell my son to start looking for a replacement instrument?

A: Let your father and son hash this out between themselves.

If your father was truly unclear as to whether it was a gift or a loan when he offered your son the instrument years ago, then his current insistence on taking it back is more than a little rude. But it’s not necessarily out of line for him to ask for it back, especially if he always intended it to be a long-term loan (even if he didn’t communicate that effectively to you from the start).

Since your son is both the saxophone’s current owner and a freshly minted adult, I think you should tell your father to speak directly to him about it. You can encourage your son to be polite, even if his grandfather isn’t, and to consider possible alternatives to giving it back. Maybe they could work out a plan where your son buys the saxophone from his grandfather at a reasonable secondhand rate. But let him take the lead, and confine yourself to a supporting role.

Q. Re: No loans: With three college-age kids myself, my advice would be to offer her the same amount you’re paying the other two. That keeps it fair. If she wants to go beyond that, then she’s footing the bill for her tuition. Also, she may not get in or may visit the university and not like the campus. A lot can change in that junior year, trust me!

A: It may very well be that this expensive school she’s got her heart set on will not accept her, which would make things a lot easier. I’m also getting a lot of reminders from other readers not to co-sign on any big loans.

Q. Sheer shirt at work: A large portion of on-trend women’s shirts are sheer to varying degrees. I work in an academic institution that does not have a dress code. Do you think it is ever appropriate to wear a shirt that shows your bra?

In general, I think shirts that are very sheer are usually (appropriately) worn with a camisole underneath. However, there are a lot of shirts that are fairly opaque from the front or in certain lighting, but much more sheer in the back or industrial lighting (of which the wearer may or may not be aware).

Personally, I love the look but would never dare to wear it at work.

A: If you would never dare to wear the look at work, then I think you have answered your own question! Don’t wear something to work that makes you feel self-conscious and uncomfortable—save the more daring looks for after-work events.

Q. Re: No takebacks: Just FYI, since I happen to work in the weird little niche that is the musical instruments industry, a secondhand sax does not depreciate like a secondhand car. Used instruments retain their value extremely well, and good ones can be as expensive as comparable new ones, or more so (especially prestigious models that are out of production). It would be nice for Grandpa to give his grandson a great deal, but the market price for this sax is probably quite steep.

A: That’s good to know! It would be nice if Grandpa was willing to cut his grandson a family discount, even a small one, but it may end up that it costs the same either way.

Q. Accepting Money: I recently did some landscaping work for my girlfriend’s parents. It wasn’t much trouble (it only took a weekend) but they insisted on paying me. I refused, but then they gave the money to my girlfriend to give to me. We both agreed it wasn’t necessary and ended up spending it on more landscaping stuff for her parents.

I don’t have a problem with this, but I am curious: Would it have been inappropriate to accept the money? Was it impolite to refuse?

A: This is a completely arbitrary ruling, as are all of my rulings, but generally speaking, if someone is offering to pay you for hours worked (always a good idea!), even if the someones in question are your girlfriend’s parents, you get to demur politely once and then graciously accept. A weekend is a long time, by the way! It’s generous of you to offer to do it as a favor, but I can understand why they felt obligated to pay you even if you’re not strapped for cash.

Something tells me that if you keep dating this girl, you two are going to be locked into a very pleasant lifelong battle with her parents over who gets to pick up the check. It’ll keep you sharp.

Q. Infertility Blues: My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for three years; we had one pregnancy after two years of trying and miscarried at 11 weeks. Every time I’m around someone who is pregnant, I feel like running away and finding a quiet place to cry. It seems like I’m surrounded at work by women expecting or their excited husbands. Just hearing about their joy (or worse, when they complain about it) makes me miserable.

I tried going to therapy but the therapist made me feel worse: “You seem like a high-strung person, maybe you’d get pregnant if you were less stressed.” I never went back. I wasn’t stressed when we started trying; I was happy and excited. We’ve been tested for fertility problems, but fertility treatments are exhausting and don’t make it any easier to hear my co-workers talk about their “happy surprise.”

I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to tell someone to please stop talking about their pregnancy because they’re making me miserable. So my question is: How do I get over the resentment I feel toward pregnant women?

A: First off, I’m sorry that you had such a lousy therapist—telling a patient they’re “too stressed” to get pregnant is not an especially useful thing to say. I hope you’re able to find a genuinely helpful outlet for your frustrations and resentments, whether that be from an in-person or online infertility support group, a non-lousy therapist, a journal, or something else. I think you should prioritize setting aside some time every week for dealing with your feelings about your difficulty conceiving, whatever that looks like, so that you have a regular outlet and don’t feel you need to keep your feelings to yourself 100 percent of the time.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to other women who are getting pregnant is that it has absolutely nothing to do with you. If the entire world got pregnant tomorrow, it would not change your situation one iota; ditto if the entire world found it could not get pregnant tomorrow. If you need to limit the amount of time you spend engaging in happy pregnancy talk, it’s absolutely fine for you to politely excuse yourself after the initial congratulations, but you’re quite right that it’s not appropriate (nor useful!) for you to ask other people to talk or care less about their own pregnancies.

Q. Re: Accepting Money: Homer says in the Iliad: “To refuse a gift is an unholy thing.” I agree with Prudence, decline once then accept graciously.

A: We can’t appeal to a higher authority than that! Prudence is a classical virtue, Homer is a classical poet, money is a classical gift.

Mallory Ortberg: Phew, lots of thorny family planning issues this week! Good luck making it through the day, everyone—personally, I’m inclined to follow that bold reader’s good example and spend the rest of it in bed.

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

Self-Tanner Tips: 14 Dos and Don'ts - theFashionSpot

Self-Tanner Tips: 14 Dos and Don'ts - theFashionSpot


DIY your perfect faux glow with these must-know self-tanner tips.

For Gay Fathers of Kids With Disabilities, Parenting Comes Before Identity

For Gay Fathers of Kids With Disabilities, Parenting Comes Before Identity

by John Culhane @ Slate Articles

Hey, Daddy! is a monthly column exploring the joys and struggles of parenting from a gay father’s perspective. Got a topic idea or question for Daddy? Send your letter along to

What’s it like to be a gay dad with a severely disabled child? I spoke with two fathers who have been caring for their profoundly autistic kids for many years. What came through was a portrait of men who had been compelled to find some way to make sense of their gay identities, which emerged for them later in life, within unusually complex lives. For both, being out offers a more authentic way of living; but any exploration of gayness is necessarily subordinated to the needs of their children.

Bob O’Donnell, 50, was a law student of mine over two decades ago. His life after that began on a predictable path—law firm, marriage by age 30, and children —but veered quickly and sharply off course just a few years later. He told me he’d married because he’d always wanted children, and until recently, that was the only real way to that goal. But his two children came along just at the time Bob was realizing he couldn’t continue his straight-appearing life. After a few years of living on the couch, Bob and his wife separated. Meanwhile, the older of the children, Drew, slipped into severe autism at age 3. No one saw it coming; it’s a hallmark of regressive autism that the child at first appears “normal,” or even high-functioning (as Drew was). Then, like a thunderclap, that kid is gone, replaced by a child who can’t make eye contact, whose verbal skills collapse, and who lives in a world that’s opaque to his parents.

In the beginning, Bob had resentment over the new normal: “’How is this fair?’ I asked myself.” He was forced to deal with it, though, and the challenges of raising an autistic son had the benefit of making his coming out process “nothing,” as he put it. “How could coming out be any worse than this?” he wondered. And with the guilt and tension so many of us felt during that process subordinated to the very serious, practical challenges he was facing with Drew, he was able to focus almost exclusively on the positive side of kicking open the closet door. “I thought, well, I can finally be happy.”

And on the surface, Bob’s post-hetero life looks like a typical example of a successful divorce. He and his ex-wife (and her husband) are on great terms. They have joint custody of the children. (Drew, now 18, has a sister a couple of years younger.) They’re both involved in the day-to-day challenges and joys of raising a kid with special needs. They even go on camping trips and to Disney World together.

For those reasons, Bob’s been able to carve out some time and space for himself, and he’s been in a few relationships since marriage. He’s currently been with a guy for about a year and a half, and every prospective partner knows the deal: You need to be comfortable living with an autistic kid, and with a dad who’s always going to put that kid’s needs first—forever, because Drew will never be independent. Bob’s also very careful about whom he chooses to enter into a long-term commitment with, because Drew has a harder time than other kids with loss. “I don’t want someone who just wants to play house,” he concluded.

Bob’s been fortunate in having such a good relationship with his ex-wife and her husband. Ken Wine, 52, hasn’t been so lucky. In a wide-ranging interview, he was brutally—yet often amusingly—candid about the complex challenges that have compromised his financial and emotional health over the years. Like Bob, he lost the child he knew after a promising start. Somewhere around the age of 18 months, Maddie went from being a kid who could drink from a straw to one who lost that and many other developing abilities. And the collapse was more complicated than Drew’s; she was eventually diagnosed with not only severe autism, but also cerebral palsy and developmental delays.

Ken and his wife managed to make a family with Maddie and their two other children—an older brother and a younger sister—until about the year 2000. Then, with Maddie about six years old (she’s now 23), it all fell apart. Although he’d always “wanted to be like men” he admired, he quite suddenly realized he was attracted to men. When he confessed this to his wife, misery followed. First came what he described as “a year of sadness, counseling, and screaming.” Then, soon after the couple separated, Ken sank into a deep depression, and considered suicide. He literally moved back into his parents’ basement, and needed their support to function at all. Somehow, he held onto his job with a leading insurance firm throughout, and gradually clawed his way back to the surface.

It wasn’t easy. Although he enjoyed going out to a popular Philadelphia gay bar for country dancing, he told me he mostly just watched and enjoyed the random conversation. There really wasn’t any prospect of a casual pick-up, since he had to go right back home and resume his parenting duties. That’s probably why, six years ago, he met his partner Michael on-line. Their relationship developed “virtually” for a couple of years before they even met. (They’re now engaged.) Michael moved from Kentucky to Ken’s home in a distant Philadelphia suburb in 2013. From the start, Ken was clear and unsparing in his depictions of Maddie, wanting to make sure that Michael knew what he’d be getting into if he moved in. As Ken says, Michael’s “fully engaged” in Maddie’s care.

But the challenges aren’t going away. Two years ago, Maddie turned 21 and aged out of the educational program she’d been in. Ken was eligible to take early retirement, and he did, using the buy-out to buy time to look for a new opportunity for himself and Maddie, and to be able to care for her while he looked around. So far, though, nothing has panned out. He’s working part-time in a low-skill job that requires him to rise at 4 a.m., and still hasn’t found a program that will take Maddie. So Michael and Ken split the duties, with Ken’s now-elderly parents doing what little they can to span any small gaps in time when neither is available. (Ken’s ex-wife has custody only every other weekend, so the couple doesn’t get much of a break in that way.)

Obviously, Ken’s coming-out process was much more fraught than Bob’s. But he’s enjoyed great support from his parents throughout Maddie’s life. Now he has Michael, a professional musician who’s all-in on Maddie, and eager to cement the couple’s commitment through marriage. Like Bob, Ken’s encountered little to no homophobia when he and Michael are out and about (also, sometimes, at Disney) with Maddie. Similarly, too, he told me he’d have “no patience” for any of that, and predicted he “might explode” if anyone piped up that way. Instead, what he’s gotten is the occasional you’re so amazing remark.

Toward the end of the conversation, Ken shared with me one fear: That, somehow, in some way he couldn’t predict, the fact that he was gay would somehow create problems for him in his legal rights and relationships to Maddie. Frankly, I have trouble seeing how that can happen from a strictly legal standpoint, but it’s easy to understand how the scar tissue from the coming-out process still colors Ken’s perceptions. And it would be naïve not to think that someone—say, a judge—could make life difficult for him in an area such as decision-making for Maddie.

Because both Bob and Ken came out only after becoming parents to a disabled child, their emerging gay identities made life harder. Yet both of them are navigating their turbulent streams expertly, and what came across to me—through all the talk of schedules, challenging break-ups, and complicated lives—was the joy they both experience in parenting these kids. As Bob put it, Drew “has a way of lighting the world.” So do these extraordinary fathers.

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Comprehensive review of California Tan Instant Sunless Mousse. See what real experts and actual users have to say about this self tanning product.

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How to Remove Self Tanner

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Self-tanners have improved since they were first introduced to the market and earned a notorious reputation for producing orange, streaky color. Incorrect shade selection and errors in application still produce the occasional self-tanning...

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self-tanners… friend or foe? (plus: homemade tanner options)

self-tanners… friend or foe? (plus: homemade tanner options)

almost exactly blog

TIS THE SEASON TO BE TAN! and lemme tell ya, it sucks for us pale people. so what’s the usual solution for those who don’t want to be in the sun? self tanners! (we’ll discuss actu…

A New Survey Claiming That LGBT People Are Less Racist Misses the Reality of Racism in the Queer Community

A New Survey Claiming That LGBT People Are Less Racist Misses the Reality of Racism in the Queer Community

by Preston Mitchum @ Slate Articles

For black and brown people in the U.S., racism is sadly a part of our daily experience. Whether we choose to cope with it, ignore it, or aggressively fight back, it’s always there—at work, in school, and in our own neighborhoods. But as a queer black man, nothing is more frustrating than when the racist rhetoric and actions come from within my own LGBT community—and believe me, it happens all the time. A recent article, however, would have us believe that there is minimal racism within the LGBT community, at least when compared to our heterosexual counterparts. While the author’s analysis comports with the survey he draws from, it does not reflect the reality of queer people of color’s experience. And worse, it may give white queers a false sense of accomplishment, when they should be focused on ridding themselves of their own indoctrinated biases that harm LGBT people of color.

On July 7, the Washington Post published, "Yes, there's racism in the LGBT community. But there's more outside of it." Andrew Flores, assistant professor at Mills College, examined the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES), which included questions addressing the respondent’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The CCES is a large survey comprised of 64,600 interviews. The 2016 survey included 4,946 individuals who self-identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and/or transgender—making up 8.8 percent of the weighted sample.

Flores compared LGBT people of color and white LGBT people to cisgender heterosexual people, both of color and white. He concluded, “[o]n the whole, LGBT people—both those who are white and people of color—are more progressive in their racial attitudes than their cisgender heterosexual counterparts.”

However, there are many problems with the resulting analysis, the biggest being that it isn’t rooted in the real world framework of how LGBT people of color experience racism. Instead, the survey, and thus the author’s extrapolation of its results, are based on three overly simplistic statements: “I am angry that racism exists,” “white people have certain advantages based solely on the color of their skin,” and “racial problems in the U.S. are rare, isolated situations.”

Flores notes that the greatest differences in racial attitudes can be seen in the acknowledgment of white privilege. About 70 percent of cisgender heterosexual people of color, 70 percent of LGBT white people, and 77 percent of LGBT people of color agree that “White people have certain advantages because of the color of their skin,” compared with about 41 percent of cisgender heterosexual white people. In the survey, Flores notes, “white gay, bisexual, and transgender men are just as racially aware as those of color, and similar patterns exist between LGBT white women and women of color.”

But while white privilege is easy enough to acknowledge, that doesn’t necessarily mean white folks are doing much to counter it. We know people of color and white people within the LGBT community have varied reactions to racism, and they are rarely the same or similar. For example, when the city of Philadelphia added black and brown to the rainbow flag—a symbol of solidarity created by Gilbert Baker in 1978—earlier this summer, arguments erupted about why there was even a need for the addition of these two colors. But for many black and brown LGBT people, the addition helped make clear that the LGBT community is more intersectional and diverse now, and not just the province of cisgender, wealthy, white men. Some LGBT activists, nonetheless, protested that the addition was divisive. These protests were not from LGBT people of color.

Further, LGBT people of color are constantly speaking out about racist experiences at majority-white gay bars and the lack of inclusive safe spaces. In September 2016, Darryl DePiano, owner of Philadelphia gay bar iCandy, was caught on camera referring to several black patrons as “niggers.” And, in Washington, D.C., it was revealed in Mic that the owner of J.R.’s demanded that Aram Vartian, then a graphic designer at LGBT publication Metro Weekly, use a “hot white guy” on a promotional flyer instead of a black man to please his clientele.

These are not isolated instances—many similar ones go unreported—and they are part of the same kind of racism that plagues gay social apps like Grindr and Scruff. But this survey and Flores’ column, well-intentioned as they might be, are not designed to capture the real situation.

What’s deeply troubling is that many white LGBT people will use this headline to excuse themselves and their friends, patting themselves on the back instead of intentionally practicing anti-racism. Moreover, LGBT people of color will have their experiences with racism questioned as either exaggerated or untrue. Both are false. The question becomes: If a person acknowledges privilege, then what? Do you give up a cushy job? Do you promote a LGBT person of color to senior management? Or, do you just fill out a survey result and sit back smiling at the recognition?

Now, more than ever, we need more actionable, not attitudinal, responses. We need analyses that center the voices of LGBT people of color rather than white people who have never experienced the nuanced ways that racism expresses itself, often in the form of everyday microaggressions. We need to listen to LGBT people of color’s stories, rather than effectively dismissing them with a meaningless action like having white people click “Yes, I am angry that racism exists.”

Join Us in NYC for Beyond Life Hacks: Big Ideas for the Future of Work and Life

Join Us in NYC for Beyond Life Hacks: Big Ideas for the Future of Work and Life

by Slate Staff @ Slate Articles

Tired of the same old advice about “unplugging” and “making time for bubble baths” when seeking solutions for the all too frequent times work and personal priorities crash into each other? It’s time to move beyond the usual recommendations for work-life balance and highlight the big changes it will take to end overwork for good.

On Oct. 5, Slate and New America's Better Life Lab are hosting a happy hour conversation where we will tackle the big picture questions. How can we transform the way the workday is organized? What should “self-care” really look like? What’s the best way to overhaul racial and gender dynamics in American workplaces? The sooner we realize the answers will not come from pithy “life hacks,” the better.

Join Slate and New America's Better Life Lab for drinks and a thought-provoking discussion of these challenges and to celebrate the launch of the Better Life Lab channel’s new home at Slate. In a lightning round panel, leading thinkers will share one big, bold idea for shattering assumptions about how to live a good life, followed by questions and conversation about what individuals, organizations, and policymakers can do to turn ideas into action.

Join the Better Life Lab on Oct. 5 in New York City from 5:30–7 p.m. at the Interface, 140 W 30th St. RSVP at the New America website.

Participants include:

Brigid Schulte @BrigidSchulte
Director, Better Life Lab, New America
Author, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has Time

Andrew Solomon @Andrew_Solomon
President, PEN American Center
Author, Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change and Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

Pronita Gupta
Director, Job Quality, Center for Law and Social Policy
Former Deputy Director, Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor

Kimberly Seals Allers @IamKSealsAllers
Journalist and Author, The Big Let Down: How Medicine, Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding

Katherine Goldstein @KGeee
Contributing Editor, Better Life Lab at Slate

Better Life Lab is a partnership between Slate and New America.

We Tried It: Kardashian Sun Kissed Self Tanner

We Tried It: Kardashian Sun Kissed Self Tanner

Our intrepid style news editor takes the Kardashians’ latest product for a spin

When Researching Individual Engagement With the “Gay Community,” Numbers Only Tell Half the Story

When Researching Individual Engagement With the “Gay Community,” Numbers Only Tell Half the Story

by Brian Salfas @ Slate Articles

“Gay community” is a phrase one hears tossed about all the time, from politicians and health officials to activists and everyday gays themselves. But what does it really mean? In some cases, “community” distinctly refers to a physical space, such as a neighborhood or collection of public venues and community gathering places; while in others, the term invokes a constellation of interconnected individuals with shared beliefs, concerns, or cultural reference points. What's more, depending on whom you ask, the “gay community” can be anything from an open-minded affirming environment where gay people find acceptance and outlets for self-expression, to a judgmental or even hostile one that offers few opportunities for connection and many for frivolous, even self-destructive, excess.

Recently, research in public health and psychology has attempted to study how gay individuals interact with the “gay community” systematically, directly examining how a person’s engagement with the community affects mental health and overall well-being. Drawing on survey data, these studies look at correlations between scores on questionnaires that evaluate either a sense of connection or reported participation in the community with those that evaluate psychological problems or unhealthy behaviors.

Similar research about the mental health of gay men was spotlighted earlier this year in a widely circulated article claiming an epidemic of “gay loneliness,” wherein gay men were beset with mental health issues and poisoned by a toxic social culture. However, as I wrote at the time, the perspective offered there was troublingly limited. While these studies offer a valuable scientific perspective, they are only part of the picture: It’s important to understand them in light of the limitations of quantitative research, including failure to account for both the different ways people define and engage the community and the complex experience of gay minorities.

The good news is that, in contrast to this bleak vision of gay loneliness, much of this research actually provides evidence of the positive effects of engagement with the community. For example, one study recruited gay and lesbian participants online and asked them questions about attachment to the LGB community; participation in community activities; and symptoms of social anxiety, depression, and overall psychological distress. Respondents who indicated greater connection with the community also indicated better overall mental health. Another showed positive effects on health-related behaviors; those who reported that being part of the community was important to their sense of identity also reported less risky sex and fewer days of drug use. Other research looks more closely at how and why connection with the gay community can have positive effects. A study conducted in Australia found that a sense of belonging to a local gay community or to a group of gay friends was associated with more generalized feelings of belonging, which in turn were associated with fewer symptoms of depression.

While these studies paint an appealing picture, it’s still important to consider the limitations of evaluating something as dynamic and varied as connection with the gay community in terms of a single numeric value. This method inadequately accounts for the variety of experiences of people in different types of communities. Further, limitations of this methodology are underscored by the findings of qualitative research. Based on live interviews rather than surveys, qualitative findings draw on analysis of respondents’ words rather than numeric scores. On the one hand, these studies collect data from a narrower pool of respondents, and findings cannot be systematically generalized; on the other, they capture certain phenomena with much greater nuance and complexity.

One such complexity is the variety of different “gay communities” and the way people participate in them. One qualitative study revealed that some respondents thought of the community as their own circle of gay friends and acquaintances while others thought of a broader regional, national, or even global LGBTQ community. Similarly, some respondents discussed participating in the community in terms of informal social events such as getting together with friends or attending nightlife venues, while others focused on more organized activities such as political activism, community organizations, or recreational activities such as sports teams. Such distinctions cannot be overlooked, since their potential impact on how community connection affects people is profound. For example, many of the alleged negative effects of involvement with “the community” have to do with social rejection or risky, destructive behavior; however, these conditions may be specific to types of community activities centered around sex or nightlife.

Another limitation of much of the quantitative research on the gay community is the failure to account for the differing experiences of racial and ethnic minorities who are gay. This shortcoming is particularly glaring given that qualitative research has frequently documented how minorities experience exclusion and discrimination within the community and identified some specific forms that racism in the community takes. One common expression of racism discussed in the research as well as in recent popular discourse is sexual discrimination among gay men, a phenomenon wherein Black and Asian gay men, in particular, face either systematic sexual rejection or sexual stereotyping (i.e. fetishization). Another is the absence of representation of gay people of color in media and advertising. Both contribute to negatively impacting how minorities experience engagement with the community and may also influence how these experiences ultimately impact their health.

In light of the varied viewpoints on the gay community and its effect on those who engage with it, systematic, data-driven findings provide a useful reference point to approaching a topic steeped in anecdotal evidence and opinionated perspectives. Many of us are familiar with narratives of young gay people finally finding acceptance and connection among others like them or, conversely, of those who sought that only to be confronted with isolation, failed relationships, or worse—a spiral into dangerous patterns of substance use, risk-taking, and other unhealthy behaviors. Research studies, especially those that take a quantitative approach, overcome some of the limitations of these more personal accounts by surveying a wider and ideally, more representative audience. Large-scale studies that point to benefits of involvement with the community for example, may help us contextualize some of these horror stories in terms of individual circumstances rather than interpret them as blanket statements about the community.

However, this approach to the topic is relatively new; hopefully, forthcoming work will make use of questionnaires that add nuance to the quantitative data by focusing on specific types of community or participation therein, or by comparing the experience of white versus minority gays that all make up the many overlapping communities we call home.

Coola Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist Review

by Emily Andrews @

Comprehensive review of Coola Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist. See what real experts and actual users have to say about this self tanning product.

Source: Coola Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist Review by

Why Are Trans Youth Clinics Seeing an Uptick in Trans Boys?

Why Are Trans Youth Clinics Seeing an Uptick in Trans Boys?

by Evan Urquhart @ Slate Articles

Clinics that treat gender nonconforming youth have noticed two clear trends over the past 20 years or so. First, the number of total youth seeking treatment has steadily increased: What began as a tiny trickle of patients from the 1970s through the ’90s saw an uptick in the early 2000s and has become a steady stream of cases today. Second, during the post-2000 period, the gender balance of youth seeking treatment seems to have changed. According to anecdotal reports from clinicians and a handful of small studies of transgender youth, trans youth clinics in North America and Europe have seen a shift from a majority of transfeminine patients (assigned male at birth) to a majority of transmasculine patients (assigned female) now. In contrast, studies of adult trans patients thus far have either documented a majority of trans women or roughly equal numbers of trans women and trans men.

Why has the ratio of transfeminine to transmasculine youth seeking treatment changed, and what does this shift mean? Unsurprisingly, the opponents of transgender rights have a theory: Blogs from this contingent weave a story that transness is a social mania that seeps into the minds of young “girls” and, Svengali-like, causes them to believe that they are trans. Of course, devotees of science and research-based medicine don’t have the same freedom to take an interesting phenomenon and spin a conspiracy around it. Still, it’s worth asking what we actually know about the changes in who is seeking treatment for gender dysphoria, and what experts in transgender medical care think that a shift might signal.

Dr. Johanna Olsen-Kennedy works with gender nonconforming and transgender children and youth at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, the largest transgender youth clinic in the U.S. “I’m not sure I’ve specifically read any research related to a shift in gender balance, but I feel like it’s a very common anecdotal report from most clinics that work with trans youth,” she explained, continuing:

There have been soft papers, observational papers, describing more people presenting for care at a younger age. At our clinic, the balance was about 50/50 when I started [7-8 years ago], and it’s shifted to be maybe 65-to-70 percent transmasculine today. We also see a different trajectory for our transfeminine and transmasculine patients, such that more of the younger kids under 12 are transfeminine/trans girls, and then we see transmasculine patients coming in for care at or slightly after pubertal development. This is unfortunate because what happens is, because of the age, it’s often dismissed as just an adolescent phase.

Olsen-Kennedy speculates that genital dysphoria may be more common in young trans girls because a penis is such a central part of what society associates with being a man. She thinks dysphoria in young trans men might be more likely to show up around puberty because we culturally associate breasts and menstruation so closely with women. However, she stressed that there’s much more research to be done on transgender people in general and trans youth in particular, and that we shouldn’t be reading too much into who clinics see regarding the larger trans population, especially during a time when information about transgender people and access to care is expanding rapidly.

“When you look at the earlier studies [of the make-up of adult trans populations], what you see is that they’re collecting data on genital surgery,” Olsen-Kennedy explained. “But the reality is that it’s easier to surgically create a vagina than it is a penis—there’s just no way of knowing how many trans men there always were that studies missed.”

Dr. Joshua Safer is the director of the Endocrinology Fellowship Training Program at Boston Medical center and an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine whose research focuses on the biological underpinnings of gender identity. While he’s heard the arguments suggesting that a shift in gender balance at clinics serving trans youth means that children are being pushed into being trans, he’s emphatic that there’s no evidence to support the idea that a person’s gender identity can be changed.

“I know that parents out there think ‘If I let my kid experiment then somehow my kid will brainwash himself or herself to go down this challenging path,’ ” he said. “But if your kid’s not trans, they won’t end up identifying as trans. One of the big things I push is that the evidence is for gender identity being biological—as scientists we should be thinking about it as, okay, the biology is what it is, and so then what’s the treatment approach?”

Safer is one of the authors of a 2015 literature review published in Endocrine Practice that concluded that, although the mechanism that determines gender identity isn’t known, there are multiple sources of evidence all leading toward the conclusion that gender identity is biological and fixed rather than social and capable of being changed. While he finds the question of why clinics are seeing more transmasculine youth interesting, he does not believe it sheds any light on the deeper issue of why some people are transgender in the first place.

There are many reasons why the early history of treatment for trans youth may have brought in more trans girls than trans boys. Treating gender diversity in children and adolescents is a relatively new field, and its history mingles with that of early efforts to cure homosexuality and effeminacy in boys. In the 1950s and ’60s, curing homosexuality and preventing what was then called transsexualism was the stated goal of practitioners who worked with youth we might now consider trans or potentially trans. This changed very slowly, and as the existence of successfully transitioned trans people slowly trickled out into the public sphere, the cases that were covered in the press were almost universally trans women, not trans men.

At the same time, boyish behavior in female-assigned children, including dressing as boys, was far less stigmatized than femininity or cross-dressing in those assigned male. The lack of any information in the public about medical treatment options for trans men, combined with the social release valve of being more easily able to dress in male clothing, might account for why clinics that offered medical treatment were seeing many more trans women before awareness of trans men began to spread. There may be other reasons, or a variety of factors that contributed to the recent shift. Both Safer and Olsen-Kennedy stressed that although understanding why clinics are seeing more transmasculine youth is an interesting scientific question that merits further study, individual and family decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis.

So should we, ultimately, care one way or the other about a trend towards a higher proportion of transmasculine youth seeking treatment in clinics that do this work? For individual trans people, the question of how and when and why people seek treatment for gender dysphoria is largely irrelevant to our personal decisions about our own medical care. For trans people who are in distress, the first concern should be treating that distress in ways that are ethical and take the most up to date research into account.

On a macro level, however, questions about how and when and why trans people seek treatment are very important—but not because a shift in the numbers undermines the validity of trans identities. They’re important because trans people’s ability to seek treatment is impacted by all sorts of factors, including proximity to providers, familial support, and internalized transphobia. The numbers of trans people seeking treatment has been increasing across the board, but we know that there are many trans people who are still unable to access care. Knowing more about who’s coming in to clinics may lead to understanding more about who is still slipping through the cracks, and that information can be used to help more trans people get the treatment they need.

Help! An Old Friend Killed Himself. Should I Reach Out to His Girlfriend?

Help! An Old Friend Killed Himself. Should I Reach Out to His Girlfriend?

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. A friend’s passing: I went to a very small college about 14 years ago. I joined the theater department, which was also small and very close-knit. I transferred my junior year and lost touch with those friends until I got a Facebook account and reconnected with many of the people I had once worked with years ago. One of them was “Billy.” As it turned out, we had a lot in common, and over the last year and a half we’ve enjoyed pretty regular conversations about a few mutual interests. Though I hadn’t actually seen him in years, I really liked our (strictly platonic) chats and always looked forward to hearing from him. Unfortunately, about two months ago, Billy died by suicide. The circumstances were such that he made the local news where he lived. I and several of our old friends were shocked, of course, but I don’t think any of them were in touch as frequently as I was. When I heard, I was quite taken aback and several times since his passing have found myself sad thinking about how I’ll never be able to chat with him again.

At the time of his very sudden and traumatic death, Billy had a serious, long-term girlfriend. I have gone to her page a few times with the intent of sending a message of condolence but am never sure I should. Her last post was shortly after his death, about not being able to deliver his eulogy like she wanted because she was too distraught. I am not sure if hearing from a friend of his would help or hurt, but Billy was a bit of an outsider and didn’t have an abundance of friends, and maybe it might be nice for her hear that there are people still thinking of him and really sorry he’s gone.

A: When in doubt, I think you should err on the side of letting someone’s grieving family know you’re thinking of them and had fond memories of the deceased. You may not hear back from her, but it would be kind and generous to send her a short message about how much you valued Billy’s friendship and were sorry to hear about his death.

Q. Don’t want to host the baby shower: My college friend, Peggy, is pregnant with her first child and is due in a few months. While Peggy and I used to be rather close—we were both in each other’s weddings—that’s no longer the case. After meeting her now husband, she’s had a personality shift, and really just isn’t as nice anymore. She flakes on social events and complains a lot, with most conversations now revolving around how difficult her life is (it’s not).

After chatting with a mutual acquaintance, she led me to believe that there’s an assumption I’ll be throwing Peggy’s baby shower. I really don’t want to. I threw Peggy’s bridal shower and bachelorette party, and don’t want to relive that stress. I know Peggy would give me a long list of guests, expect a Pinterest-perfect event, and demand I walk on eggshells around her mood and pouting. Last time, I had to play referee when she didn’t want to talk to guests and hold my tongue as she called their gifts too “bourgeoisie” after they had left. I have a bit of travel in the next two months, taking up some of those potential baby shower weekends, but what do I say if someone asks me if I’m throwing her baby shower? Everyone knows I love to host, but with both her mom and mother-in-law living in the same city, I almost want to blurt out, “Shouldn’t they throw the shower?” I don’t want to be mean, but I really don’t want to throw this shower. Do you have any suggestions about how I can gracefully respond?

A: “No, I’m not hosting the shower.” You haven’t been asked; you haven’t promised to; you’re under no obligation.

Help! My Fiancé’s Daily Porn Habit Bothers Me.

Help! My Fiancé’s Daily Porn Habit Bothers Me.

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Fiancé’s porn habit: My fiancé and I recently got engaged after two years of long distance; he lives in the U.K., and I’m in the States. We have spent the past three months living together in England, and I will be moving over permanently in a few months. It has been wonderful living with the man I love, but I do have one complaint that I have addressed with him. I caught him looking up dogging sites and Googling “extramarital affairs” when he believed me to be asleep in bed beside him early one morning. We discussed it, and he said that it was never something that he would ever act upon, but, like with porn, it’s a curiosity. He promised to never betray my trust like that again and then felt so guilty about it that he took a half-day off work the next day so we could spend time together. He has kept his word, and I believe that he will continue to do so.

What bugs me now is the porn. Porn played a big part in a previous relationship, with my ex-boyfriend having an addiction and favouring his hand and a screen over me. My fiancé and I have addressed his porn viewing habits; before I came along, he was living on his own for seven years without any serious relationships, so porn was a feature. I have spoken with him about my past and how hurt I was, and he said that he would try to keep his “biological urges in check.” He wakes up before me, and that is when he tends to watch it. I would be more than happy to wake up earlier and have some time with him before work, but when I try to initiate something on a weekday morning, he brushes my hand away and goes off to his computer, stating that he “doesn’t have time.”

I want to spend the rest of my life with this man, but I am concerned about this. I don’t want to feel like he is choosing a fantasy over me. I think a lot of my concern and uneasiness stems from my insecurities and past, but at the same time I know that it affects our sex life at times. When we are together, we have a fantastic sex life, nearly every night, and he is very attentive; however, when we spend a couple of months apart, he goes back to his daily porn habit. Then once we are back together on the same continent, it takes a few days for him to “adjust and reset from uno to duo.” I know that viewing porn is relatively normal for people, but I do not think I’m comfortable with it inside of a relationship. I can’t help but think that I’m I making a bigger deal out of this than it is.

A: There’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach to porn; if it’s a big deal to you, then it’s a big deal to you! Someone else might not feel the same way, but this is your relationship, and you have to live in it. The habits of your current boyfriend you’ve described don’t sound terribly different from your last boyfriend’s. If that’s not going to work for you, then the two of you are going to have to figure out a better compromise than what you’ve got right now—which is your boyfriend making vague promises about “adjusting” and then brushing your hand away. What are you comfortable with? What are you not? What does your boyfriend consider an ideal, or at least reasonable, relationship to porn? Is he willing to be honest with you about what he does and doesn’t want (like, for example, not wanting sex in the morning and instead preferring to get off quickly by himself so he can get on with his day), even if he’s afraid he might hurt your feelings? Or does he say whatever he thinks you want to hear in the moment, then later does something else, leaving you confused and bewildered?

“Unit Cohesion” Isn’t a Real Reason to Ban Trans People From the Military

“Unit Cohesion” Isn’t a Real Reason to Ban Trans People From the Military

by Nathaniel Frank @ Slate Articles

In explaining his tweeted announcement that transgender Americans will not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military “in any capacity,” President Trump cited “the tremendous medical costs and disruption” that he alleged transgender service would entail. “Based on consultation that he’s had with his national security team,” echoed White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president concluded that transgender service “erodes military readiness and unit cohesion.”

The unprecedented nature of such a groundless attack by the Commander in Chief against his own troops is so breathtaking—if implemented, the policy would mean rounding up 12,800 ably serving U.S. troops and dismissing them for reasons unrelated to performance—that it’s difficult to know where to begin dismantling such claims. But the assertions are particularly excruciating to my ear because I spent more than a decade researching and then fighting the very same baseless contentions that were being used to prop up the failed “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring open service by lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) troops.

At the time I began researching a book on the history and impact of DADT, I came to the topic with an earnest wish to learn the arguments on both sides of the argument and to weigh how those arguments shaped the policy debate. I quickly learned that my earnestness was misplaced. For literally decades, it turned out, the military itself had been conducting research into the impact of LGB service on readiness. This started with a study by the Navy back in 1957 called the “Crittenden Report,” which found that gay people were no more likely to be a security risk (the rationale for banning their service at the time) than their peers. Since then no less than 20 separate studies, which I’ve chronicled at this research portal, have reached some variation of the same conclusion: There is no evidence that service by sexual minorities harms the military at all.

Yet prejudice dies hard, and the military—and its socially conservative supporters—were not about to let the inconvenient truth get in the way of their bias. They came up with a series of rationales for discrimination, each of which eventually fell: gay people were dubbed a security risk; then criminal; then mentally ill; then a threat to the family; then weak warriors; then a source of discomfort for the fragile egos of straight troops; then a medical risk in the time of AIDS; then tramplers of privacy. Finally, champions of military tradition devised the argument that gay people in uniform were a threat to unit cohesion and military readiness, the very phrase now being spewed by the Trump administration to explain away its governance by tweet.

But in conducting research for my book, members of the group largely responsible for constructing this rationale acknowledged to me that it was fake. Charlie Moskos, a professor of mine at Northwestern University who coined “don’t ask, don’t tell” and proposed it as a compromise to his friend, Sen. Sam Nunn, then the powerful chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told me privately that he wasn’t worried about any threat to readiness or cohesion, despite using that rationale in public to sell his policy idea. “Fuck unit cohesion,” he told me, “I don’t care about that.” For Moskos, the reason to ban openly gay service was cultural: He posited a “moral right” of straight people not to be looked at with eyes of desire, a precursor to the current “bathroom” bans for transgender people under the rubric of privacy and whipped-up fears of sexual assault.

DADT was forged after a 500-page RAND study written by 75 credentialed scholars—which found that openly gay service would not harm the military—was summarily ignored and replaced with a 15-page report authored by a panel of generals. The first chair of that panel, the Military Working Group, was Lt. Gen. Robert Alexander, who told me that the men running the panel didn’t even understand what “sexual orientation” meant. He said the MWG “didn’t have any empirical data” so the conclusions they drew were purely “subjective.” It was “very difficult to get an objective, rational review of this policy” he said, because it was an area in which “passion leads, and rationale follows.”

Rear Adm. John Hutson, former Judge Advocate General of the Navy was a Navy representative to the MWG. Hutson told me the policy was “based on nothing. It wasn’t empirical, it wasn’t studied, it was completely visceral, intuitive.” It was rooted in “our own prejudices and our own fears,” he added. Lacking any actual evidence about how to handle the question of openly gay service, they “hung everything on the question of unit cohesion” and allowed a “moral passing of the buck.”

Another representative to the MWG was Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis of the Army, a rabidly anti-LGBTQ evangelical who became a vice president at the Family Research Council, which is specified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Maginnis acknowledged that he cast the question of openly gay service as a “unit cohesion” issue for “political reasons,” explaining that the belief by religious conservatives that homosexuality was “morally repugnant” would be insufficient to sway the national debate.

For anyone still wishing to be guided by facts on the ground, the data points are these: Half-a-century of research conducted by multiple parties, including the military itself, has shown indisputably that military cohesion and readiness are not undermined by LGB military service; the very architects of the “unit cohesion” rationale have repeatedly acknowledged that the argument was nothing but a ruse designed to justify discrimination; and the religious right waged a brutal campaign to spread myths and lies about who queer people are in order to try to enforce a retrograde agenda onto the U.S. military.

After DADT’s 2011 demise, the unit cohesion rationale was so discredited that the Pentagon didn’t even try to use it to defend its transgender ban. Instead, officials focused on medical disqualifications contained in military regulations, insisting that transgender personnel would be unable to deploy in the “austere environments” of war without needing burdensome care.

Once again, when experts—and eventually the military itself—began to conduct actual research into this rationale, the argument melted away. A 2014 report sponsored by the Palm Center and authored by a panel of military and medical experts found that there was “no compelling medical reason” to ban transgender service members. A RAND study commissioned by the Pentagon under President Barack Obama studied the issue exhaustively and found that the impact of open transgender service on readiness would be “negligible.” It’s important to recognize that this word was not used because researchers found any actual threat to readiness, but simply to express their finding that the number of individuals who were likely to become undeployable for medical reasons was so small as to be imperceptible to the military’s mission.

Or to its budget. RAND estimated that, at the high range, the cost to the military to cover transgender-related medical care would be $8.4 million per year, representing a miniscule one tenth of one percent increase to the current military health care budget.

And so we come to Donald Trump. It is unlikely that the most petulant, mendacious, and incurious man ever to occupy the Oval Office has the faintest clue about the years of research finding that sexual minorities don’t create burdensome “medical costs” or “disruption” for the armed forces. Like a true autocrat, he issued a decree without an ounce of thought or concern for the sweeping impact it would have on thousands of Americans who are valiantly serving their country under his leadership. It’s not transgender service that is costly or disruptive, or that threatens military cohesion or readiness; it’s a Commander in Chief all too eager to put his own exercise of raw political power above the lives of his own troops.

Elegy for Edie

Elegy for Edie

by Roberta Kaplan @ Slate Articles

On Friday, hundreds of people gathered in New York City’s Temple Emanu-El for the funeral of Edie Windsor, who died on Tuesday at age 88. Windsor sued the United States government when it refused to recognize her marriage to Thea Spyer, ultimately toppling the federal ban on same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court. Windsor was represented by Roberta Kaplan, a civil rights attorney who continues to challenge (and defeat) anti-LGBTQ laws in America. Kaplan’s eulogy for Windsor is printed below. You can also watch it here, beginning at 1:48:00.

One of the first things that Edie Windsor ever told me was that she only had a few more years left to live. That was more than eight years ago, in 2009. And she wasn’t kidding. After her spouse Thea Spyer passed away, Edie had suffered from a series of heart attacks, which were diagnosed as “broken heart syndrome.” Indeed, Edie asked me and other lawyers on our team to carry her nitroglycerine tablets for her when we attended events—just in case.

Because of her heart condition, I became completely neurotic about making sure that Edie’s case got decided as quickly as possible. I felt like any time we managed to shave off the process, however slight, might be the margin between Edie living to see a victory in her case, or not.

Looking back on this today, I have to admit that the strategy I chose to try to accomplish this goal was somewhat unconventional. Less than two weeks after we filed the complaint in the case that became United States v. Windsor, I wrote the district court judge, Barbara Jones, a letter stating that, “Given Edie’s coronary disease … she seeks to pursue this action as expeditiously as possible.”

And then I sent Judge Jones another letter. This time, I informed the court that Edie was suffering from an allergic reaction. Once again, I asked Judge Jones to expedite the case in any way possible.

And then I sent another letter. And another. And then one more. Believe it or not, over the next year and a half, I would write a dozen of these letters, each time begging Judge Jones to speed up the process. My co-counsel and noted constitutional scholar Pam Karlan aptly characterized them as my “Edie has the sniffles” letters. Although I knew there was a risk that we might be annoying the judge, I kept sending them anyway. As our son says when we catch him eating chocolate first thing in the morning: “I couldn’t help myself.”

Judge Jones has since retired from the bench and I have had the opportunity to ask her what she really thought at the time. She said she thought I was “full of it,” but she never once held it against Edie or her case.

But the truth is, despite all my letters to the court about her medical condition, I never really thought that Edie would ever die. There are certain people on this planet—and Edie was surely one of them—who seem to have an inner light that is stronger and shines brighter than the rest of us. And it’s impossible, even now, to imagine that light ever dimming.

The fact that Edie was the perfect plaintiff was obvious to me from the moment we met. She was passionate and devoted to her late spouse, Thea Spyer. She was brilliant and articulate. She was beautiful. But even though I believed she was the ideal person to tell the story of why DOMA was so fundamentally unfair, we actually pushed her very hard at the beginning to make sure that she knew what she was getting herself into. We discussed the risks she might encounter, and asked whether she really wanted to subject herself to criticism—some from within the LGBT movement and most from outside the community—with a serious heart condition and in her eighties.

But Edie never hesitated. To her, fighting for equality was a tribute to Thea and to their love for each other, as well as to the entire LGBT community.

As a lawyer, there are moments with a client when you hold your breath. Perhaps none is scarier than when your client speaks at a press conference for the first time while a case is pending, which Edie did the day we filed our complaint. But from the moment she opened her mouth, that 4’11”, 95-pound Jewish lady with perfectly manicured nails and perfectly coiffed hair explained with such clarity and humanity why her rights, and all of our rights, should not be denied.

Edie was immediately a cultural icon. Which meant that there would not be any more moments of me holding my breath, waiting to hear what Edie would have to say. I wanted Edie to be Edie, with one very significant exception.

Edie was never shy about describing the two maxims that she and Thea lived by: “Don’t postpone joy” and “Keep it hot.” While I had no issue with “don’t postpone joy”—in fact, it’s a lesson I have tried very hard to keep in mind ever since—“keeping it hot” was a different story. My reason was because every time Edie spoke in public, inevitably, someone in the audience would ask her to elaborate about exactly how she and Thea “kept it hot.” I cannot remember the details—I think I may have blocked them out—but suffice it to say, Edie’s answers to these questions made me blush. And given that we were filing a case that had the potential to go all the way to the United States Supreme Court, I didn’t want any of the justices thinking about Edie’s sex life—no matter how “hot” it was.

But when I asked Edie to promise me that she wouldn’t talk publicly about sex, she made it very clear that she did not agree with my strategy. Ultimately, she agreed (albeit reluctantly), but in order to seal the deal, I had to promise Edie that all bets were off the minute the case was over. We won the Windsor case at 10:03 a.m. on June 26, 2013. I can assure you that Edie was publicly talking about sex before noon.

There’s a bit more to this story. After the Supreme Court ruled on our case, Justice Sotomayor met Edie’s cousin Lewis, who Edie adored, along with his wife and children. Justice Sotomayor told Lewis that the “no talking about sex” rule was very smart, and that Edie was wise to follow the advice of her lawyer. But it gets even better. It turns out that upon hearing that story from Lewis, Edie told him that she still didn’t agree with my advice. This, of course, was classic Edie. Not only did her light shine brightly, but she also had a will of steel. In fact, I don’t think she would have changed her mind even if all the other eight justices had also told her I was right.

Representing Edie in court was a great honor, but so was having her become a member of our family. Although our now 11-year-old son Jacob now reads the New York Times front page, he nevertheless has dyslexia. As a result, Jacob had to work very, very hard to learn how to read. Before he could do so on his own, Edie would come over to our apartment and read to him for hours at time, including all the books in the Captain Underpants series, which are just what they sound like—about a superhero who wears briefs and a cape and fights talking toilets. Edie’s love was not unrequited. Jacob absolutely adored Edie right back.

Edie once explained this in her own words: “It is often said that as gay people, we get to choose our own families. Those words could not be truer for me. Not a single day goes by when I don’t think about my parents or about Thea ... and while no one could ever replace them in my heart, I have also fallen in love with Robbie’s family, most especially her son, Jacob.”

The entire legal team that represented Edie—including the lawyers at the ACLU, the Stanford Supreme Court Clinic, and Paul Weiss—became, in a way, all part of a very large and very extended family. Two nights before my argument at the Supreme Court, we celebrated Passover together by holding a 64-person seder (you heard that right, 64 people) in a conference room at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C. My wife Rachel organized the seder and one of her greatest concerns was making sure that they served soup with matzoh balls in it instead of wontons. Reading together from Rachel’s feminist Haggadah, we told the story of Moses leading the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt to freedom.

It may sound crazy, but I have long believed that the timing of when we read certain passages in the Torah is not pure coincidence. In fact, I just gave you an example of this: Passover in 2013 started two days before my argument for Edie at the Supreme Court. This week’s Torah portion is Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31), which tells the story of the Moses’ last day on Earth before he dies at the age of 120.

As I’m sure you know, although Moses was undoubtedly the single greatest prophet in the Jewish tradition, God denied him the opportunity to enter the Promised Land before he died. As Moses says to the Israelites who are gathered on the banks of the Jordan: “Today I am one-hundred and twenty years old. I can no longer go or come, since the Lord said to me, ‘You shall not cross this river Jordan … Be strong and courageous! Neither fear, nor be dismayed … for the Lord, your God goes with you. God will neither fail you, nor forsake you.’ ”

I actually find this to be one of the most heartbreaking passages in the Torah. Even Moses, who managed to liberate the Jews from Pharaoh and lead them to Israel, all the while making them into a free people, couldn’t enter the Promised Land? Really? In order to make myself feel better, I like to think that this story is a way of saying that no human being ever gets to complete the work of liberation. In other words, if we die with a sense that our work is complete, then we know that we have not aimed high enough.

Edie saw in her lifetime the seemingly impossible dream of marriage that she and Thea shared when they got engaged back in 1967 become reality for gay and lesbian couples across the nation and now even the world. In fact, she had a huge role in making that happen. And Edie rightfully exercised that right with the utmost joy when she married the second great love of her life, her beloved spouse Judith last year.

But although she lived to be 88, many years past the point any of her doctors expected, Edie has now left it to others—us—to take the next steps to repair the world. Edie did not view her work as completed after U.S. v. Windsor and neither should we. I believe that the best way to honor Edie’s memory is to redouble our efforts to resist any undoing of the progress that we have made together, as a community and a nation. Like Edie, we need to be strong and courageous in order to continue the work done by Edie and by so many others, from generation to generation, or l’dor va’dor, until the true promise of our great nation and our Constitution becomes reality.

Summer's Best Sunless Tanners

Summer's Best Sunless Tanners


Each year, sunless tanner products become better formulated and easier to apply (consider application mitts a must). For all products, fine-tuning the misting/spraying/slathering process is key—yes, you need to exfoliate; no, you should not start testing tanners the week of your wedding. But, an authentic-looking tan from a bottle is possible. Here are our editors' top picks for a gorgeous, sunless glow this summer.

Unreasonable Doubt?

Unreasonable Doubt?

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Mallory Ortberg: Good morning, chatters. Let's hack our way through this.

Q. Brother accused of sexual assault: My brother is 30 years old and has a history of making bad choices, including a DUI and probation. After several years adrift, he finally seemed to be getting his act together. He got accepted to graduate school and did well enough that he was offered a teaching position upon graduation. However, I recently found out that my brother was accused of sexual assault by a female undergraduate student.

The college rescinded his teaching contract, and basically told him that if he disappeared, no charges would be filed by the institution or the accuser. My brother didn't fight it or get an attorney, he simply packed up and left town. I talked to him about it briefly and he shows no remorse, regret, guilt, or desire to defend his name. In fact, his attitude was cavalier and entitled, as though he was baffled that anyone would make a big deal about it. While I have no proof, his attitude toward the situation makes me fairly confident that my brother is, indeed, a sexual predator of some nature.

I am so disgusted and ashamed of his behavior. I have two small children, and I cannot imagine letting them socialize or spend holidays with him. I also can't imagine watching him date, or eventually get married, while my family pretends he's some stand-up guy (which is what they are doing now). What is the best way to move forward, and to set some clear boundaries for myself and my children? I refuse to spend a lifetime being complicit in his behavior by never addressing the elephant in the room.

A: One brief, baffling conversation with your brother isn’t enough. Reopen the subject. “[Brother], you were just fired from a terrific job because someone accused you of sexual assault, and I can’t understand why you seem so untroubled about it. The fact that you made no attempt to clear your name leads me to believe that either you did assault a student—which would be horrifying—or there’s something else going on. Either way, I’m deeply concerned, and I can’t figure out why you’re not. Is there something I’m missing here?”

If he continues to be evasive or dismissive, then you can decide if that’s a reasonable response to being asked to resign over a sexual assault accusation. You don’t need to have “proof” one way or the other, because you’re not being asked to hand down a prison sentence. All you have to do is determine, to the best of your ability, whether or not you trust your brother. If you don’t, you don’t have to have him in your life.

Q. I need to quit my job: My job is keeping me from doing what I love. The problem is I make decent money and have benefits I wouldn't have as a freelancer. My husband does well, but our children are all in private school—a necessity, not negotiable—and it's not free. Quitting wouldn't kill us, but how long do I try to freelance until I give up and take another job I hate? I'm 45, so I don't have all the time in the world.

Also, I feel bad whining about my job, because it's a good one with great co-workers. But I hate it so damn much. I feel sick when I open my eyes in the morning and remember I have to go.

A: Is it the mere fact that you have a 9-to-5 job that makes you feel sick in the morning, or is it something about the job you have right now? Because there are numerous options between soul-crushing, emotionally devastating day job with great benefits and panicked freelancer at the mercy of every errant breeze.

What freelance projects have you done already, and how much have they generally paid? What’s the longest you could wait on a payment (because freelancers are always the last to be paid at every company—this is the one universal rule of freelancing) before it started to affect your ability to pay your bills? What’s the minimum you’d need to make per month for this to be feasible, and how long would you be able to make less than that before you’d have to give up? Could you find another, less demanding day job that leaves more room on the side for freelance work? Figure out, with your husband’s active participation, just how much of a risk this career transition would actually entail, and identify a firm bailing-out point. It’s terrible to wake up in the morning dreading work, but it’s also terrible to wake up in the morning dreading bills.

Q. Fallout from secret breakup: My wife has been having an affair for at least the past 18 months. I know because one of her nosey friends told me, and because of some Facebook messages she accidentally left open on our laptop.

Those same messages make me quite sure she loves me and does not want to split. She has really been heartbroken for the past few weeks—crying in the bathroom, uninterested in things she usually enjoys, distracted, and generally sad. Nosey friend says she broke up with her boyfriend.

I know I should be angry, but her obvious grief breaks my heart. I want to do or say something to help her recover and feel better, but I don't know what. I won't confront her because I consider the affair to be her business. She can share that or not as seems right to her. I think confronting her would be cruel and destructive given where she's at.

What do you suggest?

A: I’m not sure why you think your wife’s affair is none of your business. Nor do I understand why you think it would be “cruel” to acknowledge her obvious misery, given how generous and broadminded you seem to be about the whole thing. It’s not as if you are contemplating kicking her while she’s down. I think you should talk to her about it.

Q. Vow renewal?: My husband and I have been married for 15 years and have three kids. I have sacrificed my career for him, moved away from my family, and stayed at home with our kids for the past eight years (despite never wanting to be a stay-at-home mom). He is a classic workaholic and works 70 hours a week out of a sense of “needing to get his job done.”

My husband and I have been attending a series at our church on marriage. It ends this weekend with a vow renewal ceremony. My husband does not want to participate in the ceremony. I feel that it would be good for us, as we've had rocky times in the past few years. I can't help but feel such rejection from him.

Am I failing to see his perspective? Am I justified in wanting to feel commitment and love from him?

A: I think the ceremony itself is less important than what it’s bringing up for the both of you. You’ve worked at a job you don’t like for the last eight years, and your husband spends more time at the office than he does at home with you (assuming he gets a full eight hours of sleep every night). You two are attending marriage counseling sessions together but still aren’t on the same page. I don’t know if he doesn’t want to renew your vows because he considers it an unnecessary formality or because he’s halfway checked out of your marriage already (or maybe a little bit of both), but I think the ceremony is much less important than figuring out what you two want out of your life together, and whether your goals are mutually compatible.

Do you want to start working outside the home again? Do you want him to cut back on his hours at work? Do you want to stay married to him if nothing changes in the next year, or five years, or ten? I don’t think renewing your vows is the only way your husband could possibly demonstrate commitment or love to you, but I don’t think you’d be writing to me if he were demonstrating that elsewhere in your marriage.

Q. Severe morning sickness: I'm pregnant, do not want to be, and am currently waiting for my insurance to kick in on the first of the month so that I may safely and affordably terminate the pregnancy. Unfortunately, I am experiencing symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum and have been unable to keep anything other than water down for the last week and a half or so.

I told my boss out of necessity and am able to work from home, but I've withdrawn socially quite a bit. My boyfriend is taking fantastic care of me, but I'm struggling with wanting to explain to close friends and family that I'm ill, while not wanting to explain the situation as a whole. With close friends and family, it's a bit hard to just say "Oh, I'm very ill and will be sequestered to my home for the next week until I can get medicine." My family, especially, will have questions, and I'm just not ready to explain fully yet. My sister recently had an abortion, and they spent the few weeks leading up to her procedure begging her to keep it.

Any advice on how to navigate?

A: If you’re simply looking to forestall any prying or further attention, I think you can skip the part about how you’re going to get better next week, as that will only prompt follow-up questions. Just tell everyone who asks that you’re sick, that your boyfriend is taking good care of you, and that you’ve made a doctor’s appointment. If they offer to check in on you, tell them your boyfriend’s making sure you’ve got everything you need and that you’re probably still contagious.

Q. Twin Q-and-A: I'm a fraternal twin born three hours after my brother. My entire life, people I've just met have made an array of comments that range from just dumb to insensitive. If they ask how much time there is between us, upon hearing three hours they'll say something along the lines of "Oh, your poor mother!" or "That must have hurt!" Frankly, that's a bizarre thing to say to someone you've just met. Worse are the people who follow up with "Were you natural or IVF?" Everyone is "natural," first of all, and secondly, why do you deserve to know? If I answer truthfully and say that we were not IVF, people sometimes respond with "Oh that's good," and that leaves me feeling crummy about this person's weird views on IVF.

How can I answer strangers' weird, prying questions in a way that makes them realize how WTF their question is?

A: “I don’t want to discuss the details of my conception or my mother’s experience giving birth.”

Q: Co-worker and smelly food: I have an age-old office problem—the guy who sits across the cubicle wall from me eats the smelliest chips on the planet every morning. It's so bad that most mornings I have to leave my desk for around 30 minutes and work elsewhere. I don't know what to do!

I don't want to complain to human resources because they would bring our managers in and this seems like such a small thing—I don't want to be that person. No one else seems to be bothered by the smell so I must just be sensitive to that flavor of chip (my guess on the flavor is onion-stuffed dead fish). I don't know the guy as he works for a different department, so I don't feel comfortable talking to him. Would it be wrong to leave an anonymous note? I would hate to get such a thing at work because you would always wonder who left it, but it seems like the easiest option. It's becoming a huge distraction for me. Help!

A: Go say something in person! An anonymous note is completely unnecessary here. Be friendly and introduce yourself. You can be perfectly polite while making this request, just tell him what you told me—that you’re a little embarrassed to bring it up, but that you sit quite close to him and find the smell of the chips he eats in the morning overwhelming and distracting, and you hope he could either eat them in the break room or before he starts working. Right now, he has no idea this is bothering you, and you should operate on the assumption (at least until proven otherwise) that he’s a generally reasonable, accommodating person, and would happily move his chip eating to a slightly more convenient location.

Q. Re: Renewal of vows: I’m not saying your marriage doesn't have issues that a good therapist could help address, but people "renewing their vows" is in almost every case a public expression of "our marriage is terrible.” He probably knows this, at least unconsciously. You're likely much better off getting him to go to counseling with you, or at least finding a counselor for yourself. Personally, I'd serve him with an ultimatum: change your work habits, or divorce me and pay me child support.

A: I have no idea if the statistics bear out this perception, but it seems the conventional wisdom is that a vow renewal ceremony is often a sign of impending divorce.

Q. Can’t spare a square, an update: We listened to your response! I laughed my ass off, and he was thoroughly chastened, and he bought a metric f-ckton of toilet paper for his house.

A: This is the most joy any single update has ever brought me. I cannot tell you how much I have worried about you ever since I read your letter. To your boyfriend: Go and sin no more.

