Dear Prudence

Side Dishes and Other Delights

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Dear Prudence,
My 9-month-old son is a marvel. Everybody says he is a beauty, not just sweet, and always happy. I live with my girlfriend and we are well-doing, mid-30s academics. She, more than I, decided to have a child and succeeded, though with some medical difficulty. Unfortunately, she decided to cancel the process by which babies are made as soon as she knew she was pregnant. “I don’t need that,” was the way she put it. Now our relationship has cooled down considerably and the perspective is such that I have begun to study other options. I strongly feel my responsibility as a father, but in my perhaps too traditional view, a partnership between two people should involve more than just one-shot breeding. And there is that other woman … beautiful, nice, intelligent, who embraces me in a way that I get the message. What advice do you have for my son’s mother? Is a supplementary relationship really mean?

—Suffering sperm donor

Dear Suff,
Sorry to disappoint, but Prudie has no advice for your son’s mother since she did not ask for any. For you, however, Prudie has a thought or two. It seems fair enough, when a woman “cancels the process by which babies are made” to have an in-depth discussion about how she sees the future … and if she sees the “process” coming back into your lives. You are perfectly within your rights to tell her you are unwilling to live with the, uh, cancellation. If she is absolutely not interested in the bedroom anymore, it would seem that, yes, you were a sperm donor. If you would feel comfortable with what you call a supplementary relationship (which a nonacademic might call another girlfriend) and it’s fine with your live-in, then it’s certainly fine with Prudie. You two do really need to hash this out. A man in his 30s definitely needs “the process” in his life. Good luck figuring this out.

—Prudie, euphemistically

Dear Prudence,
I am a 27-year-old virgin who has never had a boyfriend. I’m scared because I almost broke my promise of no premarital sex. I have had bad experiences with men who targeted me for my virginity. Men have placed bets on who could get me in bed first. I have been sexually harassed by several men. Male friends have warned me that I was being “hunted” by men who wanted the “trophy.” Basically, I’ve learned not to trust men. Everybody knows about my virginity. Does my plan sound realistic to you?


Dear N,
Yours is a somewhat convoluted problem to follow. Never having had a boyfriend, how did you lose all trust in men? And how is it that “everybody” seems to know about your virginity? Granted, there probably aren’t many of you left at age 27, but Prudie wonders if you are, in actuality, as hotly pursued as you imagine. There may be some fear of sex in your decision. Finally, what is your plan? If you are asking whether or not to give up your virginity pledge, that is perhaps secondary to your seeming overemphasis on your “trophy.” Granted, it’s a plus that you are not horizontally accessible, but this should not be the biggest thing on your résumé. Some psychological exploration of your situation would undoubtedly prove helpful.

—Prudie, exploratively

Dear Prudie,
I am having an engagement-ring dilemma. After being engaged for a year and a half, I felt it was time to set a wedding date. My now ex-fiance and I never really discussed marriage due to the distractions of my new job, buying a house, renovating the house … always something. I finally brought up the topic and inquired whether he wanted a large wedding or small, whom to invite, our families’ roles, etc. He responded that he hadn’t really given it much thought. I didn’t want the two-year anniversary of our engagement to come up without our at least setting a date. Finally it came out that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to marry me. Needless to say, I was hurt and angry. (He could have told me a year ago.) After that discussion, I decided to move out. He decided he wanted the ring back. Now I am torn between giving it back and keeping it. In all honesty, my keeping it would be out of spite. Can you please tell me what the general rule of thumb for such situations would be?

—Confused in N.Y.

Dear Con,
The rule of thumb regarding the fourth finger is that he, essentially, broke the engagement, so you are entitled to keep the ring. To be crass about it, you have “earned” it. Many things come into play, however. You are self-aware to acknowledge that spite is involved … usually not a good reason for doing anything. You might feel more like a lady if you sent it back. Some women can’t stand to look at the ring after events such as you describe. Others sell it. (Prudie once voluntarily returned an engagement ring at the time of the divorce—when you really get to keep everything, no questions asked—because it was a family ring. It was also the size of a concord grape, so Prudie felt especially virtuous.) So: If you don’t want to wear the ring (and why would you?) and don’t need the money a sale might bring, you may feel better about yourself down the line by returning what, after all, was a symbol of a promise to marry.

—Prudie, ringingly

Dear Pru,
What about a guy who has been married for 16 years and has no concept of the truth? The latest escapade was joining a “private club” 60 miles away from his hometown. The wife (me) happened to intercept a call from the “club” regarding his membership. Busted big time, I’d say, but he is still denying! What causes a man to lie?

—Simply Aghast

Dear Ag,
In your case, with this particular kind of lie, the unhappy answer is that the guy is a player with the morals of an alley cat and the truth quotient of Pinocchio. He obviously subscribes to the philosophy attributed to, among others, the late Fernando Lamas: “Deny, deny, deny.” The punch line to a relevant joke about this is, “Who are you going to believe—me or your own eyes?” Because you now know for a certainty that your husband is not to be trusted or believed, you need to decide if the marriage is viable and if you can live with his games. Here’s a time-saver, however: You will not change him, so do not even try.

—Prudie, plainly