Click here to read a transcript of Prudie’s live weekly chat with readers at Washingtonpost.com.
I recently married my dream husband. We have incredible chemistry and a shared commitment to each other. When we disagree, we settle our differences by balancing logic and gut feelings. That is, until we came to our disagreement on which laptop I should buy to replace my Mac PowerBook. We are both in the software industry and have strong preferences on which operating system we prefer. I have been a happy Mac user for years. My husband can’t stand the Mac, and his only explanation is the image associated with Mac users. Whenever he sees me with my PowerBook, he thinks of the “Get a Mac” commercials where Justin Long, who is a Mac, ridicules John Hodgman, a PC. I agree with him that the commercials are obnoxious, but they have nothing to do with the usability of the Mac. My husband said jokingly that I could get a Mac only over the divorce papers. I don’t believe he was joking. It’s getting to a point that we cannot discuss this without getting our blood boiling.
Adultery and alcoholism are well-worn grounds for divorce, but advertising incompatibility could open up a new chapter in matrimonial law. I agree with both of you (and Slate’s Seth Stevenson) that the Mac campaign is smug and sanctimonious, and has enhanced the appeal of the PC. However, what’s going on in your marriage has transcended the purported reason for your disagreement and entered the Jungian realm of shadows and projection. Too bad the blessedly commercial-free HBO therapy series In Treatment, which examined divorce, suicide, infertility, and cancer, didn’t tackle the issue of operating systems before finishing this season. I suggest you buy a copy of John Hodgman’s book More Information Than You Require and give it to your husband as a gift, explaining that you will always prefer Hodgman to Long. Tell him it’s causing you great distress that what should be a minor disagreement has become such a source of dissention. Point out that your husband fell for and married you despite your PowerBook. Now it’s time to upgrade, and, yes, you could get a PC to make him happy, but you don’t really think it would. You’d be resentful, and he’d feel guilty for forcing you. You could also quote a final word of wisdom from King Solomon: “[C]omfort me with [A]pples: for I am sick from love.”
A year ago, I broke my leg. During my recovery in the hospital, I contracted an infection and had to have a below-the-knee amputation. I have been seeing a girl for a few weeks. I’m afraid she’ll be freaked out and leave if she finds out I’m less than whole, and I can’t say I blame her. I have been trying to put off the physical part of the relationship for a while, but I don’t know how much longer she’ll stick around. Should I come clean or just try to milk the relationship for all it’s worth? I probably should have told her already, right? I know the third date is when you push for sex, but when is the correct time to tell somebody you’re deformed?
Dear Not Normal,
I have to disagree with two of your assertions: one, that the third date is when you should “push for sex,” and two, that you’re deformed. You survived a terrible complication that threatened your life. Yes, it’s an awful blow to lose a leg, but if you look around at our veterans, and participants in the Paralympics, there are thousands of people who have put their lives back together after a terrible injury. You’re still new to your post-amputation dating life, so it’s understandable you’re uncomfortable. On those first few dates, people should be exchanging their life stories, and what happened to your leg is part—but only one part—of yours. As you accept your changed reality, you’ll find that you can convey this information early and with ease. You’re right, some women won’t stick around when they find out. I bet those women are a small minority—and it’s good to know this about someone’s character early in a relationship. Those women will be balanced out by others who are drawn to you because of your gallant response to this setback. And if having to tell keeps you from falling into bed with a woman until both of you know each other better, that’s an unexpected benefit. One other thing: Losing a leg in this way could mean that the hospital’s infection control procedures are putting patients’ lives at risk. You might want to talk to a lawyer about pursuing why things went so wrong.
I was widowed six years ago. I’ve been dating a special woman for two years. A few weeks ago, she told me the photos of my late wife hanging up in the house made her feel uncomfortable and second-best. I didn’t even notice them anymore, so I took the photos down and put them in a closet. Then I put up some of my new lady. After she and I returned from a recent trip, I discovered her photos put away and my late wife’s photos put back up. My daughter, who’s in her early 30s, came by while I was gone and discovered her mother’s pictures put away. I offered her the photos—she’s married and just bought a house. She told me angrily that the photos belong in “her mother’s house,” and I was forgetting her mother. My lady won’t step foot in my house now, saying that having my late wife’s photos all over shows the world that my lady isn’t very important in my life. How do I make two women happy?
—Man in the Middle
The two women in your life sound like feuding preschoolers. You might want to start by getting your locks changed. It’s wonderful for family members to have the kind of relationship in which they have keys to each other’s places, but your daughter has abused that privilege by coming in and redecorating. You can tell her you haven’t forgotten her mother; you never will. Then explain that your house is not a memorial to her mother, but your home, and she has violated your trust. Just as she has gone on with her life, you have had to go on with yours. Tell her you understand a part of her will always mourn for her mother, and should she ever want any of the photos, you’ll keep them stored someplace safe. That said, pleasing your lady doesn’t require replacing each photo of your late wife with one of her. Yes, it was time for you to see your home through her eyes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep a picture of your wife in your study, say, or a family portrait somewhere more prominent. She was understandably miffed at your daughter’s actions, but that’s for you and your daughter to work out. It’s juvenile for her to boycott your home until it looks like the national portrait gallery of her.
My in-laws are having a family get-together consisting of my husband and me, his parents, his siblings, and their families. We recently discovered that my husband’s family expects all 10 of us to stay with my sister-in-law in her three-bedroom, one-bathroom home. Everyone is excited about spending so much time together. However, I’m pregnant, and neither my husband nor I are interested in sleeping on the floor for a week or sharing a bathroom with nine other people. We said we’d get a hotel room, but his family has reacted to this with disappointment and a bit of hostility. Is it crazy to think that we might all be happier with some space?
—Feeling Crowded Already
Once everyone’s finished the morning bowl of raisin bran and had a cup of coffee, 10 to a toilet will mean spending way more time with each other than anyone anticipated. And by the third night of the family Parcheesi tournament, maybe everyone will be running screaming for a room at Motel 6. If your husband’s family is hurt and hostile because you’ve gotten other accommodations, so be it. You’re pregnant, and it would be terrible for your child to be born behind bars because you stayed with your in-laws, then went on a homicidal rampage after being told, as you knocked on the bathroom door, “I just got in here, and it’s going to be a while.”