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Think Again Before Letting Your Kid on a Trampoline

Think Again Before Letting Your Kid on a Trampoline

by Melinda Wenner Moyer @ Slate Articles

Last week, a Florida mom shared a heartbreaking photo on Facebook of her 3-year-old lying in anguish in a waist-to-ankle cast after breaking his leg at a trampoline park. Alongside the picture, which has been shared more than 275,000 times, the mom posted a warning to other parents: “Toddlers should be no where near trampolines.”

I, too, have a 3-year-old. And a playroom with a mini-trampoline. So of course I’m panic-wondering: Do I need to get rid of it? Should I stop letting my kids go to birthday parties at the local trampoline park? Is the fact that I’m wondering these things proof that I’m an overprotective, killjoy parent? Compelling research suggests that kids fare better when they take physical risks. And so far, my kids haven’t gotten so much as a bruise. Where in the risk-benefit balance do trampolines fit?

Want to listen to this article out loud? Hear it on Slate Voice.

So I did some digging. Turns out it’s really hard to quantify the risk trampolines pose—I’ll explain why in a bit—yet most pediatricians and orthopedists agree: Trampolines are a terrible idea for young kids and not so great for older ones, either. I was pretty shocked to learn that, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, children under 6 should never jump on trampolines. The American Academy of Pediatrics is even more conservative: It “strongly discourages” recreational trampoline use at all ages.

Here’s the thing with trampolines. Kids get pitched into the air and then free fall. If they land on their feet in the center of the trampoline mat, great. But they can also land on the metal springs, on the hard frame, or on the ground. They can land on their arms, their ankles, their heads, and on other kids.

But what’s the likelihood that your kid is going to get hurt? That’s a lot harder to figure out. For one thing, we don’t have good data on how many kids jump on trampolines and how frequently, which is crucial to answering the question. Using data from a national sample of hospitals, the Consumer Product Safety Commission devises national estimates of how many product-related injuries result in emergency room visits. It estimated that last year among kids under 18, there were 103,512 ER visits due to trampoline accidents. That sounds like a lot, and it is. But that number doesn’t tell you anything about how likely it is that one particular kid will end up in the ER after jumping on a trampoline for, say, half an hour—to get there, we’d need to know how much exposure kids have to trampolines. If 20 million kids each jumped on trampolines for two hours a day and there were 103,512 trampoline-induced ER visits, that would be less concerning than if only 1 million kids jumped, and only for a few minutes here and there, yet this infrequent use still resulted in 103,512 ER trips.

What we can do to informally estimate the risk, though, is to compare the number of ER visits incited by trampolines with the number caused by other products and then make some inferences. For instance, 80,831 ER visits in 2016 were due to injuries from the use of playground climbing equipment, according to the CPSC. That’s nearly 23,000 fewer than from trampolines. I don’t have any data on this, but I suspect that American kids collectively spend a lot more time climbing on playgrounds than they do jumping on trampolines. Hell, my 6-year-old probably spends 90 minutes a week climbing on playgrounds and five minutes a week jumping on a trampoline, and we actually own a trampoline. So it’s not a stretch to deduce that trampolines are far more dangerous per hour of use.

To make things worse, trampoline injuries tend to be more severe than injuries caused by other notably dangerous activities. When the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program compared the proportion of injuries caused by various activities that resulted in hospital admission, they found that trampolining ranked second only after downhill skiing: 12.4 percent of trampoline injuries led to hospital admissions compared with 12.9 percent of skiing injuries. Among the activities that were ranked as less dangerous in this regard than trampolining: snowboarding, bicycling, sledding, skateboarding, ice hockey, and football. (In fact, football injuries were four times less likely to lead to hospitalization as trampoline injuries.) Jennifer Weiss, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon based in Los Angeles and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, put it to me this way: “Trampoline injuries are one of the most common reasons that we see people in our orthopedic clinic.” If you’re wondering whether trampolines have gotten safer since you were a kid, the answer unfortunately seems to be no. Although trampoline standards were tightened in the ’90s, leading to more widespread use of spring and frame safety pads as well as boundary nets, a 2010 study found that these changes hadn’t led to fewer injuries and concluded that “whatever has been done is not yet working.”

There’s obviously a big difference between outdoor trampolines, from which kids can easily fall onto the ground, and indoor trampoline parks, where trampolines are connected to prevent such falls. But research suggests that these parks incite a lot of injuries, too. In a 2016 study, researchers compared the number of trampoline injuries recorded by the CSPC that took place at home versus at trampoline parks. They found that while far more kids get hurt on trampolines at home—probably in part because kids spend more time trampolining at home—the number of ER-worthy injuries that happened at parks rose almost twelvefold, from 581 in 2010 to 6,932 in 2014, as trampoline parks became much more popular. (According to the International Association of Trampoline Parks, there were only about 40 trampoline parks worldwide in 2011 and as many as 550 by the end of 2015.) The types of injuries that afflict kids at home versus in these parks differ, too: Kids at home tend to sustain more head injuries than kids in parks do, while kids at parks tend to suffer more lower-body injuries, including broken bones and sprains. Indeed, “almost half of the injuries in kids under 6 were fractures,” explains study author Kathryn Kasmire, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. There’s even a type of fracture doctors call “trampoline ankle.”

What about mini-trampolines like the one my kids use? There’s no question they are safer than the big contraptions—very few injuries end up being serious—but Weiss warns that their seeming innocuousness can itself be a problem because mini-trampoline jumping tends to be poorly supervised by parents (yep, guilty), and jumpers also tend to be younger (my 3-year-old loves it). And there’s no evidence either way about whether those handles make them safer. Young kids are especially at risk using trampolines of any type because their balance and body awareness is so terrible. My youngest walks into a wall at least twice a day, so why would I think she’d be fine jumping on an uneven elastic surface?

Now for a little good news: Setting some ground rules should minimize your kids’ risk of injury. First, don’t let kids under 6 jump, as they are most likely to get hurt. Second, don’t let more than one kid jump at a time. I know, what a buzzkill, but three-quarters of trampoline injuries happen when more than one person jumps simultaneously. Little kids who jump with big kids or adults are especially at risk—in fact, they’re a whopping 14 times more likely than the bigger jumpers to get hurt. That’s because they can be easily smooshed in a collision; because they can be projected so high (remember double bounces as a kid when you jumped with someone else?); and because if a little kid happens to land on the trampoline when the mat has recoiled upward due to another person’s jump, there is “significant upward impaction force applied to the descending child’s legs” as one study explains—which in wee ones can lead to injuries (including broken legs). Other risky maneuvers that are best avoided: flips and somersaults, which according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, are “the most common causes of permanent and devastating cervical spine injuries.” If you’re surprised by all this, you’re not alone. Fewer than 1 in 5 parents recently surveyed knew that kids under 6 shouldn’t use trampolines, while less than half knew that multiple kids should never jump at the same time, according to a study that will soon be published in the journal Academic Pediatrics.

If your take on all this is Screw it, I’m still going to let my kid jump on trampolines, I get it. Weiss, the orthopedic surgeon, admitted to me over the phone that she sometimes lets her kids jump. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do about the trampoline sitting ominously my kids’ playroom. They love it, and I want my kids to have fun and stay active. The point of this article is not to scare you into dumping your trampoline in the garbage; the point is to provide you with facts so that whatever decision you make will be informed, and so that you can minimize the danger by setting a few guidelines if you want. It can be well worth it to let your children take risks—as long as you know enough about what those risks are.

Who Gets to Make Movies About Gay Sexuality?

Who Gets to Make Movies About Gay Sexuality?

by Jeffrey Bloomer @ Slate Articles

In the summer haze of the Coney Island boardwalk, a teenage boy begins to wonder, and worry. He easily picks up girls under the fireworks, but he can’t perform when he brings them home. At night, he snaps pictures in front of a mirror, shirtless, jaw and chest contorted, eyes burning forward with a hook-up site beginner’s misplaced aggression. He smokes and partakes in petty crime with the local tank-topped miscreants his own age, but alone, he can’t stop cruising a gay sex site, where he always seems to pause on men many years older than him. Soon he agrees to meet one of them, and his first won’t be his last.

Frankie (a spectacular Harris Dickson), unsparingly chronicled in the claustrophobic new drama Beach Rats, resists the idea that having sex with men makes him gay. Categorizing the film is no less complex. This is not your friendly neighborhood coming-out movie; no one comes out, for one thing. It imagines a complicated, self-destructive sexual awakening decidedly removed from the confines of coming-of-age queer cinema. But it does feature some of the bluntest gay sex I’ve seen in a mainstream movie, with raw eroticism and queasy attention to detail. Its fixation on discreet sections of male bodies, its deftly anxious hookup scenes, its emphasis on the power of looking—Beach Rats certainly speaks a kind of gay male language, even if it sidesteps the usual narratives. (Except, at least, for one fateful sequence featuring an act of violence, which many gay viewers have found all too familiar.) It’s hard not to process it through a queer lens.

The film is also written and directed by a straight woman, Eliza Hittman, a fact noted not long after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Beach Rats has earned widespread critical praise, but it’s also drawn some angrier responses for, in very reductive terms, linking gay sex with violence. Pointing to the film's ending, one Sundance audience member quickly weaponized Hittman’s gender in a post-film Q&A, questioning the movie and her right to tell this story all. “Beach Rats Has a #BuryYourGays Problem,” a headline soon decreed.

Hittman doesn’t try to hide her impatience with this. I spoke to her last month in an early-morning call from Los Angeles, where she was filming episodes of the second season of Netflix’s much-debated 13 Reasons Why.

“I don't think that men are questioned for taking on, or inhabiting, the world of women,” she said. “It feels more taboo to take on the world of men for some reason.” I asked if she thought taking the world of gay men, or at least men who have sex with men, complicated that discussion. “I am not so sure if we followed this character into his life further that he would identify as a gay man,” she said. “It's not a film about coming out, it's a film about exploration—it's about desire, and it's about putting yourself in sexual situations because you don't know your worth in the world, and putting yourself into risky situations because you don’t have that sense of who you are and what you’re worth. I don’t see that as appropriation.”

That calls back to Hittman’s debut feature, 2013’s It Felt Like Love, which follows a young woman’s sexual exploration to unsettling places. I first saw it after Beach Rats, and the movies feel unmistakably tethered, two tales of wayward young people who seem almost haunted by their emerging sexuality. Hittman was open about how she drew from the experiences of people around her for It Felt Like Love, but she was more circumspect this time.

“I grew up in a household, and I can't be too specific because I'll get in trouble, but I grew up in a household with somebody who was wrestling to find acceptance around their identity. It's not so foreign from my world,” she said. “The film—I didn't write from an autobiographical place, because it wasn't OK in this particular narrative for me to do that, without saying too much.” Hittman noted Beach Rats is also drawn partly on her own experiences observing gay cruising on the boardwalk in Coney Island, and a disturbing hate crime incident from 2006.

Regardless of any personal connection, Hittman rejected the idea that she might not have the right to make a movie like this. “Who do you ask for permission to tell a certain story?” she asked from the stage at Sundance. I happen to agree with her—not least because she made, in my view, one of the most raw and distinctive movies about male sexuality in recent years. Beach Rats is beautiful and relentless; Hittman has a rare gift with young actors and a camera that refuses to turn away at vulnerable moments, to revelatory effect. Still: Who gets to tell whose stories, and how, has become an inescapable cultural conversation, and I wondered if Hittman thought it was ever fair to question a filmmaker about it.

“I think it's an interesting dialogue, who gets to tell what story. I think it’s slightly complicated at this moment,” she said. “I think that the conversation should be more about how we create more opportunity for people who don't get to tell their story, to tell their story.”

This distinction seemed useful, if easy to caveat, and I also think it’s wise to follow Hittman in focusing on the work first rather than on who made it. As she put it, “When I watch films about women that are imagined by men, for me, I don't walk into a theater ready to criticize it because it was written by a man. For me the criticism often comes from a place of feeling like it's underdeveloped or superficial. That would provoke my response.”

To that end, I wondered about the movie’s ending—if it was evidence of a blind spot to decades of same-sex lust curdling into violence on screen. “I was aware of the stigma around negative representations and that being one of the issues, but I was also, as you know, thinking about how repression can create violence, and that's true also,” Hittman said. “That the impact of hiding who you are, and internalized homophobia, does have consequences, so we can't deny that simultaneously. I think that there's always room on the spectrum for positive and negatives, and I don't think that good films fall so neatly in one or the other category.”

If Hittman seemed resistant to fully weigh in on these questions at Sundance—and perhaps a little bit with me, eight months later—she says she actually welcomes the discussion. The alternative is worse. “I think that the worst thing you could want is people to leave the theater is to talk about where they're going for dinner,” she said. “I think the fact that there's a discussion in general is what we hope we can accomplish with our work.” I can speak only to a sample size of my two screenings, but Beach Rats’ blunt power seemed to leave few viewers without something to say.

Help! Should I Be Worried That My Boyfriend Has Been Divorced Twice?

Help! Should I Be Worried That My Boyfriend Has Been Divorced Twice?

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. How many ex-wives?: I’m a 41-year-old woman, never married, but with a string of long- and short-term relationships in my past. I started dating a man (he’s 39) a few months ago who is great! We have a lot of the same interests, live close to each other, are intellectually and physically compatible—I’m over the moon. I’ve always wanted to find a true partner who I felt I would eventually marry. Now, it is certainly premature to put him in that realm, but I have started thinking that he might be a great candidate. But, when I start thinking down this road, I always come to the odd roadblock in my mind that he has been married twice before. (They both ended with his wife cheating on him and leaving him for another man.) I would be his third wife. This just seems incredibly unromantic and anticlimactic to my partner search. But then I realize this is ridiculous! He is great and I should just calm down. And this is all an issue for the future (but, then again, I’m 41!).

How can I feel this is a romantic and special relationship if it seems like he might just be willing to marry anyone?

A: There are two really different issues here. One is how to overcome your disappointed romantic hopes, and deal with the reality that you are contemplating marriage later than is traditional, and with someone who is coming to the table with not a few trammeled hopes. The other is whether your boyfriend really is “willing to marry anyone.” Are you saying that because something about him seems compulsive or anxious about the prospect of being single, and you’re afraid he’s less interested in you than he is in having a warm body nearby? Or are you saying that because you’re judging him for having been married twice? You don’t say anything about your boyfriend having low standards or being willing to marry anyone, so I’m inclined to guess it’s the latter. He’s not “willing to marry anyone.” He was married and his wife left him for someone else. Later, when he found love again, it happened a second time. That’s sad, and painful, and he is to be commended for taking an emotional risk and trying again. Whether or not you two do get married, don’t think of yourself as an “unromantic, anticlimactic third wife.” It’s not unromantic or anticlimactic to get married in your 40s, or to get married more than once. But you will have to let go of the dream of marrying someone with no romantic or emotional baggage, or of getting married at 25, or whatever other ideas you’ve been carrying around, if you want to appreciate what you have now.

A Midshipman Explains Why He’s Suing to Block Trump’s Ban on Trans Troops

A Midshipman Explains Why He’s Suing to Block Trump’s Ban on Trans Troops

by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles

The fate of President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender troops lies in the federal judiciary. In August, civil rights groups filed three separate lawsuits against the policy, arguing that it violates constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Some of the plaintiffs suing Trump remain anonymous in court filings. But Regan Kibby, a 19-year-old transgender midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, has identified himself as a plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.

Kibby, who wrote a declaration in that lawsuit explaining the devastating effects of the policy on his life and career, will almost certainly be expelled from the academy if the courts allow Trump’s policy to take effect. On Friday, Kibby and I spoke about his decision to join the academy, his reaction to the ban, and his involvement in the lawsuit. Our interview has been edited and condensed.

Why did you decide to attend the Naval Academy?

I lived in San Diego, a big military town, until the fifth grade. I grew up surrounded by Navy ships and people in uniform, and my dad was in the Navy. In high school I joined JROTC [Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps]. By the end of my freshman year I knew for sure that I wanted to go into the military. I felt a duty to serve; so many people are able to serve but choose not to, and it felt really important to me that I did.

The summer after junior year, I attended the Air Force, Navy, and Army summer seminars back to back. Then I did a visit at the Coast Guard Academy. At school, I tried to make myself as competitive as possible for admission just to ensure that I could get into a service academy and go on to serve my country. And during my senior year of high school, I got my acceptance letter to the Naval Academy.

You identified as a lesbian when you entered the academy. When did you realize you were actually trans?

At some point I internalized the reality that you couldn’t be trans and serve in the military, and I really tried not to think about my gender identity. Everyone assumed I was gay because I acted in a more masculine manner, so it seemed easier to accept the label they gave me—it seemed to explain why I was a bit more masculine. It really didn’t, of course, but for a while I tried to make it fit. The feelings about my gender identity were still there on some level, but I tried to ignore them and push them to the back of my mind.

I got to the academy in July 2015, the summer that the secretary of defense took steps to allow open transgender service. When I first heard that news, it got me thinking about all those things that I had been trying to ignore and repress about my actual identity because I knew I couldn’t be trans in the military. I began to be a little more open with myself. I thought, maybe this is what’s really been going on for my entire life. For a while it was just introspection, a process of self-discovery. Then I started talking to some of my friends at the academy, and to Navy Spectrum, a group for LGBT midshipmen and allies. I began coming out to more people, like friends and roommates, who were really accepting. By the beginning of second semester, I started coming out officially to my chain of command.

Was it difficult to tell your chain of command about your gender identity?

I was pretty scared at first, but they handled it extremely well. My company officer recognized that at the time there was no real policy for how the military was going to allow transitions. He still offered his unconditional support and treated me with respect. In the summer of 2016, the military released a concrete policy, and at the beginning of the next school year, he told me he’d do everything he could to help me navigate it.

You were a bit of a guinea pig, then.

I was the first one trying to do this at the academy. No one really knew quite what to do. Whenever a new policy is rolled out, it takes time for people to get used to it and get good at implementing it. I was the person everyone used to iron out kinks in policy and make sure they knew how to do it. It took longer than I would’ve liked. But I took comfort in the fact that I was doing everything I was supposed to do. I was following policy exactly as it was written and hoping it’d pay off. And I thought it had: By the end of the year, I had a transition plan and got my medical leave of absence approved.

How did you learn about Trump’s tweets announcing the ban?

I was at work—I’m interning at a law office during my leave of absence. I saw an email pop up from one of my professors at the academy. She didn’t go into any specifics but said she was sorry this was happening and offered her support. Immediately, I had this sinking feeling. I knew what it had to be about. I opened a new tab and saw the president’s tweets.

What was your reaction?

At first I was just shocked. At some level, I’d known this was a possibility, but I didn’t expect it to come so abruptly, especially through something like Twitter. Once the initial shock wore off, I started feeling angry, sad, and scared. Being at the academy and in the military is something I had wanted and worked toward for such a long time. Knowing that I might not be allowed to stay was a terrible feeling. Also, I felt like I had to replan my entire future. That isn’t a position I ever expected to find myself in.

How did you adjust your plans given the ambiguity of the initial tweets?

A tweet isn’t policy, so until there was some guidance issued, no one really knew what was going on. After the president issued his memo [on Aug. 25], I got in contact with some of my chain of command. None of them really know what’s going to happen until the secretary of defense officially rolls out the new policy. I’ve also been in contact with my professors, who say they hate that this is happening and hope that I can come back. They’re willing to help me no matter what happens.

Why did you decide to join this lawsuit?

At first, I felt powerless to do anything about my future, which isn’t a feeling I enjoy having. Then a trans graduate of the Naval Academy reached out to me and said Shannon Minter [the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights] was interested in speaking to me about joining their lawsuit. So I called Shannon, we spoke on the phone for awhile, and I realized that this lawsuit was a way for me to be able to take some of that power back. It’s a way for me to actively do something instead of just waiting for something to be done to me.

Are you optimistic about your chances in court?

The goal, of course, is to stop this ban before it fully takes effect. If we achieve that, it’ll be amazing. But even if we don’t get the result we want, this suit can still help other people. Maybe it’s too late for me. It’s not too late for young trans kids who want to serve their country when they grow up. And if standing up and sharing my story helps just one trans person know they aren’t alone, I’ll count that as a success.

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Neutrogena Build A Tan reviews, photo


Neutrogena Build A Tan: rated 2.7 out of 5 on MakeupAlley. See 139 member reviews and photo.



by Stefan Fatsis @ Slate Articles

Scrabble has a new champion. He is Will Anderson, a 32-year-old textbook editor who began playing competitively just eight years ago; his word game of choice before that was Boggle. Anderson won the five-day-long North American Scrabble Championship last week in New Orleans with a 25–6 record, earning $10,000. The runner-up, with a 22–9 record, was 17-year-old Scrabble prodigy Mack Meller. An incoming freshman at Columbia University, Meller achieved an expert rating at age 11, and is now ranked No. 3 among North American players, one spot behind Anderson.

Anderson and Meller faced off three times in New Orleans, including a tense game in Round 21. We got together online to discuss that game and high-level Scrabble generally. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Stefan Fatsis: Let’s set the stage. Will, you’d just moved into first place in the tournament. Mack, you were in third. This is the seventh and final game of Day 3. Mack, you played first. Your letters were—in alphabetical order, as is customary in Scrabble notation—EILOQRY and you made what even for novices is the obvious play: QI, the Chinese life force, for 22 points. The Q is terrible. Dump it while you can.

Mack Meller: QI is the only way to play off the Q, and my remaining letters ELORY leave me in good shape for my next turn. The ER and LY combinations are conducive to bingos.

Fatsis: That is, using all seven tiles at once, earning a 50-point bonus.

Meller: And if I don’t draw a bingo, I can hopefully use the Y for a good score. And another benefit of QI is that it gives Will very little to work with on his next turn.

Fatsis: Will was able to play FIDO, defined in the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary as a defective coin, alongside QI for 25 points. Not bad. Will, a couple of turns later, holding AEGIMOT, you did something not intuitive at all. You played a word ending in -YA, which was already on the board. Why did you look there?

Will Anderson: The impetus was dissatisfaction with my other options. Fortunately, I kept looking and found a slightly obscure seven-letter word, ATEMOYA (“a fruit of a hybrid tropical tree”). ATEMOYA scored the most points available; made it more difficult for Mack to use the letters in his previous play, JEERED, to score well; and left the potentially useful GI combination, which would skyrocket in usefulness if I could draw an N, all six of which were still available, creating the very powerful -ING suffix.

Fatsis: But Mack did manage to score well using JEERED—and ATEMOYA. He performed another act of elite Scrabble dexterity, playing through disconnected letters, in this case the E in JEERED and the T in ATEMOYA. Mack played ZEATIN for 50 points, thanks to the Z landing on a double-letter square and the I on a double-word square.

Meller: I was holding the letters AADEINZ. I’d been all set to play ZAIDA next to FIDO, also making FA, for 44, which is a very solid play in its own right. But it’s always advisable to look near your opponent’s last play for new opportunities, even if you think you’ve already established the best play before he/she moved. This play is a great example: ZEATIN scores six more points, keeps a comparable “leave” (ADE, versus EN after ZAIDA, both of which have good bingo potential), and doesn’t make it as easy for Will to bingo.

Fatsis: But ZEATIN does offer a valuable S hook on the triple-word row.

Meller: That’s true. But plays along that row really have to end in -SH or -SK to cause significant damage. And based on Will’s last play, he probably didn’t keep an H or a K. If he’d had one of them, he likely would have had better scoring opportunities than ATEMOYA.

Listen to Stefan's interview with Scrabble champion Will Anderson on Slate's sports podcast Hang Up and Listen:

Fatsis: Will, you responded by also going through disconnected letters in the same two words. You played RIMY for a pedestrian 18 points but kept the letter group GINST.

Anderson: Part of the power of that leave is that it combines very well with some awkward letters, including the W of AVOW. There were a host of two-tile draws after RIMY that would allow me to get an extremely high-scoring bingo starting with W, and that spot was very unlikely to be blocked by Mack on his next turn.

Fatsis: I checked on a word look-up app. There are 29 eight-letter words containing GINSTW, 17 of which start with W. WINGTIPS would have been cool.

Anderson: I ended up playing a different bingo in a different spot on the board. Not that I was complaining.

Fatsis: After Mack’s next play, Will is ahead, 179–164. Will, your rack is AELNOTT. There’s no seven-letter bingo, and no R to make the only eight-letter one, TOLERANT. But those are bingo-friendly tiles. Still, you chose to play off most of them with ETALON alongside GUNITES, simultaneously forming five two-letter words, NE, IT, TA, EL, and SO. It’s an aesthetically gorgeous play. Was it strategic too?

Anderson: With the game nearly halfway over, neither of the coveted blanks had been played. So each additional tile I could use increased the likelihood of my drawing one of them. Plus, I was narrowly ahead. Bingoing wasn’t necessary to maintain my advantage, especially on a board with a shortage of opportunities to play seven- and eight-letter words. I was glad to play six tiles for a respectable 27 points.

Fatsis: Mack, your next move was also fantastic: From a rack of BCEIKST, you played KUBIE through the U in UVEA on the third row. It scored 50 points and opened two spots for bingos. And you had just drawn one of the four also-coveted S’s.

Meller: As good as KUBIE seems, it was actually far from obvious, since I have another outstanding option: BISK in the bottom left corner, making ZEATINS, for a whopping 61 points. What tipped the scales in favor of KUBIE is, as you mentioned, the fact that I am “forking” the board, creating bingo lines in two different areas—one ending in S on top of KA and the other pluralizing KUBIE. I’ll go up a few points after KUBIE. But after Will’s next play I’ll probably be down again, so I should still play as if I’m trailing by a small margin. It’s beneficial for me to create these bingo lanes, especially since I have an S.

Fatsis: KUBIE is one of 5,000 or so words added to the Scrabble lexicon recently. (It’s a Ukranian hot dog.) I’ve studied the five-letter words, and I’ve studied a lot of the new words. But KUBIE didn’t ring a bell. How do you make sure you can recall a word like KUBIE in the moment?

Meller: Especially with the new words, it took me a very long time to get used to not only being able to anagram them on a word quiz but also actually see them on the board. Now I’ve mostly merged them in my brain with the old words, so there’s not so much of this dichotomy. They’re all just words.

Fatsis: Will, you drew first blood with the blanks and capitalized on one of Mack’s KUBIE hooks, playing SMaRTED (the lowercase letter represents the blank) for 73 points and a 279–214 lead. I always get a little rush when my fingers pull a blank.

Anderson: I had a nagging feeling that I was missing something on this turn, and after the game I found out that I was right. SMaRTED is one of two bingos that hook KUBIE, the other being SToRMED, which puts the higher-point M closer to the triple-word score, making SMaRTED slightly better. But despite looking for exactly this type of play in this exact spot, I missed MORTiSED for 81 points through the O of AVOW, making ETALONS, which is far superior.

That’s because SMaRTED allows Mack to respond with very heavy plays along the far-right triple-word column, whereas MORTiSED offers nearly nothing in response. The only saving grace was that, given Mack’s rack, my mistake somewhat helped me, because I got to use the triple-word lane on my next turn. That was an extremely lucky break, which was a running theme of this tournament for me.

Fatsis: Even the best players can’t win a big tournament without some luck, that’s for sure. At this moment, Will’s break was that Mack couldn’t bingo in the triple-word column. But he did bingo elsewhere. And holy moly, Mack, the word you played is about as improbable as it gets in Scrabble: CUSHATS, the plural of a kind of pigeon. There are 25,257 valid seven-letter words in the North American lexicon. I checked on the word-study program Zyzzyva, and CUSHATS is the 20,202nd least-probable one that can be drawn from a full set of tiles. Did you see CUSHATS instantly?

Meller: I did see it fairly quickly. But ironically the least-probable sevens are often the easiest to find, since they generally have more inflexible letter combinations. There are nine sevens in AEINRST, which are all extremely flexible letters. But the letters in CUSHATS don’t work nearly so well. Because of the scarcity of vowels, the SH combo pretty much has to go together, and the second S probably goes at the end of the word as a plural, which limits your options to basically only CUSHATS.

Fatsis: But in order to have recognized CUSHATS you need to have studied more than 20,000 seven-letter words. By way of comparison, I’ve only made it up to 7,500 or so, which helps explain why I was playing in Division 2 at the tournament.

Meller: Believe it or not, CUSHATS almost isn’t the best play here. It scored 77 points. But I have two other very strong options—CUSHAT and ZEATINS for 61 and SAUCH on the right triple-word making ES and DA for 51. CUSHAT keeps the supervaluable S for the SKA hook, and SAUCH has the huge benefit of blocking the triple-word hotspot Will just opened. But scoring 16 or 26 fewer points is just too big a sacrifice to stomach, especially when being down by so much.

Fatsis: Will, after the next two plays, you’re up a smidge, 315–312. You played SCIRRHI down from the first S in CUSHATS for 24 points. The score is close, the tiles are dwindling, and there’s a blank either in the bag or on Mack’s rack. What are you thinking?

Anderson: I was feeling some pressure here to play as many tiles as possible, just as I did with ETALON earlier. I’m still hoping to get the second blank, but the other pivotal tile is the X. If Mack had had the X, it’s very likely it would have come down on his previous turn. So I’m definitely hoping it’s still lurking in the bag. The X already plays in a slew of spots on this board, including on the top and bottom of CUSHATS, with XU/XI and AX/OX, respectively, as well as underneath the first A of ATEMOYA with plays like AXEL or AXON.

SCIRRHI creates even more places to play the X. Given that I can’t stop Mack from scoring well if he has it, I’m not really concerned about that. The important thing is that SCIRRHI scores enough points that I’ll only be down a small amount if Mack plays his X for something in the 35- to 40-point range. It also retains opportunities for me to score with the X if I draw it myself.

Fatsis: Will’s now up 339–312. There’s only one tile left in the bag. Mack, you’re holding BGLORX and the second blank. Will, you have AAELNTU. Neither of you knows it, but the P is in the bag. Mack, this is the most crucial turn of the game. As Will noted, there are a lot of places to play the high-value X. Did you have time to fully assess your options?

Meller: I had some time here, I think just under three minutes on my clock, but not nearly enough to fully dissect a close, complicated endgame like this one. So I wasn’t entirely confident I made the correct play, and I had to go a bit more based on general intuition of possible racks than actually playing out all eight possible endgames—one for each of the eight different tiles that, from my perspective, I could draw.

Fatsis: I’m going to interject to say that, yes, top players often consider every possible move by an opponent in the late stages of a game. And that three minutes isn’t much; each player gets a total of 25 minutes to complete all of his or her turns before incurring a penalty of 10 points per minute of overtime.

Meller: I deduced pretty quickly that I was almost definitely going to lose if I pulled a consonant out of the bag. My main problem is that I’m already down 27 points and I can’t score a significant amount without spending the O, the blank, or both. The option that jumped out to me immediately was COX from the C in SCIRRHI, making HO and AX, for 42, leaving BGLR and the blank. This play scores better than all my other options, and keeps the blank for the next turn, so it looks promising. But it has a major drawback: It allows Will to play a word like PA above CUSHATS on the triple-word score, making PAX and AT, for 30. And even with the blank, with four consonants I’m likely not going to be able to play all of my tiles on my next turn, so Will will have two turns to score enough to overcome COX. Playing OX alongside the last two letters in SCIRRHI, making OH and XI, for 39 points, has the same result.

The one exception is if I draw one of the two A’s. In this case, I threaten the awesome outplay of BROLGAs through the O in AVOW, making ETALONs with the blank S. (A brolga is an Australian bird.) Will cannot simultaneously block BROLGAs and score any appreciable amount, so either he scores up top and I go out and win, or he blocks for a few points and I score enough up top to win. So COX wins with two out of eight possible draws.

Fatsis: And you’re seeing all this in real time?

Anderson: Mack processes endgames and pre-endgames faster than almost anybody there is. I can attest that immediately after the game he had most of this worked out.

Meller: I remember I was starting to get very low on time, probably just over a minute, after going through the above analysis and was about to play COX when I saw another interesting option: BOLLIX, using my blank for one of the L’s, for 34 points. At first this seems counterintuitive, since it scores less than COX while also spending the blank. But it only keeps the G and the R on my rack, maximizing the chances I’ll be able to play out next turn. I saw that, like COX, BOLLIX wins if I draw an A out of the bag. Then I have two high-scoring outplays next turn: GRAB on the triple-word score to the B in BOLLIX, and AGAR in the bottom left from the first A in ATEMOYA, making GI and AN. Will can’t block both, and his highest-scoring play of APE above CUSHATS loses by a small margin after I go out with GRAB.

I unfortunately didn’t have enough time during the game to exhaustively go over what would happen if I drew the E or the U, but I could sense it would be very close. And my next-best options after BOLLIX can’t be better, since they win with at most an A draw and BOLLIX wins with at least an A draw. So at the minimum BOLLIX is tied for my best play. So I played BOLLIX, saving about 20 seconds to process and play my outplay after Will’s next turn.

It turns out that BOLLIX also wins if I draw the E, but not the U. That means BOLLIX wins three-eighths of the time, which was my best chance in this position.

Fatsis: Will, as Mack is powering through the possibilities, what’s happening on your side of the board?

Anderson: At first, I was alarmed that I had drawn so many vowels, and I was concerned that if Mack made a play that guaranteed him multiple outplays, I wouldn’t have a good way to outrun him. I had identified ALAE towards the bottom of SCIRRHI, also forming ZA, LI, and HI, scoring 24 points, and I hoped this would be enough to keep me in the lead. Otherwise, I was just waiting on pins and needles.

Fatsis: After BOLLIX, Mack takes the lead, 346–339, and he draws the last tile. Because Scrabble players keep track of the tiles as they’re played, Will, you knew that Mack held GPR. Did you realize you had the game won unless you, um, bollixed things up?

Anderson: I saw that given Mack’s lack of a vowel and inability to score very much with those letters, multiple plays through the B of BOLLIX, like ABLUENT or TABLEAU, were going to outscore anything he was able to muster. Another stroke of luck for me in a tournament full of them.

Fatsis: Final score, Will 366, Mack 361. Not the highest-scoring game—Will had a 550-point game in the tournament, Mack had a 597, and the highest score put up by any player (though not of all time) was 697—but a tense and complex one with lots of interesting words. Will, you’re now a hair from being the No. 1–ranked player in North America. And you’ve come this far pretty quickly.

Anderson: This game is deep enough and rich enough that I still feel I have so much to learn and that any given game can surprise me or befuddle me, and winning the championship or achieving a particular ranking is never going to change that.

Fatsis: And Mack, you’re not even in college yet! I first saw you play when you were 10 years old. I think your Scrabble peers are not only convinced that you’ll win a championship but are rooting for you to do so.

Meller: With a game like Scrabble that has a large element of luck, a lot of games are simply not winnable even with optimal play. So all I can realistically ask of myself is to do as well as possible with the tiles I draw. If I do ever get lucky enough to win a championship—and huge congrats to Will—that would be awesome. But I find the true satisfaction to be the challenge of finding the best play given the tiles you happen to have at any given position.

Fatsis: That’s a common sentiment in the upper echelons of the game. After the tournament, another top player, Rafi Stern, who finished fifth, wrote on Facebook, “In poker, I want my opponents to be horrible so that I can walk all over them. In Scrabble, I get so much more enjoyment from hard-fought games against worthy opponents than cakewalks.”

Anderson: Scrabble at its core is a game of solving puzzles, and the puzzles are often better when a game is hotly contested and victory or defeat hangs in the balance. A back-and-forth game with someone of Mack’s caliber is an exhilarating experience. You have to use every last ounce of your brainpower to try and predict what they’re going to do, and figure out how to stop it.

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Maybe It’s Not You

Maybe It’s Not You

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week by signing up in the box below. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online here on Slate to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Dear Prudence,

I’m a female lawyer on the brink of making partner at a midsize firm. I’ve been passed up several times in favor of male colleagues who bill fewer hours and generate significantly less business. When I asked what I needed to do to get there I was told I needed to smile more, come out of my office, and attend more company events and happy hours. I attend all holiday parties and major firm events, but I am already working 70-plus hours a week, which leaves me little time for my family. The happy hours are every week and last for hours, and I don’t drink! I am friendly and make conversation with the partners and get lots of praise from clients. I am already burned out, and it is affecting my family life and health. I’m just not sure I can give any more and the men that were promoted above me rarely attend any of these events, leave the office at 4, and I’m willing to bet were never told to smile more! I feel like this is a subtle form of discrimination. There is only one female partner out of 20 and these are the people voting. I’ve invested a lot in the company so it’s not that simple to just leave.

—70-Hour Work Week

It’s never simple to “just” leave, of course, but you’ve been given a pretty clear picture of what the company expects from you if you want to make partner. If you’re already burned out to the point that it’s affecting your health, then I think it’s worth seriously considering leaving, even though you’ve already invested a lot of time and energy into this company. I don’t imagine the pace will let up so significantly after making partner that another few years of this would be sustainable for you.

You do, however, have two other options available to you. If you’re absolutely bent on trying to make partner without making waves, which untold women before you have tried with varying success, you might take a more ruthlessly strategic approach to following the instructions you’ve been given. Make sure you get seen at office happy hours but bail once everyone else is two or three drinks in, when they’re less likely to notice you’re slipping out early. Schedule one or two short breaks in your day when you know most of your colleagues are likely to be chatting in the halls or in the breakroom and spend five or 10 minutes chatting amiably before getting back to work.

The other, possibly harder path, is to pursue (at least the possibility of) a discrimination suit, because what you describe sounds like discrimination—and not a “subtle” form, either. I don’t have any legal advice about how to go about this, other than to spend time gathering evidence, making clear notes, and speaking to someone who does know about discrimination suits. You do not need to be told that this would be a long and arduous process that would be valuable for women everywhere going through what you are, but which may not end up helping your own work-life balance. But even if you choose not to pursue a complaint, you can still build a case in order to be able to say: “I’m committed to making partner and will definitely spend more time socializing with others in the firm, but I think it’s also important to point out I’ve billed more hours than anyone else in the last [quarter, or year, or however long you’ve been outperforming your peers].”

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I recently was introduced to an important work client in a casual setting. In the course of our getting-to-know-you discussion, she mentioned having a stepdaughter and indicated that she was married. I later asked about her husband, and she politely corrected me—she has a wife. She wasn’t at all offended. But it left me wondering if I had been rude in assuming she was married to a man, and if, in this day and age, you just shouldn’t make that assumption. On the other hand, I can see a heterosexual person being potentially offended that I think they may be gay by asking upfront if their spouse was a man or a woman. How should I have handled this?

—Was I Rude?

It’s not rude to assume most married people are in heterosexual partnerships because most people are heterosexual. Of course, as you yourself know, one never has a social interaction with most people. One can only interact with individuals. You certainly didn’t violate any rules of etiquette, but if in the future you want to want to acknowledge a wider range of possible orientations, you could try on the habit of saying, “Oh, what does your partner/spouse do?” rather than “What does your husband do?” Don’t ask outright if a client’s spouse is male or female. Just stick to a gender-neutral term and let them respond with specifics.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend of 10 years recently proposed. I accepted, but I don’t think I should have. He’s my best friend and I love him, but he’s very uninhibited. He’s into every type of fetish or “odd” sexual behavior there is. Exhibitionism and voyeurism, homemade porn, BDSM, urine/scat, blood, orgies—just to name a few. He wears high heels everywhere unless it’s impractical or not allowed. I am very vanilla, which I quickly realized after trying to participate in his sexual adventures, including exploring his bi-curiosity. Outside of that, we get along well, which is why we’ve been together so long. Do you think it’s OK to ask him to turn it down? I still feel guilty because when we met he was in an open relationship but cut it off to be exclusively with me.


A lot of people write in asking “if it’s OK” to ask a kinkier partner to meet them in the middle when it comes to sex. I think it is. You have done your level best to join your partner in his interests, but they don’t do it for you, and in fact serve as an active turn-off. You say the reason you’ve been together so long is that you two “get along well,” which does not sound like an emphatic expression of love and devotion to me. If, in addition to that lukewarm endorsement, you two are as wildly sexually mismatched as you seem to be, then I think there’s a reason you’re happy to call him your “best friend” but so reluctant to call him your fiancé. Sexual compatibility is a hugely important part of marriage for most people. It’s not shallow or judgmental if you acknowledge the two of you simply aren’t well-suited for one another.

It may be that your boyfriend is so wild about you that he’s willing to forgo exploring his kinks most of the time, and if you two are genuinely able to reach a meaningful compromise that doesn’t make either of you feel stifled or guilty, then that’s great. But your doubts are a good prompt to have a bigger conversation with him about your relationship. If your sexual ideals and his don’t even come close to matching up, then you should probably part as friends now.

* * *

Dear Prudie: I’m in love with a prude—how do I spice up our sex life?

Hear more Prudie at

Dear Prudence,

My partner is very into apps, social media, and the internet. I have Facebook so I can occasionally message people who live back home and that’s it, but my boyfriend cannot get off his phone. That might not bother me, but he’s constantly showing me pictures from Snapchat or Facebook of people I don’t know, reading listicles to me, or sending me endless memes and “funny” things from an aggregate site all day (around 10 an hour if we’re apart). I’m trying my best to feign interest, but I’m awful at that at the best of times and after almost a year of being with him, I’m now trying to politely shrug it off and tell him I’m not that into any of it, but it won’t stop! When is it acceptable to just say “Jesus Christ, I don’t even have Snapchat for my own friends, stop showing me the dumb things your friends are doing!”?


Neither feigning interest nor suddenly snapping and screaming are an appropriate response to your boyfriend’s behavior. Stop pretending to enjoy something that bothers you, and tell him that you don’t like it. Ten texts an hour are a lot to get from anyone, much less when it’s a bunch of throwaway links to bottom-of-the-barrel content farms, but your boyfriend isn’t going to stop doing this if he doesn’t know it bothers you. This isn’t annoying behavior of some friend you have to pretend to get along with for your boyfriend’s sake. Tell him that you don’t like it and that you want him to stop. Be direct—don’t hint at it, and don’t “shrug it off.”

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I was with “Teddy” for three years. In that time, I caught him texting an ex, flirting with co-workers, hanging out with another ex, giving his number to female customers, and cheating on me with his classmate. Each time I caught him, he promised he would change. After the last straw, I kicked him out but stayed in touch. In every other aspect, he is a great person, but a bad boyfriend. Two years after our breakup I still periodically catch him telling stupid lies and I told him our weekly lunches and regular texting sessions were over. He got upset and told me it was my fault because I never gave him another “real chance” to get back together. I feel I did the right thing, but he always manages to make me feel bad. Was I wrong to cut him out?

—Breakup Sequel

No. You might even, in the future, slightly tighten your parameters of what a “great person” does to exclude extensive infidelity, an inability to change, chronic lying, and always managing to make you feel bad. Teddy is not a great person. Teddy is going to have to work hard to become a mediocre person, and there is no reason you should consider remaining friendly with him.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I am a woman who has known for a while now that I am attracted to women. Historically, I have only dated men and just got out of a five-year relationship with one. I want to explore my attraction to women further. My fear is that I may be attracted to women for the reasons a patriarchal society tells me to be. How do I know if I am truly attracted to women when I have only coveted their bodies? It seems reckless to “try it out” for a time by dating if I am not serious about my wants. Will my feelings become more clear to me over time? I would hate to enter into another relationship with a man because it is easier than dealing with or never exploring these feelings. However, I do not want to trivialize a person’s life because of my confusion. Is this a fetish?

—Could I Fall in Love With a Woman?

“Coveting someone’s body”—unless one is a serial killer planning on skinning someone for a trophy—is very much the same thing as being attracted to them. It is possible that you have absorbed potentially damaging ideas about women’s bodies from society writ large, but so do most people living today, and that hasn’t triggered an onslaught of patriarchy-induced lesbianism and bisexuality. Everyone who’s ever dated women has had to start by dating a first woman, and you’re not forbidden from trying just because you’ve only been with men before. You’ll find out if you’re attracted to women by going out with specific women and seeing where it goes. If you’re not wild about the very first woman you date, that doesn’t mean you’ve been brainwashed or have fetishized anybody. It just means you don’t click with her. There may be some women who aren’t interested in dating you if you haven’t already dated a woman. Those aren’t the women for you! There are plenty who will, and as long as you treat everyone you date with basic courtesy and respect, you’re great.

For what it’s worth, a “fetish” generally refers to a persistent fixation on a nonhuman object or a nonsexual part of the body; it has nothing to do with sexual orientation or an attraction to an entire gender. Whatever you’re experiencing has nothing to do with fetishism.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

More Dear Prudence

Playing Daddy?: Prudie counsels a man whose girlfriend is jealous of the attention he gives to two orphaned relatives.”
Burnt Toast: Prudie advises a maid of honor whose wedding speech offended the groom and jeopardized her friendship with the bride.”
Rekindled Romance: Prudie counsels a mother who’s fallen hopelessly back in love with an old college friend.”
Unreasonable Doubt?: Prudie advises a sister who doesn’t trust her brother’s explanation of why he left his job.”
Robbing the Cradle: One of my colleagues is stealing my breast milk.”
It’s Not a Blood Diamond: Prudie advises a woman who loves her fiancé but feels humiliated by her flashy engagement ring.”
Nobody Else Stepped Up to the Plate: Prudie counsels a letter writer on how to support a difficult cancer patient when everyone else refuses to get involved.”
Just Not Interested: My daughter has decided she’s asexual. Did she get it from me?”

How to Prevent Self-Tanner from Getting on <em>Everything</em>

How to Prevent Self-Tanner from Getting on <em>Everything</em>

Follow these expert tips on how to keep self-tanner from getting on everything.

An Affair to Remember

An Affair to Remember

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week by signing up in the box below. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online here on Slate to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

When I was young, I had an affair with my boss. We fell in love, got married, and, 25 years later, are still happily together. When our affair began, we were both in unhappy relationships. Ending mine was simple—my boyfriend and I shared only a mortgage and a cat. My husband, however, was married with two young children. He and his wife had been fighting for years, and it was clear the marriage was going to end eventually. However, I didn’t know that at the time, and I only went ahead with the affair because I didn’t think about the repercussions. I’ve tried to be a good stepmother to the two girls. I’ve had a cordial relationship with their mother since their divorce, and when the girls were younger, I took my cues from their mother about attending “family” events. I figured my job was to be a loving and responsible friend to the girls, and not necessarily a mother. Of course, it wasn’t always easy, but things generally went well and the girls (women, now) and I are close. My husband and I have a daughter together, and she has grown into a fine young woman, too, who is close with her older sisters.

The thing is, I cannot think back on my life without shame. Even after all these years, I’m ashamed of my behavior. At one point, when the two girls were in their early teens, I called their mom and apologized for the pain I had caused her. She accepted my apology with grace, but I still don’t feel good about myself. When I have talked with my husband about this, he says that I didn’t end their marriage because it was already in tatters and that his ex-wife, remarried for 15 years now, is far happier than she would have been had they stayed together. They were incompatible in ways that could not be surmounted by sheer attraction or couples counseling. I hear this, and I believe him, but I know that what I did was morally wrong, even if everyone is happy now. I would give anything to have not done what I did, although I would not want to give up my husband or the life we’ve had together. How can I ever explain myself to our daughters? Is it possible to find peace when you’ve behaved badly?


Shame can be a useful and powerful motivating force. It’s not always productive, and there’s nothing beneficial about wallowing in it, but there are times when it can spur personal growth. In your case, you need to find an appropriate, healthy outlet for your shame, and that outlet can’t be your stepdaughters or your husband’s ex-wife. It would be inappropriate and thoughtless to place the burden of alleviating your conflicted feelings about your own past behavior on them. This is a problem best explored in therapy, with someone who can help you identify your regrets, your self-loathing, ways in which you’ve meaningfully changed, and ways in which you can continue to grow.

It’s worth asking yourself why you’re taking so much of this shame onto yourself, when your husband was the person cheating on his spouse, not to mention having an affair with a subordinate at work. That’s not to say you have to retcon what’s been a largely happy marriage, but in terms of responsibility and power dynamics, he has a great deal more to contemplate than you do.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I am a bisexual female and a college student, currently in a rather unconventional relationship. This past spring I asked out a girl I knew, and she agreed. She’s cute, funny, and talented, and I was thrilled when she agreed to be my girlfriend. The timing was rather unfortunate; we started seeing each other right before I went home for the summer. Now we’re in the awkward position of having technically been together for months, but only a few weeks of that time was spent with us in the same city.

The unconventional part is this: My girlfriend is asexual, which is fine with me, and also possibly aromantic. I initiated the romantic aspect of our relationship, and she went along with it, but she admits that she does not have romantic feelings for me and is not sure if she’s even capable of having romantic feelings. We have very open communication, and I’ve told her that I’m willing to go along with our relationship as it is for now but that I am not willing to carry this into perpetuity without some romantic feeling coming from her. She has also given me her blessing to end our relationship if I meet someone else, or for any other reason. Which brings me to my question: Am I crazy for carrying on as things are now? Sometimes I think I must be. Our relationship as it is now will not make me happy in the long term. If we do continue, how much time should I give this, knowing my girlfriend may never return my romantic feelings, and may never know that she will never return my romantic feelings? Am I unfairly putting pressure on my girlfriend by staying with her?

—An Unconventional Relationship

I’ll say this: I have yet to hear from a letter writer who got into a relationship hoping their partner would fundamentally change their approach to romance and emotional connection, and everything worked out just as they had hoped. I’ve only had this job for two years, so it’s possible that such a person exists and I simply haven’t heard from them yet, but it doesn’t seem very common, and it doesn’t seem like a strategy with much of a long-term success rate. You say that your girlfriend is willing to “go along” with your relationship for now, but that she does not believe her feelings likely to change, and that you would be unhappy in the long run with the status quo. With those parameters in place, I think you have sufficient information to decide to end your romantic relationship. She is not likely to spontaneously develop a romantic orientation just because you want her to, and you are only setting yourself up for frustration if you keep dating her, all the while scrutinizing her for signs of a romantic awakening. If you can see your way to accepting her as she is right now, and not how you wish she might someday be, then it may be that you can continue seeing one another for a while. If you can’t, then you two would be better off as friends.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

My fiancé has a married female friend he plays video games with every day, and it’s causing problems for us. About six months ago my mom died; it’s been difficult, but my fiancé has been supportive. About two months after her death, I was using our shared computer and his chat history with his friend popped up automatically. I saw my name on it and got curious, so I read what they were saying at the moment. It wasn’t good. This woman was saying terrible things about me, questioning how I was grieving my mother, and attacking my family in general. She told my fiancé to get out of his relationship with me, that I wasn’t good for him.

Obviously he didn’t listen to her, and we’re still together, and I’ve been trying not to be any of those bad things she said about me. But I’m upset not just with her but also with my fiancé for not defending me. I finally talked to him about it, and he acted like it wasn’t a big deal. He was upset that I didn’t bring this up sooner, which I can understand, but he didn’t even remember what she said about me. All he said about his friendship with her was “We have a tumultuous relationship.” But I’ve never talked about him like that to any of my friends, nor would I ever. He didn’t apologize for failing to defend me, and then said we’re in a codependent relationship and that he only proposed to me because it was the thing that was expected of him. I’m torn. I love him, but I’m hurt. He says he loves me and wants to be with me, but I can’t reconcile that with the other things he’s said. It’s like his friend can do no wrong, and I feel so alone. I just want to talk to my mom, but I can’t.

—Feeling Alone

Leaving aside the profound emotional betrayal you’ve discovered, as well as the fact that he feels no regret for encouraging someone else to disparage the way you’ve been grieving your recently deceased mother, the fact that he admitted to proposing only because it was “expected of him” tells you everything you need to know about this man. He is asking you to marry him with the understanding that his heart is not really in it. His protestations of love are not borne out by his behavior. He has failed to defend you, to act in your best interests, to prioritize your feelings, to acknowledge and apologize for his behavior, and to change his relationship to this woman in any way. The upside to this situation is that he has revealed his true character before you married him. Of course it will be painful to end this relationship, both because you have loved this man and because you’ve already suffered a great loss this year, but it will be so much better than the future you can expect with him—one where he encourages his friends to make cruel and disparaging remarks about you, minimizes your feelings, and tells you he’s only with you to keep up appearances, right before claiming to love you. You deserve better.

* * *

Dear Prudence: How do I convince my friends that my boyfriend isn’t a stalker?

Hear more Prudie at

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I am a 24-year-old who was in a three-year relationship with someone I loved very much. When I was with her, I felt loved, seen, and connected. There was a breeze behind me year-round, and wonderful, life-affirming moments abounded. However, two years ago, that relationship ended as a result of miscommunication, mutual recrimination, and unhealthy codependency. I haven’t talked to my ex in a year and don’t want to get back together; we’ve both moved on and are different people now.

However, the amazing feeling of being in that relationship still haunts me. Whenever I go on dates with new people, I haven’t been able to connect with them the way I did with her. We clicked right away and very quickly developed strong feelings for one another. After we broke up, my ex said our relationship wasn’t special and discounted its intensity as a simple rush of young love. I don’t think that’s right, but am I in the wrong here? Should I try to forget the emotional connection and freedom that I felt with her (because, as she implied, it’s not something I’ll feel again)? And if not, how do I successfully put that past feeling aside and not immediately discount the possible connections with new people because those first interactions don’t feel the same way? I’ve been to therapy before and am going back soon, but is there anything else you would recommend?

—Trying to Move On

It’s particularly difficult, in my experience, to come to terms with the emotional reality that two people can have experienced the same relationship in entirely different ways. The fact that your ex-girlfriend seeks to minimize or dismiss the intensity of your relationship due to “young love” is her business. It may or may not be her way of coping with the way you two broke up, but regardless of what’s motivating her characterization, you’re not obligated to take it as gospel. It is decidedly untrue that everyone experiences maximal relational potency in their first serious relationship, then suffers from diminishing returns in each subsequent relationship.

As for the problem of not clicking with new people, while you shouldn’t necessarily be expecting thunderbolts and fireworks on every first date, in general I think it’s a good idea to pay attention to your emotional response upon meeting someone. If your strongest reaction to a prospective partner is “They seem fine, their behavior is unobjectionable,” then that’s a very good reason not to go on a second date. You’re not necessarily doing anything wrong just because you haven’t yet met someone you feel strongly about. There are a lot of wonderful people in the world who, for one reason or another, you’re not going to fall in love with. Keep an open mind, keep going on dates, and look for someone who catches your interest. It might not happen in the exact same way you met your last girlfriend, but you can, and will, feel intensely about someone else again.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

Next month I will be going to visit my grandparents with my husband and son. We will be flying and won’t have our vehicle with us. We had planned on renting a car, but my grandparents keep saying we don’t need to. But I’m terrified of riding with them. My grandmother has been involved in several serious accidents in recent years. And the last few times I rode with my grandfather he almost drove into oncoming traffic more than once. Is there a polite way of explaining that we’d be more comfortable renting a car?

—Nervous Passenger

This is of course a sensitive subject that will bring up issues of independence and insecurity for your grandparents, but your first priority should be safety, not sparing anybody’s feelings. The odds of a fatal car crash increase with age. Rent a car, and tell your grandparents that you are doing so because you are concerned about their numerous accidents and increasingly distracted driving. By no means should you get into the car with either of them behind the wheel, even if they get upset or try to argue with you. Tell them that you’ve noticed their accidents and near misses. Ask them if they’re concerned about their driving, and how you could help them maintain independence if they scale back (for example, by staying off freeways and only driving during daylight hours). The Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety has a number of tips about starting this conversation respectfully but firmly. Be as polite and compassionate as you can, but politeness is not the highest possible good in this scenario. Don’t let your grandparents harm themselves or others because you were too reluctant to offend them.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

When I was a kid, I was sexually abused and bullied by an older cousin who has since moved away and hasn’t kept in touch. I’ve seen her once or twice in the past 15 years, and each time I’ve seen her, she’s commented on how fat and ugly she finds me. I’ve only told my sister and my husband about the abuse. I got married this summer, and I opted to not invite this cousin to my wedding. About a month before my wedding, I got a text from her congratulating me on my engagement (I had been engaged for about a year at that point). She’s never had my number, so she must have asked someone for it. I said thank you and didn’t continue the conversation. Then her mom contacted my mom to ask why she wasn’t invited to the wedding when the rest of their family was and if I was mad at her. The abusive cousin also contacted my other cousins to see if they were invited and then badmouthed me to all of them for not inviting her.

Now she sends me messages about once or twice a week. I never respond to her, but she continues to text me about random things. I’m not interested in staying in touch with her, and it’s not good for my recovery for her to keep contacting me. Can I just block her number, or do I finally have to confront her about the horrible things she did to me?

—Don’t Give Out My Damn Number!

Block her number, and feel free to do whatever you feel you have to in order to prioritize your continued safety and well-being. If that means limiting your contact with that side of the family, or making it clear that you’re not going to justify or explain your lack of a relationship with your former abuser, then go ahead and do that too. You don’t owe her anything.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

More Dear Prudence

Dark Auras: Prudie counsels a woman whose husband would rather listen to his “psychic” mother’s advice than risk offending her.

Doggone It: Prudie advises a father on how to responsibly care for a family dog that nobody wants to keep.

Driving Me Crazy: I love my husband, but I fear for my life when he drives.

Home Sweet Heat: Prudie advises a married couple who can’t agree on whether to keep a gun in their house for self-defense.

Helping After Harvey: Prudie counsels a Houston native whose girlfriend is reluctant to support flood victims who may have voted for Trump.

Found and Lost: I finally met my biological father, but my mom wants me to forget him.

Hold One’s Peace: Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister seems intent on marrying her lying, unfaithful, thieving fiancé.

Deathbed Affair: Prudie advises a woman whose husband is sleeping with his best friend’s wife—while his friend is dying.

These dogs need us! 48 hour fundraiser (plus, self-care for YOU!)

by Caitlin Sammons @

Hiya Gorgeous! If you’re on my mailing list, or if you follow me on social media, you know that I use my platform and voice for animals, as well as people. I love to tempt you with adorable adoptable pets or encourage you to spread kindness to all beings. Well, today I’ve got something super...

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Robbing the Cradle

Robbing the Cradle

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week by signing up in the box below. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online here on Slate to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I recently returned to my job at a large company after maternity leave. I share two lactation rooms with several other women and store my milk in the minifridge there during the day. A while back I noticed that the milk I pumped and recorded didn’t add up at the end of the day by roughly an ounce. It happened a total of three times over about two months. I finally said something to another nursing mom who had the same experience and thought she was going crazy too. We went to HR, which took our complaint very seriously, and the other women pumping verified they had similar experiences. HR added a secure keycard entry to the doors in addition to the lock on the inside. HR also started monitoring the room and discovered a man trying to get in (but he couldn’t because he didn’t have the right keycard). They questioned him but couldn’t pin anything on him.

I am struggling not to be creeped out that some weirdo was stealing milk I pumped for my baby for who knows for how long. HR can’t tell us who it was, or punish him, because he wasn’t caught doing anything. The room feels secure, but I’m struggling to relax enough to pump effectively, as he’s probably still nearby. (There are around 700 people working here.) How do I get over it, knowing he still works here and I may never know who he is?

—Pumping Mom

This is so unsettling—of course you’re having a hard time relaxing. It’s very difficult to accidentally take breast milk that doesn’t belong to you, and you know that you’re likely working in the same building with the man who has repeatedly stolen yours. I’m a little curious that HR seems to think it can’t do anything about the guy who tried to get inside the lactation room. Presumably those rooms are labeled from the outside, and anyone who’s not either using them to pump breast milk or required to clean the rooms has no reason to be there. If the other new mothers are also having a hard time feeling comfortable pumping in the workplace, it might be worth bringing this back up with HR, if only for your own peace of mind.

In the meantime, buy a cheap combination lock for the minifridge and share the code with your fellow new mothers. It’s a $5 investment that might help you feel more secure.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I have a 5-year-old nephew whom I adore. However, my younger brother has very specific ideas on what boys can do and has directed his son’s behavior accordingly. My nephew used to adore watching “magic girl” cartoons with my daughter and would ask to buy the pink toy cars at the mall. Now, when his father’s around, he won’t even touch pink markers. I had to interfere when he hit one of his friends, then broke down crying, because she wanted to play Barbies with him. I don’t know how to broach the subject with my brother, and I know if I so much as bought my nephew a pink toy, my brother would perceive it as deliberately undermining his parenting. Do I have any right to address this issue, or would stepping in at all be too invasive?

