Click here to read a transcript of Prudie’s live weekly chat with readers at Washingtonpost.com.
I am a college student in my early 20s and have been married for three years to my wonderful husband. My problem is that I’ve got a huge crush on Michael Douglas, who is in his 60s. I watch his movies every day! At first my hubby just laughed it off and said he had crushes on celebrities, too, but now he’s irritated because I insist on him watching these movies with me and discussing Michael Douglas’ personal life all the time. I am not a stalker or anything. I am not writing him fan letters—though I’ve considered it. I have had mad celebrity crushes before, but this is the first since I’ve been with my husband. It feels like I am cheating and pushing my hubby away to watch movies that are older than I am. Please help!
—Cheating With the Movies
I just saw the preview for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a Matthew McConaughey movie in which Michael Douglas appears as Uncle Wayne, a dead playboy. If the movie is as awful as the trailer—and since it stars Matthew McConaughey, I have every confidence it will be—sitting through multiple screenings just might be the kind of shock therapy you need. Also helpful would be to Google “Michael Douglas facelift” and see your dreamboat with his incisions oozing. If that doesn’t do it, get the HBO series Flight of the Conchords, about a failed rock duo, and pay particular attention to the character Mel. She is the pair’s crazed fan who forces her husband to accompany her as she stalks them. She’s what you don’t want to become. For that matter, you don’t want to end up one bunny shy of the Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction. Having fantasies about a celebrity has got to be a nearly universal experience. (When I was walking through a lobby in Los Angeles and literally bumped into my first big crush, Sean Connery, my knees buckled.) But once you get past the stage of taping pictures of the Jonas Brothers on your wall, you’re supposed to be able to understand this is a limited, private indulgence that you don’t subject your patient husband to on a nightly basis. If you were bingeing on potato chips, you’d keep them out of your pantry. So get rid of the Michael Douglas oeuvre, and start doing things with your husband (besides going to the movies) that make you appreciate the young man you have for real.
I was at a birthday party for a preschooler a few weeks ago, and I was shocked to hear two of the dads talking about how fat their little girls are and calling them fat to their faces. The little girls in question are perfectly normal toddlers, round in the way that 2-year-olds are, but certainly not fat. I told the fathers that what they were saying was terrible and they’re going to give their daughters complexes. My husband thinks I should have kept my mouth shut, but as a woman and mother, I think that little girls have enough challenges to deal with in terms of body image without their own fathers calling them fat when they are not, and that for grown men to be assessing and judging the bodies of preschoolers is totally inappropriate. Was I wrong?
Maybe for a 3rd birthday, one of the fathers could host a liposuction party. There could be a contest in which the preschooler who gets the most fat sucked out is the winner. The fathers could also run a “Pin the Tail on the Pudgeball” game. At the end of the party, the birthday girl could blow out the candles on her rice cake. It’s a good idea to keep out of other people’s childrearing practices, but when the child’s health or safety is an issue, you have to speak up. Sure, the girls are not at immediate risk, but perhaps these fathers have never thought through the psychological damage they are going to do to their daughters with their revolting comments. You were right to admonish them. It may have been better to compose yourself and say something like, “I couldn’t help but overhear you telling the girls they are fat. I know you don’t mean anything by it, but this is the kind of thing that can be really insidious and lead to body image problems and eating disorders down the road. And your girls are adorable and not overweight.” But I’ll give you a pass for giving a piece of your mind to these fat-mouths.
My husband and I are best friends with another couple we have known for many years. We all get along great, our children are playmates, and we see them a few times a week. For as long as I can remember, my friend has had issues with her mother, whom she calls “crazy.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard my friend say that she wishes her father would leave her mother because of the verbal abuse she puts him through. But my friend treats her husband—who is a good husband and father—the same way that her mother treats her father. In front of anyone within earshot, she degrades him for everything that she thinks he does wrong, often throwing in comments such as, “How f—ing stupid can you be?” The comments are something I have just ignored because the husband seemed to have thick skin. I can see, however, that he is growing weary of the abuse. Should I bring this up to her? I honestly don’t think she realizes that she is increasingly behaving more like her mother. Our friendship with this couple is irreplaceable, and I don’t want to stick my nose where it doesn’t belong.
—Hard To Be a Bystander
By one account, Socrates married his harpy of a wife, Xanthippe, because he felt if he could tolerate her hectoring, he would be able to get along with anyone. Somehow I doubt this was the Socratic method that led to the marriage of your friends. Discussing the wife’s behavior is fraught with risk to your friendship, but unless this shrew tames herself, her outbursts are going to jeopardize the continuing closeness of the two families. You don’t want your children to think it’s acceptable for people to talk that way to one another. And you and your husband must cringe every time she lets loose with one of her verbal fusillades. Have a talk with her in which you say you don’t want to poke your nose in her marriage, but that you and your husband are becoming uncomfortable listening to her put-downs. Tell her you understand that husbands can be frustrating but that she’s married to a good guy, and she’s probably not even aware how constant and disproportionate her criticisms of him are. Don’t mention her mother at this point—that would just send her to the self-defense barricades. If she is not irretrievably stuck recapitulating her parents’ marriage, perhaps your talk will prompt her to recognize that she is turning into her least favorite person. If she doesn’t stop, the next time she goes off, say quietly to her, “Jen, I really don’t want to listen to this.” And if it still continues, tell her that if she could hear herself, she’d hate how much she sounds like her mother
I am in my mid-30s, and my never-married boyfriend is in his late 40s. We’ve been best friends for five years and a couple for 18 months. Several months ago he said, “I think it’s time our parents meet.” His mother visits once a year over the holidays, and my parents live two hours away. The meeting went very well, and a lovely time was had by all. Here’s the rub: He had no idea that having our parents meet could indicate a marriage proposal was on the horizon. On New Year’s Eve, he toasted 2009 as “our year,” and now he’s been talking about how romantic our summer vacation—which will be our two-year “anniversary”—is going to be. I asked, “So those things don’t add up to anything?” and he said, “I’m sorry, no, they don’t.” My question is: Did I read too much into him wanting our parents to meet, or is he really that clueless?
—Misread the Tea Leaves
You don’t get to be a heterosexual man in your late 40s who’s never been married unless you have some really good strategies for fending off commitment conversations. It is perfectly reasonable that after knowing each other very well for almost seven years, you want to know if marriage is on the horizon. You don’t mention whether you want to have children, but if you do, you can’t stick to your boyfriend’s schedule, which will probably mean that menopause is on the horizon before he decides that all your time together “adds up to anything.” If you’re in a serious, committed relationship, you two need to be able to talk openly about what you both want out of life and this relationship. He might confess that he never intends to get married, he could say he’s studying his mathematical marital models and waiting for them to indicate the proper pain/gain ratio, possibly he’ll make noises about not imposing deadlines on something that’s going so well. Whatever he says, you need to respond by letting him know how that makes you feel. If the man you love can’t engage in this type of conversation, then maybe you don’t want to be engaged to him at all.