Dear Prudence

Canoodling Colleagues

My co-workers are having a sexual affair in the office. Should I rat them out?

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Dear Prudence,
I’ve been contemplating ruining the lives of a young mother and her toddler, and I don’t even know them. A few months ago, her husband came to work at my office. He speaks highly of his wife but seems overly interested in his female co-workers. One has responded to his advances, and they now steal away into an empty office to have sex. Everyone’s talking about it; one co-worker even went into the office next door and heard moaning and sex noises. I didn’t want to believe this, but I saw them go into the office and emerge an hour later disheveled. They also go out for long lunches and sometimes just sit in the parking lot, talking for hours and neglecting their work. The rest of us are getting disgruntled at having to pick up the slack. I know what’s going on is none of my business, and other people in the office say they’re two consenting adults and that it shouldn’t bother me so much. One reason it does is that when I was 3, my dad left my mom for a woman he met at work, which caused much heartache. If I were the wife, I’d want someone to tell me. I have discovered a way to let her know discreetly. I want to do it, and then I don’t.

—Truly Torn

Dear Torn,
Talk about “I gave at the office”! Your co-workers are right that it’s mostly none of your business, except for the fact that this couple’s sex life is intruding on your work life. As painful as your childhood may have been, this guy is not your father, and you know nothing of the dynamics of his home life. Your legitimate gripe is that if they want to go rutting, they should have the decency to do it somewhere off the premises and on their own time. Maybe it will come to a head when management eventually realizes the entire office has become spectators in this sex farce (even if some people are arranging to get orchestra seats). I am torn, too, because while the most sensible thing to do is to sit back and watch it play out, I agree with you that if I were the wife, I’d want someone to tell me. She actually should know that she’s married to someone so reckless. Here he is at a brand-new job where you’d think he’d be focused on the discharge of his duties, but, no, he has more urgent discharges to attend to. The inability to keep one’s pants zipped at work tends to result in one’s colleagues being unable to keep their mouths zipped. If you want to alert the wife to what’s going on, I’m not inclined to stop you.


Dear Prudence: My Co-Worker Thinks She’s My Mother!

Dear Prudie,
I’m a recent college graduate, and I’ve been working at a wonderful company for about a year. Six months ago, I was promoted to a challenging position. The person I replaced was promoted to another area of our department, and my direct boss is in a different state, so I have relied a lot on my predecessor. Ninety-nine percent of the time, she’s very patient and helpful, giving me advice on what she would do. I usually defer to her experience and make the changes. We’ve also really bonded since we’re the only women in the office. However, this week I was getting ready to send in the final version of a project I’d been working on for almost a month when I found out she had presented an alternative option directly to our boss, without informing me. He went with hers, which I agree was better. I recognize that this is for the “greater benefit” of the company, but am I wrong to feel undermined and overshadowed? Would it be inappropriate to approach her calmly and let her know how that made me feel? I would prefer not to take this to my boss, as I don’t want to appear the whiny child. I know she was adamant about getting out of the job I now have, so why is she still doing the work?

—Overshadowed or Overly Sensitive?

Dear Over,
So 99 percent of the time, she’s a wonderfully collegial mentor. But that 1 percent, when she goes behind your back, makes you look callow and incompetent, guarantees your efforts go to waste, and demonstrates she’s better than you at the job she doesn’t even want anymore, is a doozy. Yes, absolutely talk to her about this. Even if you do, it won’t mean she’ll never try to sabotage you again, but it will mean that you have put her on notice that you know what happened, don’t like it, and will speak up for yourself. The key is, as you note, to stay calm. You can say something like, “Sandy I’d like to talk to you about Project Snow White. I agree that your presentation was stronger than mine. I was distressed, though, to find out you had come up with an alternate to what I’d been working on without telling me. I’ve learned so much from you, and I appreciate the generosity and patience you’ve shown me. But I hope that in the future, if you’ve got ideas for assignments I’m doing, you’ll take them directly to me. I certainly want to share the credit. But the only way I’m going to master this job is if I get a chance to do it.”


Dear Prudie,
I’m 28, and my fiance is 34. We’ve been together for four years and plan to get married this fall. My issue is our libidos. They were compatible at first, but this has changed over time to the point that we have been relatively sexless for at least a year. My girlfriends talk freely about their sex lives, and they start to wonder whether something is wrong when it’s been a week since they made love. I’ve brought this up to my fiance repeatedly. He’ll talk about trying new things in bed, but we never get to bed to try them. He’ll say maybe we should schedule a time for it, but then the day arrives, and he has a reason not to. I’ve tried many things, including sexy outfits. I’ve quit the outfits because his only reaction was to laugh—that felt awesome! I love my fiance, and I can’t imagine leaving him, but the stress of this is turning me into a shrew, and that’s not the kind of person I want to be. I feel this is a terrible habit we’ve fallen into that just needs to be broken, but I’m at a loss as to how.

—Neglected (Almost) Newlywed

Dear Neglected,
A terrible habit would be if the two of you munched junk food on the couch all night after dinner. Then you could both agree to toss the potato chips and take an evening walk. You have a fiance who refuses to have sex with you. That’s not a habit; that’s a warning that if you let this marriage take place, it might not be consummated. Your fiance has some major physical, psychological, or possibly sexual-orientation issues. (There’s also the possibility that he’s overly devoted to the office—see the first letter above.) You don’t know what the problem is, because he refuses to address it—which is a problem in itself. It’s an alarming sign that when you tried to get him in the mood for some sexy time, he laughed at you. Your understandable frustration over the death of your sexual relationship is turning you into a person you hate. Sure, as you approach 30, it’s hard to contemplate that you have to start looking for another partner. But surely a minimum requirement for a young marriage is having sex more often than members of the House are up for re-election.


Dear Prudence,
In a few weeks, I will be graduating from college. Many family members with whom I’m not close have invited themselves to my graduation, which is across the country for most of them. I think they expect my mother to pay for most things while they are here, which she cannot afford to do. I’m not close to these relatives because they have often been mean and critical toward me. The worst offender is my grandmother. She always makes disparaging comments about my weight. (I am overweight and very sensitive about it.) The last time I saw her, she said, “If you are this fat when I see you at graduation, I will scream and faint in the aisle.” Two months later, I’m the same size, and I dread seeing her. Part of me wants to just walk away and skip all festivities if she says something about my weight, but there will be people at the graduation I actually do care about. How can I handle these rude and mooching relatives?

—B.A. Who Wants Out

Dear B.A.,
Concentrate on the people you love and who are good to you, and do not let a few unpleasant relatives ruin your happy day. If they’re coming in for a mooch festival, it’s up to your mother to explain that they need to find hotels, and while she’ll host a party after the graduation, she won’t be able to feed all of them for the entire weekend. Then learn to ignore or deflect their rude remarks. If your grandmother repeats her insult about your weight, you can say, “Grandma, you know what the greatest graduation gift to me would be? Your not mentioning my weight anymore. Harping on it just gets in the way of our having a good relationship. Anyway, if you faint every time you see an overweight person, you’re going to end up in a coma.” If there are more insults and critical remarks from the crew, just give them an enigmatic smile and say, “I’m so glad you are enjoying my graduation. It’s lovely to see you, too.”


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