—Boys Like Pink Too

I think your best opportunity to help your nephew is by providing him a safe, nonjudgmental environment and being available to answer questions and offer support. You can ask your brother why he’s so opposed to letting his son occasionally use a pink marker—it’s just a color, after all—but anything more than asking open-ended questions is almost certain to result in his shutting down or, worse, shutting you out. As long as your nephew knows that at your house he won’t be judged or criticized for liking something that’s “for girls,” you’ll have an opportunity to help him. Keep that line of communication open. He’s going to need it.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
My girlfriend and I have been together for a while now, and we are very much in love. She’s an incredibly supportive person and shows me that she loves me in many ways. But she has recently started yelling at me when I do things that she doesn’t like. Often it’s over mistakes that I’ve made that I would consider small but that cause her a lot of anxiety. She’ll scream at the top of her lungs and will often curse at me as well. It doesn’t help the situation when she yells, and I think it usually makes it worse because I freeze up and continue being unhelpful to her because I can’t really think while being yelled at.

I don’t see yelling as very productive. I don’t really do it, but it’s less of a conscious choice for me. Yelling is just not in my personality. She sees yelling as something necessary in romantic relationships, because for her it indicates passion. Am I being too rigid in thinking that yelling doesn’t have a place in romantic relationships?

—Keep It Down

Some people hold a place for occasional yelling in their relationships; some don’t. But what you’re describing isn’t a lively disagreement or even a volatile relationship—it’s a serious red flag. Notice how you’re already trying to make excuses for her reactions when she flips out over little mistakes. You’d consider them small, but they “cause her a lot of anxiety,” implying that she can’t help it when she starts screaming at you. For what it’s worth, I don’t think cursing at your partner when he forgets to pick up milk from the store is a sign of passion. Someone who’s really passionate about you wants to go on last-minute weekend trips and sends you long, luxuriously written love notes. She doesn’t hurl invectives at you when you leave your shoes in the hallway.

You’ve also blamed yourself for freezing up when you’re being verbally abused (a perfectly normal and understandable response) because it’s “unhelpful” to her. This suggests that your girlfriend has already tried to make you feel responsible for her out-of-control and unjustifiable behavior. I don’t think your girlfriend qualifies as an “incredibly supportive person” if she screams and curses at you regularly, then tells you she’s just passionate when you ask her to stop. She may say she loves you, but her behavior is anything but loving. Consider the possibility that she yells at you precisely because you can’t think when you’re being bombarded with sound. She wants you to feel bewildered and overwhelmed and to shut down, because she wants to abuse and control you. Getting you to shut down is exactly the point of her tirades—it’s a feature, not a bug, in her system.

You are not being too rigid, and you should not have to put up with this behavior from your girlfriend another minute. She’s a grown woman who’s capable of restraining her anger. If she can’t talk with you about minor issues without losing control and cursing at you, then she’s not ready to be in a relationship—with you or with anyone.

Dear Prudence: How do I end my friendship-with-benefits?

Hear more Prudie at

* * *

Dear Prudence,
Recently I was at a nail salon getting a manicure from a pleasant woman. She told me about her life, her family, and her adjustment to life here in the U.S. since she arrived from Vietnam. She told me she had recently moved from an apartment into a house with her family and how great it was there. Then she looked me dead in the eyes and mouthed “No blacks.” (I’m white.) I was shocked. There were multiple black customers around me in the store, but I don’t think any of them heard. I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I didn’t in any way affirm what she said, but I also didn’t challenge her. What should I have done?

—Sorry I Tipped First

If someone says something over-the-top, old school, classically racist to you, it is absolutely appropriate to say, “That’s racist,” get up, and leave, even if one of your hands looks a little ridiculous mid-manicure. Hopefully this is not a situation you will find yourself in often, but if it ever does come up again, at the nail salon or elsewhere, you don’t have to second-guess yourself and sit there in silence wondering if you really heard what you heard. Nor do you have to cause a big scene and make sure everyone around you who might not have heard what you did picks up on it. You can simply call it what it is—racism—and leave.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend just had a stroke. We have been dating for a while, but he is still married. He kept telling me he was going to get a divorce and that we would marry, but he never got divorced. Now he is in the ICU, and his wife will not let me near him. I feel like it is time for me to leave his family in peace. What do you suggest?

—Outside Visiting Hours

Your instincts are right, I’m afraid. There’s nothing you can do for him right now. It is entirely possible—perhaps probable—that he never had any intention of leaving his wife and has been stringing you along. Regardless of what his plans were, you have to respect his family’s wishes. Focus on mourning your own loss. It might help to talk to a grief counselor, since you’re not able to share it with him or his family. But you’re going to have to accept that you have no legal standing to visit him, and let him go.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I work in an office where my co-workers and I all work for different contractors. We sit right next to one another doing the same work every day, and we all have the same degrees and knowledge base. Each of the contracting companies offers different payments and benefits. I recently found out that someone hired a year after me by a different company is making more than $10,000 a year more than I am. I know employers frown on discussing salaries, but can I use this information to negotiate my salary? I understand there is always this kind of risk when working with a subcontractor, but I think this pay difference is absurd. We live in an expensive area. I hear my co-workers talking about retirement savings and buying homes, yet I feel like I will never get ahead. I love my job and don’t plan on leaving. How do I approach this without hurting my relationship with my employer?

—Paycheck Envy

This pay discrepancy should absolutely inform your decision to ask for a raise now, but it shouldn’t be the only evidence you present to your manager. Build a case for yourself based on the cost of living in your area, comparative salaries at other companies, and the quality and quantity of work you’ve done for them already. You might say something like, “Given my contributions over the last year [such as X and Y], and given my understanding of what this company and its closest competitors offer others in a similar position, I think it’s fair to ask for [X amount].” But don’t go to your employer and say, “I know Steve makes $10,000 more than I do, so you should pay me another $10,000 a year.” It’s too easy for them to come back with, “We’re not negotiating Steve’s salary; we’re negotiating yours.” Besides, you’ve got stronger evidence to bolster your case than that. Good luck.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page.

More Dear Prudence

  • It’s Not a Blood Diamond: Prudie advises a woman who loves her fiancé but feels humiliated by her flashy engagement ring.
  • Nobody Else Stepped Up to the Plate: Prudie counsels a letter writer on how to support a difficult cancer patient when everyone else refuses to get involved.
  • Just Not Interested: My daughter has decided she’s asexual. Did she get it from me?
  • I Blamed the Victim: Prudie counsels a letter writer who regrets badmouthing a friend after she was molested.
  • No Embryos for You: Prudie advises a mother who wants to help her brother have a baby—but not if it means she’ll also have to help her sister-in-law.
  • Don’t Thank Me: I’m a military officer, and I’m tired of being showered with gratitude by strangers.
  • Food Fight: Prudie counsels a hunter whose vegan partner equates eating animals with murder.
  • Past Due: Prudie advises a letter writer on whether it’s time to end a relationship with a pregnant married couple.

Help! Why Do Strangers on the Bus Insist on Making Small Talk?

Help! Why Do Strangers on the Bus Insist on Making Small Talk?

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Chicago public transit etiquette: I am a 28-year-old woman who moved to Chicago from New York three months ago. The aggressive friendliness—and sometimes plain aggressiveness—I’ve encountered here is something I find very off-putting. Whether it’s interrupting a conversation with a friend to throw in some advice, asking my nationality, or a stranger on the bus saying “bless you” after my sneeze as an opening to say, “Your posture must improve before it’s too late,” I am at my wit’s end. It’s different from street harassment as catcallers don’t usually expect a response, while these people actively try to engage me, and old men feel like they deserve my number after saying hello to me while waiting for the bus. I find wearing sunglasses and headphones deters conversation, but it’s starting to get dark earlier, so that doesn’t seem like a long-term solution.

I am so uncomfortable that I am considering buying a car to avoid the constant harassment, but I know that while some people are violating my boundaries through rudeness, some of my reaction is culture shock. I’ve tried politely and noncommittally engaging, but then the conversations usually escalate into trying to get my number, and they often just don’t end.

Is there a better way to politely defend myself on my commute? Or a way to say, “Thanks, but I don’t do small talk with strangers”?

A: “This is a private conversation,” “That’s a very personal question,” “Sorry, I don’t do small talk with strangers,” “I don’t want to talk,” “No, thanks,” and silence are all perfectly appropriate responses to a stranger who tries to talk to you when you don’t wish to speak to him or her.

Q. Family ties: About three years ago my husband’s sister “Sue” and her husband, “Joe,” got divorced. Over the course of their 15-year marriage we became very close to Joe and his extended family. Our families all live far away, and Joe’s family became the ones we celebrate all milestones and holidays with. Upon the divorce, Sue expected us to stop talking to not only Joe but all of his family. When we refused, Sue stopped talking to us and continues to say we betrayed her and chose Joe’s family over her. My husband is very hurt and upset by all of this. I don’t feel like we did anything wrong and just can’t understand her point of view. Should we have cut off contact when they divorced? Or is his sister’s request inappropriate?

A: Unless Joe was abusive or cruel, it’s unreasonable of Sue to expect that the rest of her family would excise him (and everyone associated with him) from their lives, especially after knowing him for 15 years. It would have been insensitive for you to, say, invite both Sue and Joe to the family cookout, but you did not violate some Universal Divorce Law by continuing to speak with him on the phone or getting together with his relatives every once in a while. If your husband is hurt and upset, you should encourage him to speak directly with his sister about what they’re both feeling, what they both want, and what they both consider to be appropriate boundaries

Deathbed Affair

Deathbed Affair

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Mallory Ortberg: “When the time shall arrive for the world to be brought to an end, that it may begin its life anew, all the forces of nature will perish in conflict with one another, the stars will be dashed together, and all the lights which now gleam in regular order in various parts of the sky will then blaze in one fire with all their fuel burning at once.” Let Seneca reach out and bless you on this strangely lit day.

Q. The husband of my husband’s mistress is dying, and I’m stuck: My husband Mike’s lifelong best friend Luke is dying of cancer. He was diagnosed 18 months ago, and he quickly became dependent on his wife Lucy’s care. Mike often pitched in too, spending the occasional night at their house and acting as a father figure to Lucy and Luke’s three young kids. I just found out that for the past year, Lucy and Mike have been having an affair. After Luke passes, Mike will divorce me and, in an appropriate amount of time, marry her.

I’m devastated and torn about what to do. Obviously telling Luke would be cruel, so I don’t plan on that—but if there’s any hope of saving my marriage, I need to act sooner than later. I don’t even know if I want to do that, and I have no idea what to do. For what it’s worth, as betrayed as I feel, I don’t think Mike or Lucy wanted this to happen.

A: It must be incredibly difficult to process the end of your marriage as well as the death of a close family friend. Your decision to spare Luke from this pain and bewilderment in the last months of his life is a good one, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make decisions about your own marriage in the meantime.

You say you want to act if there is “any hope” of saving your marriage, but you also know that Mike is already planning to marry Lucy after her husband dies. Your husband did not have a momentary lapse in judgment nor does he appear to regret getting involved with Lucy. It would be one thing if he wished to reconcile and you wished to forgive him, but by all accounts, he intends to spend the rest of his life with her. I encourage you to find a therapist you can trust to process all of this information, talk to some of your trusted friends and lean on them for support, and consult a divorce lawyer.

You don’t have to rush into anything you’re not ready to do, but you should look out for yourself. Mike and Lucy are taking care of themselves, and Luke is being cared for—make sure someone is taking care of you.

Q. You’re not invited: I’m a wedding officiant and have noticed a lot of rubbernecking at weddings. Some of the couples I marry opt for a simple elopement ceremony with a couple friends, or family members, or sometimes none at all. They pick local beautiful parks for the ceremony site, and we find a quiet corner to do the ceremony. My issue is with the people who take it upon themselves to become guests or audience members. At one wedding, people plopped down on the grass and started recording and taking photos. What was supposed to be an emotional, intimate moment for this couple turned into being looked at like zoo animals. The bride felt embarrassed about crying and getting emotional with all these people watching. I’ve also had people come up after the ceremony to gawk at the couple or to make small talk that just ends up being awkward and unnecessary. And then there are the people who stand super close to the ceremony site and end up in the photos.

I understand glancing at the ceremony as you walk by, but I can’t imagine stopping and joining in like this. I know it’s a public park but there should be at least a base sense of privacy and decency. Am I being too harsh on these rubberneckers?

A: No, that’s definitely inappropriate! In the future, since you’ve noticed this has become a pattern, you should speak to the couple getting married and ask if they want to assign a member of the wedding party to act as a (polite) bouncer. That doesn’t mean you have to start chucking Frisbees at anyone who wanders too close to the ceremony, but someone on Rubbernecking Duty could politely inform strangers taking pictures or wandering directly into the aisle that they should move on.

Q. Do I have to be a patron to be a friend?: I have a friend who’s an artist. I love hanging out with him, and he’s definitely skilled. He doesn’t have a traditional job right now because he’s trying to make his living on art, which I think is great. Problem is, he depends heavily on friends to buy his stuff and share his work on social media. I’ve commissioned him a few times and share his art sometimes. I want to support him when I can, but he always seems frustrated that people in his friend group aren’t supporting his work more. Is this something I can address? I don’t want him to resent me.

A: You’re his friend, not his employer or his mentor. It’s lousy to make your friends feel responsible for your success or failure as an artist, and if your friend resents you for not buying one of his creations every month, then he has unreasonable expectations of his friendships. That sort of pressure-filled leveraging of social relationships to make money is a killer of friendships. (Ask anyone who’s lost a loved one to an MLM company.) Counting on everyone you know personally to endlessly buy your work is not a sustainable career path for an artist.

If he tries to make you feel guilty, either directly or indirectly, for not permanently sponsoring him, you can and should push back. Tell him you love him and want him to be successful—and have often offered him financial support in the past—but you’re his friend, not Lorenzo de Medici, and he can’t hold his friends responsible for his career choices.

Q. Whether or not to have kids: I am a 41-year-old woman married to a 31-year-old man. We love each other very much. He is a warm, loyal, intelligent, and kind man. He would be an excellent father. I have been told often that I would make an excellent mother.

However, I was extremely ill for many years with an autoimmune disorder and have only recently recovered. We had originally resigned ourselves to not having kids and using our “parenting” powers by being positive examples and influences in our niece and nephew’s lives. Now that I am recovered, we have a short window of time while I am still fertile to have kids. I am scared that it will throw me into a relapse, but I also know that this is my last chance.

Both of us are on the fence. We don’t know what to do. I love my husband, and I worry that he is still so young he may wake up one day and have regrets if we don’t have children. But my body is still exhausted and I am afraid of childbirth. What is the wisest course of action?

A: Talk to your doctor. I don’t know what the odds are that getting pregnant will negatively affect your health, but you should absolutely bring up your concerns with a professional who’s familiar with your medical history and learn more about the risks you face.

Only you can decide whether the potential rewards outweigh the risks, or whether parenting without having biological children is an option for you, and you should gather as much information as possible before making any calls. It’s possible to have a good, happy life both with and without children.

If it’s at all helpful, I think it’s better to make a decision about this based on your current health, abilities, and desires rather than the possibility that someday your younger husband might have regrets. You can’t live in that possible future. You can only live the life you have now.

Q. Wine whine: About two years ago, I started brewing wine as a hobby. I’ve gotten decent at it and have been giving bottles out as gifts for about a year now. Recently, on Facebook, a cousin was talking about his struggle with alcoholism. I sent him a bottle as a wedding gift months ago! I truly had no idea! Now I’m not sure if I should apologize to him, and I’m also not sure about future wine gifts. Should I clear this kind of gift before sending? Not send the wine at all? I’m really not sure here.

A: You did not do anything wrong! Get in touch with your cousin and tell him you’re proud of him for his honesty and that he has your support. Don’t send him any more wine. Continue to send wine to other people in your life.

Q. Office romantic: Is it ever a good idea to date a co-worker? Right now, it’s just a little crush. We don’t work in the same department and barely interact on a work basis just to have lunch together. (I work for corporate and he works for the branch location, but we’re in the same office.) Even so, friends have said don’t do it because we are in the same office. Like I said, it’s just a crush, so I have no idea if he is even interested in me. There’s no policy against it in my company and I’ve seen others enter relationships. Because of that I’ve seen a lot of awkward aftermath.

This is my first job out of college, I’m not sure what the norm is. Is it ever a good idea to date where you work, or should I just keep fantasizing?

A: It definitely happens; that’s part of why so many companies have specific policies about disclosing romantic relationships to HR and ensuring they won’t interfere with the chain of command. There’s certainly a higher potential for pain and embarrassment if things don’t work out, but depending on the type of office you work in, you might become quite close with your co-workers and get to know them extremely well, which can make getting into a relationship look a lot more appealing. It doesn’t sound like you two are anywhere near asking each other out, so feel free to enjoy this for what it is—a crush on someone you see around the office every once in a while.

If anyone has dated a co-worker and wants to share their experience, for good or for ill, feel free to make a recommendation in the comments.

Q: Re: The husband of my husband’s mistress is dying, and I’m stuck: You need to ask the wife of the cheating husband if she has kids. I think that’s important to how you answer.

Mallory: Whether or not they have children together will certainly affect how things go from here, but at a certain point, the fact that her husband already has plans to marry his mistress after her husband’s death trumps all. If he’s already organizing his next marriage in light of his best friend’s impending death, then reminding him that they have children together isn’t likely to change his mind.

Q. Should I continue this friendship?: “Katie” has been my best friend for five years. I have enjoyed being friends with her, but she tends to be overly critical of people she’s close to. For example, she’s criticized facets of my appearance, my decision to date certain guys, and even my choice of program for a postgraduate degree.

We now live in different cities and hadn’t seen each other in months until we took a trip together recently. During the trip, all of my previous frustrations with her came up, and we had some pretty big arguments. I realized I did not care to be her friend anymore.

Since I’ve been back from the trip, I have been trying to slowly fade out from the friendship. However, I feel guilty because I don’t want to abandon our friendship, especially without first having a conversation with her. I don’t know if a conversation would be very productive though because before when I’ve tried to tell her she’s being too critical, she has said that as a friend, she has the right to tell me her honest opinion on my life and choices.

I also know that she’s currently having a hard time with different things in her life, and I don’t want to make her feel even more isolated. But I’m still pretty hurt from the things she said on our trip. I have been in therapy for a while dealing with my tendency to let people treat me badly in relationships, so I don’t want to go back on that work by letting her continue to be a critical presence in my life.

Should I continue to be friends with her? Should I have a conversation with her about my feelings or continue the slow fade out?

A: You’ve already had multiple conversations about this topic, and they’ve turned into arguments where Katie has reaffirmed her commitment to criticizing you under the guise of friendship. It can be important, albeit painful, when a good friend suggests one needs to re-examine one’s behavior or choices, but that’s not the same thing as tearing down someone else’s appearance or career choices.

I think it’s worth telling her that you need a break from talking for a while and that you’re not looking for constant criticism from your friends. If she sees that as an integral component of the very nature of friendship, it may simply be impossible for the two of you to continue as you are. If she demonstrates any ability to hear your point of view, or a desire to slightly modify her relationship to censure, then you might be able to find a way forward after a time. If she doesn’t, then you’ll know you didn’t just give up on her without trying.

Q. Re: The husband of my husband’s mistress is dying, and I’m stuck: I say this as a mistress of a married man myself (just mentioning for context, and I can sympathize with your husband, Lucy, and Luke), but you need to think of yourself here. If your goal is to fight for your marriage, go nuclear. Tell Luke despite the pain it will cause. Blow this thing up. It might already be too late, but you will know you tried.

Q. Eclipse: Should I stare directly at it? I’m torn.

A: I want to look at it directly more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life. I finally understand Lot’s wife. But, you know. Don’t.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!





‘Two Supermodels and a Baby’: Cindy Crawford and ‘Auntie’ Naomi Campbell Take Milan Fashion Week with Kaia Gerber

‘Two Supermodels and a Baby’: Cindy Crawford and ‘Auntie’ Naomi Campbell Take Milan Fashion Week with Kaia Gerber

by Karen Mizoguchi @

Kaia Gerber is undoubtedly fashion’s breakout star but her mom Cindy Crawford and “auntie” Naomi Campbell have well-established fame and worldwide renown bestowed on them since the late 1980s and 1990s.

The two supermodels cuddled up with the 16-year-old fashion It girl for British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful during Milan Fashion Week on Thursday.

“Two supermodels and a baby… breakout star of Fashion Week @kaiagerber, mum supermodel @cindycrawford and auntie @iamnaomicampbell at dinner in Milan. Xoxo,” Enninful captioned a photo of the trio.

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Milan Fashion Week only kicked off yesterday but Gerber has already walked in three shows: Fendi, Prada and Moschino.

RELATED LINK: 16 Major Model Milestones Kaia Gerber Can Already Cross Off Her List

Impressively, Gerber opened the Fendi show wearing bold stripes and an edgy silhouette that cinched at the waist. Not to mention the bold blue bangs that accented a sleek ponytail.

“@prada… a huge goal of mine and I cannot tell you how honored I am to have been included in this incredible show,” the daughter of Rande Gerber said on Instagram.

Also on Wednesday, Crawford, 51, played tour guide to her mini-me daughter around Milan along with fellow up-and-coming model Cayley King.

“So much fun showing these girls around Milano! The next generation,” the mother of two wrote along with a selfie of the group in front of the Porta Sempione.

Food Fight

Food Fight

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Q. Break up over veggies: I was raised by my grandparents in Appalachia. There was an outdoor toilet, and hunting and food stamps made up a huge percentage of our meals. I have eaten squirrel and know how to sew, knit, can, and garden by sheer necessity. I got a scholarship to school and ended up very gay and very politically blue.

My long-term lover was born in California to very upscale gay parents. She has never wanted for anything in her life, and I consider her one of the best people I know. She has been trying to go vegan for a while now. I don’t mind the dietary restrictions, but we keep arguing over ethics. I find them holier-than-thou and rooted in a smug, classist outlook. She thinks eating meat is murder.

This topic is a thorn in the side of our relationship. I’ll point out that increased demand for quinoa from upscale Americans has damaged local South American economies; she’ll send me upsetting PETA videos. Otherwise we work out beautifully—sexually, spiritually, and mentally.

We have been getting serious until this, and we both want kids. It is a big deal to me to be able to teach my children how to hunt, fish, and survive off the land. My grandparents died a few years ago, and I want their legacy to live on.

I don’t think marriage counseling is going to solve this, but I really do love her. Do you think we can resolve this problem?

A: First, the bad news: I don’t think I have a better sense of whether this relationship can work out than you and your partner do. I can tell you that, based on what I’ve seen from other couples (and what I’ve learned in writing this column for nigh-on two years), differences of opinion about how to raise children tend to get more important over time, not less.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for two people with extremely different dietary outlooks to start a family together, but you two can’t possibly move forward as you are now. Repeatedly sending you slaughterhouse videos in lieu of having a difficult, honest conversation is not a great choice on your partner’s part, regardless of how strongly she feels about meat-eating. Telling your partner that you believe her vegan convictions are solely the result of having had a relatively easy childhood is not a terrific choice on yours, either.

Whether or not you two seek out a counselor for help mediating this conversation, I think the most important next step is to figure out how you can talk about food and children in a way that is not rooted in contempt and antagonism. Can you both accept that the other is a fundamentally good person who is attempting to live a valuable, self-sufficient, moral life to the best of her ability, in accordance to her own values? Can either of you imagine a possible compromise when it comes to raising children—for example, eating primarily vegetarian meals at home except for what you have hunted or fished yourselves?

I can’t answer those questions for you, but I think it’s worth at least trying to resolve this together. If after all your best efforts you still think the other is being fundamentally unreasonable, you may have to part ways and find partners with more compatible views on child-rearing. But it’s worth fighting for what you have first.

Q. Night-shift roommate: At the beginning of the summer, my roommate got a job working the night shift. We talked about the situation well in advance of his start date, and I agreed to be quiet and conscientious in common areas during the day in order to let him sleep. My roommate has a short temper, and in the year we’ve been living together, he’s handled conflicts aggressively—swearing at me, breaking my dishes, and removing furniture from common areas without first asking me. I was worried that the stress of working the night shift would only exacerbate his anger issues, and that appears to be the case.

While I’ve taken extreme care to avoid even being in common areas during the day, he’s reacted to even the slightest sounds with a lot of hostility. He’s sent angry, all-caps messages, he’s slammed doors in front of me, and he’s screamed at me to shut up when I’m working or eating quietly in common areas. This is only a temporary job, but I think the issues here run deeper, and I think it may be time for us to stop living together.

I love my apartment, I love my neighborhood, and I don’t have the resources to move out right now. I also don’t want to put my roommate in an unsafe or financially precarious position—or make him even angrier!—by asking him to move out. We’re both on the lease for another year. Should I try to resolve the situation and ask him to be less hostile, or should I just bite the bullet and try to navigate a moving-out discussion?

A: It is definitely time for you two to stop living together. There’s no maybe about it. The issue here is not whether your roommate is getting enough sleep (which I’m very much in favor of!); the issue here is that your roommate has a violent temper and makes no attempt to curb his outbursts.

Figure out what you need to do in order for moving out to be financially viable, and start taking steps to find your own replacement on the lease. If you have a friendly relationship with your landlord, ask him or her about what options you have short of breaking the lease early.

In the meantime, if you have any friends or family you can stay with while you figure this out, I urge you to do so. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it must be for you to live around someone who might fly off the handle and start screaming and breaking things if you cough in the living room. Of course you can also try to ask him to curb his rages, but something tells me that if he thinks breaking your dishes and screaming curses at you is a reasonable response to ordinary roommate conflict, he’s not going to listen.

Your best, and safest, option is to start planning your exit.

Q. Re: Night-shift roommate: Please! If this were a marriage or romantic partnership, this would be considered domestic violence, and we would be telling you to get out of there now. You have no emotional involvement of that sort. Please just get out of there. Maybe crash on someone’s sofa for a few weeks and pay a last month’s rent to help the guy out.

Otherwise, please don’t worry about “putting my roommate in an unsafe or financially precarious position.” He put himself there! You can’t make him not get angry. He is angry. That is his personality and also his tactic.

Please, please pack your things and get out of there now! He has already shown that he gets physical in anger. He could hurt you and might!

A: Right, the roommate’s financial situation should be the very least of the letter writer’s concerns. Since they’re worried about their own financial burden, they should contact the local tenant’s rights organization. Since they’re on the lease too, it won’t be as simple as paying “last month’s rent” in order to get out of the contract, but that doesn’t mean the only option is to stick it out for another year of walking on eggshells.

Q. Baby uncle: My dad and his second (much younger) wife are about to have a baby boy, just about a month after I had my second child. I’m really happy for them and glad my new son will have a relative his age. However, it turns out my dad and stepmom fully expect my kids to call the new baby “Uncle X.”

I think this is ridiculous. They’re older than him, and he’s a baby. When I expressed this to my dad, he said it would be disrespectful for the kids not to call his son that, regardless of age.

Who’s right?

A: Sometimes a situation does not have a clear right side and wrong side! (Those are the worst situations. I’m so sorry.)

If your father expected your children to treat his as-yet unborn son as some sort of elder authority, we might be having a different conversation. But if all he wants is for you and your family to refer to his kid as your kids’ uncle, I think it’s worth humoring him. It’s technically true!

That said, it’s possible your father is insisting your kids refer to his son as “Uncle Fortescue” instead of his given name at all times, even when they’re playing together, which would be more than a little ridiculous and almost impossible to enforce. You can certainly introduce your kids to their new uncle by his title, and say things like, “Look! Uncle Fortescue just rolled over. How exciting for Uncle Fortescue,” but odds are excellent that by the time all your kids are in the 2- to 5-year-old range, little Uncle Fortescue is not going to be interested in demanding he be addressed by his full title. And you certainly shouldn’t go out of your way to correct a group of toddlers playing together and using one another’s given names.

Q. Can I ask my friend-with-benefits for sex?: I’m just going to begin my question by acknowledging that the relationship I’m about to describe is a little unconventional. I’m in my late 20s; the guy I’m seeing is in his mid-40s. We’re not in a relationship, though we’ve been exclusively intimate for about two years. We’re also very good friends. He’s extremely supportive of my life, family, and career, and vice versa. We consider ourselves friends with benefits, which, despite all the horror stories, is a label that mostly works for us.

But here is my problem: It’s been a little over a month since we’ve seen one another (we live about two hours apart and each have a young child), and I’m starting to get an ... itch. I’ve inquired a few times about getting together, but he’s been busy with work, and I obviously want to respect that. Is it reasonable to call him up and just say point-blank, “Hey, I need sex. Can we figure this out?” Or is that pushy and obnoxious?

I realize I could inquire with different men, but I honor the monogamous aspect of our relationship and would hate to screw it up over something trivial. Except that this isn’t trivial; the itch is real, and I don’t mean in a “Well, maybe you should try masturbating” way. Am I being crazy?

A: First things first: It is not “crazy” to ask someone you are having sex with to have sex with you. It is perhaps the least surprising thing you could ask for, given your arrangement.

Ask for sex point-blank! Why on earth would you consider it pushy? It’s not pushy to stand in line at Starbucks and order coffee. One naturally follows the other! It would be pushy to order a coffee after closing time or to leap across the bar and demand the barista ignore every other customer in order to make your drink first. But you’re not suggesting anything remotely close to that.

You’ve been sleeping with this guy for two years, consider him a friend, and call him “extremely supportive.” Why are you so afraid to ask him to have sex with you?

Q. Re: Night-shift roommate: In some states a domestic violence situation requires that the landlord let a threatened lessee out of a lease. Not sure if the letter writer’s situation would apply, but he or she should consult an attorney.

A: That’s a helpful point and worth investigating! I think the letter writer should take any and all help available to get away from this guy.

Q. Unrequited for now?: I admit I have a crush on a close friend of mine.

He and I started hanging out this past semester, but we spent almost every day together because of classes. We have the same interests, and he’s every bit as compassionate, cute, smart, and funny as one can hope for.

About two weeks into our friendship, though, I made a small comment that accidentally revealed my crush. He knew about my huge breakup from a year before but not much else about me, so he politely declined. Fast-forward seven months, we talk every day, and my crush is worse. Half of me wants to abandon it completely because he’s already declined. The other half thinks if he gets to know me better, he’ll find something he likes about me and there’s still hope.

We’re entering our last semester together, and I need advice on what to do before I end up asking him out at graduation.

A: If you two have spent the past seven months talking every day, I’d wager your crush already knows you pretty well. He has been given sufficient information and can make an informed decision as to whether he likes you as more than a friend!

Since the first time you asked him out was so early on in your acquaintance, I think it’s fine to ask once more. But why wait until graduation? At this point, I think any delay would have more to do with self-preservation than a genuine desire for him to “get to know you better,” since you’re already fairly close. If he doesn’t want to go out with you now, then it’s better to know so you can put your crush to bed and try to move on. If he does, congratulations! Have a great time on your date!

Q. His ex lives with us: My husband was married briefly in his early 20s, and the divorce was amicable. We are now in our early 40s and dealing with both elderly parents, downsizing, and a disabled child. When my husband’s ex asked if she could stay in our house while looking for real estate, we both happily agreed. “Mila” is a lifesaver. I can’t tell you how nice it is to come home to a hot meal and a clean house after a 12-hour shift, picking up a grumpy child, and taking my parents grocery shopping. We have additional income now and have been able go on actual date nights!

Mila has no family except an estranged brother. When she offered to move out, my husband and I both asked her to stay at least for another year. She can save her money and wait for a better real estate market and we all can live together happily.

My personal family is happy with this; my extended one is not. My siblings contribute very little to our parents’ care but are perfectly happy to gossip about me and pass it off to our parents. I nearly slapped my sister for accusing me of letting my husband move his mistress in. I told her Mila has done more for our parents than she did in the last 10 years (unless it was to beg money from them).

This is the only sour note in what has turned to be a new song in our lives. How do I stop them from spoiling it?

A: Congratulations on what sounds like the most delightful, difficult-to-achieve living arrangement of all time! I hope Mila is enjoying the arrangement as much as you and your husband are and that you two have enthusiastically shown your appreciation for all that she does around the house, as well as made sure she gets some time to herself.

You’ve already explained to your siblings that there’s nothing sexual or romantic going on between the three of you and that while your roommate situation might be unorthodox, it works for you and makes you happy. If they can’t or won’t accept that explanation, feel free to say (as often as necessary): “We’re very happy living with Mila, and I’m not going to discuss it any further.” If this means you end up spending less time talking to your siblings—frankly, that sounds like a bonus.

Mallory Ortberg: Yes, there’s that upturned chin and that grin of impetuous youth. I believe in you. See you next week.

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

Why the Lesbian Classic Desert Hearts Is Still Radical, a Quarter-Century Later

Why the Lesbian Classic Desert Hearts Is Still Radical, a Quarter-Century Later

by Sarah Fonseca @ Slate Articles

One of the most talked-about queer films of the year is as hot as its setting. It also happens to be more than 25 years old. In Desert Hearts, Donna Deitch’s 1985 lesbian classic that’s currently enjoying a rerelease and select showing across the country, prim and proper Columbia University professor Vivian Bell takes a train into the shadow of the Sierra Nevadas in 1959. While plenty of people head to the Silver State to get gunshot-married, Vivian is there to get gunshot-annulled. But before she can set her American Tourister suitcase down, Cay, an expelled undergrad-turned-maverick casino gal, puts her black convertible in reverse on a dangerous strip of highway to say hello. A life-altering collision is imminent. Sparks fly.

The Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, a partnership between the Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival and the Bruin’s Film & Television Archive that works to preserve “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender moving images at risk of becoming lost due to deterioration and neglect,” is largely responsible for Desert Hearts’ renaissance. The Project’s other restorations include The Watermelon Woman, Cheryl Dunye’s seminal meta-feature about cinema and Black queer representation, and Mona’s Candle Light, grainy yet heart-stopping footage of a mid-century lesbian bar that’s not too far removed from Vivian and Cay’s story.

Laura Karpman first saw Desert Hearts while a graduate student at Juilliard. Now an accomplished film composer (Underground, Paris Can Wait) and Motion Picture Academy Governor, she keenly remembers the experience of that first viewing.

“It was life-changing,” Karpman says. “I was living with a woman, but we were both kind of in the closet. I saw it with her. I remember wearing tight Guess jeans. It was the first time I had ever seen anything like that. I almost had to look away and yet I couldn’t stop watching.”

For Karpman, that paradox is a sign that a movie was groundbreaking. “As we look to really bring equality to Hollywood, we see how important it is to see images of ourselves on the screen. Recently when I saw Wonder Woman, I had the same reaction: I didn’t know how much I needed to see what I saw.”

“I think it’s great that people are preserving feature-length narratives like Desert Hearts,” New York-based filmmaker Jim Hubbard (United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, 2012) says. “There’s a huge amount of our history that’s either sitting and waiting to be preserved or quickly deteriorating, depending on the way you look at it.”

Hubbard, whose passion for experimental and grassroots documentary spans 25 years, co-founded MIX: The New York Queer Experimental Film Festival in 1987. Now prepping for its 30th edition, MIX has championed preservation since the beginning and has begun actively salvaging queer work, starting with work by Marguerite Paris (1934–2007). Paris’ filmography includes All Women Are Equal (1972), a touching interview with an older trans woman that Hubbard says is “one of the first, if not the first, interview with a trans person.”

By also securing distribution through Janus Films and The Criterion Collection, Desert Hearts’ reach now extends beyond LGBTQ cult classic aficionados and into the realm of cinephiles. Over its 33-year history, Criterion has cherry-picked a handful of queer-interest titles, including David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, and Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy. Deitch’s first and only film is in good, and ideally growing, company.

At a recent premiere event at New York’s IFC Center, Deitch, Helen Shaver (Vivian), and Patricia Charbonneau (Cay) underlined the importance of the rerelease by noting how the film almost didn’t exist in the first place. As Donna Deitch’s adaptation of Jane Rule’s 1964 novel emerged, so did the AIDS crisis, the Reagan administration, and a new wave of American homophobia. After spending more than two years fundraising for the film, Deitch found casting to be a hurdle of its own: While being “gay for pay” today often draws acclaim from the Academy and ire from queer spectators, it came with its share of real risk for actors during Charbonneau and Shaver’s era.

“It terrified me and I didn’t look at the script for three days,” Shaver admitted. One of her agents, a gay Canadian, strongly suggested that she not pursue the role of Vivian. “I hope you enjoy it because it will be your first and only film,” Shaver was told.

The furthest thing from a star vehicle, Desert Hearts required guerilla promotion tactics; Deitch herself flyered the cinema in advance of the film. An unsavory early review from the New York Times’ critic Vincent Canby didn’t help matters: His most encouraging remark was that Charbonneau’s standout performance was merely “OK.”

The love that dare not speak its name, while not explicitly addressed in Canby’s review, may have played a role in his aversion. Desert Hearts wasn’t the first film to feature a lesbian love scene, let alone a lesbian love scene orchestrated by female creatives. (Prior depictions of note include Radley Metzger’s adaptation of Violette Leduc’s Therese and Isabelle (1968), Chantal Akerman’s Je Tu Il Elle (1974), Robert Towne’s Personal Best (1982), and an often-forgotten moment between Jodie Foster and Nastassja Kinski in Tony Richardson’s Hotel New Hampshire (1984).) What Desert Hearts was, though, was simultaneously heartbreaking and unbearably erotic.

“The most important thing for me was to tie the emotional and the sexual together,” Deitch said of lesbian desire in the film. “That was a journey that hadn’t been taken before.”

The film’s love scene, shot on the 30th day of a 31-day film shoot, takes place in Vivian’s hotel room overlooking Reno’s commercial district. Desert Hearts is saturated with twangy songs—Cash, Cline, and Presley—but this moment is utterly silent save for the trains outside that chug along like an accelerating heartbeat. While new audiences now find melodrama in some of the film’s more intense moments (see: a scene where Vivian gracefully dismisses a fellow boarder’s gay panic-driven suspicions) given modern advancements in gay and lesbian rights, I still find myself, like Karpman, attempting—and failing—to avert my eyes during this moment of intimacy. All these years later, depictions that can compete with Desert Hearts’ lesbian sex scene can be counted on two hands.

This moving image of two women sharing a strand of saliva premiered the same day that the New York Times recklessly speculated that women could transmit AIDS. Yet honest filmmaking and Xerox marketing actually made a dent in the homophobia of the era: Desert Hearts came mere tickets away from breaking the theater’s box office records and became, according to Deitch, revered as a “Canby Buster” —a film that, despite his criticism, would be destined to stand the test of time.

Desert Hearts’ fans and stars both agree.

“It’s a fucking radical act, this movie,” the moderator of the movie’s IFC Center premiere observed.

“It is a fucking radical act,” acknowledged Charbonneau.

With the help of Criterion and Janus’ release, new generations of queers and cinephiles now get to see where it all began.

Her Father’s Past

Her Father’s Past

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Mallory Ortberg: Good morning, my tender darlings. I have spent the last week in a cave contemplating mystery and meaning ever since I read that maid of honor letter. Let’s try again today.

Q. Beat not broken: Many years ago I was married to an emotionally and physically abusive man. It was a dark time but we did produce a beautiful little girl together. I ended up finding the courage to leave him. He never harmed our daughter and due to state laws we still share custody of our daughter. I am always hyperaware of her interactions with her father, which for the moment are good.

How do I teach my daughter about violence in relationships without also talking about this history? I don’t want to damage her relationship with her dad, but it’s important to talk about. My family hates his guts and thinks I should start talking with her in age-appropriate ways (she’s 10). What are your thoughts?

A: I don’t have a great deal of specific ideas, and I welcome input from readers who have been in a similar situation. I think your watchword should be to proceed carefully. Check in with a therapist specializing in family therapy and recovering from physical abuse before initiating conversations, and make sure that your daughter is able to see a child therapist to help her process what she eventually learns about her father. Whatever your family wants you to do, if they’re motivated purely by animus toward your ex, then I think you should put their opinions to the side.

You’re her mother, and it sounds like you’ve balanced courage with empathy just beautifully so far, so check in with your own sense of judgment. What are your goals for your daughter? What do you want to make sure she understands, what do you want to facilitate for her? Making sure she knows what she needs to know (but not so many details that would make her feel overwhelmed, frightened, or out of control) should be your primary goal. Ask yourself what you would do if your daughter told you she didn’t want to see her father anymore, or if she asked him about what you’d told her, and how you’d want to want to handle those possibilities. It’s important for your daughter to know what physical and emotional abuse can look like, that no one deserves to be treated that way, and that she’s loved and safe. You can certainly start by talking about those general topics with her now, while waiting to share the specifics about why you had to leave her father until you feel like she’s ready to hear them.

Q. When to say something?: I recently took a trip with a group of friends. While I was there, my friend got worryingly drunk two nights in a row (couldn’t speak or walk, had to be led to bed). One of those nights she also confided in me about an eating disorder. Her husband was with us and witnessed all the worrying behavior but didn’t seem concerned.

I reached out after the trip to say that I was there for her and recommended she may want to look into counseling for the eating disorder. She totally shut me down and said she’s fine. Do I keep trying? I am very worried about her.

A: You can’t force her to have a conversation she’s not ready to have, but this is worrying enough to merit a follow-up. “I know you said you’re fine, but I also saw you get worryingly drunk and you tried to talk to me about having an eating disorder. I don’t want you to feel embarrassed or self-conscious, but I think you should talk to someone else about this, and I think you deserve to get help and to be well. I’m not going to force the issue, but if you ever want to talk about this confidentially, I’m always available.” If she brushes you off, that can’t be helped, but at the very least you’ll have let her know you’re ready whenever she is.

Q. Don’t want a ticket for the guilt trip: I’m having some difficulty with my mother. I’ve recently taken steps away from her and my father as my way of dealing with their drinking problems. I’ve made it clear that I am still willing to talk to them on the phone, have them come visit me (where I can control their access to alcohol in my home), go out for lunch, etc., but I’m not going to visit them where they might be drinking.

My mother has decided that this means I am punishing her and refusing to have a relationship with her. To complicate matters further, she feels that any steps toward a stronger relationship have to be made by me, with no effort on her part. I would have to call her, set lunch dates, visit, etc. She’s started in the last few months to try to guilt trip me into more of a relationship with her than I’ve told her I’m willing to have at this point in time.

I want to tell my mother that her attempts at emotionally manipulating me just make me want to pull even further away, but I know that wouldn’t be effective. Any advice?

A: Pull even further away from your mother and have less to do with her. Spend the time you’re not spending managing her emotions and reactions on seeing a therapist, attending a support group for the adult children of alcoholics, or going to Al-Anon meetings. You say that telling your mother her manipulations make you want to pull away further “wouldn’t be effective,” but there’s an implied end to that sentence—namely, it “wouldn’t be effective” in either getting her to agree with your point of view or getting her to change. That can’t, and shouldn’t be, your goal. It would be very effective if your goal were “to tell your mother what you are no longer willing to do for her,” and to decide to take a step back from your relationship. If she gets angry or tries to manipulate you further upon hearing this, that’s not a sign you’ve said something wrong—it’s a sign that you’re making the right decision.

Q. Wedding gift olive branch: I just learned that an old friend from high school and college got married this weekend, and I’d like to send a gift. The problem is she stopped talking to me after we graduated from college, even going so far as to unfriend me on Facebook.

We used to hang out fairly frequently, but I wasn’t very fond of her boyfriend—now husband—in college, and a mutual friend told her about some not-so-nice things I said about him. I’m not sure if that was the inciting incident that severed our friendship, but she did stop responding to me suddenly around that time. (The last I heard from her was a nice note to my husband and I about not being able to attend our wedding).

I feel awful that the things I said could have hurt her so much, but I am truly happy that she has married someone she really loves. Is it worth sending a gift to help communicate that I still care about her happiness, or could it be I’m sending a gift simply to make myself feel better?

A: The fact that you spoke critically about her then-boyfriend, now-husband is very clearly the inciting incident, given that your friend stopped talking to you immediately after finding out what you said. If what you want is to apologize and mend fences with your former friend (assuming you don’t think her husband is a danger to her or others), then you should reach out with an apology and make it clear that she’s under no obligation to respond to you if she’s not interested. But you two need to have a conversation if you’re ever going to reconnect, not Fiestaware.

Q. Re: Beat not broken: I’m a child psychologist. Talk to your daughter about how she deserves to be valued and treated with respect in a relationship. Ask her about people who make her feel good and why they make her feel that way, and incorporate her ideas into the multiple discussions you’ll have with her. Give her warning signals that a potential partner may not be good for her (controlling, treats her unkindly, doesn’t listen) and let her know that if anyone pushes or hits her, she should tell you as that is not a healthy relationship. Don’t sit her down for the conversation as much as have bits and pieces of the discussion when you’re driving in a car, watching TV, or if you can fit a point organically into another conversation. Comment on heathy and unhealthy relationships you see on TV and get her opinion so you can see where her head is at. Such conversations can also entail friendship respect as fifth and sixth grades are when most bullying occurs. Most of all, model healthy relationships for her. You don’t need to mention yourself or your history (thumbs up for realizing this).

A: These are such great, specific, concrete steps the letter-writer can take (and probably all parents). Thanks for this.

Q. Little red hen: I have a pretty stressful job and like to spend time gardening after work to decompress. After years of my partner offering to help out in the garden, and years of my partner not following through when I’ve needed help, I’ve decided to let parts of it go while focusing on growing a few things that I like. My partner says that it’s become an eyesore and I need to clean it up. They would also like me to grow things that they enjoy. The last time I did that, they bought from the store and let the food in the garden rot. (They said it was my fault for not harvesting it, even after I told them it was ready in the garden.)

Since my partner doesn’t help and only gives me grief, I believe I should be able to grow what I want in the garden. Am I being selfish?

A: Unless you’ve got Children of the Corn–style cornstalks blocking the sun, you have my blessing to no longer accept input from your nongardening partner about the state of your garden. If the overgrown sections of the garden are turning into an eyesore, consider adding a pruning day to your schedule in the near future, but you’re not a plant DJ—you don’t have to take requests.

Q. Re: Don’t want a ticket for the guilt trip: Please go to Al-Anon. This is a long-term problem that will escalate as the alcoholic in your life sees that she is losing her ability to control you. Al-Anon is not therapy, although that is useful too. It is a community of people who grew up in or are somehow involved with people with addiction. Setting boundaries is an important first step, but getting the ongoing support of a group of people who truly understand the issues of growing up with alcoholism is key to changing this relationship and holding your ground. At least it was for me. Al-Anon is free, supportive, and readily available in most places, or by phone meeting. It has become my family of choice when my family of origin was not an option.

A: That’s a great plug—it can only help for the letter-writer to meet other people in the exact same situation and draw succor from their experience, strength, and hope. If the letter writer would prefer a secular alternative, since there is a spiritual (although not strictly dogmatic) component to Al-Anon, they might also want to check out Harm Less or SMART Recovery’s Family and Friends program. If any other readers have experience with other secular/agnostic/atheist alternatives to Al-Anon, please let us know in the comments and I’ll boost those, too.

Q. Missing my friends: How can I repair long-term friendships after taking some time off? I live on the other side of the country from my core friend base and was not always front and center on a lot of things. I wasn’t avoiding them, just needed time to get settled in a new city and a new job. Now I feel like I’m not really a part of their world anymore.

Any suggestions on how to repair or rebuild these friendships? Trying to Skype or Gchat hasn’t always been fruitful.

A: Ask them! “I know I haven’t been very available for the last few months while I was adjusting to my new job, but I’ve missed you. Now that I’m more settled in, I’d love to catch up and hear more about what’s going on with you. When are you free?”

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

Found and Lost

Found and Lost

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week by signing up in the box below. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online here on Slate to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Dear Prudence,

This spring I found my biological father and his family for the first time. The man I thought was my father died when I was 13, and he obviously preferred my half-brothers to me. I also didn’t get along with my stepfather when my mother remarried when I was a teenager. When I was 19, I went through some of my mother’s papers and found my real father’s name. I found him, and he and his wife were both wonderful. My father told me that he dated my mother long ago, but after she left, she lied to him about me. A DNA test confirmed we’re related, but my mother continued to lie to me after I confronted her with the truth. She finally admitted it but accused me of invading her privacy and going “behind her back.” She asked me to lie to my brothers, but I refused.

I moved out. I refused to stop seeing my new family, even though my mother told me I was embarrassing her. I see my father, stepmother, and sisters regularly. It is such a relief to have them in my life. My father has offered to pay for my school, and my stepmother has invited me for the holidays—they are welcoming, warm, and kind to me. Now I don’t know how to forgive my mother. She keeps lying and saying she did what she thought was best for me and that my stepfather loved me like I was “his own.” When I tell her how cold he always was to me, she tells me I am remembering wrong. I miss my brothers, but I can’t see my mother without seeing red. She wants to play pretend again, and I won’t do it, but I don’t know what to do.

—Lying Mother

You get to keep taking as much time and space as you need. Try to remember that you have only very recently, and at a very young age, learned a life-altering truth about your own family. If your school offers counseling services to students, take advantage of it and see a therapist. Anger is a completely appropriate response to what you’re going through, so give yourself permission to be angry for a while. If your mother pushes you to agree that she acted in your best interests, refuse. If you keep your mother at arm’s length for a while, especially if she continues to insist that your childhood was a happy one and ignore the very real hurt that she’s caused you, then you should do that without guilt or hesitation. If your brothers still live with your mother, you can let them know that you love them and miss them. Call, text, or email them—keep in touch in whichever way doesn’t require you to go through your mother. Continue to cultivate a relationship with your father and his side of the family as you make up for lost time. You don’t have to do anything right now besides focus on going to school and doing what you need to do in order to take care of yourself.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

My husband died unexpectedly a week ago, shortly after I discovered he’d been having an affair with his boss, “Laura.” I never got the chance to confront him about it, and my grieving process has been complicated by my sense of betrayal and because I’ll never get the answers I’m desperate for. I’m focusing on caring for my two young children. Laura began a fundraising campaign without consulting me, not that I would have taken a call from her in the first place. I can’t deal with her now or ever, although I’m not in a position to turn down money. I also don’t want her at the funeral. What’s the most concise way to excise this person (who begged my husband to leave me) from my life?

—Mistress Won’t Leave Me Alone

What a jarring and destabilizing one-two punch. I’m so sorry for both of your losses and that one followed so quickly on the heels of the other. If you can’t turn down the money but don’t appreciate collecting it from your husband’s mistress, consider asking a trusted friend (possibly someone else at your husband’s office) to take over the administration of the funds on your behalf and to act as a buffer in case Laura tries to get in touch with you. If even that sounds like too much interaction, you can also set up your own request for donations—you never agreed to Laura’s arrangement and are perfectly free to set up an official funeral fund, since you’re the one who’s actually going to be paying for it.

When it comes to the ceremony itself, you can speak to the funeral director or clergyperson (if applicable) beforehand about how best to handle the situation. Odds are this won’t be the first time something like this has come up, and he or she will be able to help you prevent a graveside scene with tact and discretion.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

One of my colleagues, “Amanda,” recently left our company. Amanda and I worked closely over the past few months, as I’m relatively new to this position. “Rachel,” our manager, said that she thinks I’d be a good replacement and that Amanda had herself suggested me before she left. Rachel emphasized that I shouldn’t feel pressure to accept, that the position wasn’t even posted yet, but that I should think about it; I said I appreciated it and wanted to discuss the idea further. She said it was a role they had made specifically for Amanda and that the position could be reshaped.

The problem is that Amanda was almost always the first one in and the last one out. Other colleagues have said things like, “It was only a matter of time before she burned out” and joked that I’m “smiling now” but won’t be once I’m staying at the office every night until 9 p.m. I’ve already been given a lot of Amanda’s old tasks while we search for her replacement, and it’s become clear that a lot of her time was taken up by project management (as opposed to the creative title in her job description). The good news is that we’ve recently hired a new director, and they are looking to add a project manager.

What is an appropriate way and time to bring up my many concerns about Amanda’s workload? Should I do that with Rachel, the new director, both together, or both separately? Additionally, I’m not sure that this is an official promotion, since both Amanda and I reported to the same person. What’s the best way (and time) to discuss a raise? I don’t want to seem presumptuous, since it’s not like I have the job already. I want to create a document that lists some of the pain points in the new position and a corresponding list of solutions I propose. However, is that information I should only present once I have the job?

—Jumping the Gun

Since you’ve already been given a significant portion of Amanda’s former workload, the time to bring up those concerns is now. It sometimes happens at work that one absorbs extra duties after a colleague leaves, and it’s often an opportunity to demonstrate new skills, but it can also be overwhelming and get in the way of one’s own job description. Get a sense for how much time each day you’re spending on your own work as well as Amanda’s, present the breakdown to Rachel, and ask what she wants you to prioritize. It’s fine to want to spend a little more time at work to prove yourself, but you shouldn’t get in the habit of staying at the office until 9 every night.

As for the rest of your concerns, I think it’s best to wait until the job is actually posted and you’ve decided to apply before bringing them up. If at any point Rachel or the new director asks for your input (given that Rachel’s encouraged you to apply and has stressed the flexible nature of the position, I think that’s fairly likely), you can share your list of problems you’ve identified and their corresponding solutions. Once the opening is posted, ask yourself if the job description seems reasonable, well-defined, and suited to your professional interests. And if you decide to apply, do some research about the compensation other companies offer for similar positions, decide what you think would be a reasonable amount of money to ask for, then bring that up during the interview process. Good luck!

* * *

Dear Prudence: Yes, I survived cancer, but can we please stop talking about my hair?

Hear more Prudie at

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I just found out my brother-in-law is a racial separatist. I knew he was a big Trump supporter but didn’t know why. As it turns out, he sees supporting Trump as the best way to avoid the “inevitable race war” that will occur when whites are no longer a numerical majority. He argues that history proves the races cannot peacefully coexist and is “interested” in whether all races have the same IQ. I love my wife’s family and spend a lot of time with them. How do I move forward?

—Racist In-Law

You reject it. When you find out a member of your family believes that national peace is only possible with a white majority, you have a moral obligation to oppose the sort of world he is trying to bring about. You make it clear that you find his beliefs racist and unconscionable. You do not seek to keep the peace by only talking about sports or the weather or chuckling uncomfortably and changing the subject when he talks about things like the “inevitable race war.” Implicit in your aside about spending a lot of time with your wife’s family is the fear that if you actually acknowledge your brother-in-law’s white supremacist beliefs, you will be pushed aside or blamed for making a scene. This is worth being blamed; this is worth drawing a line in the sand. If the amount of time your wife’s family enjoys spending with you is predicated in even a small part on your overlooking virulent white supremacy, then it is better for you to know now so you can make it clear that bargain is not worth it to you.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I got divorced last year and have been happily single since then. I plan to stay that way for a while. Recently I’ve had a couple of old guy friends get in touch and ask to get together to catch up. In both cases, there was potential for romantic relationships many years ago, but we ended up just being friends. I’d like to get together with them but worry that they’re really just looking for hookups. How can I make clear that I’m only interested in friendship without coming off as obnoxious or presumptuous?

The same anxiety often comes up if a new male acquaintance asks to go to lunch or for a drink. How do I clarify that I’m not interested in anything but friendship without giving the impression that I walk around thinking every man in the world must want to have sex with me?

—Just Friends

There are plenty of indirect ways to communicate that you’re not on a date with someone. You can show up in sweatpants, avoid dimly lit restaurants, open with a bear hug and “How the hell are ya?” or whatever other methods you use to telegraph a lack of sexual intrigue. You can also accept these invitations at face value and operate with the assumption that they were offered platonically, but also mention your present happiness at staying single and out of the dating and hookup game. That’s both a natural point of conversation (presumably you’d at least mention your recent divorce and subsequent status during any chats with friends, whether you were worried about their intentions or not) and a way of making it clear that you’re not looking to reignite any old flames. It’s also fine to be direct with new male acquaintances, since there’s not the same history of friendship: Ask to invite other co-workers, or say, “I’d greatly enjoy getting a drink as friends. Does Thursday work for you?” That’s neither obnoxious nor presumptuous.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I was diagnosed with Celiac disease a few years ago. Typically, everything is manageable, although I sometimes struggle to afford food, since gluten-free food is more expensive, and I am seemingly always hungry. The problem is the social aspect. When I have people over, I feel I do not want to offer them my food, which is expensive and sometimes hard to find. They can eat anything! Why do they have to eat my food? I have offered non-gluten-free food that I had on hand, but they wanted my food. If I cook something for myself, and I have a guest over who has leftovers from a restaurant that I can’t eat at and it’s better than what I’m cooking, the guest still wants what I have!

I am starving, going without meals sometimes, and poor, but I’m trying to be a good host. I appreciate when people cater to me and my food needs, but I never expect it. What should I do in these situations without being rude?

—Stay Away From My Food

If these are guests you’re inviting over specifically to share a meal, then part of being a good host means making sure you provide them with something to eat. That doesn’t mean you have to let them rummage through your fridge and pantry and help themselves to whatever looks good. If your guests decline what you’ve prepared for them and want some of your more expensive, less-filling, specially prepared foods, you should say, “Sorry, but that’s for my lunch at work this week. Can I get you some more pasta/meatloaf/funeral potatoes?” Hopefully they wouldn’t press the issue, but if they do—since your friends are already being unusually pushy—just reiterate what you’ve told me, which is that you’re restricted in terms of what you can eat, and what’s available to you is often expensive and difficult to find, so you can’t spare any as a snack. If this is a problem you’re encountering frequently, you might also consider having friends over outside of traditional mealtimes for tea or a drink or suggesting you meet at their places instead.

More Dear Prudence

Let Them Eat iPads: Prudie counsels a letter writer who resents other shoppers at the food bank because they appear less needy.
Forestalling the Routine
: Prudie advises a letter writer who wants to convince a brother to leave his newborn son uncircumcised.
Maybe It’s Not You
: I’m a woman, and my law firm said I won’t make partner unless I “smile more.”
Playing Daddy?
: Prudie counsels a man whose girlfriend is jealous of the attention he gives to two orphaned relatives.
Burnt Toast
: Prudie advises a maid of honor whose wedding speech offended the groom and jeopardized her friendship with the bride.
Colleagues With Benefits
: How can I get my (older, married) co-worker to hook up with me again?
Rekindled Romance
: Prudie counsels a mother who’s fallen hopelessly back in love with an old college friend.
Unreasonable Doubt?
: Prudie advises a sister who doesn’t trust her brother’s explanation of why he left his job.

10 Self Tanners for Men That Will Make You Look Great in 2016

10 Self Tanners for Men That Will Make You Look Great in 2016

Men's Fitness

Avoid skin cancer and get a masculine glow with these top 10 products for men.

Lisa Rinna Shares Sweet Throwback Photo from Her Wedding Day 20 Years Ago — See the Pic!

by Natalie Stone @

Lisa Rinna is looking back on one of the best moments of her life — her wedding day!

In honor of #ThrowbackThursday, Rinna posted a photo of herself and husband Harry Hamlin from the day they tied the knot 20 years ago.

“#tbt Wedding Day ❤️ 1997,” the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star captioned the black-and-white smiling image.

Rinna, 54, and Hamlin, 65, wed in 1997 and welcomed two daughters over the course of their marriage: Amelia Gray Hamlin, 16, and Delilah Belle Hamlin, 19.

In a candid 2013 interview with fellow Housewife Bethenny Frankel, Rinna admitted that the pair’s marriage has had its share of ups and downs.

“Harry had some rough years of not working as an actor, which is his true love. And as you all know, if your man’s not doing what he loves to do, that’s hard,” Rinna said of her husband, who received an Emmy nomination in 2013 for his guest role on Mad Men.

“It was so exciting to be standing next to him and him getting all these accolades,” she said of supporting her husband at the Emmy Awards. “It brings tears to my eyes because we’ve had some rough times — financially and emotionally. It was such a proud moment. It gets me.”

Speaking with Bravo’s Andy Cohen months later, the couple sat down for an episode of Watch What Happens Live, where they shared how they keep their love alive.

“We listen to each other,” Hamlin said before Rinna quipped, “No, I give you good blow jobs.”

Help! I’m Stuck in a Lease With My Ex, and It’s Ruining My Sex Life.

Help! I’m Stuck in a Lease With My Ex, and It’s Ruining My Sex Life.

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Stuck with a selfish ex and looking to have my new guy over: I’m stuck in a lease with my ex-boyfriend. We are trying to get out, but for financial reasons, neither of us can move until we get new tenants. We broke up several weeks ago, a long-coming and painful resolution to a dispassionate relationship, though we had a strong companionship.

