Click here to read a transcript of Prudie’s live weekly chat with readers at Washingtonpost.com.
I am a married man in my 30s, and I have known for some time now that I am quite well-endowed. Though my past girlfriends and wife have been enthusiastic about it, my problem is with how my wife treats this personal information. She discusses my size quite openly with her friends, which I understand is part of her “girl talk.” However, I recently found out that she told a female acquaintance whom she’d met for the first time! I am a fairly introverted person, and knowing that our friends have this information affects my social interaction with them. I have brought this issue up with her and asked her to tone it down, but her argument is that she is sharing something positive about me, and therefore it causes no harm. My wife and I have an otherwise stable and loving marriage, and I do not want this issue to be a bone of contention. How can I get my wife to stop broadcasting this? Or should I just accept it?
Bone of contention, indeed. At least this isn’t a version of the disappointing HBO series Hung, and she hasn’t offered to become your pimp. I agree that your wife’s blabbing to every woman of her acquaintance that you’re packing is a violation of the sanctity your marriage, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of making you want to pack your bags. She should realize it’s actually contrary to her self-interest to advertise your asset so widely, since she’s going to tantalize some women to want to join this members-only club. It’s also awfully rigid of her to dismiss your complaint that you feel no one looks you in the face because everyone has their eyes on the prize. Since her boasting is not petering out, perhaps she will better understand your beef if you offer her an analogy. Ask her to imagine how she would feel if you started telling all the males you know that her nipples are irresistibly pert and perky. If she says that’s nuts, and not the same thing at all, ask her to elucidate why not, since you, too, want to reveal something complimentary about her private parts. Tell her you wouldn’t actually do this because such intimate facts belong to the married couple, not the world. And add that since she so values your endowment, if she wants it to grow, not shrink, she needs to protect it better.
Our 3-year-old has recently developed what can only be described as a jacket phobia. Every morning, before we leave the house to take him to day care, the donning of his jacket is accompanied by terrified screams and his begging us not to make him wear his coat. It is disturbing and a little heartbreaking when your child sobs the words, “No jacket, no jacket,” as you wrestle it onto his tiny frame. We’ve asked him why he doesn’t want to wear the jacket, but his linguistic skills are lacking. I’ve investigated his jacket to make sure that there are no pins or anything of that sort. He often doesn’t like to change the shirt he has slept in (especially if it bears the likeness of a favorite character), but this is always minor. The jacket issue goes well beyond this, and my wife and I are getting worried. What should we do?
To him, it’s not a jacket; it’s a straitjacket. I bet you and your wife have clothes hanging in your own closets that make you feel uncomfortable or unattractive; just imagine someone telling you every morning before work that you have to put on the offending garment. Unless you’re in the North Pole and without the jacket your son risks hypothermia, just let him be chilly on the ride to day care. Sure, to you he’s being irrational; welcome to having a 3-year-old. But a 3-year-old is entitled to have some choice in his life. Even at the best possible day care, he gets little ability to exercise his will. He can’t stay extra long in the sandbox or look at ants, because everyone has to stick to a schedule. So you should not only let him win this one, but tell him you understand. You can say, “I know you don’t like this jacket, sweetie, but we’ll keep it in the car in case you get cold.” You could even let him pick out a sweater or sweatshirt he likes better. I’ve recommended it several times, but Haim Ginott’s Between Parent and Childdoes a wonderful job of helping you see the world from a child’s perspective and giving strategies for gently guiding your offspring.
I’m in my mid-20s and have always enjoyed a good relationship with my parents. My father is a well-respected member of the community. Growing up, I had nice things and had my college education paid for. My father was forced into an early retirement but stressed that we shouldn’t worry about money. Recently, however, my mother confided in me that my father told her the truth: He was broke. He spent all of the money he made when he sold his business, spent his 401(k), cashed out my mother’s mutual funds without telling her, ran up tons of credit-card debt, and, worse yet, “borrowed” a huge amount of money from his brother without telling him. Thankfully, he told my mother and his brother the truth. It hurts me to know that my father isn’t the guy I thought he was. And I feel guilty for accepting gifts and money for my education now that I know where they really came from. My mother has sworn me to secrecy, and my father is unaware that I know. I’m not sure how to come to grips with this. Do I pretend nothing’s wrong? Do I confront him about it? Do I offer to send money?
Dear In Disbelief,
Stop feeling guilty that you enjoyed a comfortable life growing up and aren’t saddled with college debt. It’s not a child’s responsibility to run a due-diligence check on her parents’ finances. But now that you know the truth, you need to tell your mother that keeping this secret doesn’t benefit anyone. You can tell her you still love your father, even though you are deeply distressed by his actions, but keeping up this facade is a strain with no purpose. Assure her it will probably be a relief to your father for you to acknowledge that you know. You also need to have an understanding of the dimensions of his fraud. Has he always been dishonest? Did he get himself into a debt spiral that he couldn’t see a way out of? Is he mentally ill? (One symptom of bipolar disorder is extreme irresponsibility with money.) Answering these questions will help your family ensure that your father doesn’t cause more havoc. Perhaps you will want to help your parents financially, but if you do, make sure your generosity doesn’t impoverish you and that the money is not going down your father’s rat hole.
I recently broke up with my boyfriend of almost two years. I’m still sad and upset, but I know I made the best decision for us both, and I certainly will get over it at some point. My question is about his mother: I’m really going to miss her! She was so kind and friendly, and I really feel as though we hit it off. We also e-mailed occasionally. Sometimes people forget that a hard thing about a breakup is the secondary people you lose as well. I want to send her a note expressing how much I valued her friendship and that although my relationship with her son has ended, perhaps we can still keep in touch to some degree. Is this appropriate, or should I accept that everything about that relationship is “broken” and move on?
—Missing More Than Just the Guy
I once had a boyfriend who turned out to be a louse, but his mother was lovely (which is a reminder not to blame everything on Mom), and she and I truly enjoyed each other. After the breakup, I refused to talk to my ex, but his mother and I continued to exchange holiday cards with notes updating each other, a tradition I treasured until her death. You say that you just split up with your boyfriend, however, so you don’t want to put the mother in the position of looking as if she’s choosing sides—or seem like you’re sending coded signals. Since the holidays aren’t that far away, why not wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas, and then send her a note saying what you’ve said here—that while you’re sad the relationship with her son didn’t work out, you always appreciated how welcome and comfortable she made you feel, and that you want to send your best wishes. Then it is up to her whether to respond. But even if she does, and you keep in touch, remember that while you might maintain a connection, it’s better for everyone that it’s an attenuated one.