Dear Prudence

No Means No

When your child is on the verge of becoming sexually active.

Get “Dear Prudence” delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Dear Prudence,

I am a 29-year-old single mother of a 13-year-old daughter. When people do the math, it’s clear that I myself was a teen at the time of her birth. Now that my daughter is a teen, I constantly worry about her having sex and getting pregnant. I have conversations with her periodically about safe sex and abstinence, and I know she doesn’t want to hear about it, but I still continue to stress the issue. She tells me she isn’t having sex and isn’t interested in boys right now. Up until recently, I had no reason to disbelieve her. However, one day my daughter was talking on the phone, and I just felt the need to pick up the phone and eavesdrop. She was talking to a boy. I know his family, so I figured it wouldn’t be too bad. I was wrong. He was talking about getting an apartment with her and going out to dinner and then coming home to their apartment and putting rose petals on the bed. He was also asking her how many kids she would like to have. My daughter responded by telling him that she didn’t know because she is still set on going to school to be a doctor after she graduates college. After this, he tells her that she won’t have to worry about going to college because he will go to college for the both of them so she can stay at home and be a housewife. He then goes on about how his birthday is coming, and he would like for her to have sex with him as a present. She then said she really doesn’t want to talk about sex. When I asked her later who she was talking to, she said it was her cousin. I need help.

—Worried Mom

Dear Wor,

Calm yourself. How many couples do you know who go out to dinner, return to their apartment, and scatter rose petals on the bed? This is clearly a young boy’s idea of sex. The kid is so immature in his seduction spiel, if that’s what it is, that he has him going to college for both of them! What you overheard was your daughter offering perfect responses and trying to change the subject. As for her lying to you about who was on the other end of the phone, perhaps she was trying to avoid a discussion … being well aware of your fears. And there’s really nothing wrong with being interested in boys at the age of 13. As for Don Juan with the rose petals, you might tell your daughter that it’s come to your attention (you need not say how) that this chap is 1) not all that bright and 2) somewhat sex-obsessed. Then drop it, of course nixing any date, should it come up. There is an old saying: “I didn’t amount to anything because I didn’t want to disappoint my folks.” Because your daughter has done nothing to lead you to think she is wild or sneaky or out of control, try to communicate to her that you trust her good judgment and admire her goals.

—Prudie, casually

Dear Prudence,

I have two daughters, both toddlers. This spring we are all going to visit relatives. Here is my dilemma. I just found out that my daughter’s godmother is seeing a guy who was violent with a child. The story was that a little boy threw a toy in his face, and he broke the boy’s femur. I do not want my girls any where near him for obvious reasons, but what do I say to their godmother when she asks us to visit? I should add that she is my cousin, so cutting her off completely is out of the question. Her parents would complain to mine, big guilt trip, yada yada … but when I first heard about her latest loser, I seriously thought about it. So what would you suggest I do?

—Miss X

Dear Miss,

Isn’t it distressing when women we like choose Mr. Wrong? Actually, it’s distressing when we do it, ourselves … but Prudie digresses. As for how to avoid contact with the godmother’s latest loser, it will not be all that hard. Since you’re visiting relatives, simply ask that your cousin come see the children at someone’s house. Should she ask why you’re not coming to visit her, there is no need to hedge or beat around the bush. (Hmmm, two garden metaphors for being circumspect.) In other words, don’t feel you have to make up a reason. The real one will do quite nicely.

—Prudie, straightforwardly

Dear Prudence,

A few weeks ago, I ran into a former co-worker who insisted on having my telephone number. This lady was the office troublemaker and got fired for that reason. Many of us had problems with her, and we were not exactly on friendly terms. I gave her my number just to be nice, but frankly I’m not interested in re-acquainting with this person or having her call me. What can a person do in such situations?

—Thanks From Miami

Dear Thanks,

Prudie is not a great believer in being dragooned into coughing up phone numbers or e-mail addresses for people you have no interest in seeing. Some years ago, Warren Beatty resided at a Beverly Hills hotel. In social settings, when strangers would ask for his number, he would smile and tell them the wrong hotel. On occasion, even old Pru has “mistakenly” been one digit off when writing down her number. The hotel ploy would not work for you—or most people, come to think of it—but a slightly incorrect phone number or e-mail address solves the problem. If people figure out later that you’re dodging them, so what? If you desired a relationship, you’d have given them the right information in the first place.

—Prudie, protectively

Dear Prudie,

I am currently finishing my freshman year of college and have been having some difficulty due to personal problems. Only my parents, boyfriend, and a few very close friends know what these problems are. My dilemma is that my aunts and uncle always want updates on my life. They act like my parents most of the time. How do I give them a general update without having to tell them everything? I ask this because I don’t want to reveal the personal issues I am going through. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.

—Too Many Parents

Dear Too,

Well, there are updates, and there are updates. The answer you are seeking is within your question: Just give the rellies “a general update.” Tell them of your doings with friends, what’s interesting in your courses, mention how hard you’re studying, and get off the phone with, “Love you, gotta go.” Should you be having an in-person visit, end your “report” with the aforementioned neutral subjects. By having this kind of conversation you will be satisfying them while maintaining the privacy you desire.

—Prudie, concisely