After the breakup, I discovered he had cheated on me with three women, even getting one of them pregnant. (She miscarried.) He is now dating one of those women and is often gone with her. I have moved on myself and have met an exciting guy whom I’m sexually compatible with. For various reasons, I can’t always be with this new guy at his home, so I want to have him over when my ex is not here. My ex is adamantly against me having my new guy over—ever.

Prudie, is there any reason to respect my ex’s wishes given he was so disrespectful to me?

A: It depends on whether you think your ex is capable of putting you through a War of the Roses–style campaign. If you think he’s willing to make co-habitating a miserable experience for you, it might be worth keeping your head down for the next few months until your lease is up. If you don’t think he’s got the energy or the vitriol, then double-check your lease to find out what policy, if any, your building has on occasional overnight guests, and invite your new boyfriend to spend the night when your soon-to-be-ex-roommate is sleeping elsewhere.

Forestalling the Routine

Forestalling the Routine

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Mallory Ortberg: Hi, everyone! Let’s chat.

Q. Nephew circumcision: My brother and his wife are within weeks of having their first child (and my very first nephew!). I’m very excited, but the problem comes in that the child will be a boy. I am extremely against routine infant circumcision and have shared extensively on the subject in the past on social media. They aren’t big social media users and may be unaware of my stance. How do I broach the subject with them in a nonconfrontational and nonjudgmental way?

I know I cannot make this decision for them, and I will make my peace with whatever they ultimately decide, but I don’t feel like I can sit quietly and not share my feelings on the subject with the people I love most in the world. I’d like to make sure they’re aware of the medical, social, and sexual pros and cons of each decision. It’s easy when it’s a friend, but I’m finding it very difficult to start a conversation with my brother about his soon-to-be-born child’s penis.

A: That is difficult! I’m having a hard time thinking of the best way to bring up the subject, although I agree that you’re much likelier to change people’s minds through in-person conversation rather than by posting to social media. (If anyone has a particular script for bringing up the topic of routine male circumcision, please share it with us in the comments.)

People who are about to have children are often bombarded with unsolicited advice and personal questions, so you should be mindful of that dynamic. This is your brother, of course, not a stranger on the street, so he will hopefully know that you’re not looking to pry or to judge him. Make it clear from the jump that you won’t repeatedly raise the issue, that whatever he decides you’ll support him, and that you trust he and his wife want what’s best for their as-yet-unborn son. Give him a brief summary of why you think it’s wise to give the matter careful thought before making a decision (rather than reflexively opting for circumcision just because it’s customary), and let him know you’d be happy to provide further information if, and only if, he’s interested. From there, let him take the conversational lead.

Q. Body mods and money probs: My mom has always used money, or lack of money, as a means of control, particularly when it came to my appearance. As I got older and started to express interest in less traditional clothing and hair choices, she would only buy things that she approved of. She said if I wanted to buy certain clothes or dye my hair, I could do so with my own money, but since I couldn’t yet get a job I didn’t have much money to do this with. Still, this wasn’t the end of the world and usually I did end up buying what I wanted myself, forcing me to choose what I valued, which was a good lesson for me.

As I got older though, this pattern became a bit more concerning. I had expressed interest in getting a nose piercing for several years and she told me if I did so she would not pay my college tuition. I ended up getting the piercing and thankfully she did not keep that promise, but she made it very clear that if I got a tattoo there would be similar consequences. Now I am about to complete my last semester of college and my tuition is all paid. I have a small tattoo on my rib cage, no taller than an inch, that cannot be seen unless I’m wearing a swimsuit. Alas, my mother found it and said that though my tuition is paid, she didn’t have to pay my rent like we had originally agreed.

I am very aware of how privileged I am to have parents who can afford to pay my tuition and rent, and I’m very grateful for my parents’ support. They have been saving for my education since before I was born. Still, I feel like their support should not be conditional, especially not on something like my appearance. I would understand if I was failing out or partying all the time, but this is just me trying to reclaim my body in the best way I know how. How do I get her to see and understand my perspective? I want to get more tattoos in the near future, but should I wait until I’m no longer financially dependent on her? Am I completely in the wrong and being selfish?

A: It’s not wrong to want a tattoo, but your mother has been clear and consistent from the beginning about the conditions of her financial support. Whether I agree with you doesn’t matter. You could take a poll of 1,000 people and even if 999 of them sided with you over her—lots of people get tattoos nowadays, it doesn’t say anything about your dedication to getting an education or a good job—it still wouldn’t matter.

If you want the money more than you want a tattoo or a piercing, then put the body mods off for the rest of the semester. If you’d prefer the autonomy, then start paying your own rent a little sooner than you’d planned. Your mother said she’d stop paying your rent if you got a tattoo; you got a tattoo and now she’s following through on her promise. Whether you or I think her original terms are reasonable isn’t the issue; you accepted them and should be prepared to abide by them.

It may be that you and your mother will always view tattoos and piercings differently; there’s a pretty significant generational divide when it comes to body modifications, and that’s fine. Your goal should not be to convince your mother to approve of all your choices as an adult. It should be to make choices that satisfy you, and to be able to discuss your reasons for making them rationally and confidently, even if someone else disagrees.

Q. Broke and scared: I’m 26 and have been living with my boyfriend for a couple of years, and recently we started having arguments about money. It almost led to a breakup but turned into an understanding that we had rushed into things, so now I’m looking for a better job so I can afford to move out. This morning I talked about some interviews I have scheduled and he said he never agreed to my plan and just thought I wanted to vent. I was completely caught off guard, especially when he confessed he’s been feeling jealous of his co-workers who are expecting or already have babies. He made jokes about me getting pregnant immediately, but then said he would wait until we’re 30.

I am confused and scared. Babies have always been an element of fantasy to me, and now I feel like I’ve been smacked into reality. Should I get into the baby idea?

A: Good God, no. There are great reasons to have children, but “we’ve been fighting a lot lately, my boyfriend is jealous of his co-workers, and I’m confused and scared” is definitely not one of them.

You’re interested in developing more financial independence and pulling back from a relationship you initially rushed into. Having a baby with your boyfriend will absolutely torpedo these goals. The fact that your boyfriend said he “never agreed to [your] plan” to change careers and make more money is a little worrying. You don’t need his buy-in to look for a better job, and if you want to make more money and live on your own, you absolutely should. In the meantime, use birth control.

Q. Lupus and the workplace: I’ve recently run into some issues with a co-worker and my lupus diagnosis. When I first started working at my current company, I told my supervisor of my lupus diagnosis and let her know that while it was under control at the moment, I wanted her to be aware in case of future medical issues. Mistake. She eventually blabbed my medical information to another subordinate of hers, and when she was laid off that person told the new supervisor and management. Fortunately, nothing much came from the spreading of this news. However, I am now getting push-back from the first person who my original supervisor told. He is constantly bringing up how much I am gone (I am still within my allotted sick/vacation leave days) and mentioning it multiple times a week. While I have been gone more recently (an upswing in the activity of my disease has caused a flare), I don’t appreciate being lambasted when using my allotted time off. Should I speak to someone in HR? Am I being hypersensitive? Before my diagnosis seven years ago I hated missing work/school, but now I have no choice if I am in a flare. Besides this co-worker, I’ve never had any complaints or markups for missed work.

A: This is an issue that HR is (hopefully) designed to deal with. Your diagnosis and treatment plan is none of your co-worker’s business, and it’s possible your former supervisor violated the FMLA when she told one of your colleagues about your medical condition. You can also respond personally in addition to bringing his behavior to HR’s attention. Tell him, “I’m doing everything I need to take care of my health, and [Current Supervisor] is aware of my scheduled time off. There’s no need for you to keep bringing it up, so please stop.” Ideally that would be enough to make him knock it off, but he’s been enough of a pest about it that my guess is it’s going to take an additional request, either from HR or from another supervisor, to make it clear just how none of his business your health is.

Q. Bridesmaid on a budget: I’m getting married this year, and asked one of my oldest and dearest friends to be a bridesmaid. She happily accepted but told me she didn’t think she’d have the money to attend a shower or bachelorette party. I totally understand—weddings can be a huge financial outlay. My fiancé and I are fortunate to be well-off (we’re in our late 30s, both work high-paying jobs, and have saved well). I’ve offered to pay for her to come to these events, and she’s said she’s just not comfortable with that. Anything else I can do without coming across as pushy or abrasive? She’s so lovely, and at this point in my life her attendance means much, much more to me than $500 or $1,000.

A: You can try once more, but if she declines again, you should drop it. Tell her that you’d happily pay for her travel expenses because her attendance means so much to you. If she’s demurring out of a reluctance to impose, that might get her to change her mind. But if she still says no, then let her know how much you’ll miss her, and how excited you are to see her at the wedding.

Q. Flirting: Is it OK to flirt with other people when you are in a relationship? In every relationship I’ve been in, I end up flirting with people at bars while out with girlfriends. I’m dating a great guy, I feel completely in love with him, yet over the weekend I was back to wanting attention from other people. It never rises to the level of cheating, but I’m wondering if I am not meant to be a relationship person. I’m in my mid-20s and feel that all my other friends in relationships don’t have these feelings. I just feel guilty over this weird desire to be flirtatious with random strangers at bars.

A: It depends on the type of person you are, and it depends on the type of relationship you’re in. Some people are natural flirts; some aren’t. Some people flirt in a way that feels expansive and generous and native to their personalities; some people flirt in a way that seems specific and weighted with intent.

You’ll have to figure out what you consider to be over-the-line—is it accepting a drink from someone? Giving out your phone number? Something else?—as well as what your boyfriend considers obviously hurtful. Enjoying attention from other people isn’t a character flaw, and you’re hardly the only young person who gets an ego rush from occasionally flirting with a stranger. This is not weird, and it’s not necessarily a sign that your relationships are doomed to fail.

Q. Is this even possible?: I’m in love with my male friend (he’s gay) who is one of my best friends. I’ve never spoken these words out loud before. We live by each other, have the same friends, and spend lots of time together. My feelings have become obvious (to myself) as of late. Sometime in the past few months, I’ve noticed, or I think I noticed, looks, glances, actions that under different circumstances, from a man who’s interested in women, I would identify as a sexual chemistry/interest in me. I am confused on what to do and whether this is even possible? I don’t trust my gut or intuition on this matter. I have many other gay close friends and this has never happened—they also go by the mantra, “bi now, gay later.” I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize our friendship and can’t bear the thought of not having him in my life.

A: In general, I think it is best not to let clever slogans dictate one’s sexual and romantic conduct. “Bi now, gay later” is a cute play on slogans for credit plans, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with your situation. The likeliest explanation is that your friend is not interested in you, and the behavior that you would interpret as interest if it came from a straight or bisexual man does not, in fact, denote any sexual or romantic intentions on his end. You can certainly ask. If you two are truly close, and you trust that he won’t run screaming for the hills at the mere thought of your having a crush on him, you can bring up the fact that you’ve noticed a potential chemistry between the two of you, and ask if he feels the same way. But you should be, I think, prepared to hear that what you’ve interpreted as romantic potential, he considers simple friendship.

Q. Re: Lupus and the workplace: The original manager who blabbed to a subordinate could face serious consequences. Medical information is private. She should report the violation by the manager to HR, and also lodge a complaint about the co-worker’s harassment. Her life is hard enough right now without these fools.

A: As best as I can tell from the letter, the original manager was laid off a while back and it’s now the colleague said manager initially told who’s causing the problems now. But she should definitely report both the initial violation and the current harassment she’s facing from her colleague to HR.

Q. Re: Nephew circumcision: “I’m finding it very difficult to start a conversation with my brother about his soon-to-be-born child’s penis.” That should be the very first clue that you should mind your own damn business.

A: For what it’s worth, the overwhelming consensus from the commentariat is not to bring this up with your brother. You know your relationship with him best, so if this is the sort of thing you two regularly talk about, that’s one thing, but if nothing else, this suggests that he may very well take offense at your bringing up such a personal topic, which you should be prepared for, and decide whether or not you want to proceed. It may be more effective to continue your activism in a more general fashion—offer information to the general public, rather than initiate conversations with individuals about their plans for their own children.

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Nobody Else Stepped Up to the Plate

Nobody Else Stepped Up to the Plate

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Mallory Ortberg: Good morning, advice-seekers and -dispensers alike! Let’s chat.

Q. Cancer hasn’t changed her personality: There’s a young woman, “April,” in my social circle. We’re not close, but we were involved in the same community volunteer project for a couple of years. A wife and mother of two small children, April is 26 years old but acts much younger. She’s not vicious but very self-absorbed and demanding. She talks way too much (always about herself) and has a big sense of entitlement, and when she had kids, no one else could match the experience. Recently she got a late-stage cancer diagnosis and has been unabashed in demanding—not requesting—assistance from everyone. The reality is that her prognosis isn’t good, and she really does need help with meals and child care. But she’s not very well-liked, and—surprise—very few people are stepping up to the plate.

What is my obligation here? My sense of compassion makes me want to step up, especially to help her children, but I’d rather not spend that much time around her, and I know that once I start dropping off meals or picking up kids from day care, she’ll demand that it be a regular service.

A: I’m impressed with your compassion toward someone you dislike, and I think your inclination to care for her kids despite how difficult their mother may be is commendable. If you have a general sense of what she needs, you might try approaching her with a specific offer of something you consider manageable: “I’ve got time on Wednesday afternoons between 3 and 5, and I’d be happy to pick up the kids from school and bring them home for you. Does that work?” If she starts pushing for more and you genuinely can’t spare the time, go ahead and say, “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to ask someone else.” But don’t let the fear of being asked to do more keep you from doing anything.

Q. Mental health or something else?: I live in a small town where many of the twenty- to thirtysomethings are part of the same social circle. Many people in that circle, including myself, have some form of depression, anxiety, etc.—basically, high-functioning mental illness. My question is: What types of behavior does having a mental illness excuse?

A lot of my friends engage in poor social behaviors, such as bailing on plans last minute, waiting weeks or months to return texts, snapping at people, ignoring house cleaning in shared living situations, drunk driving, or getting incredibly drunk and causing scenes. All of which inevitably gets excused by having anxiety or depression. One acquaintance even went so far as to blame his (multiple) attempted sexual assaults on his having depression. Yet all these people maintain jobs, attend community college, have social lives and hobbies, which makes me think their illnesses can’t be that bad.

Am I unfair to think these behaviors are being assigned to the mental illness category just so people can escape personal responsibility? Since I was a child, I have suffered from severe depression, anxiety, and OCD. I was hospitalized once yet was able to start a career and am about to start grad school. I come from a family that prefers to ignore mental illnesses, so mine were mainly untreated until I could help myself, so I’m not sure if I’m projecting onto my friends and acquaintances. If not, what is a proper response to someone who treats you poorly then blames it on anxiety or depression? I don’t want to enable anyone yet also don’t want to be callous or presumptive.

A: Rather than scrutinizing your friends and acquaintances for signs that their ongoing employment or active social lives mean their mental health conditions can’t be “that bad”—whatever “that bad” means—focus on how they treat you. The behaviors you list above, from drunk driving to periodic isolation, vary so wildly that I can’t possibly offer you a one-size-fits-all piece of advice. They may very well love their friends but feel so overwhelmed by their own depression that it’s all they can do to get through the day. When it comes to things like drunkenly lashing out, drunk driving, or attempted assault, you absolutely can and should call out the bad behavior and reconsider the friendship in question. When it comes to something like wishing your friends would reply to your texts more often or feeling frustrated when they cancel plans at the last minute, you should speak up. You can be kind and acknowledge what your friends may be going through while also suggesting alternative, low-pressure plans for getting together.

There is no mental health issue that excuses attempted sexual assault or drunk driving. Not even a little bit, not even close. Moreover, having a mental health diagnosis does not mean that no one else can ever disagree with or criticize you. If someone treats you badly, you can absolutely say, “It hurts me when you [yell at me/ignore me/don’t help keep the house clean], and I want to talk to you about it.” Those are totally appropriate topics for discussion! A person’s depression might inform the conversation and might be a reason for broaching a topic with compassion and understanding, but it is by no means an excuse to behave badly without criticism or feedback.

Q. My brother hits my girlfriend: I’ve been dating my girlfriend, “Emily,” for three years, and I want to marry her. We recently moved back to my hometown, and she’s spent a lot more time with my brother, “Tom,” who’s developmentally disabled. For reasons unknown, Tom behaves violently toward Emily, hitting, slapping, even biting her. My parents and I have worked hard to help Tom accept Emily, but it’s not happening.

My parents always told me they expected me to care for Tom after they died (he lives with them), and I accepted that. Now, as it has become clear Emily isn’t safe around Tom, I find myself resenting this expectation that I first agreed to when I was 8 or 9. I love Tom so much, but if he continues to hurt Emily, I can’t foresee a way I could marry her and have him live with us.

I know my parents would flip if I told them this is how I feel, and I can see their point. I’m choosing a woman over blood. Am I being selfish?

A: This isn’t a matter of “choosing” someone else over your family. The situation your parents envision—one where your brother is in such distress and under the inexpert care of a nonprofessional that he is constantly lashing out violently—is not healthy or safe for either Tom nor Emily.

It is completely unfair and inappropriate to ask a 9-year-old child to commit to caring full-time for a developmentally disabled sibling. You could neither fully comprehend nor consent to what was being asked of you, and your parents are wrong to try to hold a childhood commitment over your head now. Luckily for all of you, your parents are not on the verge of death and have time to make a plan for Tom’s care after they’re gone. The level of care and supervision your brother requires in order to stay safe, toward himself as well as others, is well beyond what you are capable of providing. Think of this as being asked to be your brother’s pilot or his lawyer—you’re not necessarily qualified just because you’re related to him. Whether you and Emily stay together, you’ve got to tell your parents that they need to figure out a better plan for your brother’s long-term care, and there’s no better time to start planning than the present.

Q. Wannabe mom: I’ve been dating a wonderful guy for eight years now, and I’ve been an integral part of his son’s life since he was a toddler. Recently, “T” has asked if he can call me Mom. I’m all for it, and his bio mom is completely out of the picture. My boyfriend is absolutely against it. When I asked him why, he started talking about how T’s mom would feel if she decided to come back and he was calling me mom. I don’t get why this woman, who has not been here for at least eight years, gets more consideration in regard to feelings than T, who had a full-on fit when I told him he couldn’t call me Mom, or me, who desperately wants him to call me Mom.

I’ve tried to talk to him about it, but he shuts conversations down, and then I get insecure. I know there’s something else going on, but he won’t talk about it. How do I get him to talk about it so that we can move forward?

A: I’d welcome suggestions from any readers who have experience step-parenting!

It seems like your boyfriend is having trouble prioritizing his son’s real-time, in-person needs over a pretty unlikely hypothetical. Surely, if your son’s—and he is your son in a very real sense, as you are the only mother he has ever known—biological mother came back in the picture, even if it were tomorrow, you would still be one of his parents. Kids have room in their minds, and hearts, for nuanced understandings of family. I’d guess your son is anywhere between the ages of 9 and 12—surely he understands the difference between biological and adoptive parents, as do many kids with complicated or blended families.

When it comes to your boyfriend, I think you should continue to gently insist that he have a calm, rational conversation with you, even if it’s difficult for him at first. If it helps to have a mediator or a few sessions with a couples counselor, that’s fine. If his goal is to make sure his son views his biological mother with compassion and understanding, whatever the reasons that make it impossible for her to be a part of his life, then there are other ways to do that than forbidding him to call you, the only mother he has ever known, Mom. If some part of your boyfriend is holding out hope that his ex will return—well, it’s better that the two of you acknowledge and talk that out together now rather than trying to ignore it. Whatever the cause for your boyfriend’s reluctance to acknowledge reality, continue to advocate for your son’s best interests. You are his mother. You’re just not his only mother.

Q. Am I just an evil stepmother?: My husband has two children, ages 20 and 22, who live with their mother. Both dropped out of high school; the elder has obtained a GED but dropped out of three college programs without completing a single credit. Neither has held a job for more than a few days.

The biggest problem is that they ask my husband—already their mom’s and their sole source of income—for everything they want, and they get it. We aren’t wealthy, and half my husband’s paycheck is going to them. Everything from new video games to huge dental bills are requested or demanded of him while we go further into debt supporting them. My husband puts off his own needed dental work and the luxuries he is expected to shell out for weekly for them.

When is enough enough? I’m at my wits’ end after the last dental visit, which was followed by a text with a price and instructions as to how my husband should apply for a dental credit program.

A: Is your husband paying any form of alimony or court-ordered child support? That seems unlikely, given his children’s ages. If he’s simply paying for his ex’s lifestyle, as well as his two now-adult kids because he’s used to it or feels guilty, with absolutely no plan for transitioning them off of the dad payment plan, then you two are probably overdue for a talk about how long he plans to keep this up.

Does he feel guilty about the end of his relationship with his kids’ mother? Does he believe them to be totally incapable of self-sufficiency? Does he set any financial limits with them, and if so, has he ever stuck to his word, or does he cave whenever they make new demands? Find the answers to those questions, and if he’s just as sick of the arrangement as you are, the two of you can figure out an appropriate, relatively fast-approaching date after which Dad Bank will close, and give his children a heads up. If he’s not sure what he wants or is happier with the situation than you are, at the very least you can set up your own private savings and checking accounts that only you can touch.

Q. Airport anxiety: The only time I went through the X-ray machine at the airport, I miscarried the only pregnancy I’ve ever had. Since then, I’ve “opted out” (so has my husband, in solidarity) as we’ve been continually trying to get pregnant in the years since. Last time I flew, the TSA agent roughly groped my vagina and labia, and I had a panic attack. I’ve avoided flying since.

Now I have to fly this upcoming weekend for a family obligation, and I’ve been a shaking, crying mess whenever I think about it. What can I do to protect my body, any potential pregnancy (we’re in the two-week wait), and my sanity?

A: Further research about what exactly you’re exposed to when you get an airport X-ray might help set your mind at ease if you’re balking at the thought of another invasive pat-down. The timing of your last miscarriage is terrible, and your reluctance at the thought of getting X-rayed again is understandable, but the energy of the X-ray beam of an airport scanner is very low and does not penetrate the skin. According to the Health Physics Society, an organization dedicated to radiation safety,

There is an American National Standards Institute/Health Physics Society (ANSI/HPS) consensus standard stating that people-scanning devices should expose an individual to no more than 0.25 microsievert per screening (one screening procedure generally consists of two scans). The two primary companies that sell people screeners say that their devices expose people to half that amount of radiation.
For perspective, 0.25 microsievert is also received by flying about a minute and a half (cosmic radiation during commercial flight exposes fliers to about 10 microsievert per hour). It is also received by living for 40 minutes (natural background radiation exposes people to about 0.35 microsievert per hour)...The American National Standards Institute/Health Physics Society (ANSI/HPS) consensus standard took into account the varying sensitivity of different groups of people who might be scanned. The authors first looked at a number of reports and published studies on the health effects of radiation. They then chose the 0.25 microsievert dose level to ensure that children and pregnant individuals can be safely scanned with these devices. The x-ray scanner uses a very low-energy and low-intensity radiation, so that an embryo/fetus is not exposed to any radiation that could possibly increase the developmental risks of radiation to the embryo.

Getting informed is always a helpful bulwark against panic, but as a nervous flyer myself, I know it’s not always helpful to know something is safe when your brain is convinced you’re in danger. Learn more about anxiety treatments—anything from deep-breathing exercises to cognitive behavioral therapy —that you can perform on yourself when you’re feeling cornered in the security line. You can also apply for TSA Pre-Check, which may only require you to go through an old-school metal detector. Good luck.

Q. Re: Wannabe mom: The boyfriend’s excuse is ridiculous. Lots of kids have more than one mom and come up with different names for them and don’t get them confused. The key to why boyfriend won’t let his son call the letter writer Mom is in the opening sentence: They’ve been dating for eight years. Sure, people can be committed to each other without getting married. But the combination of dating for eight years—with no marriage—and not allowing his son to call a woman he considers his mother Mom means there’s a huge probability that the boyfriend doesn’t plan on this relationship being till death do they part. The conversation to have now isn’t about whether the son calls her Mom. It’s about the future of the relationship. My bet is the boyfriend has always considered this relationship temporary, and this is just one more symptom. It’s time for the letter writer to realize that.

A: I’m not confident, based on the letter, that the boyfriend is definitely unwilling to commit to his girlfriend just because they aren’t married, but it’s certainly a possibility that I think the letter writer should consider. If there’s more going on here behind the scenes, if she thinks of their relationship as more serious than he does, then they should have an even bigger conversation than what their son should call her.

Q. Who can I hook up with?: My partner and I recently broke up. It was a full-on break up (not just a break), but we both recognize that it’s fairly likely we will get back together in the future. But for now, I’d like to casually date and sleep with other people (but I’m definitely not interested in another committed, emotional relationship).

Who is it OK to hook up with in this situation? Should I only be doing this with totally new people, or is it OK to get together with, for example, a mutual friend of ours or someone who is already in my life and knew the both of us? Under normal breakup conditions, I would just do whatever I wanted, but since there’s talk of getting back together at some point, I don’t want to do anything that could make that painful or more difficult (but I also don’t want to let him to inform my decisions too much). Also, he dumped me, if that’s useful information.

A: That depends on your goals, I think. If what you truly want is to eventually get back together with your ex (rather than simply having a sense of inevitability, as if the two of you were magnetized to each other), then it’s probably wise to steer clear of hookups with mutual friends, especially if one or both of you is especially close to the mutual friend in question. If, however, you consider yourself to be truly single and open to any and all possibilities, then you are free to date or sleep with anyone who’s available and interested. It doesn’t sound like you’re contemplating hooking up with one of your ex’s relatives or best friends, either. I suppose the deciding factor would be how uncomfortable you’d feel sharing that information with your ex if you two ever decide to get back together.

Q. Re: My brother hits my girlfriend: As someone who works in the field, dealing specifically with developmental disabilities, I want to reassure you that no, you’re not being “selfish” for taking into consideration your brother’s reactions to your girlfriend.

Taking care of an adult with a developmental disability is a monumentally challenging task, and even under the best of circumstances it can be draining on caregivers—emotionally, physically, and financially. Even in situations where developmentally disabled adults live in traditional home settings, caregivers often need respite care, where outside caregivers essentially take over duties and give them breaks.

At the moment it sounds like Tom is having some behavioral issues that need to be brought up with his care team (if he has one), a psychologist, and/or behavioral specialist with experience in this field. At the very least, there should probably be a plan in place for how to calm and redirect Tom when he does begin to behave violently against Emily or anyone else. It may be that Tom would benefit from some form of behavioral medicine, but again, all of this needs to be discussed with qualified professionals.

In terms of his future care arrangements, it is probably best if you and your parents have an honest and frank conversation about Tom’s future care. Aside from the question of whether you want Tom to live with you due to his aggressive behaviors, you also need to consider the possibility that any number of life events might occur that would make it impossible for Tom to live with you (not least of which is the possibility of you dying prior to your parents, who seem determined to keep Tom with them as long as possible).

Institutions for people with intellectual development disorders tend to get a bad rap that I suspect are more than a little egged on by one-sided negative depictions in popular media, but there are likely many types of institutional settings where Tom would not only be able to live a happy life but may even thrive and progress beyond where he is now. I recommend looking into things such as an intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities group home or setting that focus on what is called “integrative care.” Essentially, these are group homes or other types of institutional settings where there is a care team that will look at all aspects of Tom’s health and well-being, including behavioral aspects, and will work to improve them. Upon your parents’ death you could gain guardianship of Tom, so you could still have contact with him and have a say in his care. This might be the best possibility for both you and your girlfriend, as well as Tom.

Furthermore, even if you found a woman to marry who your brother didn’t hit or slap, how could you be sure when you decided to start a family that he would behave safely and appropriately around your children? Your parents do not have the right to ask you to forgo having children of your own. Your parents cannot ask you to be a parent to your brother after they are gone. The most they can ask is that you be a good brother. After they are gone, you can ensure that he is well–looked after in a professional care setting and that he gets visits and knows he is loved.

A: This is such helpful and compassionate advice. Thank you so much for this reminder that seeking professional assistance in caring for Tom does not mean you do not love him or that you seek to abandon him.

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Behind Her Back

Behind Her Back

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles



Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week by signing up in the box below. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online here on Slate to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I’ve had two specific fantasies since puberty. Now, many years later, I feel my sexuality drying up and blowing away, and I want to check off these two boxes first. Except I am married to a wonderful person, whom I adore! I’ve asked, but she is not interested in these things. I’m not after anything dark or obscure. I could solve this problem for a few hundred dollars while on a business trip and that would be that. I never have, though, as my wife would be crushed if she found out. Is this kind of thing ever OK? How do other people handle this?

–Is This Ever OK?

Other people generally handle this by either cheating on their spouses or accepting that some fantasies remain just that—fantasies. You’re not talking about total sexual incompatibility or a marriage that has never been fulfilling for you; you’re describing two specific ideas you’ve only indulged in your mind. That is a perfectly normal thing and not a heartbreaking or life-altering loss. You say that your wife would be crushed if you paid someone else to have sex with you and that you adore her, so I encourage you not to crush your wife, regardless of whether you’re convinced you’d be able to arrange things so that she would never find out.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I have been with my fiancé for almost four years. He’s smart, funny, generous, and attentive. He also has some problems with drinking and a wicked temper. These problems have come to a head before, with a couple of drunken tantrums over the years. This past weekend, it was worse than it’s ever been, and he put me through a wall. I’m OK physically now.

The next day, he poured out the rest of his liquor cabinet (I rarely drink) and called a counselor to help him manage his anger. I never thought I’d be the type of woman to stay in this kind of circumstance, but his actions did not make leaving less complicated. We still bought a house two months ago, we’re still getting married in February, and of course, I still love him. My question: Am I deluded for thinking we can get past this? For thinking it won’t happen again?

–Shocked and Hurt

The last thing I want to do while you’re dealing with the shock that follows physical abuse from someone you love and trust is to call you deluded or encourage you to blame yourself for doing something wrong. Part of what makes abuse so insidious is that when abusers are not committing abuse, they are charming, sincere, self-aware, apologetic, and loving. The fact that your fiancé poured his liquor down the sink and called a counselor is not a sign that he is coming to his senses; it’s a well-studied part of the cycle of abuse sometimes referred to as “the honeymoon phase.” The abuser apologizes, exhibits extreme remorse, behaves lovingly and contritely and just as he used to before his temper “got out of hand,” precisely so that he can persuade his partner not to leave. Please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline—you can get confidential support, access basic resources, and learn more about the patterns of abuse there, and no one will pressure you into doing something you’re not ready for. Reasonable, loving people do not accidentally put their partners through walls, not even once, and the odds that your fiancé will hurt you again are sadly very high. It is never simple to leave someone you love, someone you own a home with, and you deserve all the support and assistance in the world right now. You deserve to be safe from harm.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
My parents died more than a decade ago, when I was 25. I moved home and helped raised my younger siblings (ages 11 to 17). I stayed until my youngest brother got accepted into college and made sure that the life insurance money went toward their schooling. None of my siblings had to worry about loans the way I did. I gave up a lot: my fiancée, getting my Ph.D., going to live overseas, etc. I didn’t even get to grieve for my parents because I was busy trying to be them. I wasn’t perfect, and I made mistakes, but I did my best.

“Stella” and “Leanne” are older than I was when our parents died, but they still act like teenagers. We argue all the time, and they whip out “If Mom and Dad were alive ... ” and “You aren’t Mom,” and it kills me. Stella hasn’t finished school but still feels I should get no say in her education (although she thinks I owe her the money, despite her wasting what our parents left), and Leanne continues to date a man who stole and wrecked her car (but I am the bad guy because I won’t sign a loan so she can get a new one). I don’t have any problems with my younger brothers, who were in middle school when our parents died. How do I stop being the mom and start being the sister? I cycle through guilt and grief and anger, and I am so exhausted.

–When Do I Get to Stop Being the Parent?

Now sounds like a very good time to stop trying to parent your siblings. It sounds like your sisters especially have found it’s easy to get what they want out of you by making you feel guilty or insufficient in comparison with your parents and that it’s hard for you to tolerate the possibility that they might think poorly of you if you decline their requests. I think therapy will be immensely useful to you as you practice saying “no” more—even if that makes you “the bad guy,” even if your sisters try to claim you somehow owe them more money simply because you’ve given them money in the past. This won’t be a dynamic that will change overnight, but there’s no reason you should keep footing the bill for your siblings indefinitely, especially now that they’re all adults.

* * *

Hear Mallory and guest Lindy West answer more questions on the Dear Prudence Podcast.

Hear more Prudie at

* * *

Dear Prudence,
Since getting married my husband and I have always spent Thanksgiving with his family. This year, for the first time, his mother asked us if “we” (me, since my husband doesn’t cook) would host since it is becoming too much for her. I said I would under two conditions: I’d ask a few other people to contribute dishes so I don’t have to cook everything, and I would not invite her racist, sexist brother. I’m not interested in spending Thanksgiving toiling away and being subjected to Uncle Bob’s gross comments on top of it. His mom is very upset and says I’m trying to destroy their family traditions and rip the family apart. I told her that if they didn’t like my conditions, I would help someone else host or help make an alternative plan (for example, booking us a restaurant reservation or doing a potluck at his mom’s house). They want everything to be the same, except cooked and hosted by me instead of his mom. She is threatening to cancel Thanksgiving, and my husband says I’m being unreasonable, but I want to stick to my guns. What do you think? (And yes, it is silly that this is already an issue in September!)

–Thankless Thanksgiving

You are being offered an unpaid job, and you have every right to turn it down. If you do not wish to organize, plan, and host a full Thanksgiving dinner for your husband’s extended family (and how charming that your husband thinks you are being unreasonable for balking yet does not offer to do the hosting and cooking himself), then you have every right to decline the position when it’s offered to you. It’s not worth trying to litigate whether your in-laws should exclude Uncle Bob from a holiday celebration; I think it’s better for you to focus on whether you want to spend time with him and act accordingly. You have done right in holding firm, and your mother-in-law’s temper tantrum is more than a little ridiculous. She can no more cancel Thanksgiving than I can cancel Thursdays. If someone else in your husband’s family wants to offer to host, they are free to; if everyone decides en famille to take it down a few stress levels and have a more casual get-together where everyone pitches in and doesn’t designate a single Kitchen Martyr to do all the work and absorb all the criticism, they are free to do that as well. If your husband wants to learn to cook between now and November, he has access to both a stove and the internet. Others abide the question; thou art free.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
Apologies in advance for how melodramatic this is, and I promise I have a therapist and a psychiatrist and all that jazz. I’m still scared, though. About three or four times a year, I have the overwhelming desire to kill myself. This started when I was 9 (I’m 29 now), and it doesn’t seem like it will go away. Obviously suicide is bad, and I have people who love me and who would be devastated if I died, but if it were an accident … I guess I’m writing to you to ask if every human life has equal value, which is a casual and normal question. I truly believe there could be an exception for someone who is fine, but nothing special, and who no one could ever be in a romantic relationship with. People can be gorgeous but have bad personalities and find love, or people can be awesome and not necessarily conventionally attractive and find love, but if you’re a lousy, ugly person, it seems rough. My real issue is that I’m scared that I’ve thought about (and tried) suicide so much that it seems inconceivable that I could actually live and do well and not eventually kill myself. Are some people just destined to screw everything up and die? I know that I’m, all told, doing fine, and this is dramatic and unnecessary, but I can’t help this feeling.

–Destined to Fail?

I feel in many ways unqualified to address this question, because there is so much more to say about this than I could in a few paragraphs. I am glad to hear that you are seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist, and I want to acknowledge that your struggle with depression and suicidal ideation has been lifelong and cannot be hand-waved away with a few reassuring bromides from a stranger. If nothing else, I hope you can remember that your feelings are not dramatic and unnecessary—if there is a part of your brain constantly hissing “Remember you are worthless, remember that you do not deserve love, remember that this will never get better,” you are under constant psychic siege. That’s a very real and serious sort of pain, and I hope you can treat yourself with the gentleness you deserve in those moments when that voice gets loud. I do believe that all human life has equal, intrinsic value, and that by virtue of being a human being who lives on this planet, you deserve all the help and support and compassion available to you.

Some people have objectively easier lives than others. Some people seem, at least from the outside, to have easier lives than others. Pain and suffering are not distributed equally. That does not mean that your life, your particular life, is destined to end in failure—merely that you have the difficult task of dealing with chronic depression. Sometimes the furious little voice in one’s head can seem like the truest and most real thing there is, but the voice that is telling you that you are worthless—while a very real part of your experience—is not describing reality accurately to you. I do not know if you will ever be in a fulfilling romantic relationship, nor do I believe that without one your life could not be worthwhile. There are so many different ways to have love in one’s life. Please know that your pain and self-loathing are symptoms of a very real issue, that you are not being overly dramatic in acknowledging that you struggle with wanting to die, and that your feelings, and your life, matter tremendously.

You should also know that you can always find someone to talk to at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-8255 or

* * *

Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend is really into playing guitar. A lot. He’s good at it and gets a little income that way, alongside some (pretty unstable) manual labor. He’s trying hard to make it work professionally, which I’m trying equally hard to support. The thing is that there’s a little voice in me that’s unconvinced. I know how that sounds, but it’s a tough industry! And we’re in our mid-30s and totally broke. Also not helping is that when he’s in the “creative zone” (which can last for weeks), he gets stressed and short-tempered with me. He’s not the biggest talker at the best of times, but during zone-time I’m either invisible or an annoyance. When I’ve tried to bring this up in the past, we just end up fighting. Am I being a jerk here? I mean, I can be snappy too when I’m stressed. But part of me really wants to tell him to grow up!


You are not a jerk for wanting to talk to your boyfriend about his strategy for supporting himself financially, or for not reacting with tranquility and docility when he blows you off for weeks at a time before blowing up at you. You are not an evil, unsupportive dream-crusher—you are attempting to discuss reality with someone who would rather ignore the fact that there are two people in your relationship. Lots of people love music, are tremendously gifted, and don’t make a living as musicians. Lots of musicians—professional and amateur alike—are perfectly capable of being friendly and kind to their partners. Being defensive, sulky, and rude is not a necessary side effect of being a professional guitar player; it’s a choice that your boyfriend is making, and it’s a lousy one. The options in front of him aren’t “Rock out till I die” or “Work in a soulless office and give up everything I love.” You’re asking him to treat you like a partner whose concerns and needs matter to him, rather than someone he can ignore for weeks on end until he feels like it.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

More Dear Prudence

Phallic Fears: Prudie advises a woman who was mortified to learn the true reason why her fiancé doesn’t want to have a son.

Margaritaville or Bust?: Prudie counsels a single mom who is trying to outrun a midlife crisis.

Unprofessional Distance: My colleague keeps asking me out, and I keep telling him no. How do I get this creep to leave me alone?

Taboo Says Who: Prudie counsels a distantly related couple who resent having to justify or explain their consanguineous relationship.

Her Father’s Past: Prudie advises a mother who survived an abusive relationship on how to educate her daughter about domestic violence.

An Affair to Remember: My husband was married when we met—and I’m still ashamed.

Dark Auras: Prudie counsels a woman whose husband would rather listen to his “psychic” mother’s advice than risk offending her.

Doggone It: Prudie advises a father on how to responsibly care for a family dog that nobody wants to keep.

The Senate Just Confirmed an Anti-Gay Blogger to the Federal Judiciary

The Senate Just Confirmed an Anti-Gay Blogger to the Federal Judiciary

by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles

The Trump administration’s assault on LGBTQ rights scored a major victory on Thursday when the Senate confirmed John K. Bush to the powerful 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Bush, perhaps Trump’s most controversial nominee to the lower courts, has a long history of making homophobic and sexist comments during his years as an anonymous blogger. Yet every Republican senator (except the absent John McCain) voted to confirm him. Bush, who is 52, will serve a lifetime appointment.

Bush’s record overflows with offensive, archaic, and bizarre comments, many directed toward women and sexual minorities. In 2005, he used the word “faggot” in a speech to a private club, quoting Hunter S. Thompson. In 2008, he referred to then–Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as “Mama Pelosi” and urged Congress to “gag the House speaker.” When the State Department introduced gender-neutral passport applications to accommodate same-sex couples, Bush complained in a 2011 blog post that the move was worthy of “outrage”—though “not Obamacare-level outrage.” He added that the change means “both parents are subservient to the nanny state—more precisely, a nanny Secretary of State.” Bush also credulously reported a story from World Net Daily, the discredited promulgator of birther conspiracies, alleging that then-Sen. Barack Obama played a role in the detention of a WND reporter in Kenya who’d been investigating the future president’s half-brother.

Unsurprisingly, Bush’s stated attitude toward constitutional jurisprudence aligns neatly with his personal values. In 1993, he wrote an amicus brief on behalf of a conservative group opposing the admission of women into the Virginia Military Institute, asserting that VMI “does not appear to be compatible with the somewhat different developmental needs of most young women.” In 2008, he compared abortion to slavery, juxtaposing Dred Scott with Roe v. Wade and writing, “The two greatest tragedies in our country—slavery and abortion—relied on similar reasoning and activist justices at the U.S. Supreme Court.” In a 2016 paper, Bush bemoaned the Kentucky Supreme Court’s protection of same-sex intimacy, criticizing a 1992 ruling which “immunized consensual sodomy from criminal prosecution under the state constitution.”

During his confirmation hearings, Bush repeatedly misrepresented his previous statements, tiptoeing right up to perjury. Twenty-seven LGBTQ rights groups signed a letter opposing his nomination while both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America urged moderate Republican senators to vote no. But in the end, Republicans followed the party line and elevated Bush to the 6th Circuit by a margin of 51–47. (In addition to McCain, Democrat Debbie Stabenow also did not vote.)

Thursday’s confirmation vote provides a reminder of the Trump administration’s vigorously anti-LGBTQ stance. Trump himself may or may not hold animus toward sexual and gender minorities, but his Cabinet, advisers, and allies in Congress are working sedulously to reverse progress on LGBTQ rights. Once Trump stacks the federal courts with reactionary activists, his judges can chip away at landmark rulings protecting marriage equality and the broader rights of same-sex couples. Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court justice, has already signaled his eagerness to reconsider gay rights. Judges like Bush can help to weaken gay-friendly precedent in the lower courts, making them more vulnerable to reversal.

In the coming days, the Senate will also vote on Damien Schiff’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which considers environmental and regulatory lawsuits. Schiff has written that the Constitution does not bar states from criminalizing homosexuality. He also declared in 2009 that a California law prohibiting bullying wrongly taught “that the homosexual lifestyle is a good, and that homosexual families are the moral equivalent of traditional heterosexual families.” His article was entitled “Teaching ‘Gayness’ in Public Schools.”

Every Republican in the Senate is expected to vote for Schiff’s confirmation.

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The Navy Doctor Who Pushed for Trans Troops to Serve Openly Pushes Back on Trump’s Ban

The Navy Doctor Who Pushed for Trans Troops to Serve Openly Pushes Back on Trump’s Ban

by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that transgender people would be barred from serving in the United States military “in any capacity.” To justify his impulsive decision—which he made without consulting the Pentagon—Trump cited “the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

To gauge the accuracy of this justification, I spoke with Jesse Ehrenfeld, one of the country’s foremost experts on both transgender health care and military service. Ehrenfeld, a practicing physician, serves as the director of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Program for LGBTI Health and as the secretary of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. He has worked with hundreds of trans patients and helps to train medical students and physicians across the country in LGBTQ health care needs. Ehrenfeld is also a commander in the Navy Reserve and serves as a medical reserve officer. In 2015, he helped to set in motion the repeal of the ban on open transgender service that Trump is attempting to reverse.

I spoke with Ehrenfeld on Thursday about his work with trans troops, the looming threat of a new ban, and many misconceptions about open transgender service. Our interview has been edited for clarity.

Mark Joseph Stern: How were you involved in the effort to lift the ban on transgender troops?

Jesse Ehrenfeld: I had the incredible pleasure of serving in Afghanistan from 2014 to 2015. When I was there, I helped provide care to a transgender airman named Logan. We became friendly and I learned a lot about his experiences. In February of 2015, I found myself sitting with Logan at a troop town hall for our new Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in Kandahar, Afghanistan. I turned to Logan and said, “if you could ask the secretary any question, what would it be?” He told me he’d ask him about open transgender service. So I stood up and asked the defense secretary for his thoughts on transgender service. He gave a very favorable response.

After I got home from my deployments, I was asked to provide input on the health care needs for trans service members to a group that the secretary set up to study the issue. Given my role as a uniformed person as well as a physician with expertise in LGBT health, I think I was able to provide helpful info that was credible and useful to the process.

What are some common misconceptions about transgender health care?

Every person’s transition is unique. There are some transgender patients that I’ve worked with for whom a successful transition is simply changing their name, switching the gender on their driver’s license, and dressing differently. They don’t really need much medical support. Other patients need to undergo hormone therapy or surgical procedures in order to have a successful transition. Those transitions are unique to the individual.

There are some poorly done studies involving mental health that have been cited to suggest that trans individuals are at heightened risk of suicide or other mental health challenges solely because they are trans. That’s misinformation. There’s good emerging data demonstrating that when we provide a supportive environment and good high quality care to trans individuals, those issues seem to go away and people do well.

Opponents of transgender military service often cite the allegedly exorbitant health care costs of trans troops. Can you speak to that fear?

A RAND study commissioned by the Department of Defense found that these costs would actually be quite small. Aaron Belkin also published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimating that if the military allowed open service, about 188 individuals across the entire force would be utilize transition-related care in a given year. His cost estimates worked out to 22 cents per month per member of the military. From my perspective, 22 cents is budget dust.

There’s also a concern that transgender people may be mentally unstable and thus unsuited for combat.

Having worked with transgender soldiers on deployment, I have not seen that at all. At the end of the day, these people are there to do a mission. More than anything else, they want to put on their uniform and do their job. I have not seen any particular burden that’s placed either on an individual or on unit when a trans service member has been a part of the team.

Trans troops have now been allowed to serve openly for a year. Have you seen any drawbacks to the new policy?

No, but a number of very positive things have happened. The Department of Defense training on the new policy was very thoughtful, though there still is a bit of an education gap. It takes time for people to understand some of these concepts. But the training materials explaining how we create an inclusive environment that supports all service members were put together very well. I had a number of positive experiences participating in conversations about these issues in which people that shared their personal experiences about having a trans family member or knowing a trans person. These kind of interactions are incredibly important as our country moves forward to try to understand what does it means to be inclusive as a nation and support each other as citizens.

What did you make of the president’s surprise announcement?

I was surprised because we had just finished going through training for all service members and medical personnel about how to be inclusive and supportive of our trans service members. There is clearly a continued desire on the part of my transgender colleagues who are actively serving to continue to be able to do their job. I see tremendous anxiety and concern about the uncertainty that the president’s communication creates. Through my work, I’ve learned that these individuals are some of the most dedicated and qualified service members that we have. And I think it would be a real loss if we did not allow them to continue to serve our nation.

How Stigma Against Trans People and the Mentally Ill Poisons Our Politics and Culture

How Stigma Against Trans People and the Mentally Ill Poisons Our Politics and Culture

by Evan Urquhart @ Slate Articles

Last week, after President Trump announced his intention to ban transgender people from serving in the military in a series of tweets, the White House followed up this abrupt ill-considered decision by including an essay supporting the ban and pushing the view that transgender people are mentally ill in a daily emailed White House reading list. Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and mainstream mental health professionals have shifted away from labelling transgender people as mentally ill, the belief that they are lingers in the public at large. Pre-existing biases towards people who fails to conform to societal gender norms combine with widespread ignorance about mental illness to form a particularly toxic combination, one that hurts trans people first and foremost, but also reinforces the widespread stigma towards those who are genuinely suffering from mental illness.

“Distress is the key to disentangling identity versus mental illness,” explained Dominic Sisti, an assistant professor in medical ethics and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania who runs the Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics in Behavioral Health Care. “With trans people there’s a confusion that feelings of gender mismatch are somehow unnatural or diseased, when in fact they’re not.” Sisti explained that distress is a “key necessary condition” for a condition to be considered a mental illness, and that being transgender by itself does not cause people to be distressed.

Gender dysphoria is the distress a person experiences when their physical, birth-assigned sex doesn’t match their inner sense of what their own gender is or should be. It replaced gender identity disorder in the DSM-V in an effort to shift the focus away from the incongruence between a person’s gender identity and their birth-assigned sex and onto the distress that this incongruence might cause. Not all transgender people experience gender dysphoria because not everyone feels pressured or conflicted over expressing their gender identity, and transitioning medically and/or socially usually relieves or significantly reduces gender dysphoria for those who do.

Eric Yarbrough, the director of psychiatry at the community health center Callen-Lorde, which serves the LGBTQ community in New York City, agrees that transgender people are not necessarily mentally ill: “I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there, people hearing opinions that are not based on research. If you look at the research you’ll see that once trans people are in a supportive environment, they tend to be pretty happy and not experiencing a lot of symptoms like anxiety or depression.” (For information about what current research on transgender health shows, a recent Reddit AMA makes a good starting point.)

“As part of my job as director of psychiatry, we have to do letters regarding gender confirmation surgery,” Yarbrough continued. “Those are always the easiest appointments because the majority of trans people don’t have a mental illness. I think mental health professionals who primarily work with very sick populations, they associate the two because any trans people they see are also going to be mentally ill. They don’t get to see a lot of the mentally healthy trans people who are out there living their lives.”

Both Sisti and Yarbrough emphasized that the psychiatric view is that transgender people can be as mentally healthy as anyone else—and that the increased risk of psychological distress among trans people is caused by prejudice against them and the stress and hardship that prejudice can cause. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 39 percent of trans respondents reported serious psychological distress in the month before completing the survey, compared to only 5 percent in the US population at large.

“I think a main problem is that there’s so much stigma against mentally ill people in general, people keep it a secret or resist getting care. Being trans does not mean you’re mentally ill, but you may still suffer like anyone else, and being LGBTQ in a place that’s not accepting can exacerbate symptoms like depression and anxiety as well,” Yarbrough explained.

For trans people who have also experienced mental illness, it’s common to see their symptoms as having been worse pre-transition and then improving as the trans person began to live as their true self.

“In hindsight, it’s very clear that a significant amount of my mental distress was caused by undiagnosed and unrecognized dysphoria,” said Billie, a 24-year-old trans woman who has suffered in the past from major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and type 2 bipolar disorder. “A lot of my identity issues absolutely screamed gender dysphoria. I was begging to be heard and I didn’t know why, or what I wanted people to hear, but I feel that if the counselors and therapists I had seen had been better trained to recognize and diagnose dysphoria they would have helped me much, much earlier.”

Many cis people see the desire to transition as a sign of disorder and imagine that, in order to be mentally healthy, a trans person would need to learn to live comfortably as the sex they were assigned at birth. But trans people tend to believe the exact opposite—that living as the wrong gender made them anxious and depressed, and through transitioning to the right gender they were able to experience mental health. Research showing that mental health outcomes improve after transition supports this latter view up, while there is no evidence that any psychiatric treatment can turn a transgender person into a mentally healthy cisgender one.

For Billie, prejudice about mental illness combined with prejudice against trans people makes for a scary mix.

“I fear that a history of possibly unrelated mental illness will wrongly validate some people's opinions that I'm just making this up for attention, or … whatever the strange Machiavellian endgame of trans people is in the minds of bigots,” Billie told me. “I try not to concern myself with what they think, but it can be difficult when close-minded, hateful people seem to be on every corner. I think that both mental illness and the trans community are overdue for destigmatizing in the American consciousness.”

The Michigan Attorney General’s Sneak Attack on Civil Rights  

The Michigan Attorney General’s Sneak Attack on Civil Rights  

by Eli Savit @ Slate Articles

The ongoing battle for LGBTQ equality in Michigan suffered a significant setback this week. On Monday, after a months-long process, Michigan’s Civil Rights Commission finally seemed set to issue an “interpretive statement” as to whether Michigan law prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people. Then, just moments before the commission was to vote, Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office derailed the proceedings—orally informing the commission that it lacked the authority to make such a statement.

The attorney general’s last-minute interference leaves Michigan among the states where someone can marry the person they love Saturday and be fired for whom they love on Monday. Yet almost as disturbing as what Schuette did was how he did it. With little legal justification, Schuette, a Republican, effectively barred Michigan’s Civil Rights Commission from speaking on the issue of LGBTQ equality. As a result, Michigan became the latest state in which government actors have been strong-armed as they stand on the cusp of exercising their authority to extend basic civil rights to LGBTQ persons.

A bit of background. By law, Michigan’s Civil Rights Commission is responsible for enforcing Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. That Act seeks to ensure equal treatment in housing, education, employment, and public accommodations. Unfortunately, Michigan’s Civil Rights Act does not expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The results are sadly predictable. Hundreds of LGBTQ Michiganders have reported discrimination since 2000. A state-sponsored 2013 report concluded that LGBTQ Michiganders have been the victims of “widespread” discrimination in housing and employment. And all of this undermines the Civil Rights Act’s central purpose: protecting civil rights, and prohibiting discriminatory practices.

Yet Michigan’s Civil Rights Act at least arguably contains a salve for this self-inflicted wound. That is because, like federal anti-discrimination laws, Michigan’s Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of “sex.” And crucially, some federal courts—as well as the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—have held that a prohibition on sex discrimination also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The rationale? Under federal law, one may not discriminate against someone for failing to conform to sex-based “stereotypes.” And, as one appeals court put it, it is the “ultimate” stereotype to discriminate against someone because they’re not attracted to the “right” kind of person for their sex, or because they don’t identify as the “right” gender.

Given that federal authority, the question naturally arose: Does Michigan’s parallel prohibition on sex discrimination also forbid discrimination against LGBTQ people? Notably, Michigan courts view federal anti-discrimination law as “highly persuasive” when determining the contours of state law. Yet neither Michigan’s judicial branch, nor its legislature, has clarified the precise scope of Michigan’s sex-discrimination prohibition. And that, in turn, leaves the state of the law in Michigan unresolved.

Accordingly, this summer, Equality Michigan asked Michigan’s Civil Rights Commission to resolve the ambiguity. Specifically, Equality Michigan urged the commission to issue an “interpretive statement” clarifying that Michigan’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

To understand why what happened next is so troubling, a primer on “interpretive statements” is in order. It is a generally accepted principle of law that agencies, like the Civil Rights Commission, must sometimes resolve uncertainty in the laws they are charged with enforcing. That’s because lawmakers rarely, if ever, detail every possible scenario a law might cover. By way of example, consider a law that requires a monthly health department inspection for every restaurant “serving fish.” Does a restaurant that serves only lobster rolls “serve fish”? What about one that serves only crayfish? It’s debatable. Ultimately, though, somebody in the health department needs an answer, because they need to figure out where to send inspectors. And that requires the enforcing agency to make some kind of an interpretive decision.

This principle is why Michigan’s Civil Rights Commission—which is charged with enforcing Michigan’s civil rights laws—is empowered to issue “interpretive statements” to clarify uncertainty in those laws. And there can be little doubt that the reach of Michigan’s prohibition on sex discrimination is uncertain. As noted, several federal courts have held that a parallel prohibition on sex discrimination also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Other courts, however, have reached the opposite conclusion. In light of that conflicting federal authority, there was a clear need for the Civil Rights Commission to consider the request for an “interpretive statement”—and to provide guidance as to what Michigan’s civil rights law means.

That brings us back to Equality Michigan’s request for an interpretive statement. After receiving the request in late June, the Civil Rights Commission did everything right. It solicited, and received, extensive public comment about how Michigan law should be interpreted. It scheduled a public hearing, where it heard testimony from dozens of people. On Monday evening, it prepared to vote.

And then—just as the commission seemed on the cusp of vindicating hundreds of thousands of Michiganders’ rights—Schuette’s office stepped in. After promising, for months, that it would “recuse itself from the matter,” the attorney general’s office swiftly reversed course, orally informing the commission that it could not proceed. The commission, Schuette’s office claimed, lacked the legal authority to issue an interpretive statement at all, because “changes” to Michigan’s civil rights law can be made only by the legislature. “Should the Commission issue a ruling contrary to the Attorney General,” Schuette’s office warned, “the Commission would give up its governmental immunity and would be subject to a lawsuit.”

Faced with a legal directive from Michigan’s top lawyer, the commission backed down. By a 6-2 vote, it tabled any action on the requested interpretive statement, once again delaying equal rights for LGBTQ Michiganders.

Not only was Schuette’s last-minute interference unjustifiable, his assertion that the commission lacked the authority to issue an interpretive statement bordered on legally incomprehensible. That is true for at least three reasons. First, Michigan law expressly, and repeatedly, references the commission’s authority to issue an interpretive statement, or “interpretive guidance.” Second, the commission has, in the past, issued interpretive statements to clarify uncertainty in the laws it is charged with enforcing—precisely what it was being asked to do here. Third, the commission was unambiguously being asked to interpret the scope of the law’s existing sex-discrimination provision. It was in no way being asked to “change” the law, as Schuette’s office suggested.

In some respects, Schuette’s intervention was unsurprising. After all, he’s the guy who spent $1.9 million in taxpayer money to argue against marriage equality at the U.S. Supreme Court. But it’s worth emphasizing that Schuette’s office did more than disagree with the commission’s interpretation of the law, or take a contrary position in subsequent litigation. Instead, the attorney general sought to muzzle the commission entirely—preventing the Civil Rights Commission from issuing guidance on Michigan’s most important civil rights law.

Sadly, this is a familiar state of play in battles over LGBTQ rights. Time and again, when one government actor seems ready to extend rights to LGBTQ citizens, another actor tries to curtail its power. That’s what happened in North Carolina, when—after the city of Charlotte passed an ordinance protecting its LGBTQ community—the state legislature barred municipalities from passing anti-discrimination laws at all. The same play was dialed up in Texas, largely in response to a Houston anti-discrimination ordinance. The message: Try to protect LGBTQ rights, and we’ll curtail your power to do so.

Of course, the North Carolina gambit backfired. And, after much outcry, the Texas bill is dead (at least for now). Most Americans, as it turns out, don’t like state-imposed discrimination. Here’s hoping Michiganders react similarly to their Civil Rights Commission being denied the opportunity to opine on civil rights.

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How Giving Up a Pet Raised Particular Concerns for One Queer Family

How Giving Up a Pet Raised Particular Concerns for One Queer Family

by John Culhane @ Slate Articles

Hey, Daddy! is a monthly column exploring the joys and struggles of parenting from a gay father’s perspective. Got a topic idea or question for Daddy? Send your letter along to

“We have to put her down.” That thought hung thickly between David and me, moments after our dog bit one of our kids’ friends. The weeks following that harrowing incident involved tears, research, and second-guessing—all leading to the most difficult conversations we’ve yet had with our 12-year-old twin daughters.

Three of us had wanted a dog for years. One of the girls had imbued “Softie,” her outsized stuffed St. Bernard, with heavy emotional significance. The other talked endlessly about my parents’ Australian Shepherd, with the unmistakable subtext—and sometimes text—of longing for a dog of her own. David knew how I felt, but I mostly kept my own counsel since he was the one who’d be doing most of the caring for any dog that came into the house.

Then it happened, suddenly, shortly before Father’s Day last year. There’d been talk of getting a cat, as a sort of consolation prize pet. The three pooch advocates were semi-resigned to Plan B, but David went out looking for a dog on the sly. He found a ten-month-old Lab/Pit Bull mix he liked at a nearby shelter, and let the kids in on the secret. I thought we were going to pick out a cat, and was overcome when I was led to the dog cages. When Valentine was released from her cage, a family-wide gaga moment ensued. The photo of those two beaming girls embracing their new friend outside the shelter is now too painful to recall, let alone to view.

If you’ve got the time and patience for it, raising and training a dog with your kids is just as good a lesson in responsibility and maturing as everyone says. Valentine was smart and very trainable. One of my daughters arose every morning at 6 a.m. to walk her around the neighborhood before getting ready for school. We all went to the local PetSmart for weekly sessions. Our dog was happy and socializing well with people and other dogs.

No one gets a dog just to teach kids discipline and responsibility, though. Valentine was also a lot of fun. We’re a highly aquatic family, and she loved the water. She could swim endlessly. She would take circus-worthy leaps off the dock that gave out over our favorite lake, just behind my parents’ home. And I think she would have retrieved sticks from the water to the point of drowning.

