Prudie will host her next live Web chat at Washingtonpost.com on Monday, Aug. 2, at 1 p.m.
I am in my 30s, own my house, and have a good job. I also have an adorable 4-year-old daughter and am in a loving and supportive live-in relationship of three years. (He’s not my daughter’s father.) My boyfriend recently told me that he would like it if I got breast implants. I am a B cup, and although he says he loves my body, he adds, “But I’d really like it if your breasts were larger.” This came up when I discovered that my boyfriend was regularly watching porn. His explanation is that he prefers a different body type from mine. This was news to me, since we have sex one or two times a day, and it’s excellent. I have never felt insecure about my body—just the opposite, as I have worked as a model. I love him and want him to be happy, and I’m beginning to wonder whether I should go ahead with enhancement just to please him. But I am trying to raise my daughter to be proud of her body, and it will be difficult upholding that if she finds out Mommy changed her body to please a man.
—My B’s Are Getting an F
Maybe it’s time for you to say to your boyfriend that for years you’ve been wanting to forward interesting e-mail messages about ways he could enlarge his natural assets so he could please you more. You haven’t, because you accept that we all can’t be perfect, and he does the best he can with what he’s got. But if it’s time for you to surgically enhance yourself for his benefit, then he should do the same for you. Actually, I think your boyfriend really does like your body the way it is. It’s hard to fake sexual excitement 500 times a year. It sounds like what might have happened is that you discovered his porn-viewing habit, and since you’re having sex with him as frequently as other people consume vitamin pills, you got offended and outraged. Backed into a corner, he felt forced to admit he likes to look at women with really large breasts, and things spiraled out of control from there. I can understand your wonderment that he has the time or energy to look at porn, but don’t take it personally. And be assured that your getting breast implants would not “cure” his porn habit. One of my favorite recent stories about pornography concerned the researcher who wanted to examine the difference between men who look at porn and those who don’t. The problem was, he couldn’t find any men who don’t. I think you should tell your boyfriend his porn consumption is his own business and doesn’t bother you. Add that, oh, and by the way, you absolutely are not getting breast implants. My bet is that he will be hugely relieved and will stop mentioning how hugely large he would like your breasts to be, and that the two of you can resume happily banging away.
Dear Prudence: Finger-Licking Bad
My husband and I are empty-nesters in our 50s. My in-laws are in their 80s and live nearby. My mother-in-law feels that it is our responsibility to take them on vacation with us now that they cannot travel as they used to. Having my in-laws on vacation with us (we’ve done it several times) is more stressful than going to work. My husband and I have demanding jobs and need the downtime our vacations allow us—we like to spend summer weekends away. His mother calls every night, begging us to take them. We love his parents, but it’s getting to the point that we are afraid to tell them we’re going away. My husband has siblings who live out of state, and whenever we have a family event out of town, we have complete responsibility for his parents. Are we selfish to want to be alone on our vacations?
I’ve got a travel idea for your in-laws: a series of fun bus journeys to visit—at great length—their out-of-state children so that you and your husband can get some relief from the harassment. No, you are not selfish to balk at attending to very demanding old people when you are trying to grab some precious free time. You and your husband need a complete reset of your relationship with his parents. You have to say you enjoy their company, but vacation time is just for the two of you. Explain that the nightly phone calls have to stop, and if they don’t, start saying, “Thelma, nice to talk to you. I look forward to seeing you soon [click].” I’m actually somewhat serious about your husband’s siblings. Your husband needs to have a conversation with them asking them to step up and help care for their parents now that they are less independent. But just because your in-laws don’t want to travel on their own doesn’t mean they can’t go on vacation. It will be worthwhile for you to do some research into the myriad group travel possibilities for older people. They can travel the country or the world in the company of others their age while having their needs overseen by the tour operators. And you and your husband can order another round of piña coladas without a moment of guilt.
I work in a social-services-related field and have bipolar disorder. I am open and honest about my diagnosis. I am on medication, have been through years of counseling, and have made a good, stable life for myself. I feel that I am an example for bipolar people. I have been having issues with one of our interns, who is in her mid-20s and pursuing a master’s degree in clinical psychology. On the surface, she is very pleasant. The problem is, anytime she and I disagree about something (which is often, because apparently she knows everything and I know nothing), she rolls her eyes, waves her hand, and declares that I am “just bipolar.” This is alarming to me because she intends to work with such populations, and though I can take it without becoming suicidal, many bipolar people can’t. Part of me wants to simply ignore her, but when I do, she continually asks me, “What’s wrong?” She is probably going to be with us for another year, and I want some peace and a little less condescension when I go to work.
—Tired of Her
Since she’s an intern and plans to go into your field, take seriously your duties to guide this obnoxious young person. It’s understandable that when she brings up your illness, you want to withdraw, but you need to have a very direct conversation instead. You can say something like, “Brittany, I know how dedicated you are to helping people, but since I am someone who deals with an illness some of your clients may have, I have to tell you that bringing it up as a way to dismiss me is both unprofessional and potentially destructive. My having bipolar disorder is irrelevant to any disagreements between us. I’m sure I do things that I’m not aware of that are annoying, but I can tell you that when you roll your eyes at me, or wave your hand in my face, it doesn’t further your argument; it just shuts down communication. So I expect we’ll discuss the issues on their merits and I won’t hear any more from you about my health. Thanks.” If she doesn’t stop, or escalates her rude and dismissive behavior, keep your cool and explain to the higher-ups that while “Brittany” may have some promising qualities, she needs some serious attention paid to how she treats others.
My stepbrother died last week. My sister asked me to take care of ordering a floral arrangement from our side of the family. I used to work as a florist, I’m a master gardener, and my garden is in full bloom. I made a beautiful arrangement from my garden and brought the flowers and a sympathy card to the funeral home. While at the visitation, my brother asked me what he owed, and I explained I’d made the arrangement. My sister came unglued. She said it was tacky and cheap to not send something from a “real florist.” She said I had embarrassed our side of the family. She got very loud, and people were staring. I was mortified. I later received a note from my stepmother, telling me how much it touched her to know that I made something with my own hands. My sister, however, has aligned herself with two of my stepsisters, and I’ve been receiving daily calls from one or the other of them, telling me how cheap I am. What should I do?
—An Alleged Cheapskate
There’s got to be more to this story than what you’ve included here. Possibly issues involving the sweeping of cinders, glass slippers, and pumpkins. This can’t be the first time there’s been bad blood or behavior among the siblings. But even without understanding the background, on the basis of the tale you’re telling here, I will say your sister and stepsisters are bonkers. To be more generous, let’s say they’re temporarily deranged by grief and are deflecting it by striking out at you. What you did with the flowers sounds thoughtful and lovely. Whatever hostilities may exist, your sisters are behaving inexcusably. The next time any of them calls, say discussion of this subject is closed, and if they don’t stop their harassment, they will be doing irreparable harm to your relationship.