Clouds rolled in quickly, though. While she was friendly and playful with dogs she knew, with other dogs she was occasionally, unpredictably nasty. Our daughter could no longer walk her, because Valentine was so leash-reactive. She attacked a friend’s dog. She flipped out at the dog park, so we had to stop taking her there. Our world was shrinking, but things seemed manageable—if we squinted.

We didn’t just stand by. We brought in a fancy, low-talking canine behaviorist who tutored us in elaborate protocols to follow with her, in the street and the home. The kids were required to sit and listen, and we all did our best to stick to the rules. But it wasn’t easy. There were a zillion steps we had to take every time we wanted to introduce someone new into the home. We were all game, though.

Then the girls’ friend, a kid who wasn’t comfortable around dogs, was bitten. We were lucky the girl’s injury wasn’t worse, and that her mother was cooler about the situation than most parents would have been. Including, I bet, the parent writing this.

The bite incident woke us up. We kept the kids in the dark as we considered next steps. Phone calls for advice went out to family members and friends who had vast dog experience. They confirmed our sense that it wasn’t advisable, and probably not even possible, to place her with another family. One friend suggested how we might tighten the screws on her behavior even further, but that conversation just confirmed to us the impossibility of maintaining that level of vigilance for the next decade or so. Mostly, family members left the air thick with the unspoken conclusion that we had to do the unthinkable: Euthanize Valentine.

David and I had several anguished conversations about how we were going to tell the kids. Every time I allowed my imagination to creep toward that moment, I broke down. What would our kids think of us? Would they ever forgive us? What kind of spiral would this drive them into? I was barely mollified by the thought that the kids realized that what had happened to their friend was very serious. You shouldn’t find yourself in the emergency room with an injured friend. They were skittish when accompanying us on walks, now. And they didn’t peep when we kept the dog crated when even their closest friends came to visit. Yet, it was still too horrible to face breaking the news to them.

We made plans to have a vet come to our home to do what was still impossible to imagine. We were to tell the girls the day before. Discussion rehearsals were staged. Then, deus ex machina. Through a lucky chain of phone calls on the very day we were to talk to the kids, I learned of a home for dogs in Upstate New York, called Spirit Animal Sanctuary—cosmically, not far from the cabin in the Adirondacks we’d rented for the following week. The place is just what you’d think: A big farm, where the dogs are divided into packs of convivial canines, and live out their days much as you’d imagine a perfect afterlife for them. They have little contact with humans, except of course for the guy who runs the place. I didn’t even know such places existed, and David and I jumped on this chance at unexpected salvation, in large part because it allowed a very different conversation from the one we had been dreading.

That conversation went far better than I ever might have imagined. The kids understood, about two sentences in, why we needed to relinquish our dog. They even seemed to be expecting the news. And when we showed them photos of the sanctuary, with the dogs swimming and generally capering about, their tears reflected a kind of sad joy, signaling an adult level of maturity.

I didn’t realize they could be so empathetic, not just for their pet but for their friend who’d been bitten, too. I think my dread of the conversation, and my sense of vertigo over the whole process, has something to do my deep, though usually buried, sense that our family is contingent. All parents know at some level that our families could be sundered, instantly. But maybe that possibility hovers closer to the surface in our family than in some. The drawn-out difficulty of our adoption process, the personal history of anti-gay laws and attitudes, and the still-visible differences between our family and our straight counterparts’—these add up to a deep disquiet that percolates up through the ground during a seismic event. The loss of a pet changes a family all by itself, and I feared that the event also stood to send the kids into a tailspin that would cause a serious disruption.

Yet vulnerability has its uses, too. Sometimes (by no means always) I’m able to channel it into empathy for others who have gone through tough circumstances. And I allow myself to think that David and I might be having some role in building that space in our kids. During this time still suffused with such plangent grief, that thought has been a small but vital consolation.

In the end, it’s impossible to shield one’s children from loss. But we were glad that, at least for now, that loss was mitigated by the knowledge that Valentine will be happy.

Moises Serrano on Why Immigration Reform Is an LGBTQ Issue

Moises Serrano on Why Immigration Reform Is an LGBTQ Issue

by Oscar Lopez @ Slate Articles

“My nationality became a racial epithet,” says Moises Serrano of last year’s presidential election campaign. “Mexicans were Donald Trump’s punching bag.”

Serrano, 27, is an undocumented Mexican immigrant living in North Carolina: His parents brought him to the United States from when he was just 2 years old. And although being undocumented has become increasingly dangerous in the U.S., Trump’s election win was particularly frightening.

“It sent shockwaves through the nation,” says Serrano. “But as an openly undocumented person, I was really terrified. We are at the disposal of this administration.”

With the president’s recent pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, well-known for his abuse of immigrants, Serrano’s fears are quickly being realized.* But Serrano has had to confront this new American reality on two fronts: first, as an openly undocumented immigrant, and second as a gay man. “I’ve had to dance between two lives, between two spaces,” he says. “I’ve had to build a skill of knowing when and where to share each element of my identity, to choose which narrative is most important.”

This dual struggle is the subject of a new documentary premiering this Friday at 8 p.m. on Logo TV, Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America. Written and directed by Tiffany Rhynard, the documentary follows Serrano as he journeys throughout North Carolina, speaking at public events where he shares his story and campaigns for immigration reform, particularly in relation to access to education. But it also follows his personal life as he navigates a new relationship, intimate moments filmed by Serrano himself on a handheld camera.

“We need to dispel the myth that undocumented immigrants are one-dimensional,” says Serrano. “Undocumented people are queer too. We have intersecting identities. All human struggle is interconnected at some level.”

The problem, says Serrano, is that this interconnectedness all too often goes unrecognized. Growing up in the South, Serrano and his family often found local churches to be very supportive spaces in the struggle for immigration rights. But when it came to being gay, Serrano felt shut out.

“Churches are our biggest allies,” says Serrano. “But I had to listen to pastors speak out against gay marriage, knowing I would never be able to come out in that space.”

Meanwhile, Serrano has found that queer spaces can be equally unfriendly, and has felt misunderstood or completely ignored by the mainstream LGBTQ community. “Immigration reform is an LGBTQ issue,” he says. “But that dialogue is not being had in a lot of queer spaces. The LGBTQ community has been quite silent.”

Serrano is hoping that this documentary will start to change that by igniting a conversation about the importance for immigration reform among the LGBTQ community. Logo has also announced a partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union to “inform the public of the struggles and stigmas placed upon individuals facing similar challenges.”

Particularly concerning for Serrano is the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama administration’s program which protected young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and provided them with legal access to work. “Having that taken away is terrifying for us,” he says.

“For Moises and nearly 800,000 other young people across the country, DACA is a lifeline,” said Lorella Praeli, the director of immigration policy and campaigns at the ACLU. “It has empowered Dreamers to live, work, and pursue their futures in the United States, their home. Young immigrants like Moises made DACA possible through their advocacy.”

The documentary centers on Serrano’s journey towards college, confronting the challenges of being both undocumented and also coming from a family without the financial means to pay for college tuition. Serrano was eventually accepted to Sarah Lawrence College on full scholarship, but without DACA, he says all that struggle will be in vain: “My degree will mean nothing if I lose the right to work.”

Still, Serrano is hopeful that stories like his will inspire more people to take action for immigration reform. “This administration has made sure immigration is at the forefront of their rhetoric,” he says. “But both sides are escalating their battles. I’m working to build as many bridges as possible.”

*Correction, Sept. 1, 2017: This post originally misidentified Joe Arpaio as a current law enforcement official. Arpaio lost re-election to his longtime post as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, in 2016.

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Driving Me Crazy

Driving Me Crazy

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week by signing up in the box below. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online here on Slate to chat with readers on Tuesday at noon (Monday is Labor Day). Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

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Dear Prudence,
For medical reasons, I cannot drive. Happily, my husband enjoys driving and can be counted on to get us where we need to go. I’m very fortunate; he never complains, and he’s a very skilled driver. Unfortunately, he’s not a safe driver. He always pushes the speed limit, frequently at dangerously high speeds of over 100 mph. He perceives other drivers as threats and aggressively weaves through traffic to outmaneuver them. He’s been involved in no shortage of road-rage close calls as a result, even with me in the car screaming at him, begging him, pleading with him to slow down.

More than once, I’ve genuinely feared for my life and called 911, but I hung up when he slowed down. This is the only way his anger manifests, but when it does, it is truly terrifying. He’s put my life, and the lives of other people on the road, at risk of death more times than I can count. We’ve fought so many times over this. I’ve brought it up while he’s driving, while he’s not driving, while we’re having dinner, in “we need to talk”–style conversations. I’ve cried. He’s made half-hearted promises to change but never followed through.

I love him. He’s the only man I’ve ever been with who otherwise completely “gets” me. He’s supportive of me in all my endeavors. Our physical chemistry is great. I don’t want to leave him. But I also don’t have the option of taking over the driver’s seat, and I don’t want to die in a fiery car crash. The fact that he dismisses my fears and tells me I’m overreacting when all of our friends are terrified of his driving just strikes me as a terrible disconnect. How can I make him see that the risks that he takes as a driver are unacceptable, once and for all?

—Terrified Passenger

Do not ever get in a car with your husband behind the wheel again. You have tried a number of approaches to get your husband to change his behavior, and they’ve all had the same net effect—nothing. All you can do at this point is consider your own welfare. If your husband is risking your life to such an extent that you find yourself dialing 911, and he has repeatedly demonstrated that he won’t change the way he drives, it would be dangerous and unwise to ever ride as his passenger again. Since you cannot drive yourself, making alternate arrangements may prove inconvenient and expensive, especially at first, but this is a stand worth taking. Do not allow your husband to dismiss or ridicule you into getting back into the car with him. You do not need to convince him you are being reasonable. He does not have to agree with you.

If a script would help you, try this: “I’ve called 911 repeatedly as a passenger in your car. You regularly drive over 100 miles per hour, start fights with other drivers, and drive so aggressively I’ve feared for my life. I’ve tried reasoning with you. I’ve tried pleading with you. I’ve tried everything in between, and nothing’s worked. All I can do is to refuse to get in the car with you, because I no longer trust that you will take my safety into account when you drive.” This is not a short-term strategy until he unbends and promises to change—he’s made it clear he can’t be trusted, so don’t trust him. Of course you don’t want to leave him—if you did, you would have already—but reconsider whether or not the “great” physical chemistry or the fact that he’s supportive of your “other endeavors” could ever make up for the fact that he’s likely to get you killed.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
In February I had a manic episode and was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. During my mania I sent a colleague a romantic message (to which he sent a terse reply), followed by a couple of aggressive emails. While I was in the hospital I sent him messages apologizing for my behavior, and after I’d been out for a month, I sent him a letter. I haven’t heard from him at all.

I am torn because I don’t know how he feels. What can I do to forgive myself for my mania if he has no interest in forgiving me?

—Letting Go of Bipolar Behavior

I’m glad to hear that you’re getting the medical care and support you need. Managing a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is a difficult prospect, and you should give yourself credit for the work you’ve done to take care of yourself. That said, you say you don’t know how this colleague feels, but I think he’s made himself very clear. He replied once in a way that made it obvious he did not want to invite further conversation and has declined to answer any of your subsequent attempts at communication. He doesn’t want to talk to you, and you have to respect that. You cannot atone for excessive, unwanted demonstrations of romantic interest by offering him excessive, unwanted demonstrations of your contrition. It never feels good to remember that there is someone out there in the world who may not think well of us, but you cannot control his feelings. You have already apologized, and now the best thing you can do for him is nothing.

When these feelings crop up, remind yourself of this: “Before my diagnosis and treatment, I harmed my colleague by refusing to respect his boundaries or grant him privacy. Now that I am being treated, I can continue to make amends to him by leaving him alone. Not contacting him is the best way to take care of myself and do right by him.”

* * *

Dear Prudence,
My husband is in the process of coming out as trans. This means that I, a heretofore assumed straight male, am also coming out as bisexual. I’m so happy that this is something that my partner and I can experience together. But I am dreading coming out to my image-obsessed mother. My mom is a truth-suppression machine. As a teenager, she compelled me to live with the secret of my father’s arrest for sex crimes. When I was in college, I made the mistake of being honest with her about my atheism, which led to her attempt to manipulate and even intimidate me into hiding this as well. Truth be told, she succeeded in part. Although I told a few friends and family members, against her wishes, it was almost two years before I went public. She felt free to tell anyone she felt like talking to. But I was supposed to take these “shameful” secrets to my grave.

My mother’s family is hostile to the LGBT community, and I have little doubt that her reaction to the dual revelations that her daughter-in-law is actually her son-in-law, and yes, her son is equally happy being married to another man, will be to try to sweep everything under the rug. Our relationship is barely starting to mend as things are. I won’t be able forgive her for this again, especially since she hasn’t asked for forgiveness for the last two times she did this to me, although I told her very clearly how I had been hurt. I am desperate for any way to forestall her knee-jerk reaction, but I can’t not tell my family forever. What should I do?

—Happy With Him, Not Sure About Her

You have at least the gift of clarity going into this third round with your mother. You cannot hide or disguise your partner’s transition, and you have no interest in throwing him under the bus in order to preserve the family peace. Even though you’ve likely accurately predicted your mother’s reaction, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing the right thing first. Tell her that your partner is transitioning, that you’re staying with him (and happily, bisexually married), and that you’re available to answer any questions she may have. If she asks you to sweep this under the rug, you can tell her that simply won’t be possible. It seems that the likeliest outcome will be that your mother will react badly, and you’ll have to take a step back from your relationship with her—possibly for a short time, possibly indefinitely. As painful as the prospect seems now, it will be better to dive right in and tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. There’s simply no alternative—you can’t possibly keep your husband’s transition from your mother, and it’s better for her to hear about it from you than from anyone else.

* * *

Dear Prudence: How do I ask my former student out on a date?

Hear more Prudie at

* * *

Dear Prudence,
Over the past year I became friends with a colleague, “Brunhilda.” We occasionally go for drinks after work and more recently have begun doing things on weekends. She seemed fun, if a bit self-absorbed, and I sometimes found it frustrating that a one-hour project took two because she had to interject lots of discussion about her personal life while we worked. It annoyed me that she never respected my schedule (even when I was very clear about other commitments), but I mostly enjoyed her company and the work got done eventually. I took a week off this August, and when I found out Brunhilda was taking a road trip near my beach house that same week, I invited her to stay for a night. Somewhat unexpectedly, my boyfriend and I decided to get engaged the night before she arrived.

My parents live nearby and had invited the three of us over to a summer party the next day. My fiancé and I agreed we would tell them after the party because he had to leave later that evening. We pulled my parents aside in a private part of the house as things were winding down and had a really happy, emotional moment that was quickly interrupted when Brunhilda burst in and announced, verbatim, “I am going to be here now.” It should have been obvious that she was interrupting us, but she just stood staring at us. When I told her we had decided to get married, she just said, “Cool,” and seemed to expect to be included in our family embrace. She has never met my family before. Since we were not interested in group-hugging her, we disbanded and went back to party cleanup. She also stayed more than a day past our agreed upon departure without asking, and I had to force her to leave. I will definitely distance myself from her going forward, but my fiancé, parents, and I are all distressed by her intrusion into a special moment that really cannot be replicated. How can I focus on the happy minute we had together and not feel like the overriding memory we all have is of her boorishness?

—Building Up the Ramparts

There is no lasting harm done. You, your fiancé, and your parents are free to celebrate your engagement as often as you like from now until your wedding day. There is no reason to continually revisit “the happy minute” you all had together when there are (presumably) countless happy minutes in your future now that you plan on making this man a part of your family.

The real lesson here, I think, is to figure out why you have repeatedly encouraged Brunhilda’s intimacies with your family when the kindest thing you can say about her is that she seems “fun, if a bit self-absorbed.” You not only invited her to spend the night with you at your beach bungalow, but you also invited her to come along to a party at your parents’ house. Yes, her response to the news of your engagement was tone-deaf and rude, but you could (and should) have said, “This is a private family moment. Please excuse us and we’ll be back out with you in a few minutes,” rather than staring blankly at her and disbanding when she failed to get the hint. Brunhilda is, quite clearly, not the type to take a hint, and you should abandon that strategy when dealing with her.

The best thing you can do with this lingering sense of irritation is to use it to bolster yourself in future encounters with Brunhilda. Remind yourself that she is self-absorbed and bad at reading (or prone to willfully misinterpreting!) basic social cues, and do not invite her to spend the night with you or to any family functions. If she doesn’t respect your schedule even after you’ve made it clear you’re committed elsewhere, start cutting your time with her short or asking her to leave your office. Consider being blunt with Brunhilda as good practice for the sort of direct, clear communication you’ll need in order to plan a wedding with a lot of competing interests and squabbling family members. This is a practice that will serve you well for the rest of your life.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I recently got new health insurance (a bare-bones HMO plan). I want to get the birth control arm implant, but none of the doctors in my network offer this procedure, nor will my insurance authorize me to go elsewhere to get it done. I can get the pill or an IUD for free under my insurance, but I’ve had a lot of problems with IUDs before and hate taking a pill every day and making frequent visits to the pharmacy. I want something long-term that I can “set and forget.” I could pay out of pocket for the implant at a Planned Parenthood, but it would cost $800. I could dip into my savings to make it work, but it would hurt. My long-term boyfriend makes more than twice what I do, and I know if I asked him outright to help pay for half, he’d oblige, but I don’t know if that’s a reasonable request. I know not having a baby is worth well over $400 to him, but since I could technically afford it, it feels like mooching. Should I suck it up and pay for it myself or ask him to chip in?

—Babies Ain’t Cheap, Either

Ask him to pay for half. Birth control is something that meaningfully affects both parties in this long-term relationship, and there’s no reason you should shoulder the entire cost. It’s a perfectly reasonable request, and since you already think he’ll be happy to contribute, you should make it with a clear conscience.

* * *

Dear Prudence,
I’m a 22-year-old college dropout who has been struggling to get my life on track. Last year, after I moved across the country to a city where my cousin lives, my car broke down. My cousin offered to pay for it, since I couldn’t afford the repairs, and we worked out a repayment plan. Some months later, I ended up moving back home—during which time my car broke down again and this time couldn’t be saved. My cousin let me take a break from making payments as I bought another car. Then he won more than half a million dollars at a casino.

He knew I was still in no shape to pay off the repairs any time soon, and he said he didn’t want me to pay him money I didn’t have for a car I didn’t have. I asked him if he was sure, and he insisted I not finish paying him back. He’s one of the most rational people I know, so I know this wasn’t impulsive or about showing off. Though I hope to be able to pay him back eventually, this removal of urgency has been a huge relief for me.

The problem is that some family members who are aware of the situation think it’s horrible that I’m taking him at his word and are adamant that I should still be consistently paying him back. If I could, I would, but I’m still living paycheck to paycheck, and I’m just glad that this reprieve has allowed me to clear up a few hospital bills. Am I doing the wrong thing by waiting until I’m more secure financially to pay him back—which he isn’t even expecting me to do—or am I just making excuses?

—Payback Machine

The person you once owed money has told you that you no longer owe him money. His is the only opinion on the subject that matters, and if your other relatives are jealous of his (and your) good luck, that’s their problem. Frankly, it’s none of their business. Your cousin doesn’t need the money and has told you not to pay him back. You do need the money and should set aside whatever you can to start a savings account or buy a new car or take care of your hospital bills or whatever other financial goals you may have. Your cousin didn’t tell you to take your time paying him back. He told you to consider the debt forgiven, and I think you should.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

More Dear Prudence

Home Sweet Heat: Prudie advises a married couple who can’t agree on whether to keep a gun in their house for self-defense.

Helping After Harvey: Prudie counsels a Houston native whose girlfriend is reluctant to support flood victims who may have voted for Trump.

Found and Lost: I finally met my biological father, but my mom wants me to forget him.

Hold One’s Peace: Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister seems intent on marrying her lying, unfaithful, thieving fiancé.

Deathbed Affair: Prudie advises a woman whose husband is sleeping with his best friend’s wife—while his friend is dying.

Kissing Cousin: I found raunchy photos of my cousin on her husband’s blog. Should I tell her?

Let Them Eat iPads: Prudie counsels a letter writer who resents other shoppers at the food bank because they appear less needy.

Forestalling the Routine: Prudie advises a letter writer who wants to convince a brother to leave his newborn son uncircumcised.

Don’t Thank Me

Don’t Thank Me

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week by signing up in the box below. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She'll be online here on Slate to chat with readers each Monday at noon.

Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Dear Prudence,

I am a career senior military officer stationed in a U.S. city with a small but bustling base. When I’m in civilian clothes, I read as just another 40-something dad, but in uniform I’m the BIG DAMN HERO. I get thanked for my service to the point of distraction. I’ve had parents force their kids to come up to me to thank me in front of my own kids at school drop-off. People try to bring up the details of combat, which I’m not interested in talking about. The worst is at the grocery store. I often stop by on my way home to pick up ingredients for dinner, and for whatever reason the produce aisle seems to bring out the most obsessed veteran-hunters. Handshakes. Bro-fists and chest bumps. Crazy-uncle jingoism. And so many uninvited hugs.

Recently, while I was grabbing some produce off the shelves, a woman came up to me from behind and initiated a hug completely out of nowhere. A lost-in-thought combat veteran is not a good person to surprise. I spun around, took a step back, and asked the lady not to touch me. She backed away with tears in her eyes, and another woman who’d seen what happened gave me a dirty look. I told her that I was just as entitled to my personal space as she was and that my clothes weren’t an invitation for physical contact. Yesterday in the checkout line a woman approached me, looking nervous, then handed me a $100 gift card for the grocery store. I told her I didn’t want it and she should give it to someone who needs it (I get paid plenty), but she insisted. (I took the card and donated it to a local charity that serves refugees.)

I’ve had enough. I’ve thought about changing before I head home, but carrying civilian clothes to work in addition to gym clothes is a pain. Mostly I just want to be left alone. I don’t want any more hugs, but I don’t want to appear ungrateful. Is declining hugs and unwanted charity rude, making me a bad representative of the service? Or should I start packing dad clothes in my gym bag?

—No Thanks

Clear your conscience—there’s nothing rude about telling a stranger you don’t appreciate an unsolicited hug or turning down financial assistance you neither want nor need. In fact, it sounds like all of your responses to inappropriate behavior have been unfailingly polite. How unfortunate that the people around you have not responded in kind!

Since you don’t seem to need much help in politely deflecting unwanted contact, I think it’s better to focus on your goal of being left alone. I spoke to Mikki Kendall, a fellow veteran and previous Dear Prudence guest, who has experienced the same problem for years: “I hate being thanked, too,” she says. “Telling people they’re being weird and invasive when they get in your space should work, but often it doesn’t, so I would suggest he change clothes. I used to carry a clean set of soft clothes (sweatpants and blank T-shirt) for just that purpose.”

Multiple costume changes a day certainly isn’t ideal, but as long as you’ve got a gym bag already, throwing in a few extra items suitable for running into the grocery store might be the easiest option. And let this be a reminder to all my readers that if you feel inclined to thank a stranger for their work in the armed services, do so quickly, courteously, and with respect for the fact that they’re just trying to get through their own day. As always: Don’t hug strangers who aren’t expecting it! That’s just good manners.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

Three years ago I met a man who was wonderful, smart, kind, funny—and he loved me. He was the first person I’d been seriously involved with since I left an abusive relationship, and I pushed him away, which hurt him badly. Over the past few years I’ve seen him around occasionally, and I’d think about how much I missed him. A few months ago I saw his profile on a dating app, and we talked a little. I asked if he wanted to go for a walk. He said yes, to my amazement. We started spending time together again, and I realized, more than ever, what I had given up. He said he wanted to take things slowly, and I agreed.

Then he started bailing on me. We would make plans and he would cancel at the last minute or fail to show entirely. I told him that upset me, and he would do something to make it up. He hasn’t tried to have sex with me. After almost four months of this, he broke up with me tonight. I thought we were starting to get back on track, but we got into a fight about when we would see each other. He said I was just complaining, which set me off and I got sarcastic. And then he said he was done.

I don’t want us to be done. I love this man deeply. I know he is who I want to be with, and not just for now. I lost him once and I don’t want to waste any more time without him in my life. I don’t know what to do to fix things. I’m not sure he wants to. I don’t know what to do, or if there is anything I can do.

—Another Second Chance

There is not anything you can do! If it is helpful to you, I do not think you ever really had a second chance to begin with. It sounds like your ex was never really able to forgive you for breaking up with him in the first place, since from almost the start of your rekindled relationship he was distant, uncommunicative, and cold. If it hadn’t been this particular fight that ended things, I guarantee he would have found another excuse to be able to break up with you—because that’s what this go-round of your relationship has been for him, whether he was able to admit it to himself or not. He wanted to be able to punish and ultimately dump you in order to feel like he’d gotten his own back, and that’s exactly what he did. You say you’re “not sure he wants” to fix things between the two of you, but let’s look at his track record. In your sort-of relationship of the last four months, he’s declined to have sex with you, repeatedly failed to show up when he said he would, canceled your dates at the last minute and would “do something to make it up” that apparently didn’t involve actually going on dates with you. Also, he broke up with you. I think he was very sure of what he wanted—to hurt and then to leave you. It’s painful, and hard to accept, but the best way forward for you is to leave him alone, take care of yourself, and look for someone who’s both physically and emotionally available.

* * *

Dear Prudence: My boyfriend has a new bidet—and he’s stopped using toilet paper.

Hear more Prudie at

Dear Prudence,

My kid is in preschool, and one of their friends has parents who just got divorced. I’m happily married, but the other child’s mother is attractive, and now seemingly much more so. I am pretty certain I would never act on anything (I have not touched another person in any intimate way since I met my wife and have no intention of doing so), but I can’t help fantasizing about my kid’s friend’s mom now that she’s single.

I haven’t ever met up with this other mom one on one and would have no reason to do so, and the extent of any texts is to set up play dates (without any double-entendre there). Do I have to do anything else to stay further away? Or can I enjoy a bit of fantasizing as long as I leave it at that?

—Just a Fantasy

Let’s play the tape forward here a bit! You say you’re “pretty certain” you would never act on your attraction to this woman, which is not the same thing as saying “I am committed to remaining faithful to my spouse.” You two know one another, she’s connected to your child’s social circle, she’s romantically available, and you have her phone number. She is not, I think, a prime candidate for safe, abstract fantasizing. That’s not to say you are a monster for finding her attractive, or that you are currently taking the first step down the inexorable road to Pound Town—merely that it would be better for you (and your marriage) if you did not try to see how close you can get to crossing a line with this woman before stumbling over. You list things you haven’t done in the past (you haven’t previously met up with her one on one and don’t have a reason to do so now) as if that has anything to do with the fact that you are currently more interested in her now that she’s single. That kind of slippery, passive thinking will not serve you well in making robustly marriage-strengthening choices. I advise you instead to think, “I will not meet up with her one on one, even if part of my brain presents me with plausibly deniable excuses to do so.”

It’s fine if she occasionally pops up in the Rolodex of your fantasies (I’ve got to come up with a more contemporary metaphorical filing system, I’ve never even seen a Rolodex), but don’t go out of your way to increase your contact with her, even if you’re able to convince yourself it’s purely for the sake of your child’s play date schedule or to “check in on her” after her divorce. That’s not to say you have to slap yourself on the wrist every time you think about her—turning her into “forbidden fruit” isn’t likely to diminish anything—but don’t seek to nurture or strengthen the fantasy, especially because the object thereof is so easy to contact.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I’m a relatively high-level manager at work and I’ve started to become friends with the woman who does payroll. We text, have lunch together, and generally spend a few minutes chatting every day. I’d like to become “real” friends outside of work, but I’m nervous because she knows I make about $100K a year more than she does. We’re both single moms with kids around the same age and have a lot in common, but I worry that she’ll judge me for making more money than she does.

Last month she helped me out on a huge project. I’m not in a position to secure a raise for her, so I bought her child a new summer wardrobe. I didn’t tell anyone at work, as I didn’t want to embarrass her, but she helped me so much I wanted to return the favor. If I ask her and her child to accompany me to the zoo or to a movie, is it OK to offer to pick up the tab for all of us? Is that being insulting?

—Unequal Reimbursement

I’m going to assume that you asked your co-worker before purchasing an entire summer wardrobe for her child and that she was comfortable with such a personal gift. If she was, then I think you two are certainly on the sort of emotional footing where a trip to the movies or the zoo with your kids would be a reasonable next step. If she wasn’t, then I think you should reconsider your approach—your gift was generous but not an appropriate response for helping out with a project at work, no matter how good a job she did. (You might have commended her to her own manager or written a note of praise for her personnel file. You still should, if you haven’t!)

That said, go ahead and ask if she wants to spend some more time with you. You don’t have to make a big deal out of the fact that you make more money than she does. Just make the offer—“I’d love it if you and Triticale could join Grasputin and me at the movies next Sunday. Are you available? My treat.”—and let her say yes or no. Remember, too, if you two do start spending more time together, that while you do make more money than she does, she’s hardly destitute—she has a job and has been caring for herself and her kid for years before you came along. You don’t have to make up for the fact that she knows you make more money than she does by paying for everything. Feel free to be generous, but don’t insist if she seems uncomfortable.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I rent a room in a house belonging to a wealthy attorney. When I moved in, he told me he’d be home maybe two days a week; his fiancée lives a bit closer to the city where he works. I met his fiancée a few weeks ago. There are pictures of the two of them, with children I believe to be from a previous relationship of hers, in the living room.

Recently I forgot my phone charger at work and went to ask my landlord if I could borrow his. When I went upstairs, I saw he was with a woman other than his fiancée. My suspicions were confirmed when I was forced to listen to them having sex for the next 30 minutes. (His bedroom is just above mine.) I tried to ignore it, but recently he had another woman over and the same thing happened.

He continues to mention his fiancée, and while I don’t want to judge (and I’m aware of the concept of open relationships), something tells me she doesn’t know. This, coupled with the fact that there are children involved, has me uneasy. I have a month-to-month lease. I like my living situation, and for what I’m paying, I’d be hard-pressed to find something safe in the same area. Do I mind my own business and hope his rendezvous don’t keep me awake in the future, or say something to my landlord and risk getting the boot?

—Tentative Tenant

I can’t foresee a version of events where you tell your landlord you’re uncomfortable with the fact that he’s cheating on his fiancée (my gut tells me you are probably right that this is not part of an above-board, communication-heavy polyamorous arrangement) and you get to keep your apartment. As a tenant, you don’t have much say over the fact that he sometimes has loud sex in his own home away from home, regardless of his choice of partner. The best possible course of action is to decline to pursue any future opportunities to hang out with your landlord or his deceived fiancée. If he continues to use this pied-à-terre as a home base for mistress auditions, you might want to start setting aside the money you’re saving on rent for another place. At a certain point, finding a room in a less convenient location or getting a couple of roommates might be preferable to starring in a 21st-century update of The Apartment.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I am a teacher at a private religious high school with a relatively formal staff culture. I have just become engaged to my long-term boyfriend (he’s quite a bit older than me), who used to teach at this school about three years ago. While he worked at the school, he was married. We started a relationship after he left the school and got divorced. None of the students are aware of our relationship and neither are most of the staff, with the exception of my close friends. Now that I’m wearing an engagement ring (plus I’m taking time off work for the wedding), I expect people, especially students, will want to know more details, starting with my fiancé’s name. Other teachers who have gotten engaged have gotten tons of questions and have enthusiastically discussed appropriate details with their students, so that’s OK. But my situation is a little more complicated. Do I tell them my fiancé is “Mr. Lopez,” whom they all know? Do I make up a fake name? His first name is pretty unusual, and I think they would guess who I was talking about if I used it. I’m worried it will be an unprofessional overshare if I admit I’m marrying their former teacher, whom they would remember as a much older married man. Am I overthinking this?

—Engaged Educator

It is never a bad idea to keep your private life and your work life separate, especially when working with children. There’s nothing wrong with how you and your boyfriend got together, but it’s complicated enough that you don’t want to spend a lot of your time at work correcting unsavory assumptions. You’re not obligated to go into detail if someone asks about your ring. Just smile, say, “Yes, I’m engaged, and I’m very happy—now let’s get back to Macbeth/reverse calculus/the Hubbert peak theory.”

The good news is that in a year (two or three at the outside), all the students who remember your fiancé will have graduated, and he will be a total stranger to everyone you teach.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

More Dear Prudence Columns

Baby, Bumped: My husband refuses to have sex with me while I’m pregnant.”
How Sweet It Almost Was: The man I loved for years has admitted he loved me too—but now we’re married to other people.”
Try, Try Again: I haven’t been able to have a second child, but my husband won’t give up.”
The Silent Sexuality: I’m bisexual, but my wife doesn’t want me to talk about it.”

More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts

All Dogs Go to Heaven Anyway: Prudie advises a letter writer whose husband shot the neighbor’s dogs.”
Lost to Lust: Prudie advises a woman who kicked her husband out for masturbating to a friend’s photo.”
Swipe Wrong: Prudie advises a woman who hasn’t told her Tinder fling-turned-boyfriend that she has a child.”
Thumbs Down: Prudie counsels a letter writer whose husband won’t stop picking up hitchhikers.”

It’s Not a Blood Diamond

It’s Not a Blood Diamond

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Q. Engagement ring all wrong: I got engaged recently, and while I’m so happy to be marrying a wonderful man, there’s one little problem: I hate and am embarrassed by the ring he bought me. The diamond is so big, and the setting so flashy, it’s completely unlike the kind of rings most of my friends got. The problem is when he proposed and offered me the ring, my initial reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I gasped and gushed about how beautiful it was, and on the surface it is a beautiful ring—just not right for me. I’ve gotten so much unwanted attention, with people asking to see “the rock” and calling me celebrity nicknames. My mom has used every synonym for tacky in the book, and friends have asked if I know whether or not it’s a blood diamond. It’s humiliating.

My fiancé is so proud that he was able to get me such a nice ring since he comes from a working-class background. I just don’t know how to tell him that I want him to take it back and get a semi-precious stone or something more to my taste. I already tried telling him that it was too much money, but he has a great job and got a really good price, so he can afford it. I’d do anything rather than hurt him, but I’m supposed to wear this ring for the rest of my life. What do I do?

A: Good news: You get to have an embarrassing conversation with your fiancé! There is no way out of this, especially if you plan on spending the rest of your life together, which will almost certainly entail having at least four or five more embarrassing conversations before one of you dies. The longer you wait to have this conversation, the likelier it is that you will accidentally lose the ring or betray your true feelings about it to someone else in a way that gets back to him.

Be direct, and get it over with. Tell him that you’re embarrassed you didn’t tell him sooner but that you were so bowled over in the moment, so excited to be getting married, that you didn’t have room for anything but joy. Tell him it means so much to you that he wanted to make such a grand gesture by buying you a big engagement ring, but that it’s simply not to your taste, and you want to pick out a replacement together. If he’s deflated or embarrassed, listen to him. I’m sure he would have liked to get it right on the first try, but presumably what he really wants is to get you a ring that you’re happy wearing, not for you to feel guilty and uncomfortable whenever you look at your left hand.

Q. Was I used?: I dated a man who owns his own professional firm for over a year. A year ago, I quit a waitress job to study for a board licensing exam. I scraped by doing rideshare work to pay my bills, and he disliked it because it wasn’t “sexy.” (He even let it slip that I should be a stripper.) He traveled for the holidays and his firm fell apart—one employee had a job offer elsewhere and one was always away from the desk, then quit without notice. He asked me to temporarily fill in and I agreed with the condition that he hire someone else permanently. When he returned he said, “I think we should go on break until this project is over; for ethical reasons.” I reversed his business’ decline and boosted revenue so much he had to stop taking in clients. One of his tenants wanted to break their lease, so I had to find a new tenant for him. It took four months for us to find him a new employee. (Guess who had to receive and screen the résumés.) I told him over text that I was hurt that he dumped me for helping him.

He said that he didn’t consider a break a breakup, that he didn’t anticipate this would take more than a month, and that I was paid and needed something on my résumé, so don’t feel bad or regret. After training the new hire, I revisited the subject again and told him he broke my heart. He said that I shouldn’t be upset, that it was a difficult time, that he considers this an even exchange, that he could’ve used a temp firm instead of me, and I could’ve gone to work at McDonald’s. At this point, I can’t convince him of my point of view, and he swears he calculated the situation to work out for both of us.

Since the new hire, I’ve declined any new “projects” for his firm because that’s extending the break, and to me, an indefinite break is a breakup. I don’t want to work for someone who dumped me. We’re still in touch and he considers us back together. Although he was a very nice and caring guy before this episode, I’m not sure if I can move past this. He thanked me many times during the period he made me miserable, yet I feel used.

Am I missing something? Should I just cough it up to a difficult time? I need perspective. I ran out of savings and secretly did rideshare to get by. I’m expecting a verbal fight real soon where I’d retort, “I had a sexy job. You dumped me.”

A: I lost patience with this dude less than halfway through this letter. I have absolutely no idea why you would even consider speaking to this guy again, much less go out with him or help him out professionally. As a boss he was a jerk. As a boyfriend he was manipulative, selfish, and cruel. You told him he hurt you and his response was, “Go get a job at McDonald’s.” (That’s not a knock against working in fast food, by the way, but the fact that he thought that was a relevant response to your honest confession about your feelings speaks volumes.) The fact that he “considers [you] back together” even though you don’t want to work with him and don’t like the way he treats you says a lot about his character.

My perspective is this: Lose his number, ignore any and all future attempts on his part to get in contact, whether it be via sext or LinkedIn request, and practice saying “No” to people when they make unreasonable, unkind demands on your time and energy in the future.

Q. Jealous: “Kay” and I have been friends for over 12 years; we dated briefly in high school and stayed in touch through college, marriage (hers), moving (me), and divorce (hers).

I have been dating “Nina” for about a year and it is getting very serious. We are talking about getting a place together. Kay and her son, “Nick,” live near my brother and my parents. They come over to cookouts and my sister-in-law regularly trades babysitting with Kay. Every summer, my dad, brother, and I go out to the woods for a fishing and hunting trip. Since Kay’s ex is a waste of space, we’ve brought Nick along for the past three years. It was stupid on my part, but I never told Nina that I dated Kay. It happened so long ago, I honestly forgot. Last time we visited, my mom brought out the old photos and there was one of Kay and I at our junior prom. It upset Nina and she wanted to know why I lied to her about Kay. We argued and I thought it got resolved until we got back. I caught Nina going through my text messages to Kay, and she told me that my relationship with Kay made her “nervous.”

Now Nina wants me skip my fishing trip to go to some wedding with her for a cousin who lives out of state. She was planning on going with her sisters, but now she insists I go. I don’t know what to do. I promised Nick I would come and I hate to disappoint him, plus I hate weddings and have never even met this cousin of Nina’s. But I do love Nina. Kay is always going to be in our lives if only because she and my sister in-law are joined at the hip. The entire situation is so ludicrous, half the time I think it is all in my head.

Can you help?

A: I think there are two important issues here! One is that it’s not completely ludicrous for your girlfriend to feel unsettled that you never mentioned you dated Kay; the other is that it’s also reasonable for you to go on your annual trip and to make it clear that Kay and her son are an important part of your (and your family’s) life.

You can, and should, apologize for not mentioning that you and Kay dated, but you should also stress that this was over a decade ago, when you were a teenager, and that Kay is a dear family friend whose son is like a nephew to you. Kay’s not a serious ex from your adult dating life—your romantic relationship never made it out of high school. If Nina merely needs to be reassured that you were not actively trying to mislead her and that there’s nothing going on between you and Kay, then I think you can do that easily enough.

If, however, what Nina wants is for you to drop your friendship with Kay and her son because she’s jealous, then I think that’s an unreasonable expectation and not one you need to honor. You’ve already committed to your fishing trip, and more importantly, you value the time you get to spend with Nick. So I think you should go. There are other ways to demonstrate your commitment to Nina. It’s one thing for Nina to ask for reassurance and be honest if she’s feeling jealous or insecure, but it’s not OK for her to go through your phone or ask you to ditch a young boy who looks up to you.

Q. Ghost boyfriend: I’ve been with my boyfriend for two years and he’s creative, interesting, and sensitive. The only problem in our relationship is the way he resolves and reacts to conflict. He’s in no way abusive or aggressive, but he’s very sensitive and when he gets ticked off with me, he just ghosts me. I don’t even find out that there’s a problem until I realize he hasn’t responded to my last few texts. My heart sinks when I call and receive no answer. Then comes the anxiety of trying to figure out what I did wrong and getting him to talk to me about it.

It’s often over things that I don’t consider to be worthy of the panic this ghosting induces in me. (Recent examples: I forgot his mother’s birthday; I didn’t text him to let him know I got home safely; I fell asleep during his favorite movie; he caught me smoking a cigarette when I was supposed to be quitting.) When I finally out he was mad about me not remembering his mom’s birthday (from his friend), I was literally shaking, called her and apologized, and sent a belated gift—only to discover she was in no way fazed. It still wasn’t good enough until I apologized to him in person. Then everything was perfect again. But I know it’s only perfect until I screw up again, and if I’m ever mad at him, he just acts like I’m being crazy.

I’ve invested two years in this and right now, things are going really well. But I don’t know if I want to wait for it all to get passive-aggressive again. Should I break up with him now and make a clean break when things are good? Or should I try couples counseling?

A: Breaking up or going to couples counseling are both good options! This avoidant strategy of his would drive me absolutely up the wall, but if you believe he’s interested in trying to change, then by all means give couples counseling a try, and ask him to make a good-faith effort at finding a better way to tell you when he’s upset. If nothing’s changed after a few months, you still have the option of ending the relationship.

You know him better than I do, of course, but the fact that you don’t say whether he wants to change, plus the fact that he treats you like you’re “crazy” when you get upset with him, suggests that he’s pretty happy with things the way they are. That’s not a great sign for how much couples counseling might help the two of you. If you’re worried you don’t have sufficient cause to break up right now, let me assure you: You definitely do.

Q. Re: Was I used?: Mallory, you are completely off in your reply on this one. The stripper comment is a red herring and unrelated to everything pertinent.

The man did nothing wrong; when crisis hit his office, he ASKED her to step in, paid her for her work, and made clear at the outset that the relationship was going on hold. There was no lying, manipulation, or anything of the sort.

If she didn’t like his terms, if she thought it was benefiting him more than her, she had all the opportunity to walk away. She chose not to. She now needs to live with the consequences of her decision.

A: What do you think “living with the consequences of her decision” ought to be? She’s not trying to sue him for back wages or destroy his business. She just doesn’t want to date or work for him anymore. He asked his girlfriend to step in as an office manager, dumped her while she held the job to “avoid an ethical conflict,” then insisted she get back together with him once his business had been saved. She doesn’t want to. Are you suggesting that she is obligated to continue to date him because that’s the “consequence” of her decision? Because, you know, if so, all I have to say is: Bosh and flimshaw.

Q: Uneven salaries: One of a group of friends is a talented programmer earning a large salary while most of our group is still starting out or living off student loans. The problem is this: He has started to give large, unexpected gifts.

Some members of the group take free and full advantage of this, but others are uncomfortable or complain he’s showing off. He thinks I’m ridiculous to refuse $200+ meals and expensive gifts. He makes expensive plans and refuses to consider cheaper suggestions when I tell him I can’t afford to go. He just says he’ll pay for everyone.

What do I do? I’m uncomfortable accepting these gifts, I feel like I’m taking advantage of his good fortune, but I’m struggling to explain to him again and again that I don’t want or need him to buy me things; I’m happy to live within my limited means. We’ve been friends a long time and I care about him—I’m worried about other people taking advantage of him as well as the impact this constant fight is having on our friendship. How do I explain this to him? Am I being ridiculous? Help.

A: It’s perfectly appropriate for you to decline his offers if they make you uncomfortable, but I think it’s a step too far to tell him he’s being taken advantage of by his other friends. If he wants to treat them to expensive dinners or the occasional bauble, then that’s his prerogative. You might find it in poor taste, or a sign that he thinks he needs to buy people’s friendships, but he’s not being tricked or manipulated into anything he’s doing. Tell him you’d rather get together sometime for a walk or a home-cooked meal than an expensive night out, but don’t try to tell him he shouldn’t treat other friends who are comfortable being the occasional recipients of his largesse.

Q. No ocean for him, an update: A couple of weeks ago I wrote in asking advice on how to deal with my brother and SIL hounding my 5-year-old nephew about going in the ocean. I asked that we not give any of the kids a hard time about not going into the ocean. It turned out that my nephew had already said he would not go in the water at all again this year but he would play in the sand and swim in the pool. Thankfully, my brother and SIL respected his wishes. No threats of ending the trip early, no dragging the boy to the water. The entire week was much more relaxing for everyone.

A: This is the most reassuring update I’ve ever gotten from a reader. Thank you so much for letting us know your brother and his wife have seen reason!

Q. Re: Re: Was I used?: Prudie isn’t wrong.

You write: There was no lying, manipulation, or anything of the sort. It’s worse than him being inflexible and incredibly dismissive several times—“become a stripper” or “go work at McDonalds.” He tells her she should be grateful—he could have used a temp. According to her, she turned around the company and took on many more roles than in her job description. He’s trying to manipulate her because he’s onto a good thing.

A: That’s a key point, I think! He acts as if he did her a favor by offering her a job, when in fact she was doing him multiple favors by acting as his co-landlord, hiring manager, new employee trainer, and office/project manager. (One of the details we had to leave out for length, by the way, is that she often worked off-the-record overtime because she was given more work than pay. This was not a quid pro quo situation!)

Q. Closeted at work: I’m a young lesbian female working at a small nonprofit. I’m still fairly closeted at work. Last week a co-worker, “Beth,” shared her thoughts on gay marriage with another co-worker. Her remarks were benign at first, but then veered into the territory of thinly veiled homophobia. Here’s the catch: The co-worker who heard these remarks is not only one of my closest friends but also a closeted lesbian herself. She, of course, gave me a heads-up about Beth’s diatribe.

Beth and I work in the same small physical area and interact for at least several hours per day. Until this incident, we’d had a fairly warm working relationship, sharing details about our lives and eating lunch together at least once a week. I now find it difficult to authentically engage with her knowing how she feels about people like me.

Do I a) ignore it all, and continue inauthentically interacting with Beth; b) try and “bait” her into sharing these opinions to me directly so I can engage; or c) report the remarks to HR? Is there another option I can consider?

A: I think inauthentic interaction is the safest way to go here. Trying to bait a co-worker into expressing homophobic sentiments is not a good use of your time. If Beth volunteers an anti-LGBT opinion, you can of course firmly disagree and ask her to cut it out. You can even go to HR if she doesn’t let up. But don’t try to get her to talk about gay marriage at work again. Be polite, be professional, and feel free to have lunch with somebody else.

Mallory Ortberg: Thanks, everyone! See you next week.

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

No Embryos for You

No Embryos for You

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Mallory Ortberg: Good morning, Slaters! Let’s chat.

Q. Embryos: My family has three beautiful children courtesy of IVF. We still have several embryos on ice, so to speak. My husband and I are conflicted on what to do with them. He would rather see them destroyed than donated—he doesn’t want a stranger raising what would be our biological children. My brother is gay, and he and his husband are looking into having children. I want to give the embryos to them. They are both dedicated, kind men and adore our children. My husband is not opposed to this. The only hurdle is his sister, who is struggling with infertility. She is much older than us and already has a 15-year-old son. And she is completely unhinged.

I understand the grief and loss and raw wanting that comes with infertility. I also understand it is not a license to inflict your pain on the world at large. My sister in-law did not speak to us for four months after we announced we were having twins. The year before that, we both miscarried, and I tried to reach out, only to be told “mine didn’t count” since I already had a baby. She is a dominating force in my husband’s family—his parents and other siblings tend to fall in line. If we announce we are giving the embryos to my brother, she is going to try to get her claws in. She will demand our embryos.

I shudder to even think of her raising any child of my blood. She is not a good mother and neglects my nephew. She is also nearly in her 50s. I don’t know what to do. I would love to see my brother have the children he deserves, but the thought of the thunderstorm that follows makes my head ache. Can you help me think of a way out, or should we just leave the embryos as-is?

A: You and your husband should come to a decision about whether you want to donate your embryos to your brother or have them destroyed as if his sister did not exist.

If your husband is merely not opposed to the idea, then you two need to have a serious conversation about what he wants. If you two decide to donate your embryos to your brother, then it should be with genuine enthusiasm on both your parts, because what you’re contemplating is profoundly intimate and long-term. Even if you all understand your brother and his husband to be the sole parents of whatever children are born from this arrangement, you’ll still be bound up in their lives in a new and complex way. It’s possible that the children may someday have their own, complicated feelings about you and your husband. So the two of you should get on the same page, whether you make the offer or not.

Q: Husband never told me he has HIV: About a month ago, I discovered my husband’s HIV medication and confronted him about it. To date, I am steadfast that the relationship has to end because I feel he lied to me every time he took the medication and didn’t tell me—five years of lies. He is certain that we can work through it, and I’m starting to doubt my resolve. What advice can you give on how to move forward?

A: What would “working through it” look like to you? Do you want to work through it with him, or are you merely doubting your own resolve because he’s trying so hard to wear you down?

Has he apologized? Has he granted you reasonable space to have your own feelings about what you’ve discovered, or is he pressuring you to forgive and forget before you’re ready? Is he willing to go to couples counseling, or does he want to put this behind you as quickly as possible? What reasons did he give for not disclosing this to you, his partner, after five years? Did he believe you would have rejected or judged him based on his HIV status, and if so does that have anything to do with the kind of person he believes you to be? Does his idea of “working through it” look mostly like “hurry up and get over this so we can go back to the way things were,” or does he seem genuinely willing to find a more honest foundation for your relationship together?

Find the answers to all of these questions—in addition to getting tested yourself, if you haven’t already—before you decide whether you two have a future.

Q. Should I have come out?: I’m 23 years old and came out to my parents as bisexual with a strong preference for women last year. They didn’t take it well.

They seem to be stuck on the idea that I have these feelings because I was in a long-term relationship with a man that ended badly, despite telling them that I’ve felt this way since I was very young. Visiting home is awkward—there’s no mention of my dating life (they used to be very interested) until either I bring it up or there is alcohol flowing. Then all I hear about is how they don’t want the rest of our family to know. They think I’m “not really gay” and will regret this “lifestyle choice.” They say that if I really do like both then I should just choose to be with a man.

I’ve even explained to them that even if I do end up with a man, I will still be bisexual and will therefore still be part of the LGBTQ community, adding that I would really appreciate it if they could try harder to educate themselves and be accepting. I want to think they’re trying, but I’m honestly not sure. It seems like they don’t get it at all.

I was stressed, self-obsessed, and miserable when I was in the closet, but my relationship with my parents was so much better then than it is now. I miss how close we used to be, and how I felt so comfortable sharing most of my life with them. What can I do to make this better?

A: I think you have done, and are doing, everything right! I wish that translated into real-life, real-time results, but that’s not always the case. The work that needs to be done now must come from your parents. You can continue to be honest, point them in the direction of resources, challenge nonsensical or biphobic remarks, and remain patient, but you cannot do the actual work of accepting your sexuality for them.

That’s not to say I think it’s likely your parents will always be exactly as they are now—it’s only been a year, which seems like a long time, but when it comes to the parent-child relationship, you’ve got to play the long game. If you’re delaying coming out to the rest of your family because of your parents’ response, I think you should go ahead. It may be that you’ll have to take a little space from your parents for a time and visit home a little less often than you might otherwise. Keep up the good work, correct misperceptions when you encounter them, hope for the best, and focus on the people in your life who don’t want to shove you back in the closet.

Q. Saying sorry: I think both by nature and nurture I tend to apologize more than the average person. It definitely comes from growing up in the culture of “nice” in the Midwest, but I’m also a conflict-avoider and people-pleaser by nature, which seems to amplify it. Additionally, I tend to use it a lot when I’m trying to sympathize with people—if they say they’ve had a bad day, my response is usually, “I’m sorry.” I know the whole discussion of how women say sorry too much, but it just seems ingrained at this point and part of who I am. It’s not done to minimize myself, my opinions, or my feelings.

The problem is the number of people who tell me to stop saying sorry—especially when I use it in the commiserating sense. If I say sorry after they tell me they aren’t feeling well, they respond with, “It’s not your fault!” which I know, of course. Is there a better way to communicate sympathy or empathy, and should I be sorry for being sorry all the time?

A: Extremely contrarian voice What women don’t say “sorry” too much? What if a lot of men say “sorry” ... too little? I don’t have much of a problem with the everyday “I’m sorry”; it covers a lot of bases quite efficiently! It’s a way of expressing sympathy, recognizing someone else’s graciousness or flexibility; managing minor social missteps; or just generally acknowledging all the little, often-forgotten work that goes into making everyone’s professional and personal lives run smoothly. Assuming someone who says, “I’m sorry” upon hearing bad news is attempting to take personal responsibility for it seems to be unnecessarily pedantic!

“I’m sorry to hear that” seems to forestall the “It’s not your fault” response most of the time; I’d recommend that or something like “That sounds terrible/frustrating/painful,” as an alternative.

If you’re genuinely concerned about overusing “I’m sorry,” consider replacing it with “Thanks for ____,” where blank is whatever you’re grateful to the other party for doing, whether that be waiting for you to arrive, listening to a long or painful story, or behaving graciously after you’ve inconvenienced him or her.

Q. How do I dispose of addictive prescription meds?: This past weekend, my dad (who is going through an awful divorce from my alcoholic stepmom) brought me a giant plastic bag filled with prescription opioid pills. We are talking thousands of dollars street value here. He had been saving them in case he got cancer and wanted assisted suicide, but we recently found out that my younger brother, who is 20, has been abusing prescription painkillers. Thankfully he has been staying sober, but my dad did not want this stuff in the house anymore.

Now it is in a drawer under my bed. How the hell do I get rid of this stuff? I would never sell it (it’s unethical and highly illegal, obviously). And flushing it is environmentally irresponsible.

A: Check Daily Med or Dispose My Meds to find the prescription disposal center nearest you. Many pharmacies will dispose of unused medication for you, and sometimes local law enforcement will too. Perhaps surprisingly, the Food and Drug Administration approves a number of opioids for disposal by flushing, too.

Q. Housewarming: Not a real problem! My boyfriend and I just moved into our first home. I want to tell people we moved and in turn do a mass “please, please please visit us” invite, but what is the appropriate way to do that? Do we send out cards that say, “We moved”? I don’t want it to come across show-offy—or, God forbid, a gift grab—but I do want to disseminate the information and let everyone know this is an exciting thing for us.

A: Throw a party! A housewarming party is the solution to all your problems, at least all the problems in this letter. In general, if you want people to visit you, it’s better to offer them a specific time they can either accept or reject, rather than put the onus of planning on the invitee. If you just send out a generic request to all your friends asking them to visit you “at some point,” you’re going to get stuck in a lot of formless text threads with questions like “Does next Thursday work for you?” and “What if we met up at my new gym after work instead? It’s closer.” You’ll never actually get to see a single friend ever again.

Pick a convenient date, block off a few hours, and let your guests know they can drop by anytime during that window to ooh and ahh over your water fixtures. Congratulations!

Q. Re: Saying sorry: This is a pet peeve of mine. Sorry is not just an apology or an admission of guilt. It’s also an expression of sympathy. And that’s how it’s most commonly used in countries other than the U.S. When you tell me your mother recently passed away, I say, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” That doesn’t mean I killed her!

Just try tacking on a couple of extra words so that others don’t feel compelled to correct your perfectly correct usage of the word sorry. Try saying, “I’m sorry for your loss,” for example.

A: I’m wondering now if, instead of shifting blame from the “I’m sorry”–sayers to the “It’s not your fault”–sayers, the problem lies somewhere with our collective national discomfort with sympathy and the idea that expressing mutual sorrow or pain somehow obligates us to fix someone else’s problems. Maybe the people who reflexively say, “It’s not your fault” don’t really think the people saying, “I’m sorry” are at fault any more than they do. Maybe we’re all just terribly uncomfortable at the prospect that something is wrong and nobody knows how to fix it, and we’re all trying to make sure nobody feels responsible for it.

Q. Sleepy: I don’t want to get out of bed this morning. Do I have to?

A: Absolutely not. If anyone tries to give you trouble about the matter, send him or her to me, and I’ll explain.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

Dark Auras

Dark Auras

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Q: Ghostly mother-in-law: My in-laws are unbelievably superstitious. My mother-in-law believes she’s psychic, my father-in-law believes her, and my husband—otherwise rational—turns we can’t know for sure! credulous around her. I find the stream of insights and ghost sightings grating, but they can believe what they want—until it reaches the end of my nose.

My husband and I are looking to buy a house, and his mother is constantly bothering me with her visions of “dark auras” and “bad vibes” about the houses. She’s not even with us. Apparently she can tell a duplex has more ghosts than Disney’s Haunted House from two states away.

I’d just tune her out, but my husband says we should listen to keep the peace. Apparently she won’t ever visit if the house is “haunted.” My husband caving to her is the worst part of it. Is this going to be how it is going forward? It’s a house! A mortgage! The only thing to tie us together more would be a child. So I’m wondering if maybe we need to rethink more than just the “haunted house.” Or am I being unreasonable?

A: Oh, boy. Yeah, if your husband’s response to this has been, “Sorry, we’re going to have to pass on this affordable duplex until my mom is convinced it’s not chockablock with ghosts,” then that’s a bad strategy. His idea of “keeping the peace” is financially and relationally unreasonable, and you should make it clear to him that while you won’t go out of your way to antagonize her or make fun of her conviction that she is some sort of real-estate medium, you’re also not going to entertain endless requests to put off buying a home until she can sweep it for signs of the paranormal.

You ask if this is how it’s going to be going forward. I’m not a psychic like your mother-in-law, but my guess is that if your husband is willing to indulge some pretty intrusive behavior from her about home-buying, it’s going to be a pattern that will crop up again. So it’s good to address it now. You and your husband don’t have to agree on everything, but you do have to deal with your in-laws as a team and back one another up. It’s one thing to say “we can’t know for sure” about the existence of ghosts; it’s quite another to say, “because we can’t know for sure if ghosts exists, we should pass on every house my mother believes to be haunted.” One is a general, open-ended statement about the nature of possibility; the other is granting his mother total purchasing power in your marriage.

Q. Daughter’s friend being in wedding: My 27-year-old daughter and her best friend, Katie, have been best friends since they were 4. Katie practically grew up in our house and is like a daughter to me. My daughter recently got engaged to her fiancé and announced that Katie would be the maid of honor (Katie’s boyfriend is also a good friend of my future son-in-law). The problem is that Katie walks with a pretty severe limp due to a birth defect (not an underlying medical issue). She has no problem wearing high heels and has already been fitted for the dress, but I still think it will look unsightly if she’s in the wedding procession limping ahead of my daughter. I mentioned this to my daughter and suggested that maybe Katie could take video or hand out programs (while sitting) so she doesn’t ruin the aesthetic aspect of the wedding. My daughter is no longer speaking to me (we were never that close), but this is her big wedding and I want it to be perfect. All of the other bridesmaids will look gorgeous walking down the aisle with my daughter. Is it wrong to have her friend sit out?

A: I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around this letter. I encourage you to reread it and to ask yourself that time-honored question, “Do I sound like a villain in a Reese Witherspoon movie?” You are, presumably, sympathetic to your own situation and are invested in making sure that you come across as reasonable and as caring as possible, and yet you have written a letter indicting yourself at every turn. This girl is “like a daughter” to you, and yet you want to shove her to the side of your other daughter’s wedding just because she walks with a limp. Your daughter’s wedding will be perfect with Katie as a full and honored member of the bridal party. A limp is not a fly in the ointment; it’s a part of Katie’s life. It is not only wrong to have asked your daughter to consider excluding her best friend over this—it is ableist, and cruel, and it speaks to a massive failure of empathy, compassion, and grace on your part. You must and should apologize to your daughter immediately, and I encourage you to profoundly reconsider the orientation of your heart.

Q. Actual benefits: I am in medical school, which means I basically live and sleep in scrubs. I have no time for a real relationship nor any desire for one. I would actually like decent sex with someone I could trust, but I keep getting sucked into the Girlfriend Zone despite repeatedly saying I only want be friends with benefits. My last three ended with the guys getting upset for not doing the emotional stuff we agreed was not on the table (meeting the parents, getting upset for forgetting a birthday, and not reminding him to pick up his dry cleaning). I don’t want to look for random hook-ups or have an affair with assholes who are married, I just want an honest sex buddy. How the hell do I find one?

A: I think you’re doing everything right. I wish that always translated into getting exactly what one wants when one wants it, but unfortunately it doesn’t.

You’re meeting guys, being honest about what you want and what you’re willing to give, and if your expectations don’t line up, you end the relationship. Continue to broadcast what you’re looking for loudly and clearly, and good luck finding someone who’s completely on board with what you want—not looking to grandfather-clause you into being his girlfriend.

Q. Fear of large bully breeds: My earliest memory, unfortunately, is of being attacked by a large Rottweiler–German shepherd mix. I still have scars on my shoulder and hips where the dog mauled me, and all of my life, I have had a visceral reaction to being in close proximity with large bully breeds. When they are close, I feel a rush of adrenaline and start to panic almost immediately.

My problem is that I often encounter large bully breed–type dogs in my apartment building and neighborhood. I typically move to another sidewalk to avoid being close to them, but sometimes, in my hallways in particular, I can’t avoid them and I try to move past as quickly as possible. Sometimes, their owners seemed offended by my reaction. They allow their dog enough slack on the leash to come over and say hi, but I move along quickly. I am a dog-lover, and I don’t want to offend anyone, especially because the dogs are more than likely friendly and will not hurt me. Unfortunately, I can’t control my fear.

Is there a polite way to let the owners know that I need space? I know many bully breed owners feel their dogs are stigmatized, and it is not my intention to contribute to that. I just want space.

A: Stigma is one thing, but you’re not attempting to ban any breeds or stop these owners from having the dogs they do. You’ve suffered from a brutal attack that left physical as well as psychic scars, and you have every right to cross the street or move past a dog quickly. You can smile at the owner in question, say hello, and if they seem about to encourage their dog to come over to greet you—which is impolite to do to someone who’s clearly afraid without asking—say, “Sorry, I’ve got to keep moving.” There’s nothing rude about what you’re doing.

Q. What now?: Almost a year ago I met an amazing guy, “L,” at the college we attend. I have Asperger’s syndrome and I’m extremely shy, so I hadn’t made any friends at my school even though it was my third year, but somehow we quickly became close friends. I loved his sunny personality and how easy he was to talk to (plus he’s extremely attractive), but I thought he just saw me as a friend and I didn’t want to rock the boat, so I never told him how I felt.

A few weeks ago, we were hanging out the night before I left to study abroad for a semester. When we were saying goodbye, he said I was amazing and, “Are you from this Earth? How did you come into my life?” Then he kissed me! I was absolutely thrilled, but I was also nervous and told him it was my first kiss. He said, “Really? Then let me kiss you again,” and kissed me and said he found me “incredibly sexy,” so he didn’t seem to be freaked out that I’m 21 and just had my first kiss. But since then I’ve barely heard from him. I’ve texted him three times but he always takes days to respond, and when he does, it’s just something blandly nice, even when I tell him how much I miss him.

What do you think is going on and what should I do?

A: I have no idea what is going on, and I think the only person who does is “L.” There’s nothing in your letter that suggests a possible explanation, so you should ask him directly. The two of you are already friends, so it’s perfectly appropriate to follow up with a request for clarification. “I had a really good time with you a few weeks ago, and I really enjoyed our kiss, and I’d like to go out with you again. Do you want that too?” If he says yes, you can talk a little more about his sudden hot-and-cold shift; if he prevaricates or continues to put you off, then you can chalk it up to one of the strange mysteries of life—sometimes people change their minds suddenly, and we don’t always know why—and let him go.

Q. Re: Ghostly mother-in-law: She would hate mine, where the prior owner passed away! Auras and vibes can be fixed. When you find the place you want, tell her you understand her concerns but you have to make the best financial decision for yourselves. Then ask for her housewarming gift to you two to be the sage to burn and what words you should say to cleanse your home.

A: That’s a deft compromise! My worry, though, is that it invites further interference from a woman who already appears to be excessively catered to—and if, as I suspect, what she likes most about all these ghost claims is directing where and when the letter writer and her husband buy a home, her response may be, “There’s no way to get rid of these ghosts, they’re immune to cleansing; you’re going to have to move.” But it’s worth passing along, and the letter writer may wish to consider it.

Q. Sisters and sex: I am a 21-year-old gay guy living with a bunch of roommates, including my boyfriend. My sister is 18 and living at home but fighting with our parents. Basically, she is having sex with her boyfriend and it is driving our parents nuts. They don’t want him over and want her home every night by 9 p.m. She wants out.

My sister wants to move in with me. I don’t necessarily like her boyfriend or the idea of my baby sister having a sex life, but I had a lot more latitude when I was living at home despite getting in more trouble.

My sister is smart and works full time. I know she is reliable and clean (better than the last two roommates we had). I’d rather her be here than moving in with strangers or her boyfriend (he isn’t dangerous, just lazy and loud). I am worried that I would get dragged into the family civil war. My boyfriend tells me I need to support my sister since my parents are being sexist and paternalistic. What should I do?

A: What’s wrong with living with strangers or friends of her own? You presumably have a good time living with your roommates, and there’s no reason your sister can’t strike out and find like-minded housemates of her own, especially if she’s already working full time. If you’d like to have your sister as a roommate, then you should consider asking her to join the lease, but you aren’t obligated to let her move in with you when it sounds like she has other options. Since you dislike her boyfriend so much, it might prove difficult if she moves in and has him over to visit all the time. You can offer her emotional support and make it clear you disagree with your parents’ behavior without offering to live together, unless you think that would be a genuinely good idea.

Q. Guests sit on our bed: My husband and I live in a studio flat, which means our bed is in plain sight. Whenever we invite people over they just sit in our bed—when there are more than enough chairs and a very comfortable couch. I find it very rude (my mum taught me that I should never even enter other people’s bedrooms without their invitation, let alone sit in their beds), but I don’t know if I’m overreacting? If not, should I say anything?

A: Ask them to sit on the couch! It is perfectly reasonable to not want guests to sit on your bed, and it is not at all rude to say something if they do.

Q. Heartbreak voyeur: I have a really hard time moving on from breakups, particularly divorce, and I’m not even talking about my own. I’m talking about friends, relatives, and people that aren’t even in my life anymore. I know I shouldn’t be so invested in other people’s lives.

I would never bring it up with the parties involved, but seeing pictures of former friends and relatives happily with people outside the marriage I met them in makes me anxious. I worry they are going to hurt their new partner, and that they are using the new person to distract themselves from things they really need to work out, calling it love instead of figuring out why their original marriage ended in the first place. I worry they will also hurt themselves in the process.

I know this is an issue for therapy—which I can tell you I am already in—but is this something anyone else does? Does anyone else get really sad and take on the pain they think the other person and their children should be or might be feeling? It’s like constantly feeling heartbreak that isn’t even mine.

A: I think some people do some of the time, yes. This sounds like a fairly extreme version of friendly concern, and I’m glad to hear you’re addressing it in therapy.

It’s one thing to periodically worry about a friend’s romantic relationships and wish to see them happy and healthy, but this constant fixation is unhelpful both to you and your friends. Whatever this preoccupation is doing for you—perhaps it distracts you from problems you’d rather not think about, giving you the illusion of control in a disordered world—it’s better to find methods of letting go, rather than digging in. It’s fitting that you say you fear your friends are using their new partners to “distract them from things they really need to work out” when it seems like that may very well be what you’re doing to yourself.

Mallory Ortberg: Thanks, everyone. See you here next week!

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

Quick, Natural Ways To Get a Safe Summer Glow

Quick, Natural Ways To Get a Safe Summer Glow

Wanna know how to get a sun-kissed look without nasty chemicals? Kris Carr is sharing the truth behind self-tanners and spray tans plus tips on how to get a safer summer glow.

Doggone It

Doggone It

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Mallory Ortberg: Happy belated Labor Day, comrades. Let’s chat!

Q. Still not a dog person: Two years ago I adopted a dog from a local rescue. I’d never had one growing up, only cats. From the outside, it seemed to be a thing many people enjoyed immensely, and I thought it might be nice for my kids, as people say. But, for me, it never took. I’m just not a dog person, and, it turns out, neither are my kids.

They often ask if we could just give him away. I say, “No, we made a commitment to him by adopting him.” And I believe we did. I mean, we literally did because we signed one of those long documents these rescues give you, saying you understand it’s a lifelong commitment and you’ll never rehome the dog.

If you compare it to having a child, it seems clear that your responsibility would not evaporate just because you discovered you weren’t into it (I hope that doesn’t happen, but it probably does occasionally). At the same time, the idea of slogging through 10 more years with this member of our family no one appreciates is depressing.

To be clear—we are good dog owners in the sense of providing immunizations, regular grooming, high-quality food and socialization, petting, play, and exercise. We are doing the job we don’t like and paying the thousands a year that generally entails. (Once you count the furniture he’s ruined; and yes, we then took him to a trainer and spent time working on new behaviors.) I guess I’m exploring where our responsibility to pets begins and ends, and I’d like to hear what someone else thinks.

A: I believe there are circumstances under which rehoming a dog is very much necessary. That’s not to say it should be done lightly, or that it’s not difficult for animals to adjust to a brand-new home and a brand-new family. But a dog is not a child, and there’s no reason to attempt to compare the two.

That said, no one in your house is either allergic to or afraid of the dog, and he’s not currently suffering. You made a commitment with what sounds like insufficient research beforehand, and now you wish you hadn’t made it at all. That’s frustrating, to be sure, but consider whether rehoming your dog would actually be in its best interest. A better alternative would be to find ways to free your family from some of the pressure of his daily care. Look for a reasonably priced sitter, a local dog-walking service, a neighborhood teenager who’s willing to take him up to a dog park where he can run around a few times a week. That will likely go a long way toward alleviating your feelings of frustration and resentment.

If at some point you do decide to pursue rehoming your dog, please proceed carefully and make sure you don’t overlook any red flags or possible pitfalls because you’re so relieved at the possibility of relinquishing your pet. Make sure that whoever takes him in has a strong connection with him, is willing and able to take good care of him, and knows what they’re in for (namely, that they’ve done more research into what dog ownership entails than you did). I don’t think that should be your first or best option, but it seems clear that you’re at least already considering the possibility. Whatever you decide, keep your current feelings and frustration in mind if you are ever seized with an idle desire to get a dog again in the future, and don’t.

Q. Lesbian lament: Recently, our mother came out as a lesbian, and announced that she and our father would be divorcing after 20 years. My 16-year-old sister was devastated, locking herself in her room and refusing to speak to anyone for the past day and a half, especially my mother. She came to me, crying over their divorce and telling me how betrayed she felt by our mom.

My problem is that I’ve been helping with our mom’s lies for the past nearly 10 years. I’ve taken her phone from my sister, trying to hide hook-up apps and dating websites. I’ve created masterful alibis when our father asked where she was. I knew early on that she was gay and felt it wasn’t fair that she had to hide all by herself.

Should I tell this to my sister and risk our relationship? Or should I just let my mom bear the brunt of this? I love my sister, but I feel an urge to be honest.

A: Oh, boy. I think that right now, for you, the answer is to get slightly less involved in emotionally managing the other members of your family, and to set up some appropriate boundaries. It’s one thing to support your mother’s sexual orientation, but it was wildly Not OK for your mom to involve her child in her marital troubles, or to ask you to facilitate her numerous affairs.

Your sister is upset, confused, and hurt right now, and she’s going to have to process the end of your parents’ marriage in her own way. You can certainly tell your sister that you’ve known for a while that your mother is gay, but it would be unnecessary and hurtful to go into further details. In the meanwhile, I’d encourage you to find a therapist and resign from your unofficial position as cruise director of your mother’s dating life.

Q. Clean heart or clean house?: My husband’s ex-wife, Mary, is a contentious woman. She hates me and spent years sowing dissension and ill-feeling in the family: refusing to let the children go to family events if I was invited, making baseless accusations against me, and generally being unpleasant. As a result I have no relationship with my stepchildren, and their relationship with their father was strained, to say the least.

My husband died earlier this year. It was as difficult as any family situation over the last few years, and obviously more unpleasant than most. Now I’ve finally finished clearing out my husband’s things, and there are a lot of things I think his children, and possibly his ex-wife, would want.

Part of me wants to make a bonfire and let it all go, but I know that’s petty. However, I don’t want to invite these people back into my life. I know if I open that door even a crack by boxing this stuff up and dropping it with their grandparents, they will argue that I should give them more, that I’m withholding some precious plastic doo-daw that their father would definitely have given to them. It’s a small town, gossip gets around.

The only good thing from this year is that, terrible as it sounds, as a widow I will never have to have anything to do with his family again. Would it be wrong to just store the stuff and wait until I leave town, or die, to pass it on to them? I’m sure they’ll bad mouth me either way, but then I won’t care.

A: First, and perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t sound like your husband left any of the items in question to his children or ex-wife—you’re not withholding anything they have a legal claim to, so whatever you decide to pass on will be an act of generosity and consideration. You’re under no obligation to give them anything beyond what was stipulated in his will, and if you choose to leave the items in storage, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

If you do decide to pass some of his more sentimental belongings on to the rest of his family, consider using a go-between—the lawyer who handled his will, maybe, or a neutral friend who’s willing to drop a box or two off on your behalf. Practice a standard dismissal in case your thoughtfulness is met with “But where’s Father’s beloved haunted zither, with which he used to chase all the neighborhood ghosts away?” Whatever you decide, feel enormously free to limit your contact with your husband’s extended family to whatever extent you need to while you grieve.

Q. Sing-along Sally: This summer, I was lucky enough to see a famous musical. The show is not anywhere near my home, so a friend and I booked flights to the show. Fast-forward several months. We were thrilled to arrive at the play we had been vying to see for so long. As soon as the opening number began, however, she began singing along! Not full singing, but a loud enough whisper to draw the attention of nearly everyone seated around us. This was distracting to me because although I know all the lyrics, I was trying to pay attention to actors.

Upon intermission, I asked her if she noticed all the people seated in front of us turning around to stare at her and thereafter suggested that her whispering bothered them. She was shocked that this behavior would be considered rude and then stated that it was their problem. She proceeded with this through the end of the play. I’m shocked no other patrons confronted her. Based on this fact, I wonder if perhaps I am wrong and overly sensitive. Who is right?

A: Oh my God, you’re right. On no planet, no parallel dimension, is singing along with a musical from the audience considered good theatergoing etiquette. A few years ago a woman was thrown out of The Bodyguard musical for doing exactly what your friend did. Obviously there’s nothing to be done about it now, aside from committing to never seeing a live musical with her again, but if you simply want the rush of being told you were right by a stranger on the internet, allow me to grant you that rush: You were right, and your friend was rude.

Q: Can I invite co-workers to my bridal shower and not the wedding?: I started a new job about six months ago and a group of women quickly welcomed me to their little circle. We have lunch and go out to happy hour every now and then, and have hung out on weekends completely unrelated to work. I’ve never really had a job with women in my age group, and it’s exciting that we’re on the way to becoming friends.

I’m getting married in a couple months, and my sister wants to throw me a bridal shower. I did not invite these women to the wedding since the guest list was set before I started my job, and we’re trying to keep it small to save money. However, I would like to invite them to the shower because I would enjoy celebrating with them. Is this incredibly rude? None of them are expecting to come to the wedding, but I don’t want to come off like I’m inviting everyone I know just for the gifts.

A: If your co-workers were throwing you an office bridal shower, that would be one thing, but if you’re merely contemplating inviting a few of them to your social bridal shower and not the wedding itself, don’t. The implication (even though that’s not what you might intend) is that you’re happy to pump them for gifts but don’t consider them close enough to attend your wedding.

Q. Husband hiding money: I just found documents that show my husband of 35 years has taken money we both received from the sale of a house and put it in a bank account in his name only.  Also, he has a son from a previous marriage listed as the beneficiary when he dies. Is there anything I can do—short of divorce—to get back the money that is rightfully mine?

A: I think you should consult a lawyer. This is above my pay grade as an enthusiastic layman.

Q. Not a friendly invite: My partner and I often get invited to “girls-only” events because we are gay men (bridal showers, etc.). What’s the appropriate response? I feel like, “We’re men, not women, even though we’re gay, so if you’re going to have a mindlessly gender-segregated event, don’t include us,” is not friendly.

A: If these are coming from people you know more than just in passing, it’s perfectly friendly to say a (slightly edited) version of what you wrote above—”I’m sure you meant to be friendly, but please don’t invite us to otherwise women-only events; it feels off-putting and uncomfortable.”

Q. Re: Bridal shower: Hmm. Normally, I would nix the idea immediately, but I feel like if I were one of her co-workers, I would be happy to attend the shower and understand that the guest list was already planned.

A: It’s certainly possible that they might understand (I’d probably feel the same, in that position), but I’m wary to encourage someone to send that invitation on the strength of “the guest list was already finalized.” It’s not unreasonable, of course, but I don’t think having a conversation with a new-ish co-worker explaining why you can’t invite them to your wedding is the highest possible good. I think it’s better to continue to socialize with your co-workers at non-wedding-related events than to run the risk of making anyone feel like they’re being pumped for gifts.

Q. This is why no one likes lawyers: My relative has worked for the same law firm in my hometown in Tennessee for years. Last year, she told me she was having trouble hiring a new runner—because the firm refused to hire black people (my hometown in mostly black). She had even interviewed a black woman, but the firm’s reaction was “we’ve never hired a black person, we can’t start now.” When I was last home, she told me a similar situation had arisen, except this time they had interviewed a black, female attorney. She was eventually rejected—100 percent because of race and gender. The firm has never hired a female in an attorney position, either.

My relative is annoyed—because she needs these positions filled, not because of the discrimination. She’s not going to do anything. I no longer live in the country, and I don’t even know these women’s names. I feel angry and helpless at the thought that such a powerful law firm (people who should know the law!) is getting away with blatant, unabashed racism and sexism. I hate that I’m sitting on this information without doing anything. I’ve thought about contacting my congressman, or the local media, but I don’t have any proof other than hearsay. Any advice for steps I can take?

A: I’d love to hear from anyone who has more specific suggestions, but my first and best guess is that since you haven’t experienced any of this firsthand, and you live so far away, there won’t be much you can do directly. You might try filing a claim with the Better Business Bureau. You can also certainly have further conversations with your relative who seems only mildly put out by her firm’s racist and sexist hiring practices, and encourage her to think more critically about the role she plays there. Beyond that, I’m not sure—floor’s open if anyone has any further thoughts.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

Sun Bum Self Tanning Towelette Review

by Emily Andrews @

Comprehensive review of Sun Bum Self Tanning Towelette. See what real experts and actual users have to say about this self tanning product.

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How Louise Hay’s Spiritual Pseudoscience Harmed a Generation of Gay Men

How Louise Hay’s Spiritual Pseudoscience Harmed a Generation of Gay Men

by David Groff @ Slate Articles

When the New Age entrepreneur Louise Hay died at 90 on August 30, the internet lit up with people praising her healing powers for often-desperate physical and psychological ailments, prescribing healthy living and major doses of self-love. But the people celebrating Hay largely ignored or brushed past the pernicious side of her prescription—the place where self-love slides into self-blame. Hay’s spiritual schema had its reasons for being, and it helped some people. But it failed to offer its era a genuine and enduring spirit of care, perhaps in no case more so than that of gay men and those who loved them during the desolate early years of AIDS.

More than most other gurus of the 1980s and 1990s, Hay wove a gossamer of pseudoscience into her spiritual beliefs. She was best known for her 1984 book You Can Heal Your Life, in which she ascribed physical diseases and syndromes to lack of self-love and other psychological causes. You had to take responsibility for your “dis-ease,” as Hay dubbed it, because you caused it. And if you dealt with your “dis-ease,” you could cure your illness.

Hay claimed she had cured herself from cervical cancer after she confronted her childhood sexual abuse and other traumas. In her 1998 book Heal Your Body A-Z, she gave a systematic and exhaustive list of what “mental pattern” led to which disease. If you were sick, then you had some feeling that you hadn’t dealt with. For Hay, these emotions were not metaphors, or even contributing factors; they were true origins of illness, attached to a simplistic understanding of the afflicted body part. Kidney stones, for example, were caused by “lumps of undissolved anger.” Acne was the result of “not accepting the self. Dislike of the self.” As for cancer, she asked, “Deep secret or grief eating away at the self.”

Got a cold sore? You had because you had “festering angry words and fear of expressing them.” Does your child have leukemia? Then she is “brutally killing inspiration” and asking “What’s the use?” The reality of, say, having acne because of hormones, or getting cancer because of environmental or hereditary reasons, did not interest Hay. There was no place for viruses.

And there was no place for the virus that caused AIDS. Which is ironic, because it was the advent of HIV that thrust Hay into prominence in the mid-1980s. Her exploding popularity was fueled by the explosion of a disease of the immune system that had no known cause, for years had no treatment, and still has no cure.

It’s hard now to imagine the extent of the fear, paranoia, and ostracism in the early years of the epidemic. People with AIDS were absolute pariahs. To health professionals, they were hopeless cases, to be offered palliative care and denied hope. To a scared society, they were disease vectors, to be condemned for their disease and, if they were gay, for their sexuality. For their families, they were often embarrassments, to be secreted away when they returned home to die, or else cast into the wilderness, thanks to what writer and activist Sarah Schulman has defined as “familial homophobia.”

Enter Louise Hay. As Schulman has pointed out, certain figures of the early AIDS era like Louise Hay slipped into the role that many mothers of children with AIDS had shirked. When Hay emerged, there was little love and care, maternal or otherwise, to be found for people affected by AIDS—especially from any institutional or spiritual authority. Religious institutions, which might have adapted their beliefs and practices enough to rise to the challenges of the faith they professed, largely ducked their duty. Science and medicine offered obstacles, not answers. And of course the Reagan government didn’t give a shit. Little in social, spiritual, governmental, medical, and science systems was available to sustain those who had AIDS or cared about them.

To these desperate people Louise Hay offered open if judgmental arms; emotional group encounters known as Hayrides; teddy bears to cuddle; mirrors in which you could affirm your worth no matter how bad your Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions; a simulacrum of science; and spiritually nutty notions. Certainly some people found in Hay the support, recognition, and nurture that they couldn’t find elsewhere. But others were wounded by Hay’s subversively pernicious judgment, rooted as it was in a tragically fatuous view of the body that made the medieval science of humours look like third-year Harvard Medical School. The last thing people with AIDS needed to hear was that they had caused their own illness.

Some of Hay’s disciples, believing they had failed to follow her dicta well enough, died ashamed, disempowered, and betrayed. Many AIDS survivors and caregivers have testified to the tragic personal cost of Hay’s philosophy, and what some have called her brutal dismissal of actual people with AIDS, including the poor and people of color, as well as her willingness to profit personally through the pain of the sick, the psychically unsettled, and the terminally ill. Activist and filmmaker Peter Fitzgerald saw Hay in action with his desperately ill comrades. After her death he said,  “I understand that she provided hope at very dark times to a great many people, I also know all too well that her clay feet were deeply mired in the guilt of being an AIDS profiteer, a disloyal friend and purveyor of false hope. Namaste, bitch.”

Hay faded out of prominence among people with AIDS—as people with AIDS and health care activists built their own systems of support, care, spirituality, and political action. The most vital of those communities was centered around organizations like ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, which used direct action to seek an end the AIDS crisis—challenging the government, demanding new drug protocols, protesting the Catholic Church and religious fundamentalists for their organized hatefulness, and generally bringing people together for a cause that was life-or-death to each of them but that transcended the personal to become a common urge toward justice.

To be sure, group activism was not (and is not) for everyone; some people need, then and now, to tend to their personal gardens, and they have every right to do so. But thanks to Hay, too many people were subjected to an absurd, blame-the-victim pseudo-science and what was, in essence, kitsch spirituality.

The aims of AIDS activism are political and social, but they are also ultimately spiritual. To live a proactive life when you’re in dire straits, to come together for direct action, to advance the truths of science and health, to find your solace in what you can change not just in yourself but in the world—that is the basis of an authentic spirituality that can sustain us today.

Go Ahead, Heap Rewards on Your Kid

Go Ahead, Heap Rewards on Your Kid

by Melinda Wenner Moyer @ Slate Articles

Want to listen to this article out loud? Hear it on Slate Voice.

A few months ago, my husband and I met a psychologist who advised us to start using rewards with our 6-year-old. Our son is happy, but he struggles at times with his behavior and emotions. (What kid doesn’t?) We wanted to help him become more self-sufficient, more proactive—to get dressed in the morning without prompting, to clear his plate after breakfast, to say please and thank you, to put his dirty clothes in the hamper. We also hoped to curb his frequent meltdowns. A positive parenting approach that reinforces good behavior could make this happen, the psychologist told us.

The internet, which of course I consulted immediately, staunchly disagreed. In parents’ exhausting journey to raise good kids, I learned, they should never, ever use rewards. A 2016 article in the Atlantic, “Against the Sticker Chart,” warned me that rewarding kids for good behavior “can erode children’s innate tendency to help others.” Money ran a story in 2015 titled “The Hidden Downside to Rewarding Your Kids for Good Behavior.” Education guru Alfie Kohn has written an entire book on the subject, Punished by Rewards. The concern, which can be traced back to research from the 1970s, is that rewarding kids for being polite, doing chores, or finishing their homework extinguishes their innate desire to do those things down the line. Worse, I was told, rewards could make kids callous and manipulative. I imagined my son leering at me: “How much will you pay me not to whack my sister with this flip-flop?”

But is the research really this damning? When an extreme stance is presented on a rather broad topic, I start wondering. And what I’ve found after digging into the research is that these blanket condemnations are unwarranted. Rewards can be useful in some situations and inappropriate in others, much like every other parenting tool. The literature on the potential dangers of rewards has been misinterpreted while the findings on its benefits have been largely overlooked.

Let’s start with one of the earliest and most famous studies on rewards, published in 1971 by Edward Deci, a psychologist at the University of Rochester. Deci invited 24 subjects, all undergraduate students, to participate one by one in a three-day experiment. On the first day, he introduced them to the cube-based puzzle game Soma, in which players arrange pieces into various shapes. Deci provided them with drawings of configurations and asked his subjects to reproduce them. If they couldn’t finish one within 13 minutes, Deci would show them how to do it. The second day of the experiment was much like the first, but for one important detail: Deci offered half the participants $1 for each configuration they could make within the 13-minute time limit while the other half kept doing puzzles without rewards. And on the third day, the subjects built puzzles again, but no one was offered money. Each day, Deci left the room for eight minutes, telling subjects that they could “do whatever you like while I am gone,” including read magazines that he had left for them. Then Deci would watch behind two-way glass to see how much time they spent on the puzzles.

As you probably guessed, on the second day, the subjects who had been offered money devoted more of their “free” time to doing puzzles. Deci noticed, though, that these subjects then spent less time on the puzzles on the third day, when the rewards had been rescinded, compared with the time they spent on them on the first day and the time the never-rewarded group spent on them that third day. As Deci concluded, there seemed to be a “decrease in intrinsic motivation for the activity following the experience with monetary rewards.”

There are two important things to keep in mind about this study. First, the purported drop in intrinsic motivation on the third day was not statistically significant, which means that we can’t be sure the difference wasn’t due to chance. Second, Deci centered his study around Soma precisely because, as he explained, “it seemed that most college students would be intrinsically motivated to do it.” In other words, he was evaluating the effects that rewards have on a person’s interest in an activity they initially found enjoyable. Yet “who on earth would think about using rewards if a child was interested in an activity?” asked Virginia Shiller, an assistant clinical professor at the Yale University Child Study Center and author of Rewards for Kids!, when I interviewed her for this article. “You only think of offering incentives if a child is struggling and resisting.” In other words, Deci’s findings aren’t applicable to the situations in which parents offer rewards.

Deci and others went on to publish dozens of studies on how rewards affect intrinsic motivation, and many were designed the same way. Indeed, in a meta-analysis published nearly 30 years after he conducted his first study, Deci and his colleagues analyzed 128 studies on the topic, concluding that rewards decrease intrinsic motivation; every single one of the included studies focused on enjoyable tasks. In another famous paper, published in 1973, a team of researchers that included Stanford psychologist Mark Lepper observed a group of preschool kids after giving them magic markers, which they didn’t normally get to use. Then they specifically chose the kids who spent the most time drawing—those who clearly enjoyed drawing the most—to participate in their experiment on how rewards influence intrinsic interest. (Keep reading to see what Lepper really thinks about rewards.) This is all interesting research, for sure, but it doesn’t tell us anything about how effective rewards are for getting kids to, say, write thank-you notes to grandma or take out the trash.

Other researchers, though, have looked at the issue in a more parent-relevant way. In a 2001 paper, psychologist Judy Cameron at the University of Alberta broke down the effects of rewards on motivation for different types of tasks, concluding that rewards reliably boost the amount of time people spend on unappealing tasks. In an earlier meta-analysis of 96 reward studies, she and a colleague concluded that “rewarded people are not less willing to work on activities and they do not display a less favorable attitude toward tasks than people who do not receive rewards.”

But we don’t want our kids to clean up their toys only when we offer them popsicles—we want them to grow into people who like to keep their rooms clean. In other words, we want to shape behavior permanently. Won’t rewards undermine that? Some research does raise concerns: A 2016 study, for instance, found that 3-year-olds who were given rewards for sharing on one occasion were less likely in the future to share when rewards weren’t offered. But studies like this, which measure the effects of a single reward, don’t reflect how rewards are typically used. No parent expects that rewarding her kid for sharing once will change her outlook on sharing for life. But reward her for a few weeks so that the behavior becomes routine—and so that she gets to experience the good feelings that accompany acting generously—and her choices might start shifting.

Indeed, one key reason rewards work is that they facilitate what psychologist Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale Parenting Center and author of The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child, calls “repeated practice.” The more your child does the good things you reward him for—tidying up, using a fork, stifling a tantrum—the more routine that behavior becomes. And, eventually, it just becomes part of who he is. Parents often assume that knowledge and awareness are enough to change behavior—that saying, “No, sweetie, hitting isn’t nice!” will get your kid to stop—but that’s not how humans work. We all know we should exercise daily and eat five servings of fruits and vegetables, too, but few of us do. It’s usually people who have forced themselves into the habit of exercising and eating leafy greens who regularly do it. I’ve seen how this repeated practice works with my 6-year-old, because yes, we did try that recommended rewards system. An example: My husband and I started rewarding him every time he put his dirty clothes in the hamper. At first we had to remind him daily that doing it would earn him a reward; then he started doing it and asking for his reward. But after a month or so, we stopped reminding, he stopped asking for rewards, and we stopped finding dirty clothes on the floor. (As for what rewards we use, more on that later.)

Indeed, the popular claim that Once you start using rewards, you can’t stop doesn’t reflect what happens in practice. Clinical psychologist David Anderson, senior director of the ADHD and Behavior Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute in Manhattan, told me that rewards given to improve a specific behavior are needed for only a few weeks or months, and then you move on to your next goal. “As those behaviors become more habitual, you’re either giving rewards less frequently, or you’re switching to a new focus of behavior,” he explained. Or maybe you put away the rewards chart for good. After my son mastered putting his clothes in the hamper, I turned my reward-giving to hair brushing, which he now does every morning without reminders, too.

And despite what you might read, plenty of evidence shows that when parents learn how to use positive feedback and rewards, their kids’ behavior improves. Programs that teach parents these approaches have been successfully used for decades to help noncompliant kids as well as those with diagnosed ADHD or conduct disorder; research suggests that they not only improve kids’ behavior in the short term but that the benefits persist. Psychologists believe that over time, as good behaviors become more common, they crowd out and ultimately replace negative behaviors. So even though our reward system didn’t directly address our son’s frequent meltdowns, we found that they nevertheless have started dissipating. And while critics argue that reward systems weaken and undermine parent-child relationships, they have been shown instead to strengthen them, because interactions between parents and kids become much more positive.

What about the ethics of it all, though? Some parents worry that giving rewards means they’re “bribing” their kids. But Anderson points out that rewards are built into all of our lives—we just don’t bring attention to them or think about them as such. You might work hard so you can leave work early (that’s a reward) or ask for a raise (another reward). You went to the gym every day last week, so you’ll buy yourself a cookie (reward). You’ll fix the front door so it stops squeaking (reward) or so that your spouse will thank you (reward). Even showing up at work every day is contingent upon reimbursement. Rewards are part of everyday life.

Your kids’ lives are chock full of rewards, too, but again, you may not think of them that way. They already get to watch movies, have play dates, go out for ice cream. So when you start using a reward system, “it’s not that you have to add rewards, it’s just that you reclaim what’s already rewarding,” Anderson says. Choose rewards you feel comfortable with; options can include extra family time and playground trips, if that feels better than money or candy. (Rewarding with favorite foods can actually be a bad idea, because it reinforces that there’s a hierarchy to the food pyramid—that sugary treats are more valuable and delicious than other foods. It can also make kids even more obsessed with whatever reward food you’re using.) But it is crucial that you choose rewards your kid truly values, because otherwise, they won’t motivate him. We didn’t get anywhere when we offered our 3-year-old daughter stickers to stay in her bed after night-night, but that was because she didn’t care about stickers. When we started using stamps, things changed. (And by the way, reward systems aren’t just for little kids; they can be adapted to work with older kids and teens, too.)

Our reward system, which we learned about from Weill Cornell Medicine psychologist Matthew Specht, is based on points: Each point our son earns is worth one cent as well as one minute of screen time. We keep tabs with a daily spreadsheet, which also shows him his tasks and activities for the day, providing him with the structure and predictability he craves. And we still control when he gets to use his screen time points, so he’s not actually watching any more than he used to. Perhaps the best part of the system is “bonus points,” when we spontaneously award points for something we notice him doing that we like—when he’s especially patient with his little sister or doesn’t freak out after losing a game of Uno. These bonus points have taught my husband and me to notice and point out when our son is being good, which isn’t always automatic for parents. When our kids color quietly, we sneak off to read the newspaper and don’t draw attention to their behavior. But we should praise them for giving us that break, too.

The popularity of “tough love” parenting—itself a reaction to helicopter parenting—is driving parents to reject rewards, but this thinking is flawed, too. Parents worry that if they reward their kids for things they should be doing anyway, they’ll spoil them or turn them into snowflakes. But as I’ve written before, there’s nothing wrong with being a supportive and positive parent. If you’re not using positive approaches, you need to consider what kinds of tools you’ll use to shape behavior. Will you yell at her more? Punish her? Too much negative feedback and discipline can be ineffective and harmful, and can incite behavioral problems. (And as Specht pointed out to us, continually nagging your kid until she cleans her room—which is essentially creating an aversive environment for her until she relents—is the same tactic your child uses when she whines nonstop until you give her juice. Don’t let her learn it from you!) It’s not that you have to use rewards to be a good parent—you absolutely don’t—but if your alternatives are nagging or punishment, you might want to rejigger your toolbox.

So when, then, are rewards helpful? Yale’s Virginia Shiller says if your child is struggling to do something she really needs to do, either because she doesn’t like it or doesn’t yet have the skills needed to enjoy it, that’s a good reward opportunity. Even Lepper, the Stanford psychologist who published the 1973 study and then went on to build an entire theory around the negative effects of rewards, noted in a recent Stanford profile that rewards do have a time and place. They can, for instance, help kids get interested in difficult tasks, such as reading or writing. “Lots of tasks at first can be awful and dull and boring until you acquire enough competence to do them well, like the early stages of reading,” the profile explains. Shiller agrees: Rewards can provide “a bridge to give them a reason to try it—and hopefully, they’ll eventually feel competent and successful, and that [feeling] will take the place of the rewards.”

Importantly, build your rewards system so that your child earns rewards easily, at least at first, Shiller says. With young children especially, she said, “you want to be their cheerleader, you want to praise and encourage them, and you want them to succeed.” Move the goalposts if you have to. If you start by telling your kid he’ll get a reward each time he writes his name, and then you see he’s really struggling, revise your plan so that he gets a reward each time he writes a single letter. But then, once he enjoys writing, ease off the reward giving—because at that point, as that vast body of research suggests, rewards may stunt his intrinsic interest.

Again: I’m not arguing that parents need to use rewards. There are many ways to shape your children’s behavior. But the scaremongering claims that rewards will harm your kid or extinguish her zeal for life simply aren’t backed by good evidence. If you’ve considered positive reinforcement but have been scared off by the dire warnings, reconsider. You might, like me, find reward programs rewarding. My son is blossoming into a generous, resilient, and responsible child, and I have a lot fewer clothes to clean up.

Self-Tanner 101: How to Get a Streak-Free Faux Glow

Self-Tanner 101: How to Get a Streak-Free Faux Glow

Style | Meijer

Self-Tanner 101: How to Get a Streak-Free Faux Glow

Margaritaville or Bust?

Margaritaville or Bust?

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Mallory Ortberg: Morning, everyone! I’m game if you’re game. Let’s spread some prudence.

Q. Midlife crisis?: For the past year or two—but especially over the last few months—I’ve been having what I can only describe as a midlife crisis. I’ve lost complete interest in my job (though I’m still productive), don’t want to deal with my kids anymore even though I love them like crazy (I’ve been a single mom for 10 years with no help from their father), and basically just want to travel the world with no responsibilities. I know all of this is unreasonable, and with my financial situation, unrealistic. But ho boy, I just want a break from real life for a year or two. As I’m unlikely to get the break, what can I do to get past this feeling of wanting to throw it all away and become a beach bum?

A: I don’t think your primary goal should be to get past this feeling! I understand, of course, that wanting to turn your life into “Margaritaville” is neither a productive nor a useful desire, and that you want to be able to do your job and care for your children without constantly looking for cheap plane tickets in an incognito browser. Some of this is standard-issue midlife crisis, sure, but plenty of it also has to do with the very real challenges of your situation. Being a single mother and having a full-time job on top of everything else is incredibly stressful and difficult, and I think you should pay attention to the fact that you’re feeling burnt out and overwhelmed.

I don’t know what help is available to you, or whether you can afford any additional professional help with either child care or domestic chores, but even if you have a close friend or family member you can share some of this stress with and ask for help getting a night off so you can take a break, I’d recommend you do so. You’re right that you can’t take a full year off from your commitments, but if you can start to schedule in a day or two a month where someone else can help to shoulder the burden, you might feel less like heading for the hills.

Q. Husband’s having an affair and I don’t care: I just discovered my husband of 15 years is hooking up with women he finds online. We’ve had issues that all couples who’ve been together for a long time have: full-time jobs, medical issues for us both, dealing with my aging and infirm parents, carting the kids to hell and back. I’m disappointed that he appears to have chosen the nuclear option rather than discuss his dissatisfaction. But other than that, I feel nothing. No anger, no sadness, just ... whatever.

I can’t bring myself to bother to tell him I know. The kids still need rides, my parents still need care, I still have to work, and he still needs things I no longer give. I don’t know why I can’t give a damn.

A: Indifference is a fairly understandable response given the situation you’ve described. It’s certainly a sign, if nothing else, that your romantic connection is no longer a meaningful component of your marriage. You don’t need to force yourself to get angry in order to talk to your husband about it. Whether or not you two decide to separate, or to redefine the terms of your partnership, it’s still something you should talk about, if for no other reason than to set limits, make sure that he’s behaving safely, sanely, and discreetly so that his extracurricular activities don’t interfere in your mutual commitment to your children.

Q. Unwilling teetotaler: Recently, I had to give up alcohol for medical reasons—it may or may not be permanent. One side effect is I don’t have as much tolerance for family events or weddings that used to seem fine (or even great) with a few beers. My husband’s family is large and we are obligated to go to a lot of family gatherings. Unfortunately, I’ve found that without alcohol, these events range from boring to someone-please-shoot-me.

My husband admits that these events aren’t fun without alcohol, and he is sympathetic, but he is unwilling to forego drinking to see what it’s like for me to sit through these events sober. I just want him to have a more realistic understanding of how painfully boring things can be without a cocktail. I stay home as much as is possible, but sometimes there are events you do have to attend. I’d just prefer we stay for an hour or two rather than a beer-fueled five or six. Am I being unreasonable?

A: Not at all! Unfortunately, I am not your husband, so the fact that I think your request is reasonable won’t go very far when it comes to negotiating how much time you two will spend with his family.

I don’t think it’s worth your time and energy trying to convince him to go teetotal during family get-togethers in solidarity with you, but if you’d prefer to leave after two hours, I think that’s a perfectly reasonable request. If he wants to come with you, so much the better, but I think you should give yourself permission to make an appearance, catch up with your in-laws for an hour or two, and then leave—if the events are as beer-fueled as you say, then most peoples’ memories of the latter half of the gathering is going to be fuzzy anyhow, and you’ve done more than your fair share when it comes to family togetherness. There’s certainly a long-range conversation to be had about what relationship you want to have with both drinking and your in-laws, but in the short-term, I think you can leave after two hours without having to worry about seeming rude.

Q. I’ve got bedbugs: I’ve got bedbugs in my house. No idea where they came from. I’ve been sleepless, anxious, irritable, paranoid, depressed—you name it. But I cannot tell a soul. I feel like a leper. I don’t want to go to someone else’s house for fear of accidentally giving them bugs, and I don’t want them to come to mine for the same reason. I don’t even want to be in my own house.

I feel dirty and unclean and every little brown speck gets my heart pounding. Bedbugs are an absolute nightmare. People have noticed my moods and puffy eyes. They can tell something’s going on with me, and I wish desperately that I could talk about it. For all I know, I might know many people who have had these nasty critters, but if they did, they didn’t talk about it, just like I’m not.

I’m meeting with a psychologist just so I can have an outlet about this, but in the meantime, I’ve been at a loss how to handle people’s concern. I’m grateful for it, but shudder at the thought of seeing revulsion if I tell them what’s really going on. I feel like I’m going crazy.

A: If anyone in the comments has experience dealing with the psychological side effects of bedbug infestation, please let us know what’s helped you. (Letter writer, I’ll assume you’re not looking for practical advice on how to get rid of them unless I hear otherwise from you.)

I understand not wanting to share this information with everyone in your life, but if you have a close friend or two who you think might be able to listen without overreacting, I’d encourage you to talk about it with them. When it comes to feeling like you’re lying when acquaintances or co-workers ask, “Are you all right? You look exhausted,” consider giving them a version of the truth like, “I’m having trouble sleeping lately” or “I’m dealing with a bug infestation at home and it’s really anxiety-producing.” That doesn’t necessarily set off everyone else’s bedbug panic button, but might make you feel less isolated and alone.

Q. When to ask a partner about their thoughts on children?: I’m a 28-year-old woman who has been dating an exceptionally wonderful man for three months. We have similar ambitions and interests, and while it’s still early, I like him more than I’ve liked anyone I’ve dated in years. While out to breakfast with him a few weeks ago, he commented on some children who were speaking loudly at another table, joking “Ugh, I hate kids.” He has expressed similar sentiments a few times since.

Prudie, the one constant in my vision for my future has always been that I want kids—not an unreasonable number, and not necessarily biologically mine, but at least one or two. His comments have led me to believe that he may not share that goal. I really like this guy, and three months seems ridiculously early to ask “Hey, do you want kids?” but I’m afraid of becoming (further) emotionally invested in someone whose vision of his future is incompatible with mine. When should I bring this up?

A: Now seems like a great time. Honestly, your boyfriend has already broached the subject—albeit jokingly—and this is important information you should know about each other. It’s not too early, and it’s not inappropriate. It’s relevant to your relationship, and you can ask him today.

Q. Bad dog: We have new neighbors that moved in a couple of months ago. They are nice people and have a toddler that my son loves to play with, but they also have a dog that is insanely aggressive toward kids. We have a dozen or so kids on the block and he’s lunged at about half of them. (He even hit my own son with his snout while his back was turned, leaving a bruise, not a bite.) Luckily, he’s been on a leash every time which has prevented a serious attack. Recently, the dog has been digging his way out of the backyard. The owners have fixed the holes when they happen, but now all the neighbors are even more scared of what could happen.

The owners don’t seem to be overly concerned about fixing his behavior or doing more to keep him contained. We are all concerned that it will take a kid getting seriously hurt for something to change. What can we do or say to get them to take their dog’s temperament more seriously? When is it appropriate to call animal control?

A: Have any of you spoken to the owners about the concerns you’ve listed here? It sounds like someone has alerted them to the sinkholes in their backyard, but I’m curious if anyone has expressed concern about their dog’s aggression and the odds that someday he might hurt a child, and his need for greater training and supervision. If you bring this up to them, and their response is lackluster, then I think it’s appropriate to escalate to animal control, which can make more specific recommendations, levy fines, and put a little more weight into their suggestions than you can as a neighbor.

Q. Outsider tortoise at a table full of hares: This may seem a nonproblem, but it’s important to me: I’m a slow eater. I don’t make people sit at the table for hours as I languidly pick at my plate, but I’m often finishing my first helping while others are on their seconds, thirds, or beyond. In fact, I rarely get a chance for additional helpings, even when I’m the hostess. (Which I frequently am, making tons of food.)

I’ve brought this up with several friend groups only to be told that I just need to eat faster, be like the group, and check my privilege. I admit that I grew up an only child in a middle-class family who never had to fight for food, but I prefer savoring to shoveling. My old-fashioned parents had a rule about not taking seconds until others at the table had finished firsts, but I’m aware of the privilege that implies. Am I being elitist and selfish? Is there a safe, appropriate way to discuss this? Do I have other choices besides eating faster, being hungry, or finding new friends?

A: If you’re regularly not getting enough to eat when you’re sharing a meal with friends, consider the possibility that you are not putting enough food on your plate to begin with. Of course one’s upbringing and history with food is relevant, but you also don’t have to litigate your own childhood every time you have dinner. If you don’t feel comfortable eating faster, and your friends are finishing everything in sight before you have a chance to get more food (and assuming your friendship with them is otherwise strong and positive), I think the easiest solution is simply to serve yourself larger portions and take your time.

Q. Re: I’ve got bedbugs: I had bedbugs in a previous apartment and had to move out after rounds of unsuccessful treatment. On the psychological side, I hear you! Many sleepless nights were spent searching images on Google and reading forums. It helps to know that bedbugs are becoming a common problem that other perfectly clean and normal people have had the misfortune of dealing with. The bugs live in mattresses and bedding and cannot live on your skin. They die when subjected to extreme heat, so take a load of laundry to a laundromat, throw it in a dryer, and live out of your basket at a friend’s house to recoup on needed sleep while exterminators work on your house.

A forewarning: Lack of sleep can induce “flare-ups” even after the bugs are gone, tricking you into thinking that you have them again! Sleep is the most important thing (ironically) and will help immensely.

A: I’m so glad that you, at the very least, no longer have bedbugs in your home, although I’m sorry you had to move apartments in order to achieve that. Thanks for the recommendations, both for sleep and for high-heat dryers.

Q. Toxic grandmother: My grandmother is a piece of work. Always trying to buy my love, offering to pay me to lose weight, and constantly suggesting men (whom she barely knows) for me to date because she wants great-grandkids like, yesterday. I now have a partner of my own, and ever since she found out, she has been hounding us constantly to come to dinner. We live several hours away from her and both have busy work schedules. She has been calling, leaving messages, texting.

My mom told me to just ignore her, but that backfired—she has started sending more texts, many of which could be construed as emotionally abusive. The final straw was when she wanted me to ask him to cancel his Thanksgiving plans to come visit her instead. I don’t want her to meet him now and probably ever, simply because she’s a toxic person and will embarrass me to no end. But she won’t take no for an answer. What should I do?

A: If you don’t want your grandmother in your life—and it sounds like you don’t—then it will be easier and more straightforward than if you wanted to renegotiate the terms of your interactions but still leave the door open for future meetings. Since you don’t want to introduce her to your partner at all, you can simply say, “Grandma, I’ve told you no and your response has been to bombard me with messages and ignore my limits. I’m saying no again, and I’m not going to respond to any future requests. If you can’t respect that, and you keep sending me abusive texts, I’m going to block your number.” Feel free to block her email address as well.

Q. Re: Midlife crisis: Given you’ve been a single mom for 10 years, you have a kid who is at least 10. This is a good age to start talking about life balances and “me” time. A 10-year-old can safely supervise kids while you are in another room watching Netflix or reading a book. Or your kids can learn that everyone begins their evening with a half-hour of “me time,” where they get to spend some time alone focusing on them. Drawing, reading, whatever. Big chunks of time can be hard to come by, but small chunks of time are often doable.

Also: libraries. Take your kids on a Saturday, let them all find a book they like, and you all go home and read throughout the week. It’s great for the kids, and it gives you some downtime. Plus, nothing lets you vicariously travel the world or another universe like a book.

A: This is helpful and specific! While it’s not a substitute for a desire to have an entirely responsibility-free life—when the soul cries out for wide-open spaces, a trip to the library cannot quite answer it—it’s a worthy and sufficient response to the fact that the letter writer seems to be spread too thin and needs some time to herself when she is not primarily responsible for someone else.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

Rekindled Romance

Rekindled Romance

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Q. Married but in love with someone else: I have known a friend, Dave, since college. We always wanted to be more than friends but the timing was never right. This did not stop us from getting close, talking almost every day, calling each other best friends, or saying “I love you” after phone calls. We always knew we had a deep connection but never tried a long-distance relationship. In the five years after college we saw each other four times and had a couple of hookups, but distance still kept us from going further.

When he got married to his high school girlfriend I was devastated but accepted it and knew I had to move on. When I got married, I stopped talking to Dave because I wanted a deep connection with my husband. Now, 15 years after college, we are both married with young kids and still states away from each other. We reconnected a year ago after not talking for three years. After talking extensively for about six months, we realized we made a mistake in not giving our relationship a chance during college. Neither of us has that deep connection with our spouses that we have always had with each other.

We both want to be together although we have not seen each other. We try to only talk once or twice a month to keep us from engaging in conversation that fuels desires that we can do nothing about. We have joked about running away together but neither one of us will leave our kids. He wants to see me at least once or twice a year to have an affair, but I am willing to wait until we are both available and divorced. If we both divorce right now, we would still have distance between us because we wouldn’t want to separate our kids from our spouses, who are both good parents.

We just don’t know what to do.

A: You can pick one of the options you outlined above! I do not possess a magical alternative. You can deepen the affair you are already having with Dave and hope that your respective spouses don’t find out until you are ready to leave them (not to mention hope you don’t end up Same Time Next Year–ing each other). You can both leave your spouses now, let the chips fall where they may, and start building a long-distance relationship together. Or you can end the affair with Dave and try once more to establish that deep connection you once sought with your own husband. Every choice will involve hurting someone; either yourselves, your spouses, or your children, and quite possibly all three. The reason you don’t know what to do at this point is because you have created a situation without excellent options.

Q: Fighting in the group message thread: My college girlfriends and I have a group message thread and we tell each other everything on it all day. Recently, I was venting about the frustrations of wedding planning and how my fiancé has needed constant hand-holding for all of his tasks. I wasn’t seriously angry, and we frequently discuss issues we are having with our partners. One of my friends on the thread lashed out at me, saying that I was being unreasonable for being annoyed at him, and that I was supporting a series of sexist traditions in the wedding I was planning. I blew up at her and told her I didn’t need her judgmental attitude.

The group thread has been silent for weeks, and neither of us apologized to each other. I feel like this fight damaged our group’s closeness, and I’m not sure who is in the wrong. I know my friend well; she never backs down and has never apologized for anything in the 14-plus years that I’ve known her. What do I do?

A: Talk to your friend. Not over text. I’m not sure who was in the wrong either, although I think in general complaining about a partner in a group text thread is not a great solution to one’s problems. Everyone needs to vent now and again, of course, but knowing just when and how much to complain about a partner is the better part of wisdom. You say that you all “frequently” do this in the chat thread, and maybe this blowup was bound to happen sooner rather than later.

Just because your friend seems unlikely to bend doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to talk to her and see her point of view. If the rest of your friends have all pulled back, then you should reach out to them, too, and apologize for not doing so sooner.

Q. Abusive husband is trying to change—but I would rather he left: Over the past six months I have realized that my husband has been emotionally abusive throughout our four-year relationship. He loves me dearly, but many times he’s kept me from going out or making friends, iced me out and made me miserable for days, refused to apologize for saying cruel things, questioned any dollar I spent, refused to compromise on my desire for tattoos, threatened to leave unless I convinced him I loved him, etc. I was sick of it and, frankly, ready for him to leave.

Last month, he packed up his stuff and threatened to drive back home, 2,000 miles from where we live, and I wasn’t going to stop him. But we had an hours-long talk and for the first time, he suddenly saw where I was coming from. He was deeply ashamed of his actions and remorseful. Since then, he has spoken at length about how he wants to improve himself and even started relaxing his hold over me.

But frankly, I’m pretty much done. I don’t really want to be married to him anymore, especially now that I’ve realized there are men out there who are willing to give me everything I want without my compromising myself.

Here’s the kicker: If we split, I really want him to leave. I love my apartment, which is 10 minutes from my work (it’s 40 minutes from my husband’s), and one of very few affordable places that allow big dogs (I would keep the dog if we split). Logically, I should stay and he should go. But how can I convince him of this if I’m the one who wants out? Do you have any suggestions on navigating a tricky housing situation?

A: You can ask him to leave and see if his newfound contrition carries him that far. You can check your agreement with your landlord and see if it’s possible for you to buy him out of his half of the lease. You can file for divorce and ask your attorney about how best to make sure the apartment stays in your name. You can, and should, try all of these things if necessary. But if it comes down to either losing the husband or keeping the apartment, I think it’s better to lose the husband.

Q. Teach children well: My son is 2-and-a-half and just learning how to talk about the people and things around him. When using pronouns he uses female-gendered ones, even for inanimate objects (e.g., when looking for a toy, “where’d she go?”, instead of “where’d it go?”). At first I was stoked (just quietly to myself, I model back more appropriate pronouns to him). But as it continues and he calls everyone “she,” it occurs to me that I have a chance to model a more open and inclusive approach to gender, and do my part toward the paradigm shift. My quandary is in how monumentally easy it is to teach him binary gender norms, and how monumentally difficult it will be to teach gender fluidity to a young child. How do I nail down this abstract concept so I can break off age-appropriate things to say? How do I demonstrate to him how to talk about people in a way that respects and reflects a nonbinary reality?

A: I think you are overthinking this particular habit! Your son’s quirk of reference is charming but doesn’t necessarily require a response on your part. And as your son gets older, you can have plenty of conversations about gender identity, gender expression, and nonbinary representation that aren’t necessarily pegged to this particular habit. There will be lots of opportunities throughout his childhood to expand his understanding of gender—“Yes, sometimes boys do X, but they also do Y and Z,” “Not everyone is a boy or a girl,” etc. As a general rule, I think it’s a good idea when talking to your kid about anything connected to sex and gender to be open-minded and curious, to make it clear that nothing is off-limits, and to be available to answer any questions they may have.

Q. Mysterious bicycle: Several months ago, I awoke to a mysterious bike in my driveway. I asked around if anyone knew who it belonged to. No one knew anything. I left the bike on my property, visible from the street, in case the owner came by. No one has. Two weeks ago, my grandson confessed that his childhood friend, who was killed a month ago, had stolen the bike and was chased onto my property and hid. (My grandson definitely wasn’t involved as it happened on a weekend that he and his parents went out of town.) The boy who stole the bike is now dead, and I have no idea who the bike belongs to—what should I do with it?

A: Call your city’s non-emergency line and make a “found property” report. If the bike was reported stolen, the police may be able to return it to its original owner.

Q. Update—the girl who thought she loved the misery in a relationship: I wrote to you a year ago about the confusion I felt in breaking up with a person who treated me like shit. I now understand this was toxic chemistry masking itself as love. But despite reading your advice and all the comments and very much feeling like it lined up with my instincts to never see him again, I did and we got back together. I know that was dumb and ill-advised. I finally ended it again a few months ago for good—really—but the web he weaved was astounding in nature. On level with everything I’ve read regarding sociopaths. I eventually spoke with the other “ex” and found out he had been physical with her. It broke my heart and terrified me.

Everything is fine now, but I’m just in a period of isolation and self-doubt. I thought I understood what was healthy but I’m not sure if I can trust myself based on everything that transpired. I don’t do traditional therapy for personal reasons. What can be done here?

I do have a few friends but most are out of state. I have only told one long-term friend, and while she is very understanding, I don’t burden her with this more than I should.

A: I’m glad to hear that you’re out of that relationship, and I hope you’re not too hard on yourself for needing more than one attempt to get away from him. The best thing you can do for yourself right now is to continue to expand your social support system. If traditional therapy isn’t an option for you, what about nontraditional therapy? There are numerous support groups for women who have left abusive relationships, remote therapy, meditation classes—your local women’s shelter may also offer numerous health and wellness services to women who are no longer in crisis but looking to get help recovering from abuse. In addition, consider telling even just one or two of your other friends about the nature of your last relationship and what this year has been like for you. Even if they’re not local, knowing that you have more than one person who knows what’s going on with you and who’s in your corner may go a long way.

Q. Introvert boyfriend ignores friends: My boyfriend is wonderful and kind and a great listener and very engaging with me, but actively is bored by all of my friends. He’s been willing to accompany me on various trips/meals with friends, but usually ignores people and tells me how bored he was afterwards.

It means a lot to me to have him involved in various parts of my life. I don’t ask it of him often (I know he’s very introverted), but having him come just to be a downer is maybe worse than just not having him along. All my friends want to meet him and to become friends with the person who has made me tremendously happy for the last couple years, but on the off chance we do all get together, he basically just looks at his hands!

Is there some way I can get him to interact in a nontaxing way? Just for a little bit? Should I just give up and have him never meet my friends, and tell them if we did all hang out he’d be bored by them?

A: Introversion is not the same thing as rudeness. What your boyfriend is being is rude.

Ignoring your friends and telling you that they bore him is lazy, selfish, and impolite. The fact that he’s willing and able to be kind, engaged, and an active listener when he’s around you suggests he’s only doing so because he’s getting something out of it, and he doesn’t see your friends or other interests as having any value for him. I do not recommend you tell your friends they can’t meet your boyfriend because you know he’d be bored by them—there’s no reason for you to compound and excuse his rudeness. There are a lot of guys out there who are wonderful, kind, great listeners, very engaging, and warm and welcoming when they meet their girlfriend’s friends. Even introverted guys.

Q. What to do when you know a stranger is cheating?: I was talking to a guy on a dating site, and I could tell he was being shady because he kept deactivating and reactivating his profile, but talking to me like there was nothing weird going on. I straight up asked if he was cheating on someone and he said no, that he only had a couple people he was seeing casually. But through some sleuthing, my friend and I found his clearly serious girlfriend’s social media profile. Are we obligated to try to let her know? We feel very torn.

A: If you had actually gone out with this guy, I’d be inclined to say yes, but as it is I think the best move is to simply block him and move on. There’s no need to give him any more time and attention, or sleuthing, than you already have.

Mallory Ortberg: Phew, lots of thorny family planning issues this week! Good luck making it through the day, everyone—personally, I’m inclined to follow that bold reader’s good example and spend the rest of it in bed.

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

Glowpro Sunset Glow Review

by Emily Andrews @

Comprehensive review of Glowpro Sunset Glow. See what real experts and actual users have to say about this self tanning product.

Source: Glowpro Sunset Glow Review by

Expert Answers to Your Self Tanning Questions

Expert Answers to Your Self Tanning Questions


Do your self tanners leave you orange? Streaked? Blotchy? Our beauty experts offer their top picks and tricks.

How to Avoid Distractions While Studying

How to Avoid Distractions While Studying

by @ How to of the Day

You know you really want to get good grades. Your parents have put the pressure on, or you promised yourself you would do better. But you keep getting distracted! If you work to find a focused mindset, establish a study schedule, and choose the right place to study, you can cut out the distractions you have control over and minimize the ones you can't stop completely.

7 Self-Tanners That’ll Give You a Perfectly Bronzed Glow

7 Self-Tanners That’ll Give You a Perfectly Bronzed Glow

Her Campus

This isn’t Netflix; orange is NOT the new black.

Healthy Skin Campaign: Skin Type I

by lsnodgrass @ Audubon Dermatology

I, at the ripe age of 28 with an extensive tanning bed history, find myself more obsessed with skin care products than I am with makeup (which occupied 99% of my bathroom drawer in my early 20’s!) My husband wishes I spent as much time cooking dinner as I do on my night time skin... Read More →

From the publisher … The ONE constant: change

by bbresnahan @ One The Magazine

One. Two. We enter One Magazine’s second year of publication with some changes. The magazine itself is printed on a different stock with slightly altered page dimensions. It won’t mean much to you, the reader; but it’s a benefit to our advertisers because it enables us to increase circulation by inserting it into several newspapers [...]

On Sexuality, the Law Still Caters to the Norms of Public Disgust

On Sexuality, the Law Still Caters to the Norms of Public Disgust

by Senthorun Raj @ Slate Articles

This article originally appeared in The Conversation.

We tend to assume that law is objective and disembodied, but the story of the decriminalization of homosexuality in the U.K. shows that, like the people who created it, it is in fact an emotional creature, animated by visceral human feelings—and as far as sexuality is concerned, the chief emotion at work is often disgust.

You don’t have to look very hard to see how much it was disgust, not a concern for morality or justice, that shaped the laws governing homosexual activity. In fact, in the U.K., homosexuality was long deemed so perverse that to even speak of it in public would stain your character.

Criminal punishments for homosexual activity, which included the death penalty, thrived on disgust for centuries. Introduced by Henry VIII in 1533, the Buggery Act 1533 criminalised the “abominable vice” of anal sex between men. In his commentaries on the common law of England published in 1765, jurist William Blackstone described buggery as an “offence of so dark a nature” that “the very mention of [it] is a disgrace to human nature”. Colonial statutes (which are still in effect in a number of Commonwealth countries today) referred to sex between men as an “act against the order of nature”.

In 1895, writer Oscar Wilde was put on trial for “gross indecency," a statutory offence introduced in 1885 to punish individuals who engaged in same-sex relationships, without having to prove they had anal sex. In sentencing Wilde for gross indecency, Justice Wills noted:

The crime of which you have been convicted is so bad that one has to put stern restraint upon one’s self to prevent one’s self from describing, in language which I would rather not use, the sentiments which must rise in the breast of every man of honour who has heard the details of these two horrible trials.

Disgust, again, was the animating principle. In writing about the Wilde trial, philosopher and legal scholar Martha Nussbaum observes that disgust was not simply an excess or unintended consequence of prosecuting sexual offences; it was central to it. Criminal penalties were contingent on the extent to which the person, and the activity they engaged in, could elicit public disgust.

Dealing with disgust

Unsurprisingly, then, the process of decriminalizing homosexuality that began in the mid-20th century involved rethinking and redirecting disgust in the law. Following the convictions of famous British citizens such as Alan Turing and Lord Montagu, the U.K. government commissioned Sir John Wolfenden in 1954 to head up an inquiry to consider the appropriateness of criminalizing homosexuality and the treatment of those who were convicted as a result.

In its powerful and widely celebrated report, the Wolfenden Committee noted that revulsion towards homosexuals was an insufficient basis to criminalise their behaviour, since it breached their right to privacy: “Moral conviction or instinctive feeling, however strong, is not a valid basis for overriding the individual’s privacy.”

On paper, this was a breakthrough. But instead of liberating homosexuality, the notion of protecting “privacy” became a legal container for public disgust. The committee also noted that by confining homosexuality to the bedroom, it could be zoned away to a space where the public would not have to bear the disgust of witnessing it. In fact, the committee emphasised the need to protect children from this “corrupting” vice; it recommended this be done by setting the age of consent for homosexual activity at 21, several years above the heterosexual boundary.

Ten years after the report, parliament gave effect to these recommendations when it passed the Sexual Offences Act 1967 and partially decriminalized homosexuality in England and Wales. Criminal law still prohibited sexual activity between men aged under 21, and those who had (group) sex in the company of other adults.

Homosexuality, in short, was not cleansed of public disgust. Rather, legal notions of privacy allowed the state to contain homosexuality in a way that would avoid offending the moral sensibilities of a “normal” (read: heterosexual) public. Disgusting sex was safely confined to the private sphere.

Happily ever after?

Over the last 50 years, the British gay rights landscape has been dramatically reshaped. Same-sex couples have gone from being revolting “outlaws” to dignified “in-laws.” They can have anal sex at the same age as those who can have vaginal-penile intercourse; they can get married and have children. Many of us who are directly affected sentimentalise these as milestones on a march towards a happy ending—a world where we are no longer abused because of who we are or what we do.

That’s perfectly understandable, but we should treat this legalistic narrative of progress with caution. Disgust, after all, is still used to regulate sexual minorities.

Various laws still police public sex and sex work. Thanks largely to the judgment in the notorious Operation Spanner trial of 1990, people who enjoy consensual sadomasochism risk prosecution when their kinky activities result in what the law deems “actual bodily harm.” Those who find kinship outside the conventional couple remain on the peripheries of legal recognition.

The law is still used to stigmatise and punish identities and forms of intimacy that don’t conform to the mainstream’s romanticised expectations. Yes, it’s right to celebrate the legal progress in this area over the last five decades; many of us who would once have been kept in the shadows no longer think of our desires as disgusting or shameful. But it must be remembered that this was made possible by changes in public emotion, not just the law—and if we want to see further progress, we must ask ourselves why some sexualities still disgust us.

Just Not Interested

Just Not Interested

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week by signing up in the box below. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She'll be online here on Slate to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I am a 50-year-old married woman who’s been married for 30 years to the father of my four children. We were both raised to believe women should be modest and have no sexual urges, so we’ve always had sex on a fairly fixed schedule (every third day, no physical contact during menstruation). My husband is very attentive, makes certain that I orgasm, and has never hurt me. I never thought anything was unusual until my 20-year-old daughter came home from college deeply troubled about being “asexual.” As she confided in me and we have been reading together, I realized that I am asexual also.

Is there a gene that causes this? I have no emotional conflict because in my culture having no sexual urges is a benefit. I do not think it is appropriate to say to my daughter “Hey, I am too, and it’s fine!” but seeing her view herself as “broken” is heart-wrenching. I realize my husband and my immediate family are the only people I can touch without feeling deep revulsion. (I do not like handshakes, hugs, or even massages from paid professionals.) I understand how she feels, but at her age I knew I would have a husband and children, and she is grappling with being “odd and different” from her siblings and her peers. I love her so deeply and feel I am the cause of her misery. How do I help her?

–Guilty Mother

There is no “gene” for asexuality (something as complex as one’s sexual orientation or fundamental approach to sex isn’t caused by a single gene that might be flipped on or off), and you are not the origin of your daughter’s suffering. You are, it sounds like, uniquely situated to offer her both empathy and support, but this is not something you must “fix” on your daughter’s behalf. Your role can be to offer support, to introduce her to useful resources she might not be familiar with, and to listen, but you cannot, and should not, try to take responsibility for your daughter’s experience. Whether or not you choose to share your own experience with her is up to you; remember that when you are talking to your daughter about your own asexuality, you may be giving her more information about the inside of her parents’ marriage than she needs or wants. Which is not to say you should not discuss this with her. Let your own judgment guide you as to whether you think the information would help her.

Asexuality is not the same thing as a hormonal imbalance or a sudden change in libido, nor is it concomitant with an aversion to touch or a phobia of sex. It may help both of you to learn more about asexuality, especially from the perspective of asexual people: I’d recommend The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker, the Asexuality Archive, and Asexual Outreach. If your daughter understands herself to be asexual, whether for a season or for her entire life, it does not necessarily follow that she will never find a partner or have children, if that’s what she wants. There are a variety of paths her life could take, and while asexuality certainly sets her apart from the mainstream, and she’s likely to experience plenty of challenges and prejudice along the way, she is in no way doomed to a life of isolation and misery.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I'm in my mid-20s and consistently annoyed by the way many people my age approach conflict. Over the past few years, I’ve had co-workers and friends initiate disagreements by text message or email. I hate having difficult conversations remotely. It’s stressful, and you lose all sense of body language, facial expressions, and tone. How are you supposed to resolve anything when you’re missing all that information?

A friend of mine from college, “Mariana,” is wonderful but a bit sensitive, and frequently gets upset at perceived slights. She has twice in the past three months tried to initiate difficult conversations over text and email. I have told her I don’t like that and tried to transition the conversation to in-person. Today, she texted me about another way in which I’ve recently let her down. Should I tell her outright that I don’t discuss things like that via text? Or, since she is the one who is hurt, should I use her preferred method of communication? I'm torn over whether to prioritize her comfort or mine.

–Fighting in the Digital Age

You do not have to let Mariana select the medium you two employ for resolving interpersonal conflict just because she gets mad at you more often than you get mad at her—this is not 17th-century France, and she is not the challenged party with the right to announce the field of honor under the code duello. It is perfectly appropriate for you to respond with, “Let’s not hash this out over text, but I do want to talk about this. When are you available to talk over the phone or meet in person?”

* * *

Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend recently broke up with me after over a year and a half of dating. He said he just wasn't ready for a committed relationship at this point in his life. We are still friends. His mom and I still talk all the time, and he's still my best friend, so we text every day. My question is, how do I move on? We were at a point where I could envision us building a life together and we talked about it often, except toward the end when he almost stopped talking to me entirely. I'm finding it tough to give up that vision of us I had in my head and embrace our close friendship. How do you think I should handle it?

–Best Ex Forever

I get variations of this question all the time—so often that I’m prepared to make a general ruling that applies to almost all exes almost all of the time (I reserve the right to make exceptions). The answer is to not embrace your “close friendship”! That’s not to say that I don’t think exes can be good, even great friends—I’m close with some of mine, and it’s delightful—but nobody goes from being deeply in love, in full planning-a-life-together mode, to “best platonic pals with no vast, unspoken sense of loss, hurt, and longing” overnight, or even in a few months.

What the two of you have right now is not a close friendship. Your boyfriend dumped you suddenly after a period of bewildering radio silence, and he is not doing you any favors by staying in daily contact with you before you’ve been able to get over him. If you two are ever going to be friends, it’s not going to be while you’re still picking up the pieces of your shattered romantic dreams.

You know, I think, what you have to do next, which is why you wrote to me in the first place. You have to stop talking to your ex’s mom. You have to stop texting your ex every day. You’ll have to set the boundary yourself, which will feel uniquely difficult, because he’s not going to do it for you, because this relationship you two have now is only hurting you, not him. You tell him you’re not going to be able to speak for a while—a long while—so that you can focus on mourning the loss of your relationship and start to figure out a way forward. You should not think about resuming contact with him for at least a year. Any shorter, and you’re liable to think, “In another few months, I’ll get to be best friends with him again—and maybe he’ll be ready for commitment, and see how great I’ve been after our breakup, and things will just click, and we’ll get married.” Which is not at all conducive to the moving-on process! So: Tell him goodbye, defriend him on social media, delete his number, tell his mom you’re still extremely fond of her and you’d like to schedule a catching-up lunch sometime in the far-distant future, and focus on your friends who haven’t recently broken your heart.

Dear Prudence: I know I should end my friends-with-benefits relationship—but I don’t want to!

Hear more Prudie at

Dear Prudence,

I've been with my partner/husband for 32 years, and we finally got married in 2013 after it became legally possible for us. I love him, but ever since we first met, he’s cheated on me. I found out for the first time many years ago and intended to break up with him, but he apologized profusely and told me that it was only sex and that I was more important to him than anyone else. He vowed to stop, but it’s continued for years. Every time it’s the same story. I realize now he will never stop. I want to separate, but he swears he wants us to stay together. The real issue is that I'm 65 years old and now disabled. I rely on his job for insurance and financial assistance. This is all I have left and life would be much harder without it. I can't tell you how much I've agonized over this. I'm tired of the cheating and the resulting fights. But I feel stuck!

–Ready to Leave

You’ve been dealing with the same cheating cycle for well over three decades, and I think you’re right when you say your husband is unlikely ever to change. That said, your financial concerns are very real and practical, and I don’t want to encourage you to risk your own health and safety. Take your time, gather as much information as you can about your options, and plan your exit from this relationship carefully. The good news is that, as your husband’s legal spouse, you may be entitled to rehabilitative alimony once you file for divorce. Many divorce attorneys offer free initial consultations, and in some states you may be able to petition the court to require that your soon-to-be-ex helps pay your legal fees. You can also contact your local Legal Aid and, since you’re over 65, your local elder affairs department, for further assistance. If you have friends or family who would be willing to offer material or financial support in the event that you left your husband, call on them, too.

I don’t want to offer you a naïvely optimistic vision of the future. Divorce is almost always hard, and it’s particularly difficult for the financially dependent party. But divorce is also possible, and I think that whatever the next phase of your life looks like, you would prefer to deal with the unknown than go through another 10 or 20 years of the same old song and dance with your perpetually unfaithful husband.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I have a friend who loves to tell work stories. This would not be a problem if she were an actress or website developer, but she's a marriage, family, and child therapist and she talks about her clients. I’m not a fellow therapist, and she’s not asking me for assistance helping people resolve their problems. These stories are told purely for entertainment. She claims this is not a violation of confidentiality because I “don't know them.” Frankly, I'm horrified! She is betraying her clients by telling me their personal details. Worse, years ago I saw a therapist for a short while and believed that what I shared would never be revealed to anyone, not just to people who “don't know” me. Now I thoroughly regret ever going and would never, ever recommend therapy to anyone. Do all therapists blab like this? Am I being oversensitive, or is she being unethical? Most importantly, how do I make her stop?

–Heard Enough

Licensed therapists are bound by a professional code of ethics. It may be true that your friend is not out-and-out violating the letter of the law as long as she is careful not to include names or other identifying details, but she is expected to “respect and guard the confidences of each individual client.” If she is not violating the letter of the law, she is certainly not honoring its spirit. Even when consulting with a colleague about an individual case, “information may be shared only to the extent necessary to achieve the purposes of the consultation”—not trotted out over weekend brunch for the entertainment of others. When your friend gossips about her clients, revealing highly personal and potentially embarrassing information—even if she does not use their names or identifying details—she undermines public confidence in therapists as a group, and creates the impression that therapists privately find their clients ridiculous, good only to provide fodder for cocktail-party chatter of the “Can you believe it?” variety.

Dr. Stephen Behnke of the American Psychological Association has this to say about therapeutic confidentiality: “Gossip about patients is destructive because it exploits the willingness of patients to share intimate aspects of their lives and their psyches with us, which is why gossip is troubling from an ethical perspective. Only by accident will a patient ever benefit from being gossiped about; almost by definition the purpose of gossip about patients is entertainment or prurient interest.”

All of which is to say: An ethical therapist (and hopefully most practicing MFT therapists fall under that umbrella) does not offer up even anonymous information about their clients in casual, social conversation. Your friend’s bad behavior is a reflection on her, not on the profession in general; the odds are excellent that the therapist you saw years ago took your issues seriously and kept your sessions in the strictest confidence. Tell your friend that you have no interest in hearing any of the details of her clients’ personal lives, that you don’t approve of her trotting them out for entertainment, and that if she can’t think of something else to discuss, then maybe you two don’t have much to talk about.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I'm a 48-year-old gay bear who recently started dating a 29-year-old guy. We met through friends about a year ago, began having regular cuddle sessions, and finally started a relationship. He is funny, smart, sexy, and caring. He's emotionally mature and financially secure, and he's as crazy about me as I am about him. We're falling in love, and it's wonderful.

The confusing part is that he doesn’t normally go for bears and his sexual and relationship experiences have been very narrow. Our sexual encounters start and end well, but he isn’t interested in expanding the menu on foreplay. He's physically attentive in everyday situations, a champion cuddler, and a decent kisser. We both enjoy giving and receiving when it comes to the act itself, but he’s not willing to do much in between. He doesn't enjoy giving oral (but loves receiving it), and doesn't look at or touch the more intimate parts of my body very much. I'm constantly wondering whether his lack of engagement in foreplay is because I'm not his type, his lack of experience with guys like me, or both. I've asked about it, and he says I'm beautiful, he just doesn't enjoy doing those things. I love this guy, but I need to feel physically attractive, and I want our sex life to be mutually fulfilling. I can't imagine going without receiving oral sex and other great foreplay indefinitely. How do I engage him on the topic (again) without sounding neurotic or sleazy?

–Insecure and Frustrated

If it is sleazy to ask one’s partner for foreplay or physical attention, then just about everyone in a long-term relationship is an irredeemable sleazebag. I’m not sure how important it is to figure out why this guy you’re “falling in love with” isn’t interested in reciprocating when it comes to oral sex, or paying you physical attention outside of the bare minimum required to get you to finish. Either he’s lazy, or he’s selfish, or he’s not as attracted to you as you are to him, or a combination of all three. He’s very aware that you’d like him to do those things, but that hasn’t proved sufficient motivation for him to try.

If it’s merely a case of nerves brought on by lack of experience (which I’m inclined to doubt—even if he’d never been with a man who looked like you before, there’s nothing so fundamentally different about a bearish guy from other types of men that you would prove a bewildering mystery to him), then the next time you two are messing around, tell him you’d like to do something different this time, and then show him exactly how you’d like to be touched. If he’s receptive, then maybe you can find your way to a more mutually satisfying sex life! If he’s uninterested, or half-hearted, or continues to say that he “just doesn’t enjoy” going down on or touching you, then I think you have enough information to figure out whether things are going to work out between you.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

More Dear Prudence

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Welcome to Night Vale’s Cecil Baldwin on Finding the Queerness in His Character

Welcome to Night Vale’s Cecil Baldwin on Finding the Queerness in His Character

by Kyle Stevens @ Slate Articles

If you’ve heard of Cecil Baldwin, then you’ve probably heard him, too. An out, HIV-positive actor and activist, he is most famous for playing the narrator of Welcome to Night Vale, one of the first fictional podcast successes with well over 100 million downloads. The show is launching a new European tour in September that will cover seven countries, and it will tour New Zealand and Australia in January 2018. I recently spoke to the robust-voiced Baldwin about being gay and sounding straight, voice-acting, queering characters, and the unique affordances of the podcast genre.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Kyle Stevens: Welcome to Night Vale is one of the most popular podcasts around. At what point did you come aboard?

Cecil Baldwin: I was working here in the East Village with the Neo Futurists. I met Joseph Fink through one of their workshops. Joseph was a writer who was working on trying to get his work out there. He had also tried self-publishing, and that ended up with boxes of books with no one to buy them. So he figured, “Well, what if I take my short stories and make them into a podcast?” and had this idea to do a radio show, a fictional radio show, not This American Life, which was nonfiction, not Marc Maron, which was sort of the template of 75 percent of podcasts at the time: people talking, interview-style, or nonfictional storytelling. Even Serial came much later.

Joseph wrote and said, “I need this radio announcer voice, and you have that voice.” So I recorded the first episode, sent it back to Joseph, and he was like, “Great, let’s just do this!” I was a freelance artist trying to hustle, and it seemed like an easy gig. It was like 3–4 hours of work every month, and it didn’t seem that hard. I recorded at home, which at that point was a tiny little apartment with my boyfriend in Harlem, and it was noisy and hot. But I literally just used a $35 microphone and Garage Band, so it’s not like it was cost-prohibitive. Which, you know, was good.

It sounds like your queerness wasn’t an issue in your casting originally. Were you involved in the decision to make Cecil the narrator queer?

Passively. I mean, Joseph and Jeffrey [Cranor] write the show. The only thing I have control over is my performance. Because I self-direct on Night Vale, if I see something that’s like “oh wow, this character I’m playing is describing this other male character with a very, you know, kind of literary beauty,” I was like “oh, this can really easily become queer.”

Well early on, the male character that the narrator constantly describes as having “perfect hair” …

Yeah, exactly. All of a sudden this physical appearance gets so much attention that I was like “ well this sounds like a queer relationship to me.” So I just played it like that. And I think they picked up on that and were like “oh maybe there is something to it,” and then began writing it in the show. So, did I decide that this was to be a queer relationship? I did in my own head, but it didn’t become canonically queer until the writers were like “we’re going to make it that.”

Night Vale is often labeled surrealist. When I think of surrealism, I think of how it undermines our ability to logically comprehend everything that’s happening, which Night Vale so often does. Obviously Night Vale is verbal, and there is a lot of wordplay: puns that reveal how fragile language is, how it doesn’t always make sense. But are there other aesthetic legacies you see it in line with?

It lives in the same library as Lovecraft, Steven King, David Lynch, down to Salman Rushdie, or magical realism. It lives in those places. But Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks are all about societies that seem normal on the outside, but once you peel away the top layer it’s very scary and messy and magical—very primeval forces. I think the difference is that Night Vale wears that on its sleeve, and then it’s kind of reversed: It wears its weirdness on the outside.

This is a larger question, but obviously we live in a culture that’s highly visual and cinema and television are celebrated as visual media, even though television was always more verbal. You were supposed to be able to do the ironing, or go get a snack, and still follow along. But the shows that are considered the best are often praised for being more visual, not relaying on dialogue—like Mad Men, or even Twin Peaks. Is there a kind of a flip side? Can podcasts do something unique by not being visual media?

Oh sure. Again, when you’re talking about disenfranchised voices, it’s really amazing. When Night Vale was first blowing up, the internet was all over it. Fan art was one of the first things that contributed to Night Vale becoming so popular. With only a voice to go on, people would start drawing a character who is completely not described, and it would become a kind of groupthink experiment. Someone draws a character one way—let’s say like Tim Gunn, blonde, square-jawedbecause that’s what this voice conjured in their head; that’s what the level of vocabulary or—*


Articulateness! Because there are references to Pulitzer Prize–winning authors, this is what they imagine: blonde, dapper, bow tie, that sort of thing. But then there was an interesting point of view where people were drawing Cecil as a person of color, as Native American, black, Asian, everything. And so we began to lament the fact that so many others defaulted to white. Why do we hear “respectable, intelligent, articulate” and think “white blond man,” you know? And so there was an interesting conversation about that—a tempest in a Tumblr teapot. But “POC Cecil” became like a hashtag. And still the No. 1 question that people ask me on Twitter or in person at conventions is “What does Cecil look like?” And I’m like, “Why do you need my opinion on this? What do you think he looks like? Well that’s what he looks like.” Here’s the thing, we’re talking about ambiguity in your art, and people don’t like ambiguity in art because it means that they have to do work, you know?

Did you always want to be a voice actor?

You know, I feel like in a lot of ways I didn’t necessarily want to be a voice actor, but it was thrust upon me—like when I was ten years old I had the deepest voice in class. I also share a name with my father, so people would call our house asking to speak to Cecil, and I would be like “Hello?” and they would just assume I was an adult. But it got to the point, especially when I was in college, that everyone said “oh you must be a voice actor, right? Listen to that voice, it’s so great!” But the practicality of that is a very different thing. When I got to New York, I found a commercial agent, got head shots, and did all the things that good little actors do when they get to New York City, and one of the commercial agents was like “Oh you should definitely do voice acting, oh my god, just go get the demo made!” So I found this professional who had been working in New York for decades and who had a house in New Jersey that his voice over career built. I thought, “Oh my God, it can be done!” This guy just had pages and pages of copy and this was what he did all day. But I’ve also found that it’s really hard because everyone has the capacity to speak, and therefore anybody could potentially do voice-over work …

Well, maybe not. When I was a teen, people called me “ma’am” when I answered the phone.

Sure, well you know what—what’s ironic about this, I was born like, 30 years too late. What people respond to about my voice is this sort of witty newscaster gravitas, which is so not the trend in advertising now. Like I would have been the brand for Lucky Cigarettes in the ’60s, but now we’ve learned to mistrust that sound. I read this interesting article about the sort of the things that “the greatest generation” held in high esteem: hard handshake, look a man in the eye, tell him the truth, don’t let emotions cloud your judgment—

Be the most patriarchal …

—Be the most patriarchal. Be reserved. Be the distant father. That’s the opposite of what people are looking for now, so I found when I got to New York. They were like “For this pizza commercial we’re looking for a Seth Rogen voice, we’re looking for a Paul Rudd voice, we’re looking for a Jesse Eisenberg voice.” They don’t want the patriarchal radio announcer’s “I’m going to tell you why you should buy this product” dulcet tone. They want “Hey I’m your best friend, you should get this pizza!”

Do you think that this idea that you have this somehow stereotypically patriarchal, old-fashioned masculine voice is at all in tension with your willingness to be an out gay actor?

Yes, I think so. You know I went to school in East Tennessee, a middle-classy kind of environment. As far as I knew I was the only out gay kid at my high school. I came out when I was 16. And honestly, the people that were meanest to me about it—I mean, sure, I got called faggot a couple times by the jocks, but it was always kind of half-hearted—but the people that were meanest to me were the guys that were obviously gay but had a more femme voice and mannerisms. They were the meanest to me because I could pass if I wanted. I feel like there’s a lot of stratification in the gay world. Some of my best friends are faggots [laughs]—all of my best friends are faggots, and I love them. But it was difficult in high school because I was like “No, I’m gay,” but I wasn’t getting the negative attention from the straight world that they were. So I’m sure that my decision to come out seemed much easier in their eyes.

I think voices are an underdiscussed aspect of queer detection. Sure all kinds of gestures and mannerisms matter, but it’s the voice that cements it for people, in my own experience. I wonder if that’s related to why everyone would rather text than call these days. The voice gives so much away right?

You remember when Instagram started their whole pseudo-Snapchat thing? There are all these beautiful models that you follow on Instagram, and you’re like “oh my god, what man candy.” And then all of a sudden you hear them speak and you’re like “No, no, shhh, you were much better when I didn’t have to hear you.” And that has nothing to do with being masc or femme, it has more to do with the image in my head of you as an image. Now that I hear you, the image has completely changed.

Tell me about your decision to come out as HIV-positive.

I found I was HIV-positive when I moved to NYC and was led to the Neofuturists, and I felt like I owed it to this theater company to be honest about my status. There, I wrote several little pieces about being positive talking about the day-to-day life of what it’s like to have this virus. With a couple of guys I called my “gay uncles,” we used to end shows by asking if anyone knows someone who is HIV-positive. Only one or two people would raise their hands usually, so we would then walk out into the audience and start shaking hands saying “now you do.”

As for announcing my status in a bigger way, well, look I’m not much of a social media guy. But social media is a tool, and I realized I could use it. Actually, when I got Twitter, they shut me down on the first day. They thought I was a bot for getting so many followers. Once I started to understand my own limits for social media, the HIV question was always the biggest one. My friends would advise me to come out as HIV-positive as long as I knew my reasons for doing so.

What were those reasons?

For me, it was about the fact that the majority of Night Vale’s fan base are younger and female-identified. I find that this generation is struggling with LGBTQ history, and it’s become so normal to have the cycle of outrage where everyone is crazy angry about something and then forgets it two days later. The HIV/AIDS story was falling behind. Millenials and post-millenials don’t have a lot of reference for what living with HIV was, and is. I wanted to be a more-or-less benign figure that proves that the days of the AIDS crisis have passed. Science has caught up, and it’s no longer about comforting the dying. It’s about treating those people who are living with HIV humanely.

*Correction, Aug. 30, 2017: This post originally misspelled Tim Gunn’s last name.

Home Sweet Heat

Home Sweet Heat

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Q. Gun-shy: My husband and I have been together for 16 years and thankfully we get along beautifully and are best friends. There has been one issue, though, on which we have never agreed: Should we have a gun in our house?

We do not have kids and rarely do any kids visit our home, so that is not a factor. He believes it’s the right thing to do to protect ourselves. I fear having a gun in our home could lead to a tragic accident, such as a friend entering our home and being mistaken as an intruder. I also fear that if, God forbid, I actually need to use the gun to protect myself, I would freeze up and not be able to use it, and have the tables turned on me. In response my hubby has said that we would both go get shooting lessons from professionals.

Our neighborhood isn’t the greatest, but I certainly don’t fear for my life walking the streets. But one never knows what can happen in this crazy world. Overall I fear this disagreement will eventually lead to an I-told-you-so situation on the part of one of us, and whatever would lead to that would be a terrible occurrence. Can you take a shot at giving us some advice on how to come to a consensus?

A: This is very much something you two will need to figure out as a couple, but there are a few basic principles that might serve as helpful guides. If you don’t want to commit to using a gun yourself, then you absolutely don’t have to. If that’s a line you think you need to draw, then do so. If your husband feels equally committed to getting one, then you should both learn about the necessary safety precautions when it comes to storing a firearm in the home, and have a plan in place, before making the decision to acquire one.

Whatever the two of you do—whether you buy a gun or not, whether one or both of you decides you would ever be willing to use it—you should at least be as close to the same page as possible. It can’t possibly be a good idea to keep a gun in the house if neither of you can agree about how or whether to use it, so both of you should be prepared for a lot of conversations, a lot of questions, and a lot of listening first.

Q. LGBTQ...BGHMNHGRESDFE?: Love your column and your advice; however, after this week’s column I had to Google the term cis-man (maybe I don’t get out enough), and when I read the definition, I thought, Seriously?! Isn’t there enough nomenclature out there that cis-people can be identified simply as a man or a woman? Am I wrong that it implies that there are more transgender people than those who are comfortable in the sex they were born into, so they need to identify specifically with cis?

Frankly, I don’t care how anyone identifies—your sexual preferences have nothing to do with whether I like you or not! In fact, I’d be just as happy not knowing, because I just don’t care. Am I wrong that it seems we are bending too far in the opposite direction to make up for persecution in the past, to the point where the majority of us will have to refer to ourselves as non-LGBTQ?

A: You clearly do care a great deal how people identify, which is why you took time out of your day to write to me about it. There is nothing inherently wrong with caring about something, but it’s never a good idea to begin an argument by being disingenuous about one’s commitment to a particular ideal or practice.

You begin by confusing two very different practices. The existence of the word cis does not, as you are perfectly aware, mean that you cannot identify someone as “simply a man or a woman.” It is not illegal to call someone a man or a woman; nor is it broadly considered to be impolite. No one is preventing you from referring to yourself as a woman or a man, if you like.

The existence of the word cisgender does not in any way imply that there are more transgender people than otherwise, no more than the word Bostonian implies that most people are from Boston. It’s simply a word one can use to describe people who are from Boston. It simply names a condition that has heretofore been thought of as a reflexive, natural state of being that did not require any sort of identification or examination. (Much in the same way that heterosexual people once resented being identified as being “heterosexual” or having an identifiable sexuality of any kind, rather than simply “normal.”)

You seem to envision a future in which the majority will “have to” refer to themselves as non-LGBTQ (namely, a future in which you seem to fear a majority may get treated as a minority). Who do you think will force you to do so? What upsets or unsettles you at the prospect of naming your own gender identity? Why does the fact that the word cisgender exists create so much fear and antipathy in you, and why have you confused this extreme resentment with a state of “not caring”? Be willing to spend some time with these questions that unsettle you, and be honest about the fact that you are unsettled—there is much to discover, and much to think about, on this subject. I wish you luck.

Q. Complicated best friend: I moved to my current city for graduate school four years ago and soon met the girl who became my best friend. She and I bonded initially because we are both women in science, as well as bipolar. We were there for each other more than anyone else in my life. However, we were both quite deeply out of control with our bipolar disorder and after a suicide attempt she helped me through, we both careened off into a shared manic episode and engaged in risky sexual and drug activity together. After her graduation she moved back home and we rarely see each other, but text several times a week. We are both now on medication, in therapy, and have not had episodes in almost two years. My boyfriend of two years hates her, though he has only met her once and it was in a big group setting, so he really doesn’t know her very well.

He knew me when she and I were in our manic episode. We weren’t dating, but he knows of what was going on at that time. He says terrible, hurtful things about her, and gets irrationally angry anytime I text with her. I never text her when we are together, so as not to make him feel like he’s being ignored. We’ve both turned our lives around and can uniquely help the other when things get rough, due to our shared experience. We often talk about how we never want to go back to the place we were in and we are so happy we turned things around. My boyfriend doesn’t believe that she’s changed and would prefer that I cut her out of my life and never spoke to her again.

I feel like this would be different if she didn’t live two hours away and we saw each other regularly (we only see each other maybe once every six months). Am I being insensitive to my boyfriend’s worries by not cutting her out of my life?

A: It sounds like the two of you were mutually engaged in some self-destructive behavior, not that she was a particularly bad influence on you or went out of her way to harm you. It also sounds like you’ve both been doing well for a number of years and have been good, if somewhat distant, friends to one another—so I’m not sure what your boyfriend’s objection is based on, other than a general lack of trust (or a desire to assign “blame” to someone for your previous manic episodes). If you value your friendship with her, I think you should draw a line with your boyfriend and ask him to stop running her down to you.

He doesn’t have to like her, but you’re not asking him to get dinner together just the three of you every week. You’re taking care of yourself and so is she. Neither of you is a bad person. She is not the cause of any of your manic episodes, and she is not attempting to lure you back into old habits. If your boyfriend can’t say anything nice about her, he doesn’t have to say anything at all, but there’s certainly no reason for you to cast her out of your life just because he doesn’t like her.

Q. No thanks to dancing?: I’m getting married this year. I have two left feet. I don’t want to dance with my future spouse, or a parent, or generally. I dance just enough at other people’s wedding to prove I’m not a spoilsport. Please rule that I don’t have to dance at my own wedding.

A: You do not have to dance at your own wedding.

Q. Husband vs. friend: I have a friend, “Tracy,” that my husband thought would be perfect for his brother, “Bill.” Bill and hubby have always been very close. He really tried to set them up for months until I told him to stop, everyone was sick of it. Fast-forward four months and they got together all on their own! They really are perfect for each other and are now living together, but both Tracy and Bill are very codependent.

Tracy seems to think that Bill and my husband’s relationship is somehow weird; they talk almost daily, but since Tracy and Bill got together, they don’t see each other nearly as much. Tracy feels the two of them are abnormally close and gets very offended if hubby suggests he and Bill do something together without Tracy.

She asked my thoughts on it at one point, and I told her that I find their relationship fine (they aren’t doing anything that is truly weird!), and just because I am not close with my siblings, doesn’t mean hubby can’t be close with his. I also added that I fully embraced Bill as part of my family and not only am OK with a boys’ night (silly things like wrestling matches, movies, and comedy shows), but for everyone’s mental health, have been known to insist on it.

My husband feels that Tracy is extremely insecure and imbalanced and if he tries to make plans that Tracy intrudes on, he comes up with an excuse not to go. If Bill visits with hubby when Tracy is at work, she still gets irritated! Tracy did let the conversation drop for a while but is right back at it again. I am honestly sick of the entire conversation. I don’t get why she insists on spending all of Bill’s free time with him, even at the cost of his relationship with his brother, and I am sick of trying to smooth things over with them. And honestly, Bill is a really nice guy and won’t put his foot down with her about anything. Do we lock them in a room until they agree to share Bill? Tell them to STFU? Help!

A: I think you are missing an opportunity to get enormously less involved in Tracy’s relationship with your brother-in-law. It’s up to your husband to figure out how to talk to his brother about their relationship. You can support him, help him talk through what he wants to communicate to his brother, and act as a sounding board, but that’s about the extent of your role—it’s not up to you to make sure everything goes smoothly between the two of them.

As for Tracy, if you’re sick of having this conversation with her, stop having this conversation with her. Become an incredibly boring conversational partner to Tracy! If she keeps bringing up Bill’s relationship with your husband, practice your blandest smile, and say, “I’m sorry this has been tricky for you! You should really talk to Bill about that.” Offer that up on repeat until she realizes she’s not going to get any traction with you.

Q. Concise or rude?: My husband and I are well-off, and we have a daughter in college. We pay for her tuition and rent, and we give her a generous allowance. Recently I happened to be dining at the same restaurant as her (I was seated at a different table). When I asked for my check, I requested my daughter’s as well. To my shock I discovered that she had asked for her check and given the waitress a tip at the beginning of her meal because she “didn’t want to wait for the check at the end of her meal.”

I felt this was a bit rude. I try to engage my server in light conversation rather than simply relaying my order to them. My daughter said that they were her server, not her friend. She claims that being civil and tipping well are her only obligations. She is always polite but doesn’t engage the server in conversation. She sees the entire thing as a business transaction rather than a social one. I think light conversation is the kind thing to do. Who’s right? Is my daughter a bit snobby for having this attitude?

A: It’s a little unusual to ask for the check early, but not unheard of (especially if one is planning on seeing a movie after dinner or is otherwise pressed for time), and certainly not snobbish. Light conversation is fine, but it’s not why your server is there (they’re there for the money), and as long as your daughter wasn’t whistling and shouting, “You there, bring me my receipt and my duckling and leave me be” like a medieval baron, then she wasn’t rude. Ordering food in a restaurant is a business transaction. One has a social obligation to be polite, and not to treat waitstaff like a series of food-bearing robots, but one doesn’t have to drum up unrelated chit-chat in order to be a good customer. You are of course free to be friendlier with your server if you like, but that’s completely optional.

Q. To correct or not: My best friend uses words incorrectly. In particular, she is obsessed with the word ornery and uses it to describe her kids (or my kids) all the time. Now, I thought ornery meant grouchy and stubborn. But she’ll post a photo of our kids playing, smiling, and laughing with a caption such as “These kids are so ornery!” It makes me cringe but doesn’t really upset me. I think she means something like “These kids are so funny!”

My friend, however, is very easily offended. Should I point it out when a word is misused? Should I subtly use the words correctly? Or should I just let it go?

Also, if I am wrong about the meaning of the word ornery, please let me know.

A: Your friend’s verbal tic seems harmless and mostly charming! My inclination is to suggest you let it go. However, if you want to have a lighthearted chat with her about her habit, that’s perfectly fine too; I just don’t recommend “subtly using it correctly” around her because I think that’s wasting excessive energy on indirectness on your part and unlikely to result in increased self-awareness on hers.

Q. Speak truth: My niece is 18 and has been in contact with her biological father. He told her the truth of her conception, contrary to the fairy tales my mother has been feeding her for her entire life. My little sister was the golden child who could do no wrong in my mother’s eyes. In reality, she was a willful, selfish creature who ran away, slept around, stole, and cheated on her husband. My niece is the product of her affair and she refused to name the actual father despite her husband divorcing her over the DNA test. She died from a drug overdose before confessing anything.

My mother and I raised my niece. I have supported them both since my niece was two and would even take her in while my mother was ill. I have argued with my mother in the past about lying to my niece, but it only got me the silent treatment. It was easier to go along than challenge my mother, and I was worried about the effect on my niece.

Now my niece has done some snooping on her own and found parts of the truth. She keeps asking us both for the truth: My mother lies and I stay silent. Her biological father didn’t even know my sister was married, let alone pregnant with his child, but DNA doesn’t lie.

I don’t know how to deal with her questions. My mother will hear nothing against her golden girl—despite her other child supporting her for the past decades—and I am afraid of severing what remains of our relationship. At the same time, I will admit I am severely biased. I don’t think well of my sister in the least and my niece is better than us all. I don’t want to poison her with the past.

A: I think your niece is old enough (and close enough to the truth already) that you can be honest with her, although your primary concern should be to make sure you’re telling the truth with tact and consideration. Your feelings toward both your mother and your long-dead sister sound painful and complex, and certainly justified, but you shouldn’t let them affect the version of the story you tell your niece. You can say, for example, “Your mother was married to X at the time, but your father was actually Y” without adding “your mother was a willful, selfish creature who slept around.” If she’s asking you direct questions, you should be honest—she deserves to know the truth about her family history—and if that upsets your mother, then so be it.

Q. Re: Concise or rude: When it comes to servers, the thing is, they are sort of professionally obligated to be nice to you. While it’s not harmful to strike up some light banter with a server, they are also most likely very busy and don’t have a ton of time to devote to small talk. If you go on forums where food service employees gossip, you’ll also occasionally find that they sometimes find overly chatty customers to be somewhat grating, especially if they’re pulling a busy shift. By making small talk, you may have inadvertently trapped them, as they feel that if they try to cut the conversation short, it might reflect in their tip (and there are plenty of customers that make servers jump through all sorts of hoops for even measly tips).

All of this is to say: Your daughter is in the right. As long as she is being kind and polite to her server and tipping appropriately, she’s upheld her end of the social contract with them.

A: That’s an excellent point! Your waiter isn’t engaging in light-hearted small talk with you merely because they just love conversation (although they may generally enjoy talking to people, too), they’re making conversation because they’re hoping you’ll tip better.

Mallory Ortberg: Thanks, everyone! See you all next week.

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.

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Help! I Hate Telling People My Husband “Passed Away.” Can’t I Just Tell It Like It Is?

Help! I Hate Telling People My Husband “Passed Away.” Can’t I Just Tell It Like It Is?

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q: He died: This may be kind of a weird question, but do I owe it to strangers to temper my language when talking about my husband’s death?

He passed away a couple years ago, way too young. I’ll admit I take some pleasure in saying “he’s dead” bluntly when telemarketers call looking for him, but it came up at a pet store the other day because our points card was under his name and they asked for his email. I stood there like a fish with its mouth open for way too long, because I couldn’t come up with anything else but didn’t want to scare the poor clerk! I know the easy response is “he passed away,” but those words apparently fled me.

Is it unkind for me to just go with the first and easiest thing that comes into my head? I know I’m probably overthinking this, and yes, I’m in therapy.

A: It’s not unnecessarily detailed or gory—you’re not giving anyone the specifics on how he died—it’s just that the word death often makes people uncomfortable, which is neither your fault nor your responsibility. You are not obliged to supply a polite euphemism; if “He died” comes to mind before “Tragically, he passed away and is no longer with us,” then you should just say “He died.” Don’t beat yourself up over it.

Q. Marijuana at my parents’ house: I am a woman in my mid-30s who just moved back in with my parents. The point of the move is to help them out during a financially difficult time, and I would otherwise be happily living on my own.

I love my parents, and we get along great! I am happy to help them out. The only problem is I am a regular pot smoker, and they have no idea. They would be strongly opposed if they knew about my “hobby.” I am gainfully employed and socially active—I just like my weed!

My question is, do I have an obligation to give up the habit while I live with them (indefinitely!), or should I be upfront with them, knowing they will throw a fit? Sneaking around with it seems challenging, and I don’t like the idea of being deceitful. Any ideas?

A: Have you considered alternative marijuana delivery systems? Edibles, ingestible oils, tinctures, vaporizing? (Let’s go with the usual caveats; I’ll assume you’re not planning on getting high and then driving your parents to a doctor’s appointment but plan on using recreational weed in a responsible, safe, private way.)

You can’t completely control for the possibility that one or both of your parents might someday stumble upon your stash, but you can do your best to be as discreet as possible while you’re living with them. You might consider, at least for the present, cutting down on your habit or trying to reserve getting high for occasions when you’re not in your parents’ home.

But that’s simply an option, not an obligation. You’re in your 30s; you’re not “sneaking around” if you refuse to disclose all of the habits you enjoy that your parents might disapprove of. You’re already helping them out by moving in—you don’t owe them veto power over your personal life, as long as you’re not risking anyone’s health or safety.

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We Don’t Know Nearly Enough About LGBTQ Health. A Massive New Study May Change That.

We Don’t Know Nearly Enough About LGBTQ Health. A Massive New Study May Change That.

by Daniel Summers @ Slate Articles

Any sufficiently large and well-defined community is likely to have health concerns that disproportionately affect it, and LGBTQ people are no exception. Some problems have had an unmistakable impact on the gender and sexual-minority population, HIV/AIDS being an especially obvious example. But we still lack a comprehensive understanding of the ways that being an LGBTQ person can influence one’s overall health, or of health disparities within the LGTBQ community itself.

Researchers at the University of California–San Francisco are hoping to close that gap.

Earlier this year, the PRIDE study opened for enrollment. The first of its kind, it aims to follow the same large group of LGTBQ people over the span of the next few decades, similar to other well-known, multi-generational cohort studies. Open to anyone who resides within the United States, identifies as a gender or sexual minority, and is over 18 (though the age limit may be dropped to 13 in the future), its enrollment has surpassed 6,000 since launching in May. The study’s authors hope for 100,000 people to enroll over the next 10 years.

By studying LGBTQ people specifically, researchers can uncover health issues specific to sexual and gender minorities that haven’t been previously detected because nobody has bothered to look. Further, by conducting a large-scale study that seeks to recruit as diverse a population as possible, problems that may disproportionately affect part of the community in a certain region, or may predominantly occur in other subpopulations, may become more apparent. Health concerns faced by gay black men in Dallas may be quite different from those of gay white men in San Francisco, for example, and a study solely focused on one may miss something important happening with the other.

The wide range of questions asked by the survey could help health providers detect and lessen problems or risk factors they may have overlooked previously. To pick one area of inquiry that stood out to me when I completed the survey, it may be that growing up in a religious community that rejected gay and sexual-minority people is a significant risk factor for depression or anxiety in LGBTQ people—but joining an affirming religious community mitigates this risk later in life. By collecting very granular data points like those, the authors can provide physicians and counselors with a better idea about areas of their patients’ lives that might never have occurred to them before.

The study’s principal investigators, Juno Obedin-Maliver and Mitchell Lunn—both physicians and researchers at UCSF—were medical school colleagues at Stanford, and two of the founding members of the school’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Medical Education Research Group. (Lunn was co-author of a study about homophobia in medical schools, which I’ve written about previously.) Obedin-Maliver told me:

One of the big barriers we often found trying to encourage people to teach medical students, doctors or other health care providers about LGBTQ+ people was they said, “Well, there wasn’t enough evidence about the health care needs of the community.” And we kept giving lectures and complaining that the studies weren’t being done. We knew that health disparities were there, but we didn’t know how bad, how deep, how broad the problems were, or how comprehensive, because there wasn’t inclusion often in national studies. So Mitch and I said, “We’re both researchers, we’re both clinicians. Let’s stop complaining and do something about it.”

A pilot phase of the study was launched in 2015 and eventually reached 18,000 enrollees. This early phase was limited to iPhone users and utilized special Apple research programming. The program not only allowed researchers to see how respondents were answering study questionnaires: It allowed participants to propose and prioritize questions they wanted the researchers to answer.

“We were trying to turn academia on its head and say ‘we want to study what’s important to you; help guide us and tell us what is important to you. We’ll see and try to meet that need,’ ” Obedin-Maliver said.

People interested in enrolling in the PRIDE study (which is subsidized by a combination of private donations, support from UCSF, and funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute) can do so using any device that connects to the internet. Participants complete a profile with personal, demographic, and contact information, and answer a comprehensive initial questionnaire about a wide range of topics, which will then be repeated annually. Depending on a respondents’ answers and the device they are using to complete the survey, the estimated time to answer all questions is between 30–60 minutes. Versions of the survey in Spanish and other languages are also in active development.

“We talk about things like physical activity, sleep, whether people have donated blood,” Obedin-Maliver said. “If they were born with a uterus, have they ever had children? All kinds of topics covering physical health, mental health, and social health.” She took pains to make clear that all information collected as part of the study was not only highly secure but had an additional certificate of confidentiality from the National Institutes of Health preventing any access, including subpoena or other governmental request, except for the purposes of research.

Many potential study topics could be investigated by using the material collected as part of the annual questionnaire itself. A researcher who wished to know if trans black women living in the South suffered disproportionately from anxiety, for example, could use the data in the PRIDE study to answer the question. However, researchers eager to study health issues beyond the initial survey could collaborate with the investigators at UCSF to design additional surveys going forward. Obedin-Maliver gave the example of dermatologists curious to learn how tanning behaviors within the LGBTQ population (you know who you are, boys) could affect cancer risk. Targeted surveys about issues related to aging could be sent to participants over 50, and so on.

Though the PRIDE study itself is being conducted by researchers at USCF, they are part of an extensive nationwide network of organizations working to recruit a diverse study population. The list includes health clinics located in major coastal cities, but goes far beyond Boston, New York, and Los Angeles. Geographically, the network spans from Texas to Alaska to Vermont. Member organizations include the first LGBT clinic in Cleveland dedicated to serving the LGBT community; a national (and international) professional association promoting evidence-based care, research, advocacy in transgender health; and an Atlanta-based advocacy group for aging black lesbians.

“We have [a] participant advisory committee, and a process whereby [that] committee also reviews applications for collaboration to make sure that it’s a topic that’s meaningful to the community, that the researcher is approaching the community in the right way, and that we have a plan for every study we do of how we’re going to bring [results] back and disseminate them to the community,” Obedin-Maliver said.

As both a physician and a gay man myself, I’m excited to see what the PRIDE study finds about our community. Obedin-Maliver and her colleagues are dedicated to making its findings useful not merely to academics and health care providers but to LGBTQ people as well.

“Sexual and gender-minority people have really never been at the forefront of a study in this way before,” she told me. “We very much want things to not live and die in medical journals. We want this be by, about, and for the community.”

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Hold One’s Peace

Hold One’s Peace

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Q. Speak no evil or spill the beans: This question seems like it has a simple answer, but bear with me—I think it’s more complicated than it seems. I caught my sister’s fiancé cheating on her, two months before their wedding. Do I tell her or not?

Thing is, I love my sister to bits but she makes bad romantic decisions at an Olympic level. Her fiancé has cheated on her before, left her, stolen money, come back, wrecked her credit, wrecked her car—every time she says she’s through with him, and every time she takes him right back. So I am kinda torn. Do I spill the beans because sis deserves the chance to ditch this guy before tying herself to him irrevocably? Or do I hold my peace, since experience demonstrates, it will cause a lot of distress but not actually change anything?

I just feel like it is cruel to ruin her big day for her, when nothing else he has done has put her off.

A: I’m of two minds about this one! Have you ever had a conversation with your sister about her choices around this guy writ large? Do you feel able to attend her wedding and support her, even if you think she’s making a mistake? If you two have discussed him before, you’ve made your concerns clear, and you still want to show up for her on her wedding day, then I think it makes sense not to bring it up—you’re not providing her with any new information and the less involved you get in the inner workings of their relationship, the better. You can set a boundary if she wants to come and complain about him to you, saying, “I don’t think you deserve to be treated this way. If you ever decide you’re ready to leave, then I’ll help you in any way I can. But I don’t want to discuss the same bad behavior I’ve come to expect from him.”

But if you’ve kept quiet, then I think it’s worth, at least once, telling her you think she’s making a mistake (that she’s apparently made many times before). Whatever choice you make, it sounds like your sister is committed to staying in a painful pattern for at least a little while longer. That’s sad, and I hope you can find a way to keep a bearable distance while also hoping she someday sees the light.

Q. Can I ghost my best friend from college?: I have a good friend from college. We grew up in the same town but met at school and were very close through college and the five years after. She still lives in our hometown and I have had to move due to my husband’s job. She is habitually flaky and often has been oddly unsupportive of my life choices (getting married, having a baby after being married for six years). She has never visited me despite the fact that I made it a priority to see her whenever we were in town. Last time I visited home, I didn’t let her know. She found out via a group email we are on and expressed surprise that she missed my visit. I have wrestled with feelings of anger toward her lack of support and follow through for years. Can I keep on ghosting her without guilt?

A: Sure you can! If you don’t think you two would benefit from a heart-to-heart conversation, or if you’re not interested in repairing the relationship, you can absolutely match her flakiness and let your friendship turn into the kind where you email one another twice a year and say, “Can’t believe I missed you again! Lunch next time you’re in town? Hope all’s well, etc.”

Not everyone stays close with their college friends, and if she’s been distancing herself from you for years, there’s no reason why you can’t take her cue and step back too. You can also talk to her about this, if you want. You don’t have to, but it’s an option, especially if you already feel like the friendship is mostly over—you don’t have much to lose.

Q. Honey can you drive my car?: My wife dislikes driving. I drive whenever we go somewhere together or as a family. We do a fair amount of shuttling little kids around, often in time I could really use to stay up on work. In the passenger seat, nearly 100 percent of the time, my wife is lost in her phone. Not working, but aimlessly browsing social media—as the kids are asking questions or demanding a change of music, and as I am trying to navigate.

If she isn’t going to drive, is it reasonable to ask that she actually be present for the kids? Or if she’s ignoring them, that she at least get some work done so she can buy me some time later to catch up on work I am missing while I chauffeur? Should I be getting her and the kids an Uber from time to time instead?

A: Of course you can ask her! In my experience, many people (myself included) can get a little defensive when someone suggests we’re a little too focused on our phones—don’t do it when you’re in the car together. Tell her that what you really want is to spend more meaningful time together, that you miss her company when she’s lost in her screen for the entirety of the drive, and ask her if she would be willing to stow the phone during longer trips.

Q. Feeling like a tortoise: My husband and I have been competitive distance runners for the past two years. We love competing for personal bests in formal timed races we enter, and it’s been a great activity we can do together that has helped us stay healthy. A few months ago, my sister-in-law took a sudden interest in running and has wedged herself into our running habit. We assumed that her interest would go the way of her previous fitness interests and fizzle out over time. (She went to Crossfit five times a week for two weeks, joined a spin gym for a month, tried aerial silks classes for a month, and then attempted P90X before selling all the DVDs on Craigslist after about three weeks.)

While we’re thrilled she’s trying to find something that works for her, having her along while we’re trying to run races has been very taxing. She is extremely slow and hasn’t seemed to grasp that running is not a team sport, and is a personal best endeavor. She gets upset if we post on social media about a race and didn’t invite her (we do about one per month), and when we do invite her, she throws a fit if we don’t stay with her for the race. During the last race, my husband got so frustrated and so concerned about his overall qualifying time for an upcoming race that he lost his temper and ran ahead when she stopped to rest for the fifth time, after which she wrote a nasty post on social media about how family stays with family and how she was “betrayed today.”

We have a race coming up in a few weeks, and it’s a big one for us, but we’re terrified to say anything about it online for fear that she’ll invite herself and then demand we run slowly with her. Should we just acknowledge that we’re going to hurt her feelings in the short term and wait for her to move on to something else? Is there something else we can say to her that won’t cause her to feel so hurt?

A: “Jellicle, I’m glad you’re taking an interest in racing and hope you enjoy it, but we’re going to continue to run at our own pace and set our own schedule.” If that hurts her feelings, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. She is choosing to be unreasonable, and the only person she is hurting is herself. Gently encourage her to make better choices, and don’t feel responsible for her self-inflicted pain.

Q. Dinner time etiquette?: I’m having a good friend over for supper tonight. I suggested 7 p.m. as the time. I picked this time because it seemed like a good compromise. My friend, like many people in our area, eats around 5:30 p.m. I prefer to eat around 7:30 or 8:30—even 7 is a little early! My friend accepted the time but made an off-hand comment about how late it was and how she’d need a snack beforehand. It struck me as a tad passive aggressive. I have no idea if she meant it that way and chose to ignore it.

But now I’m curious: My view is that if you’re at somebody’s house, their rules stand. So, if I’m visiting with family or friends that prefer to eat early, I eat early. But if someone comes over to my place, it would be polite for them to accept my time of eating, or something closer to it, without fuss. Is this correct?

A: If your friend prefers to eat at 5:30 and you prefer to eat at 7:30, the “compromise” you suggested means she has to wait an hour and a half to eat, while you only give up half an hour from your ideal start time. You’ve definitely stacked the deck in your favor, and while your friend could have been more direct, she may not have felt she could suggest an alternate time because you were offering to host her as a guest in your home.

The purpose of inviting someone over is to make them feel welcome, so next time you extend an invitation, ask them what time they prefer to have dinner. If their answer is wildly different from when you’d prefer to eat, offer a compromise that actually lands somewhere in the middle.

Q. Marriage equality, but I don’t need it: Australia is something like the only developed English-speaking country to not have marriage equality. The current federal government has proposed a compulsory postal survey that is designed to get an overall “no” vote (though 70 percent of Australians support it) and even if it doesn’t, does not compel parliamentarians to change the law. It sucks.

I am a bi woman happily married to a cis man. No one voted on my marriage. Am I making this “all about me” unnecessarily when I try to come out to my friends and work colleagues to ensure they know an LGBTI person? Is it better if I keep quiet and focus on being an ally to people who are currently in relationships that cannot be recognized by marriage in this country? I know I enjoy a lot of straight-passing privilege and I would just like to do the most good for the most people.

A: These are two separate matters, I think. If you wish to advocate for marriage equality, you can and should. If you want to come out to your friends and colleagues, both for your own peace of mind and also to broaden their perception of what queer peoples’ lives can look like, you can and should. You are not making the matter of marriage equality “all about you” in doing either. You acknowledge the relative privilege afforded you by marriage to your husband, while also affirming this does not make you heterosexual, and are committed to spurring on legislative change. All of this is to the good!

Q. Loud roommate: I live with a guy who is just loud; his normal pitch is what I’d think of as shouting. The thing is, he knows it, frequently saying, “I’m loud.” We live in a house of four people, and I just don’t think it’s OK for him to shout all the time. Is it appropriate to say, “You’re shouting. You need to keep it down for the housemates.”?

A: Acknowledging one’s flaws does not mean one is now free from criticism. If your roommate shouts at all hours and it disturbs you, ask him to keep it down. If he tries to deflect your request to behave differently by suggesting he is somehow ontologically committed to loudness and therefore unable to speak any quieter, you do not have to accept his argument on face value. Of course it is OK to say, “You’re shouting and you need to keep it down”; you are not critiquing his very being, you are making an easily fulfilled request.

Q: Re: Can I ghost my best friend from college?: Yeah, no. To me, the dividing line is whether the other person notices or cares. If the letter writer drops out of contact with the old friend and gets radio silence, then great, mission accomplished. If, on the other hand, the friend says something (like how she expressed surprise the last time they didn’t get together), and then continues to not take the hint, that’s when ghosting turns jerkish. It’s horrible to have a friend stop talking to you and not know what you did wrong, especially when the only reason for the ghosting is so they can avoid an uncomfortable conversation. I’m not saying the explanation has to be involved, but a “we’ve grown apart” or even a “I don’t really like you much anymore” would be one last kindness that would leave the letter writer feeling confident she handled this maturely, and the friend no longer wondering whether her old college friend is mad at her or dead or etc.

A: That’s a useful criterion for whether ghosting is mutually desirable! I wonder if the “surprise” expressed by the friend in question was genuine or mere social convention—the after-the-fact equivalent of “oh, let’s get lunch sometime.” Either way, the letter writer doesn’t have much to lose if they simply address the fact that their friend’s habit of flaking last-minute bothers them. And if a friend is “oddly unsupportive” of a major life change like getting married or having children, you can and should tell them that their lack of enthusiasm is painful—you don’t have to just swallow the hurt and keep making plans to get together.

Mallory Ortberg: That’s it for today, comrades. See you back here next week.

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.

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Playing Daddy?

Playing Daddy?

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Q. Almost stepson: I was with “Mike’s” mother, “Anne,” for three years. She was erratic and mentally ill. Mike was a toddler when we got together and never knew his biological father (no one did), so he called me Daddy. In the same week, Anne overdosed on sleeping pills and my brother-in-law died in a motorcycle accident. My niece and nephew are around the same age as Mike, so I stepped in and stayed with them for the next four years.

Mike now lives with his grandma, “Kate,” and young aunt, “Chloe.” I don’t do the day-to-day stuff. Mike knows I am not his biological father but still calls me Dad from time to time. I help Kate out—spoil the kids on their birthdays, get them bikes or video games, take them to water parks, do daddy-daughter dances with Chloe or my niece, etc. Kate and the kids are basically family to us by now.

I have a career, friends, and a life outside of my family. I have dated, but nothing serious until I met “Jess.” I love her and picture building a future with her.

My sister got remarried recently and my nephew was having trouble adjusting. I had planned to take Mike and my nephew to a football game and make it a guys-only weekend. Jess got an unexpected work function she wanted me to attend with her, only it was the same weekend as the trip. She got really upset and told me to cancel it. She told me I needed to stop “playing daddy,” and that my time and attention should be for my wife and kids, not some random strangers. I yelled at her and told her she was acting jealous of some fatherless kids and it was like she was trying to guilt me into breaking a promise to them. We made up later but haven’t talked about the fight.

I don’t think I am putting my family or Mike above my girlfriend. I don’t think it is fair to ask me to drop my plans on a dime, but what Jess said got to me. Am I cheating myself of having a family of my own because I am “playing daddy”?

I always kind of pictured that Kate, Mike, and Chloe would be at my wedding or be involved in my own kids’ lives. Am I being stupid here? I need an outside opinion.

A: My outside opinion is that your girlfriend threw a tantrum because she’s jealous of an orphaned 7-year-old. That’s not a good look for anyone, much less a grown woman.

Sometimes it’s helpful to subject a person’s behavior to the Reese Witherspoon test: Would an obvious villain in a Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy do this? (“This” being “Ask her boyfriend to cancel an already-scheduled trip with his young stepson and nephew, both of whom have suffered great loss at an early age, in order to come with her to a work party.”) If the answer is yes, then that person has done something so obviously, so categorically wrong, that a reasonable audience would be likely to hiss at her the next time she walked on screen.

It’s not “playing daddy” to be there for a little boy who has never known his biological father and has called you “Dad” his entire life. That’s not playing, that’s being. To suggest otherwise is an insult to adopted and blended families everywhere. You’re not cheating yourself of a “family of your own” because Mike and your niece and nephew are a part of your family, and always will be.

The fact that you two haven’t talked about this fight since making up is not a great sign, and the fact that Jess wanted you to let down Mike after you’d already committed to making plans with him is a sign that she lacks character and will make unreasonable demands on your time and attention in the future. She’s not caring, she’s not compassionate, she hasn’t apologized, and she got so jealous of a motherless 7-year-old that she called him (and your niece and nephew) “random strangers,” when in fact you’re the only father he has ever known. You should break up with her.

Q. Father confiscated candy given to adult daughter: Despite living a healthy lifestyle (regular exercise, balanced diet, active job when not in school), I am overweight and in the process of trying to lose a few pounds. My parents are supportive of this to a fault, passive aggressively telling me I don’t work out enough, encouraging me to weigh myself every day, and keeping me on a very strict diet and monitoring my caloric intake.

My best friend went on vacation and brought me back a gift, some candy from the country she visited. I put it in the kitchen cabinet to eat later as a treat, but I found the container empty the next day. My father told me he gave the candy to my (skinny) brother to eat, and that I shouldn’t be tempting myself by keeping sweets in the house. I understand his basic point, but the candy was a gift for me. Coupled with his controlling behavior about my diet and exercise regimen, I can’t help but see him as being overly strict. Should I confront him about this? I am a college-aged woman, if that makes a difference.

A: There is no reason for your parents to take charge of your diet and exercise routine. Of course you can, and should, say something. “Dad, I don’t want you to monitor what I eat or when I work out. I’m managing my own health and taking care of myself. Please don’t give away my food or try to supervise my diet for me. You may mean well, but it’s not helpful to me, and I’m asking you to stop.”

Q. Sister’s secret marriage: My sister has lived with the same woman as “roommates” for many years. They are both religious and think being gay is wrong, yet they essentially live as a couple. I got nosy and looked up their names in their state’s public records database and found they have recently been married. I’m sad she feels she has to live a double life. Should I ask her about it? Should I tell my mom?

A: I want to believe that you are motivated primarily by compassion and a desire to have an honest relationship with your sister, but the fact that you are asking me whether you should out her to your mother without her knowledge or consent gives me pause. It suggests that at least a part of you is interested in humiliating or exposing your sister as a hypocrite. No, you should absolutely not tell your mother that you found out your sister is married when your sister has clearly taken no steps to share that information with any of you. If you want to talk to your sister about her relationship, admit that you snooped in her personal life and ask her if she wants to talk about it. If she doesn’t, leave it—and your state’s public records database—alone.

Q. Old bag: I got hired onto a small company with no firm HR division. There about 15 odd women in my department and I started to keep track of birthdays and other personal events. I like to bake and garden, so it was actually a pleasure to give a small flower bouquet or cupcake to my co-workers. It was a bit haphazard (I didn’t get all events on time all the time), but we were fairly friendly with everyone.

Except for “Gretel.” Gretel has been with the company for 15 odd years and only liked maybe one person. She kept to herself, never helped anyone, and lives to complain. I hate her. She never contributed to anything and was too small-souled to even sign her name to a sympathy card. A new employee lost her sister and mom in the space of a week and Gretel refused to sign the card because she “didn’t know her well.” I mean, what kind of monster refuses to even sign a sympathy card?

Gretel had her first grandchild last month and mentioned it to everyone. She was upset that she didn’t get anything special and complained to our upper manager, who then pulled me aside to talk about it.

I am at a loss about what to do. I don’t like Gretel, none of us do. Part of me is furious at her utter gall and wants to rail at my manager for bowing to this small-hearted harpy, but I don’t want to lose my job. Should I just stop with the cupcakes and flowers? Or go on my way and make it a point to ignore Gretel?

A: Did your manager actually suggest that you would lose your job if you didn’t give Gretel some flowers from your garden? Were you instructed to come up with something for her? Or did your manager say, “Gretel’s upset that she didn’t get anything to commemorate the birth of her grandchild,” and now you feel an implicit pressure?

If it’s either of the first two options, then I think your best bet is to come up with a perfunctory card and reconsider whether you want to continue to head up the unofficial “party-planning and celebrations” committee. If your manager was simply letting you know about a possible root of future conflict between yourself and Gretel, I still think it’s worth reconsidering your decision. Gretel certainly sounds unpleasant, but in a small company with a 15-person department, excluding one person from your list of gift recipients is going to be very noticeable and could lead to an unnecessary sense of isolation. It’s not as if this were an informal, friends-only exchange—you say you’re keeping track of everyone’s birthdays and “other life events,” which is a lot of extra, unpaid work you’re taking in.

Q. Update—Cat at the rager: I wrote you about my acquaintance who would bring her cat to raves in a special cat backpack. She ended up breaking up with her EDM DJ boyfriend, so the raves stopped for a while. She wanted a healthier lifestyle, so she became a superintense vegan and doesn’t do molly and coke as much. She actually had two cats but ended up giving the older one away because it was too expensive to feed both of them the raw meat diet that she gives them. Then she got back together with her ex, and the last Facebook post of hers I saw was the boyfriend sitting naked on the toilet with the cat on his lap. Life is a rich tapestry.

A: I ... thank you for this. I have no response (other than I’m glad the cat is no longer being subjected to the sights and sounds of a rave, which, whether one is pro-rave or not, we can all certainly agree are designed for human, not feline, enjoyment), but please let us know what she (and the cat) are up to annually, for the rest of my life. Thank you.

Q. Love and moving on: I was in a terrible relationship for four years. One where my partner hit me on several occasions, destroyed the house, and slept around—which led to one fellow showing up at all hours of the night. I left her because the mental and physical abuse was unacceptable, and it was excruciating, mainly because I deeply care for her and remain very much in love. It’s been one year and I’m still having issues. I am randomly hit with waves of sadness from not having her in my life or waves of anger at myself for allowing the things I put up with to occur. I’m having trouble making myself emotionally available for someone else to be a partner, and I’ve withdrawn socially.

What advice can you give about letting go of old love and moving on?

A: Therapy! Therapy, therapy, therapy. I recommend it a lot in this column, and I think you are an excellent candidate for it. There are a great many specific therapies focused on processing traumatic events and abusive relationships, and you need more than just time to find a way to make your own peace with your past and figure out how you’re going to move into the future.

I don’t advise you to rush into dating just because it’s been a year. If you feel like you’re not emotionally available, then take your time and look after yourself. Call the friends and family members you’ve withdrawn from lately, and let them know how you’re doing. You don’t have to do this all at once if the prospect seems overwhelming. Even just telling someone who cares about you that you’ve been having a hard time lately might go a long way toward making you feel slightly less alone.

Q. Justified pettiness?: Several years ago, I had an exciting-but-short-lived affair with an acquaintance (“Alex”) whose wife (also an acquaintance, let’s call her “Emily”) had recently left him for another man. Alex and I ended the affair after a few weeks, quickly deciding that it wasn’t a stable relationship given that both of us were still technically married, and attempted to stay friends for a while before falling out of contact. During the few years that we didn’t speak, his divorce finalized, my divorce finalized, and I struck up more of a friendship with Emily (yes, partially because I am a flawed human who is drawn to self-destructive situations, but partially because she is a nice person who I genuinely enjoy). I would not go as far as calling us friends, but we do exchange polite texts and meet up for coffee every once in a while.

More recently, I’ve reconnected with Alex, and he and I are having a really nice time together. Our relationship is private but not secretive—we’re out and about publicly and often enough that anyone could safely assume that we are together. The problem: Either Emily isn’t so inclined, or she legitimately doesn’t care. It’s been months, and she hasn’t so much as alluded to the relationship to either of us. Before the rekindling, Emily would say things to me like, “I just can’t imagine Alex moving on. I doubt he’ll ever date again.” I have dreamed up the pettiest and most frivolous ways to tell her about his affair and our current relationship, but Alex assures me that no good can come of it, and that whatever satisfaction I draw from her revelation would likely double his grief trying to co-parent with her. I know he’s right, but ugh.

What do you think? A casual selfie of us on Instagram? Or should I go full crazy and tape an anonymous note to her door? I’m only kidding, of course, but I do desperately want to tell this woman how goddamn sexy I find her ex. Why can’t I let it go?

A: Oh, who knows why anyone is motivated to do something unnecessary and petty. Boredom? An unacknowledged resentment of even the perfunctory acqutaintanceship you currently have with her? A good old-fashioned animal hindbrain that wants to mark your territory? Latent desire? (You’re fantasizing about Emily a lot and want to drive home just how aroused you are to her—that’s not nothing, is what’s going on with you.)

You say that it’s been months and Emily hasn’t acknowledged the relationship to either of you, but based on what you’ve told me, you two aren’t in the habit of discussing your boyfriends with each other—you get coffee once a quarter and sometimes text politely. Why on earth would she notice whether you’ve been getting dinner a lot with the same guy lately? Presumably he’s not bringing you to dinner with the kids at his house, so it’s not like she would have found out from him, either. The fact that she and Alex are co-parents should be reason enough for you to get a hold of this latent desire to rub her nose in something. Don’t try to make the job of raising their children together any more difficult for either of them. If you’re happy with (just) Alex, then continue to enjoy your relationship with him, and figure out how to cross the bridge of disclosing to his ex-wife when and if you come to it, together.

Q. Best way to quit your job?: I’ve been working at my current company for four years. There have been ups and downs, but the biggest and most consistent disappointment is my boss’ (who is also the CEO) refusal to give market-value compensation and benefits to his employees. Compounding this, he doesn’t replace people who leave and just expects everyone else to absorb their job functions. Multiple times I’ve taken on the duties of co-workers who have moved on, including my previous department director’s, even though I was significantly more junior!

Now we’re acquiring another company, and the workload is going to shoot way up for at least the next six months. My boss expects me to manage an extra three people post-acquisition. When I asked him about compensation, he was extremely vague, promising more compensation “sometime in the future.” I’ve decided I’ve had enough. I am not willing to work all these extra hours and take on a new position for some vague promise of being compensated for it. I’ve started looking for other jobs.

My question is, how honest should I be about the reason I’m leaving? I know he’s going to be blindsided by my departure announcement. I’m worried being honest with him may sever ties and prevent me from using him as a job reference since this is the only professional job I’ve had since finishing college. Should I tell him the real reason I’m leaving? In general, how honest should one be when giving notice or an exit interview?

A: Ideally, an exit interview enables the company as an organization to learn more about what the individual employee experience is like, and where they can make institutional improvements. It’s also an opportunity for you, the exiting employee, to ensure you’re leaving on good terms and could use them as a reference for future job opportunities. This does not sound like an ideal situation!

Your first priority, in this instance, should be to protect your own future—life is long, and if you’re looking to stay in the same field, it’s possible that your soon-to-be-former CEO could either help or hinder your prospects. An exit interview, regardless of how reasonable the boss was, is never an opportunity to offer a laundry list of grievances. One always has to balance honesty with diplomacy. If your instincts tell you that your boss may overreact or even retaliate if you’re honest about your reasons for leaving, stick to a face-saving lie: “I was offered an opportunity I simply couldn’t pass up.” Helping the company improve its practices is not as important as making sure you have a place to work and enough money to pay your bills.

Q. Re: Old bag: Hey, she might have been a standoffish, annoying person when she was young. Calling her names just because she’s older than you makes me think all the gardening and cake baking and cards are really just about you. You don’t sound like a very nice person.

A: Oh, Lord, I hadn’t even realized the letter heading read “old bag” in reference to Gretel. Yeah, that’s not OK. That is not a great response, even if you thought it was rude of her not to sign a sympathy card. If Gretel is a jerk, then call her a jerk—there’s no reason to knock her for her age and perceived looks/appeal/relevance.

Q. Re: Old bag: Sorry, Prudie, I disagree with bringing in something for Gretel just to smooth ruffled feathers. Unless you’ve celebrated other “first grandparents” before, I think that a line has to be drawn somewhere on when you’re expected to bring in flowers/treats, and that’s a pretty good place to start.

A: That’s a fair cop! I think the letter writer’s reference to “other personal life events” puts them in somewhat shaky territory, but it’s certainly subjective. My guess is that if Gretel were not unpleasant, the letter writer would likely have brought in some baked goods or flowers, and Gretel is hyperaware that the other 14 people in the department have gotten something to mark similar events.

It’s certainly not a situation I’d want to be in, and I think the best solution is to stop taking on all this extra work. If the letter writer wants an outlet for their baking and gardening, they should stick with friends and family members, and avoid the office politics.

Q. My co-worker’s perfume is causing me physical pain: I’m incredibly sensitive to perfume. I develop blinding migraines if someone wears excessive amounts of it, like my co-worker Erica does. My friend Tina has had asthma attacks after walking through a cloud of Erica’s perfume. The two of us, as well as four other co-workers, have spoken to our supervisors and HR about different physical reactions to Erica’s perfume. I recently met with my boss, and she told me that since perfume is subjective and others who sit by her aren’t bothered by it, she’s not in a position to tell Erica to not wear perfume. If I develop another migraine, she asked me to come to her so she can come to where I sit and smell the perfume for herself.

I’m feeling really dejected about the company’s response. I love my job and my company is usually hugely supportive. I can also appreciate that not everyone is affected by perfume. But I’m expending an incredible amount of energy ensuring that my performance doesn’t suffer when I have a migraine at work; sometimes, I can’t even manage that and have to leave early. I don’t know how to sustain this long term, and since Erica and I are on the same team and sit close to one another, avoiding her is very difficult. What should I do next?

A: Have you talked to Erica about it yet? You say you’ve gone to your supervisors and HR, but you don’t mention that you started by asking her, which makes me wonder if she’d be amenable to a politely worded request. If you don’t know Erica to be stubborn or malicious, I think the odds are good that she’d be willing to refrain from wearing perfume if she knew some of her co-workers were sensitive to fragrance and prone to asthma attacks and migraine. Perhaps she would be more receptive than your boss has been.

Q. Re: Justified pettiness: If the letter writer is pretending to be friends with Emily—after all, that’s what she’s doing, for whatever reason—then she should pretend to do what a real friend would do: have a gentle conversation with Emily to say that she is now dating Alex and hopes it won’t get in the way of their occasional coffee dates. If she is only interested in being cruel to Emily, maybe she should stop seeing Emily altogether and try to make some real friendships.

A: That is both reasonable and kind, and I hope the letter writer does exactly that.

Mallory Ortberg: These updates are the greatest things that have ever happened to me. KEEP ‘EM COMING. Thanks, and see you all next week!

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.

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Unprofessional Distance

Unprofessional Distance

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week by signing up in the box below. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online here on Slate to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I am a thirtysomething, single woman who has worked in the same small company for years. During this time a few of my male co-workers have approached me for dates. I have never had an issue with kindly turning any of them down, until now. One co-worker is irritatingly persistent. He constantly inquires about the relationship status of every woman that breathes. For years he has asked about me. I began by deflecting his interest politely, but after years of it I have had to up the level of aggression in my dealings with him. I now give one-word answers and don’t look or smile at him when he talks to me. It’s exhausting to be so rude. I try as hard as I can to avoid him when he is in the building. If I see him in one department I turn tail and put off my task until later. Unfortunately, whenever he feels chatty he corners me in my office. At that point I try to look as busy as possible, but he doesn’t take the hint! I can’t keep working like this. His behavior is making it difficult for me to do my job.

We don’t have an HR department. My boss respects me, and I him, so I could speak with him about this, but I don’t want to give him the impression that I’m a damsel in distress, and I don’t think the creep needs to be fired over this behavior—he just needs to respect boundaries. This week he asked me to a movie and I said no, but his behavior has not changed. I know I need to be more direct, but we will continue working together—so how can I keep what I say professional while making it clear that I am not interested in dating him?

—Back Off

You are not being a “damsel in distress” by asking your boss to help you with an issue that makes it difficult to do your job! This is very much a work matter and falls precisely under your boss’s purview. Talk to your boss today, and tell him what you told me—that this guy has asked you out repeatedly even after you’ve clearly indicated your lack of interest, that he frequently enters your office and prevents you from getting work done to try to charm you into changing your mind, and that you feel uncomfortable being in the same part of the building with him because he can’t maintain a professional distance. You have the right to be treated professionally by your colleagues, not as an eternally captive audience for date-finagling.

None of your own responses, as you’ve described them, have been rude. Nor would it be rude to address him directly and frankly. The next time he comes into your office uninvited, feel free to say, “If there’s something work-related you need to discuss, please send me an email. If it’s not work-related, I need you to leave my office so I can get back to my work.” If he tries to ask you out again—or just hints at it—say, “I’m not interested in going out with you. I need you to stop asking me about that. Can you do that, or do we need to ask [boss’s name] for help keeping you on task?”

* * *

Dear Prudence,

How do I discourage strangers from touching me? I’m a wheelchair user, and strangers often seem to feel like they have the right to touch me on the head, shoulder, or arm for no reason, without even asking first. But I have chronic pain, and strangers touching me frightens me and also causes me physical pain.

—Stop Touching Me

I’m publishing your letter in part to serve as a general reminder to anyone who reads this column that touching anyone you don’t know without asking is rude, unnecessary, and unwanted. It’s one of the most basic lessons in courtesy and respect, but so many people seem to forget those when they encounter someone with a disability. You have every right to say, “Don’t touch me” or “Please stop” to anyone boorish enough to do so.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

We just moved into a new building that has three doormen. Two are wonderful, and the third has never once opened the door for us. I’m embarrassed that I even care about this, but I have kids and a dog and frequently stand at the door juggling multiple bags of groceries, a stroller, and a child while I search for my keys, and he’ll just stare down at his phone and not move. I’ve hesitated to say anything to management because I don’t want him to get in trouble or even fired, and I don’t want to come across as high-maintenance. (I’m really not.) He’s just lazy and doesn’t want to do his job.

I’m not willing to speak with him directly. Should I just suck it up? My inclination is to just keep sending angry texts to my husband because I’m worried management will tell him it was me who complained and then it would be super-awkward.

—Subpar Doorman

You have, I suppose, three options. You can live as you would if your apartment had no doormen at all and occasionally spend a few extra seconds standing in front of your door looking for your keys, even if it means putting your bags down or rearranging things. You can ask him, “Would you please get the door for me?” when you’ve got your hands full, even though you feel reluctant to do so. Or you can complain to management and run the risk of feeling uncomfortable if he finds out it was you who raised the issue. Personally, I’d take the first option, but you are free to decide which option is most worth it to you and pursue it accordingly.

Dear Prudence: How do I tell my friend she smells bad?

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* * *

Dear Prudence,

My stepsister is very close with her father but strongly dislikes my mother (now his wife) and me for “replacing” her own dead mother. Since my stepsister left the house three years ago, she’s become very wealthy and started seeing a new man we’ve only met once. I think I’ve seen him three times in total, mostly over FaceTime. Recently, we received a very impersonal wedding invitation from them, without even having known that they were engaged. The ceremony is to be in Rome in a month, a trip we can’t afford on such short notice. My stepfather pushed for us to attend but conceded we’d need to borrow the money from my stepsister. I called her and told her we’d be unable to afford it, hoping she would offer before I had to ask. Instead, she replied, verbatim, “Maybe it’s not in the budget, then. Send a gift if you can’t come.” Did I just get uninvited from my stepsister’s wedding? Does this merit further conversation?

—Wedding Woes

This merits celebration. You have been uninvited from what would almost certainly have been a deeply unpleasant event. I’m also more than a little surprised that your stepfather suggested you call and ask his own daughter to borrow money to attend her wedding—that was rude and presumptuous of him. Regardless, your stepsister did you a favor by telling you in advance that you were not particularly welcome (although your money apparently is), and you can congratulate yourself on having escaped incurring an unpleasant debt to an unpleasant woman. For the sake of politeness, send a small gift (whatever’s cheapest on the registry), offer her your perfunctory congratulations, and consider that bullet dodged.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend is still friends with an ex, which is something that I have no problem with in theory. However, I have known him for three years, and we’ve been in a relationship for one and a half, and she always seems to be in some dire situation—health problems, job problems, on the verge of getting kicked out of her apartment, etc. I understand that some people have more problems than others and this may not be her fault, but it seems to me like she’s really comfortable playing the victim. When my boyfriend and I got together, he said he felt bad telling her about it because he knew she still wanted to get back together with him. This was two years after he broke up with her! I don’t suspect that he has feelings for her, so I’m not threatened. But I do feel like she may be using his guilt about breaking up with her to manipulate him. I’m not sure what I can do about it—my partner and I are both very independent and would balk at the idea of someone forbidding us from being friends with someone. But I find this relationship troubling. Should I bring this up or keep my feelings to myself? I haven’t actually met her in person yet (they don’t hang out very often) so I may be judging this wrong.

—Ex a Con Artist?

You’re not contemplating telling your boyfriend he is forbidden from being friends with his ex. You are contemplating being honest with him—for what sounds like the first time in your relationship—about your feelings and concerns, and I think you should do so. It’s not an off-limits topic, and you’re not trying to control his behavior or restrict his independence. Confine your remarks to what you’ve observed without speculating extensively about her motives. Say, “It seems like she’s often in the middle of a crisis and that you edit what you say to her about your own life out of a fear that your good news will somehow hurt her,” rather than, “I suspect her of manufacturing her own misfortune in order to guilt you into taking her back.” You acknowledge, too, that you may not have the full picture because you don’t know her personally. The answer to this is not for you to get to know her better, but you can acknowledge that you know you don’t know everything about your boyfriend’s friendship with his ex when you raise the issue with him and that you’re interested in hearing what he thinks of their relationship and whether he shares some of your worries. Since your boyfriend doesn’t see her often, it’s likely that simply talking about what you’ve noticed and having a conversation with him will go a long way toward alleviating your concerns.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I am a woman who has always identified as bisexual. I’ve been pretty open with my friends about that fact, although up to this point I’ve only dated men. My parents used to be convinced I was gay because I never brought boyfriends home, but then I dated a man for five years and those comments stopped. That was about five years ago and I haven’t been a relationship since, so between that and the fact that I play football on a women’s team, I think my family is starting to wonder if they were “right.”

I recently started seeing a woman I really like, and I think we might have long-term relationship potential. I know I’m lucky I won’t be disowned if I were to come out, but I do think there would be a lot of speculation about whether I’ve been a lesbian all along. I don’t have a problem with that identity, but it’s not mine! I feel weird about having my past relationships discounted and I’m hoping for a bit of help figuring out what to say if this comes up that doesn’t also feel like TMI for my parents. I can’t just say, “I like having sex with both men and women” like I would to my friends.

–Not Switching Teams, Still Play for Both

You say you’ve always been open about your sexuality with your friends, but that you’re worried about overloading your parents with “too much” information, which makes me wonder if you’ve ever actually told your family that you’re bisexual. If you haven’t, there’s no time like the present—don’t wait until you’re introducing them to your girlfriend! Whether or not things work out with her specifically, odds are good that you’ll date other women in the future, and more than that, it’s an important part of your identity that you want to share with them. If at first they seem inclined to think you’re “really” gay and all your past relationships were a cover, you can correct them: “I’m not gay; I’m bisexual. I really loved Baron Harkonnen when we were together, and I’m really happy with Princess Irulan now.” Sexual orientation is about more than just sex; you don’t have to get into what you enjoy in bed when you’re talking to your family about someone you love and want to be in a relationship with.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

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Listening for Gayness in the Soundscapes of Provincetown

Listening for Gayness in the Soundscapes of Provincetown

by Chris White @ Slate Articles

It’s a Thursday afternoon in late summer, and I’m sitting at a bar with a straight friend of mine. Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” fades in on the loudspeaker. I offhandedly comment that I expect to hear this song pretty often at my upcoming weekend in Provincetown, Massachusetts with my husband. My friend looks at me blankly.

“Edge of Glory is gay music? But plenty of straight people love that song.”

I pause and think a moment. It’s always been so obvious to me that something essential about this song seems to be oriented toward my gay identity. And it’s not the words, nor the singer’s sexuality—Lady Gaga’s personal bisexuality seems beside the point. Rather, it’s in how the music sounds, how it’s built and composed. But my friend’s obliviousness is indicative of another layer. The musical gayness that is so obvious to me is invisible to him. I wonder whether there are reliable characteristics of music that can make a song obviously appeal to my particular sexual expression, while still “passing” for mainstream music. What makes music sound gay to me?

So, I took an audio recorder to Provincetown to record how places would signal this particular kind of gayness through particular kinds of music. This village (affectionately called “P-town”) on the tip of Cape Cod is something of a Mecca for a certain type of gay male: On busy weekends, the main artery, Commercial Street, becomes a sea of men whose tank tops and polo shirts are all basically identical and could all easily be in my dresser drawer. Looking at this crowd, there are clearly issues of race, economic class, and gender all wrapped into this identity, since I’m not just hearing this music as “gay” but as a gay, liberal, urban, white cis-male—a Dan Savage, Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde kind of gay. And so, when a restaurant, club, or show wanted to communicate that their space was where I belonged—was this kind of gay space—I turned on my recorder.

I start recording around noon on a Saturday. At this point in the day, the town’s gay community is mixed with heavy doses of day-trippers with two-way same-day ferry tickets and families punctuating their Cape Cod vacations for a couple hours before returning to their cottage rentals in Truro or Wellfleet. The music reflects this eclectic mix: I recorded the music outside one family-friendly diner playing Billy Joel, heard indistinct Latin-ish background music as we walked by a packed dining patio, and found French-bistro-style underscoring wafting from an upscale cocktail lounge. This was, by my estimation, not gay music.

But the last ferry back to Plymouth leaves at 4:30 p.m., which is coincidentally the beginning of P-town’s Tea Dance. This daily party—now the place to begin your gay evening—grew out of the long tradition of men meeting under the auspices of “having tea,” an excuse designed to skirt the legal codes of the not-too-distant-past when homosexual gatherings were explicitly forbidden.

Walking to Tea, the aural scene had already become distinctly more “gay,” with a version of “Mmmbop” wafting from a karaoke happy hour and a group of men drinking cocktails on the porch of their hotel to a soundtrack of Madonna’s “Hung Up.” As we approached Tea, the sound of dance remixes of pop songs pounded louder and louder: I captured a couple such aural snippets.  As we paid our cover, I turned off the recorder; we mingled and danced to remixes of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and Icona Pop’s “All Night.” Tea then transformed into an “After Tea” dance a few doors down—during this transition, I paused to again record a series of soundscapes before rejoining, sounds that again featured much of the same dance-mix textures.

At this point, two trends were becoming clear. First, and most obviously, the gayer spaces became, the more throbbing dance beats they used. On the one hand, this should be an obvious musical choice—these spaces were explicitly dance parties. But on the other hand, it’s actually not trivial: The more exclusively gay the space became, the more fun it became. When these clubs let this type of music waft into the street, they are saying that I can come in, join people of a similar identity to me—my Andy Cohen, Michael Kors, Neil Patrick Harris gayness—and let loose. And this is really important: When you move through the world with a non-mainstream identity, it can feel extremely liberating to find yourself in a space where your identity suddenly becomes the mainstream. This liberation—this visceral celebration—is, I think, why “gay music” is often “dance music,” and why dance music can be so easily co-opted into gay spaces.

Second, these audio clips show it to be almost exclusively female voices singing to our sweaty (mostly white) bodies, and often women of color. There’s a lot of overlapping motivations behind this (and the cocktail of these motivations is probably mixed differently for every gay man), but the search for strong figures outside traditional masculine culture probably gets the most traction. While born out a respect, this means that gay white male musical tastes seem to be grounded in other marginalized voices, often voices with far less privilege than the men consuming it.

Leaving After Tea, we walked toward the center of town, where we found the streets transformed from alleys dotted with individuated pods of self-conferring tourists into an alloy of forming and reforming flocks of gay men. We ran into Jinkx Monsoon (winner of season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race and my husband’s favorite drag queen) performing on the street to sell tickets for her show later that night. Walking past the Crown and Anchor’s piano bar, we heard a crowd of intoxicated male voices erupt into the climax of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” We then ducked into Varla Jean Merman’s drag show, a classic example of gay camp that irreverently mashes together intelligent highbrow cultural criticism with lowbrow slapstick. At each juncture—from the street sing-alongs to campy drag-queen parodies—there is a sense of community built through sound: through inside jokes, songs that everyone in this particular community knows, and old-fashioned camp. In P-town, these kinds of “we-all-get-it” musical moments become more prominent after dark, after the tourists (read: straights) have left. At this point, performers and listeners alike can metaphorically wink at one another, and sing along to songs we all know we all know.

And this uniquely tracks with what it means to be a gay white male of this variety—a Michael Musto, John Waters, Anderson Cooper gay. Almost unique among minority identities, we have the ability to pass for majority/mainstream identities. These inside musical jokes are very similar to what I think of as the “gay flirty wink.” As a gay man, you learn to recognize moments when the guy passing you on the street looks at you with a glance that’s just-a-little-too lingering. These are ways (my brand of) gay men have learned how to move throughout the world unnoticed by the scrutiny of normative straight interaction, but noticed by other gay men. Arising from the balance between the advantage of our gender but not of our sexuality, we socialize modes of flirtation with the openness available to our male privilege, while flying just under the radar of heterosexuality.

The musical choices that have become intertwined with gay culture are a lot like this wink, and this is why, I think, my straight friend didn’t hear Lady Gaga as “gay.” We have a history of choosing gay anthems that are not explicitly “gay,” but rather are mainstream pop songs that in some peripheral way communicate non-mainstream identity. Songs by women or minority artists allow us to identify with the “otherness” and “difference” of the singers, but—by virtue of them being mainstream hits—humming them as you walk down the street won’t necessarily out you. Jinx Monsoon, for instance, sang a song by The Shirelles’s, a group of black women whose music was designed to appeal to white audiences—marginalized voices that pass in the mainstream.

But while the motivations behind these song choices might be rooted in subtlety, when music is being “gay music,” it is anything but subtle. In spaces like P-town, clubs with our friends, or even the bathroom mirrors of our teenage years, we gays let our guard down: That small muscle that is constantly flexing to help us pass in the world gets to finally relax. Certainly, many minority identities have it far worse, but it’s hard to be gay. I still study the floor tiles in locker rooms as intently as I did when I was a closeted middle-schooler; my husband still flinches at our local dive bar whenever a group of straight men become a little too sloppy and loud, worrying about how they’ll react to us once they become drunk enough.

Finding yourself in a room where everyone—everyone—knows the words to a song from Oklahoma! or pumping your fists to Whitney Houston or joining in a crowd laughing at a drag queen making a campy and silly pun … these things make you feel like you belong. Even while aspects of this music echo our neurosis and closeted pasts, when it’s played in spaces like P-town, it loudly and openly expresses our particular brand of gayness, the Lance Bass, Elton John, Clay Aiken gays. These songs “come out,” moving from being secret winks to being musical manifestations of the safe communal venues where (my kinds of) gays can loudly, viscerally, cathartically, and proudly celebrate who we are, and the history of how we got here.

The next day, as we left Tea Dance, the DJ began to play Whitney Houston’s “My Love is Your Love.” The sea of men roared—roared—together along with the chorus, “Cause my love is your love, And your love is my love.” We had all experienced childhoods of staring at gym floor tiles, early adulthoods of skittishness around drunk frat boys, and had all read Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion on June 26, 2015 with tears in our eyes. We were all pumping our fists to the voice of Whitney Houston, a song originally about race relations that we were adopting as our own. It was fun. It was liberating. It was probably a little problematic. But it was beautiful.

Just Nutritive Sunless Tanning Lotion Review

by Emily Andrews @

Comprehensive review of Just Nutritive Sunless Tanning Lotion. See what real experts and actual users have to say about this self tanning product.

Source: Just Nutritive Sunless Tanning Lotion Review by

Simple Travel Tips for a Smoother Journey

by overit @

I’m often asked how I stay well while traveling, and it’s really quite easy — a little forward thinking and some simple lightweight items that fit in my bag. Jet-setting (or schlepping about) makes us more susceptible to stress, junk food, late nights and germs, which is why it’s super important to take your self-care efforts up a notch and protect your immune system with my travel tips.

The post Simple Travel Tips for a Smoother Journey appeared first on

How to Un-Botch a Fake Tan in 60 Seconds

How to Un-Botch a Fake Tan in 60 Seconds


There are a few things one should never do in the last few minutes before leaving the house. The first is apply liquid liner—you will manage to smudge it under an eyelid. Call it Mercier’s law. The second is guzzle the last inch of your cappuccino before running out the door—beware the curse of the […]

BEAUTY // Best Self Tanners and Application Tips

BEAUTY // Best Self Tanners and Application Tips

Meg Biram

I’m at that point now where I’m gross pale. Now there is nothing wrong with pale. Some of the most beautiful people and models have very light skin and they are gorgeous (and will proba…

Best Self Tanner for 2017 - Top 8 Self Tanner Reviews

Best Self Tanner for 2017 - Top 8 Self Tanner Reviews

Airbrush Guru

Having a year round tan makes you look healthy, glowing, and youthful. However, It can be hard to maintain the perfect sun-kissed skin without sun damage. Thanks to innovations in self tanners, now anyone can achieve a great tan without harming their skin. Here are eight great products you can try:How Do Self Tanners Work?Most …

Fall touches in the studio

by emily @ Jones Design Company

I told myself I wasn’t going to get into Fall mode until after last weekend. Audrey had her first soccer game, we celebrated Brady’s 12th birthday (what?!) and the Seahawks played (sad loss, but I’m trying to forget it). I saw my first falling leaf of the season and our hydrangeas have changed into the […]

You're reading Fall touches in the studio originally posted at Jones Design Company.

Past Due

Past Due

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Mallory Ortberg, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voice mail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Mallory Ortberg: Hello, you cool, clear-eyed seekers of wisdom and truth. Is that the sound of good, solid judgment I hear? Let’s chat.

Q. Third wheel: I am a graduate student who is currently involved with a married couple. I am bisexual and far removed from my home court. Before I met “Sue” and “Dave,” my last long-term relationships didn’t end well. Dave and Sue were fun, stable, and made me feel safe. When my roommate bailed on me and my rent shot up, they invited me to room with them. For a better part of a year, it was a dream come true.

Except now Sue is pregnant, and I am getting weird vibes from them both. Sue is either randomly closing me out (she doesn’t want me at her church baby shower) or trying to pull me in (making comments about “our baby”). I have learned not to be alone in a room with Dave because as soon as Sue comes in, all the air goes out. Dave is infuriatingly noncommittal about what exactly my status with them is going to be. If I ask, “What’s going to change between us when the baby comes?” He says, “Nothing. We still want you here.”

I am torn between not wanting to rock the boat and wanting it to capsize so I can swim to shore. I don’t want kids now. I have been saving money but not nearly enough to get a studio by myself. Every time I bring it up, Dave and Sue protest and say they want me to stay. Most of my social circle right now comes from them, and if things get ugly, I might be left completely alone.

How do I get myself out of this? I do love both Dave and Sue but not enough to derail my life or my goals. I want to stay friends, and I want life to be good to them, but I feel if I breathe wrong I will break everything.

A: Get out. Get out now. Get out now. This couple is producing red flags at such an accelerated clip that they could double as a red-flag factory.

Start looking for an alternate living situation immediately. If you can’t afford a studio by yourself, find someone you can split the rent with, whether through your graduate student housing, the recommendation of other friends, or an app that screens and verifies potential roommates.

This is not a safe situation for you, and part of you is already aware that Dave and Sue do not have your best interests at heart if you’re able to admit that you’d be left “completely alone” if things “got ugly.” If you were in a relationship with reasonable people, you’d say something like, “Even if we broke up, although it would be difficult, I know they’d still want me to be happy and healthy.”

You don’t want a child, and Dave and Sue are about to have one. You don’t want to be treated like a dirty little secret, but already you feel uncomfortable spending time alone with Dave because of the unhealthy, triangulated dynamics between the three of you. Dave’s claiming that “nothing is going to change” after the baby is born, but things are already changing, and not for the better. Adding a baby to a problematic situation has never solved anything, and things are only going to get worse for you after the baby comes. You don’t have to “wait” for the boat to capsize—you can, and should, grab a life jacket, jump overboard, and start swimming for shore.

Q. End the social media madness: I was wondering if you can give me some advice on how to deal with social media at work and a general feeling of social media overload.

Like most people, I receive many messages every day, most notably via WhatsApp, Messenger, and plain old email. When people send WhatsApp messages, they seem to expect rapid response times, more so than with Messenger or email. I receive a lot of these messages during my workday. As this disrupts my concentration, I have begun to put my phone in flight mode when I arrive at work. I have noticed that people can get frustrated when you don’t respond within a couple of hours.

I am just so exhausted from all of this. I already have loads of emails to deal with at work, and it reduces my concentration. So, I open my email three or four times a day and close it again when I am done responding. When I explain this, my friends and family seem to find this way of communicating is outdated and annoying, because they have to wait a while before I respond. And this is not the way of the world anymore. To be fair to them, it’s not the first thing that I take care of when I come home after a long workday. It just feels like a chore that has to be handled every day.

It’s not like I dislike communicating with people. I just like to talk to them, face to face, instead of exchanging all these short, usually meaningless messages. And with all these different apps, I sometimes forget to respond to messages and feel guilty afterward. I miss the old days when you had to pay per text and people were using this option sparingly (I am in my early 30s).

A: Something that is patently true but sometimes difficult to realize is that social media services are completely optional in adult life. You probably have to have a phone number and an email address if you want to function in society, but WhatsApp and Messenger and similar apps are completely optional. If they do not produce a robust sense of joy and well-being within you, if you are an otherwise responsive human being who regularly leaves the house and spends time with your friends, you can delete them from your phone and from your life. (I’m also going to make an official ruling and say that no one should send a follow-up about a nonemergency text sent during the workday for 12 hours. This is completely arbitrary and based solely on what seems right to me at present, but I do expect the entire world to comply immediately.)

Your friends and family are being unreasonable! Lots of people are not immediately reachable during the workday, which is a blessing; I prefer that surgeons and bus drivers and health inspectors give their entire focus to the tasks at hand and not to checking their social media accounts. It seems like every messaging app you’re using feels like a burden to you and provides your friends and family with another excuse to hound you when you’re trying to work. Give yourself permission to pare down to text and email, and don’t apologize for not writing back when you’re at work.

Q. Just want to be fair: I’m a 38-year-old single man. I’ve never had trouble getting first dates, but I’ve had some tough luck with long-term relationships. My first ended amicably enough, the second decidedly not. Both left me feeling utterly alone and heartbroken. I’m not unduly fragile, and I know both of those women are fundamentally good people who deserve happiness, as do I. It’s just that I’ve learned the hard way to guard my emotions carefully.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lovely woman 11 years younger than myself. She’s energetic, empathetic, and kind, and just as a bonus she’s stop-you-in-your-tracks beautiful. I find myself falling rather hard. She’s also very much still trying to figure out herself and her place in the world.

How do I treat this woman and myself fairly? I gather she’s in a transitional phase in life, and I’m so afraid to fall in love at the risk of being burned again. I also realize that if I can’t risk emotional vulnerability then I’m likely to end up alone.

A: I don’t think you need any advice beyond the bog-standard “Be honest, take it slow, have fun” advice that governs all new relationships.

This woman is 27, not 19; she might be going through a transitional stage in her life, but she’s also a fully fledged adult who is (hopefully) capable of stating her own needs and setting her own boundaries. If you need to take things slowly, tell her! Figure out a balance between “fools rush in” and “I am a relational glacier,” and do your best to stay in the middle.

People break up all the time for all sorts of reasons. It may happen to you and this wonderful woman, no matter how careful you are in the beginning. Take the risk, and good luck.

Q. Overly rewarded for basic human kindness: The other day I happened to see an elderly female neighbor fall. She lives behind us, and I saw her tumble. I raced out, helped notify her husband, and helped him help her up; she was OK. The next day he came by with a thank-you card and $50 in gift cards. My issue is the real guilt I feel for accepting them because I feel like I didn’t do anything worthy of a reward, and I don’t feel that returning the gift cards will help anything. I feel like any person seeing another in peril would help as best he or she could.

A: Donate the gift cards either to someone you know who could use them or to a local food pantry or homeless shelter (call first to see if it can accept them). Bear in mind that you are doing this woman another kindness by allowing her to express her gratitude. Giving you the thank-you note and gift cards may make her feel less helpless and out of control, and your gracious response will go a long way toward making her feel better about herself.

Q. Newly separated but ready to date: After almost 20 years of marriage, my wife and I are getting ready to be separated. The separation is, thankfully, amicable and mutual. We both hold no ill will toward each other. We have no children, either. Those things have made this process strangely straightforward.

My question is about dating, or “getting back out there,” so to speak. My wife and I both agree that we have been roommates for a few years now. I have been lonely for a while (as has she), and I definitely am ready to dip my toe in the dating waters. I’m not proposing to do so the moment we’re officially or legally separated, but I don’t want to wait months and months either.

Is there some sort of socially acceptable time period? I don’t want funny looks from friends and acquaintances, nor do I want to weird out any potential dates. And above all, I don’t want to hurt my wife’s feelings either. Are there any guidelines for this sort of thing?

A: As a rule, most people generally prefer dating someone who is not still living with someone he (or she) is still referring to as his “wife.” (Not everyone! Different strokes, etc).

It’s very conscientious of you to want to be respectful of your soon-to-be ex, of course, but her feelings about your dating life should not be what guides your choices in the future. Once you two are legally separated and living independently, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start dipping said toe into said waters. You don’t have to tell your friends right away that you’ve started going on a few first dates, but if any of them do raise an eyebrow, you can simply say, “Our marriage has been over for a long time, and I’m ready to move on.”

Q. Hair: In the genetic spin, I look exactly like my Japanese mother while having very red hair like my Irish American father. It was a huge problem growing up in Japan (I dyed my hair black for most of middle and high school). I am currently going to school to get my Ph.D. in the States but in an area without a high Asian population, so I get a lot of double-takes and unwanted touching. Random strangers will ask me how I dye my hair and not believe me if I tell them it is natural. Worse, they will try to touch my hair or encourage their children to. I had multiple instances of getting sticky candy stuck in my ponytail or braid because of some overeager kids. Growing up mixed race in Japan means I am very uncomfortable with confrontation or conflict.

My roommate is amazing and takes it upon herself to be my guard dog. She will push hands away and lecture parents went she sees I am being crowded. I need a script to deal with these people so I don’t freeze up when my roommate is not around. Can you help me?

A: “Don’t touch me,” with or without a “Please” appended, is always an excellent choice, especially if you’re not looking to get into a discussion or an argument with the type of person who thinks it’s appropriate to walk up to a complete stranger and touch her hair. It’s perfectly polite yet direct and clear. If there are any readers who’ve found useful scripts in discouraging would-be petters, please share what’s worked for you!

Q. Tipping etiquette: Earlier this year I began getting massages about twice a month from an excellent massage therapist. I booked a 40-minute massage and left a 20 percent tip. I felt that all was going well until a month ago.

I went into the massage session with extra-tense shoulders, and my therapist worked on them for a full hour. I left a larger tip to reflect the extra work that she did. Since then, she has twice kept me well past my 40-minute bookings. I do appreciate the longer massages, but a big part of the reason I chose the 40-minute massage is that I can afford it in my monthly budget with a 20 percent tip.

Should I talk to my therapist? The studio is structured such that clients only talk to “secretaries” about payment. Should I talk to the secretary after my appointment? I get the feeling that my therapist is willing to do more to make me feel better even if I don’t pay her to. How do I ethically and appropriately handle this?

A: First of all, congratulations on being able to afford twice-monthly massages and for being a generous tipper. I imagine a lot of massage therapists wish they had clients like you!

I think your next move should be to confirm, at the start of your next appointment, that you have booked the 40-minute massage and both of you have the correct length scheduled. If she continues to try to offer an extra 20 minutes every time and you’re not comfortable with that because you can’t afford to pay more, feel free to invent a follow-up appointment you can’t reschedule or postpone. If she insists—congratulations! You have found the most generous massage therapist in the world, and you are very lucky.

Q. Re: Hair: I’m also a natural redhead who gets lots of unwanted attention and hair-touching. My procedure is to say, “Thanks!” if someone compliments me and keep moving—I don’t give strangers the chance to touch me because I’m always out of there quickly or inventing appointments I’m late for. If someone asks to touch it I usually say, “Sorry, no. I just washed/ styled it.”

A: An elegant approach! Since the letter writer is especially loath to enter into an argument and fears appearing rude, I think this will be particularly useful.

Q. Queer Club Secret Handshake?: I’m a recently realized genderqueer person, falling more toward the side of a trans girl. Over the past six to 12 months, I’ve started dressing the part as I get more comfortable, and that means that I’ve been more easily recognizable as a queer person, or at least it’s easier for people to guess, since appearance isn’t always proof positive. A handful of times, another person—who, if I had to guess, I would presume is a fellow queer individual—has approached me unexpectedly to offer a compliment or other kind word. In the past I’d have thought nothing of it beyond a kind word from a stranger, but with the hope to meet new queer friends on my mind, these moments have made me wonder if there’s some secret code or policy that some queer folks subscribe to when it comes to acknowledging or reaching out to others they suspect are members of the club, and I’m experiencing it for the first time as a New QueerTM.

A: It is definitely A Thing, and I’m delighted that your experience with the Secret Queer Compliment Club has been such a positive one.

There’s loads to go into when it comes to queer visibility, some of it great (random compliments!) some of it lousy (femme invisibility! Bisexual erasure! et al), but I’m so glad to hear that you’ve been met with warmth and support as your presentation has shifted. Whenever I get a short haircut, I notice that the number of brief, pleased head-nods I get from butches/studs/bois/genderqueer folk/etc I pass on the street skyrockets; it’s an imperfect but often lovely form of queer recognition in a world where that’s not always easy or safe.

Click here to read Part 2 of this week’s chat.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

7 Self-Tanner Mistakes You Need to Stop Making ASAP

7 Self-Tanner Mistakes You Need to Stop Making ASAP


You don't want to make these yuuuuuge mistakes.

Colleagues With Benefits

Colleagues With Benefits

by Mallory Ortberg @ Slate Articles

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week by signing up in the box below. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online here on Slate to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Readers! Ask me your questions on the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast. Just leave a message at 401-371-DEAR (3327), and you may hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I work for a small business and am very close with my co-workers. We often spend time together outside of work. I’ve spent the last few months subtly flirting with a co-worker who is 20 years my senior, but I’ve never attempted anything further as he is in the middle of a divorce, although I am very close with his children. About a month ago, I was at his house while his family was away, and we established that we are attracted to one another. We decided to proceed with a “friends with benefits” situation since our relationship is complicated. We hooked up but did not have sex. At the end of that week, he told me that he preferred the sexual tension and “the thrill of the chase” to our new arrangement, although he did not want to ruin our friendship. I was not interested in that as I felt rejected.

After a few days, I realized that I may have appeared too clingy and annoying—especially since a man in his 40s probably does not want his hookup texting him every day. I am never the clingy one, and it irritates me to think that I was. So I told him the following Monday that the chase was back on. Our flirtatious behavior has since become much more intense, while remaining discreet. It has now become almost a game in my head to have sex with him. I am not sure why. Should I make a move or bring this up with him? I would like to establish that relationship with him, but I am unsure if I ruined it by being too overbearing. Where do I go from here?


Oh, yikes. This letter started unraveling about two sentences in and I’m not quite sure where to start. Let’s start with the fact that your co-worker—a still-married man in his 40s—is apparently in the habit of inviting his twentysomething female colleagues over to his house while his children are away. Depending on your age, this may be one of your first full-time jobs, and it’s worth repeating that this is not normal office behavior, not even for an office that’s especially “close.” I don’t think you were annoying or clingy by texting this guy on a daily basis for a week. I think becoming friends-with-benefits with him was ill-advised and potentially bad for your career, but it’s not inappropriate to regularly text someone you’re hooking up with. I think he’s a creep and a bad employee (he can’t be getting much work done if he’s got this much time to play Dangerous Liaisons–level mind games) who took advantage of your youth and inexperience and is jerking you around.

It would be a lousy move for him to pull even if he were a guy your age you met at a bar and started sleeping with casually; the fact that he did this while you two were supposed to be working together speaks volumes about his character and professional standards (or lack thereof). To answer your question, then: The best place for you to go from here is out of this weird, boundary-less, incestuous little office and into a sane workplace with a robust HR department.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I am in the middle of a divorce from my husband of almost 10 years. I had an affair with an out-of-state co-worker toward the end of my marriage and developed feelings for him. In the meantime, my co-worker has been off-and-on about the status of our relationship, and I ended up sleeping with a colleague during a work trip. I admitted to the incident and now my co-worker wants nothing to do with me. I am devastated. What is wrong with me?


Is it terribly trite if I say “the human condition”? That’s not to say that what you’re going through is a universal stage of emotional development, but betrayal and shame and self-loathing are all recognizable recurring themes in human relationships. It’s possible that by the end of your marriage, and again during your relationship with your co-worker, you found the tension of likely heading toward a breakup so unbearable that it came as a relief to do something you knew would end things without ambiguity. That’s also quite possibly not why you did what you did at all! If you’re looking for a quick-and-dirty answer to why you blew up two relationships from the inside in rapid succession—something like “You’re afraid of commitment” or “You’re turning into your father” or “You need to take a nine-week tantric sex course to learn to love yourself”—then I’m afraid I can’t be very helpful.

The upshot is that you get to take all this bewilderment and self-recrimination and put it to good use! Since both of your exes are now just that—exes—you’ve got a lot of time on your hands to get into therapy, take yourself temporarily off the dating market, and figure out what you want your relationships to look like in the future. Pain is an excellent motivator, and I think you have plenty of it to make a good start.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I have recently come to terms with the fact that I cannot drink responsibly and have started attending AA meetings. I’ve taken it upon myself to apologize to everyone I’ve hurt; some have forgiven me, some have not, and I accept that. My problem is this: My mother is my rock and my biggest supporter, but she thinks I stopped drinking three weeks ago. In fact, it’s only been a week. I want to be honest with her but also don’t want to hurt her. It’s important to me, and to her from what I gather, that I celebrate milestones of sobriety—a week, a month, a year—but I know the timeline won’t add up. Should I come clean or just hope she doesn’t notice the discrepancy when I hit the one-month mark?

—Recently Reformed Alcoholic

There’s a good reason newcomers to AA are encouraged to find a sponsor and work the steps in sequential order. The ninth step reads “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” It’s not necessary (or helpful!) to immediately start apologizing to everyone in one’s life—it takes time to clear away the debris of the past, and oftentimes apologies do more for the person apologizing than anyone else. It’s not necessary for you to update your mother on a day-by-day basis about your sobriety. There is, as you likely know, a program available for people like your mother called Al-Anon; she will find support and assistance there. Many alcoholics experience relapse or slipups early in their recovery. The important thing is that you’re sober now and committed to staying that way. If the “anniversary” of your continuous sobriety comes up in conversation with your mother, you can be honest about it with her—and you shouldn’t lie if she asks—but your focus right now should be on finding a sponsor and getting involved in the program, not on making a full confession to your mother.

There’s also a reason that AA members are encouraged to practice their recovery “one day at a time,” and it’s not superstition or pessimism. Worry about your 30-day chip when the day comes, and not before. Congratulations on finding a program that works for you, and best of luck with your continued recovery.

* * *

Dear Prudie: I told my tomboy friend no one would have sex with her. Can I ask her out now?

Hear more Prudie at

Dear Prudence,

I’ve been dating a guy for about two months. Everything seemed to be going great. We’d already known one another for a few years, and I thought we knew each other pretty well. The last time I saw him, I spent the night at his home. The next day, I left to get ready for work and didn’t hear from him all day. The day after that, I sent him a link to an article I thought would interest him. He replied, “Crazy.” I agreed and mentioned something else I thought he would find interesting. He didn’t reply.

We haven’t communicated since then. (It’s been a week.) Since I’m the one who sent the last text, I’d say he’s the one ghosting me. But what if he thinks I’m ghosting him? Should I try a quick “Hey, how have you been,” wait it out, or assume this is over?

—Who’s Ghosting Whom?

He does not think you are ghosting him because you are not ghosting him. Nor should you “wait it out” or try to casually start another topic of discussion. It’s one thing to mutually decline to meet up again after a mediocre date or two, but you two have known one another for years, you’ve been dating for two months, and you’ve spent the night at his house—ghosting is neither polite nor standard breakup protocol in this instance. It’s never fun to initiate a conversation that might end in a breakup, but your next move is to say, “I haven’t heard from you since we spent the night together. What’s up?” (You might even decide to call, since texting is proving such an easy medium for him to flake on.) Don’t ask how he’s been because that’s not the question you really want to ask. Be direct, and ask him to be direct with you.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I work in an administrative capacity for an elected official who has quite a bit of discretion in how they choose to disburse their budget. Recently everyone in the office—except the administrative staff—was given a huge raise. I found out by accident: Someone stupidly asked me a question about the money. I figured out what had happened and someone else in the office confirmed the massive pay increases. This official runs on a platform of reducing income inequality, and their hypocrisy makes me resentful and angry. I’ve started looking for another job.

I’ve stopped all inessential socializing with these co-workers since I can no longer stand to be around them any more than I have to. The problem is that I used to bring in treats for the office almost weekly. I stopped as soon as I found out about the raises. A few people have mentioned missing the cupcakes and have dropped some less-than-subtle hints that they want me to bring them back. I want to yell, “Buy your own damn cupcakes, you can afford them!” Any suggestions for a script to make it clear they’ve enjoyed their last baked good from me?

—Buy Your Own Damn Cupcakes

Regularly bringing in baked goods often results not in increased appreciation but in an increased sense of entitlement—and often an unspoken assumption that the baked-goods provider isn’t as “serious” as the recipients. That’s not fair, of course, but you’re seeing the results of that dynamic in action. You can simply ignore the hints that your co-workers drop about the subject. There’s a certain (socially appropriate) joy in declining to respond when someone says something like, “God, I miss those cupcakes of yours. Hardly seems worth coming in on Fridays anymore. I wonder if I’ll ever get to taste them again?” But if you’re compelled to say something, play it safe: “Oh, I don’t have time anymore. But you’re welcome to bring in baked goods yourself!” Remember that now is not the time to communicate your frustration, subtly or otherwise, to your co-workers. Now is your time to decline to engage, to not worry about whether they’re getting their daily recommended dose of pastry, and to get yours.

* * *

Dear Prudence,

I have a friend who keeps pushing to be invited to events. I’ve known her for several years, but we aren’t that close. My partner considers her a killjoy who psychoanalyzes him too much; others in our group have complained about her mooching. She is a sweet girl with good intentions who simply does not pick up on social cues, and I don’t want to cut her out of my life as I can enjoy her company. However, I also don’t want to get a text every time I choose not to invite her along. She once even told me when my partner had “forgotten” to include her on an email asking a few friends to help us move! How do I politely tell her that it is rude to text me every time she’s not invited to an event I’m hosting, and that it is not always a mistake?

—Pushed Over the Edge

Who is forwarding every email and passing along every invitation to this woman? Either there’s a serious leak in your social circle, or she’s going out of her way to hunt down get-togethers she hasn’t been invited to in order to guilt someone into asking her along. Whatever’s going on here, I’m afraid that there’s no way to be both polite and direct. This woman is being impolite by inviting herself to everything, and the only way to stop her from wearing you down is to say, “It wasn’t a mistake! I’m getting together with Grayabeth and Festerling this Wednesday, and we wanted it to be just the three of us.”

You’ll be tempted to smooth this over by adding, “Let’s get together soon!” or “Some other time!” Resist the urge and continue to invite her out only when you want to see her.

Discuss this column with Dear Prudence on her Facebook page!

More Dear Prudence

Rekindled Romance: Prudie counsels a mother who’s fallen hopelessly back in love with an old college friend.”
Unreasonable Doubt?: Prudie advises a sister who doesn’t trust her brother’s explanation of why he left his job.”
Robbing the Cradle: One of my colleagues is stealing my breast milk.”
It’s Not a Blood Diamond: Prudie advises a woman who loves her fiancé but feels humiliated by her flashy engagement ring.”

Nobody Else Stepped Up to the Plate: Prudie counsels a letter writer on how to support a difficult cancer patient when everyone else refuses to get involved.”
Just Not Interested: My daughter has decided she’s asexual. Did she get it from me?”
I Blamed the Victim: Prudie counsels a letter writer who regrets badmouthing a friend after she was molested.”
No Embryos for You: Prudie advises a mother who wants to help her brother have a baby—but not if it means she’ll also have to help her sister-in-law.”

Which Product Gives the Best Bronze Glow? I Tried 15 Self-Tanners to Find Out

Which Product Gives the Best Bronze Glow? I Tried 15 Self-Tanners to Find Out

Beauty Blitz

As a former tanning salon employee and current beauty editor, I may have sworn off UV rays but I'm still fluent in the ways of self-tanning. That said, I had yet to find the perfect at-home formula.

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Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash, Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment, Pink Grapefruit, 8.5 Fl. Oz. (Pack of 3)
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Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream With Retinol, 0 .5 Fl. Oz.
Neutrogena Age Shield Face Oil-Free Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum Spf 110, 3 Fl. Oz.
Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Dark Spot Corrector, 1 Oz
Neutrogena Complete Acne Therapy System
Neutrogena Skinclearing Blemish Concealer, Light 10, .05 Oz.
Neutrogena Rapid Clear 2-In-1 Fight & Fade Acne Toner, 8 Fl. Oz.
Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask Activator, 30 Count
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Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Loose Powder Foundation 20, Natural Ivory 20, .19 Oz.
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Blemish Cleanser, 5.1 Ounce (Pack of 3)
Neutrogena Triple Moisture Daily Deep Conditioner For Dry Hair Moisturizing, 8.5 Fl. Oz. (Pack of 3)
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup Foundation, Broad Spectrum Spf 20, 30 Buff, 1 Oz.
Neutrogena Naturals Multi-Vitamin Nourishing Face Moisturizer, 3 Fl. Oz.
Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula, Dandruff Treatment, 4.4 Fl. Oz.
Neutrogena Skinclearing Makeup, 10 Classic Ivory, 1 Fl. Oz.
Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Intensive Moisture Wrap Body Treatment Ff, 10.5 Oz
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Eye Gel-Cream, 0.5 Fl. Oz
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Boosters Facial Cleanser, 9 Fl. Oz
Neutrogena Moisturesmooth Color Stick, 60 Soft Raspberry, .011 Oz.
Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm Spf 20, Petal Glow 40, .15 Oz.
Neutrogena Body Sheer-Oil Lotion For Dry Skin , Light Sesame Formula, 32 Fl. Oz
Neutrogena Men Triple Protect Face Lotion with Sunscreen SPF 20 1.70 oz (Pack of 4)
Neutrogena Rainbath Multi-Pack of 3, 1 Original Formula, 1 Pomegranate and 1 Ocean Mist, 16 fl oz bottles
Neutrogena Light Facial Night Cream, 2.25 Oz.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Redness Soothing Facial Cleanser With Salicylic Acid, 6 Fl. Oz.
Neutrogena Skinclearing Mineral Powder, Natural Beige 60, .38 Oz., (Pack of 2)
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Neutrogena Visibly Even Bb Cream Daily Moisturizer SPF 30, Light-Medium, 1.7 Fl. Oz
Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Pore Scrub, 4 Fl. Oz. (Pack of 3)
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Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Gel Cleanser, 6 Ounce
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Compact Makeup Foundation, Broad Spectrum Spf 55, Buff 30, .35 Oz.
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum With Retinol, 1 Fl. Oz.
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Neutrogena Deep Clean Invigorating Foaming Face Scrub, 4.2 Fl. Oz.
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Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo, Scalp Build-up Control, 4.5 fl oz
Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser With Salicylic Acid, 6 Fl. Oz.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture, Combination Skin, 4 Ounce
Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Eliminating Spot Gel With Salicylic Acid, 0.5 Fl. Oz. (Pack of 3)