Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online at Washingtonpost.com to chat with readers each Monday at 1 p.m. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.
I’m married to a gorgeous younger woman. When she appeared to have interest in me, I was flattered and shocked, and I decided to make it permanent if she would have me. We were married after a short romance. Now, a year into the relationship, I am having serious second thoughts. As it turns out (actually, I knew this from the beginning), she’s not particularly interesting or, and I hate to say this, bright. I’m no Einstein, but I have a degree in computer science and am knowledgeable about economics and other intellectual pursuits. She loves reality TV. Now here I am, barely able to have a conversation with the woman to whom I am married. I don’t want a divorce, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life watching The Bachelor. Is there a middle path that allows me to continue my marriage (the sex is incredible) while not forcing me to give up on having a stimulating partner with whom I can share my interests? Or am I forever condemned to being married to an incredibly hot woman for whom I have not an iota of intellectual respect?
—I Married for Lust
Dear I Married,
Maybe you’re not as smart as you think, because you’re now starring in your own reality series, I Married a Hot Dope. Great sex is a powerful force in a marriage; many unions have come asunder because of bad sex. But before vowing “Till death do us part,” it would have been worthwhile to consider that the majority of time with your spouse won’t be spent in the sack. Instead of rushing to the altar, you should have invested time in some long car rides with your future wife, making conversation about her favorite Real Housewives. Also, post-coitally, you might have paused to consider that while she is your ideal partner for recreation, she may not be your first choice for procreation. Then there is the statistical likelihood that as the years go by, you will no longer find yourself condemned to being married to a gorgeous dodo—you will just be married to a dodo. I’m not sure how that “middle path” of yours would work. All I can envision is you sneaking out to Mensa meetings where you discuss Federal Reserve policy with intellectually stimulating women. Your character is as unattractive as your wife’s exterior is pleasing. You married a woman who turned you on but whom you neither respected nor had interest in as a person. It could be that she actually is bright enough to start picking up on your contempt, which is corrosive to any relationship. There are plenty of men out there who would find your wife a perfectly fine intellectual match. Right now, she is at the height of her ability to attract a more suitable partner. You should be decent enough to let her find him.
Dear Prudence: Ungroomed Nether Regions
I was laid off recently, and to make ends meet I’ve been tutoring some children from a wealthy family after school. The parents are lovely, and the kids are sweet and bright. However, I have qualms about what I’m doing. It boils down to helping them complete their homework every night, when they really should be doing it by themselves. My job performance is measured in their scores, which impels me to get them to finish their homework in the allotted time, even if they are barely trying to put their ideas onto paper. I’m a first-generation college graduate who got into college by writing my own essays and studying hard. Having seen how intensely the mother reacts to her kids’ grades, I’m hesitant to express my feeling that I should give the kids supplemental exercises, rather than helping them with their homework. Also, the parents are very generous to me, and I don’t want to lose the job. What’s an honest tutor to do?
—Confused Employee of the Tiger Mother
I’m confused, too. It sounds as if these bright kids could do just fine on their own, but you have a five-night-a-week gig relieving them of their assigned duties. Anyone who’s seen the documentary Race to Nowhere, about the insane homework loads and pressure to perform kids are under, will have sympathy for children who are too exhausted, and too young, to do the work expected of them. I would understand what could be perceived as the mother’s subversive attempt to relieve her overburdened kids of some of the excess. But her intense investment in their grades makes clear you are there to ensure her kids are at the top, whether they do the work themselves or not. Unless her children have some learning disabilities, or are in a school that’s just not right for them, it’s hard to understand how they could need nightly tutoring. Your job is to be an adjunct to the teacher, providing individual attention, guidance, and explication. It is not to do their assignments while they sit there waiting for you to finish. You should explain to the mother now that you’ve worked on fundamentals with the children, you want to step back from being so hands-on with their homework. Tell her that unless you start shifting the balance at your sessions, her kids are going to get caught short during exams because it is really crucial they master the material themselves. If she says their assignments done by you are getting good grades and she wants you to continue, then start looking for other clients.
I work for a nice lady who is about to have a hip replaced. She has a husband and a lot of family nearby, including a son who’s a chef and a sister who lives next door. When I arrived at work a few days ago, I was told about a sign-up sheet for bringing meals to my boss’ house after her surgery. The sheet said that the boss’s sister had requested that employees get on the schedule to deliver food. It might be horrible of me to feel this way, but it offends me. We employees have all had our hours cut, gas is high, and my boss lives on the outskirts of town. Like several other employees, I don’t even enjoy cooking and do so as little as possible. What should I do?
—Fuming but Not Cooking
I’m hoping that your boss had nothing to do with this list and will be fuming at her sister when she finds out that her subordinates were asked to cook and deliver meals to her. What you can do is refrain from putting your name on the list. You can also talk to your fellow employees and see if people want to come up with an alternative plan to this KP duty. If people want to voluntarily donate to a group gift, you could all chip in to have one meal delivered, or purchase some DVDs you think she would enjoy, or order flowers. A simple “get well soon” card from all of you is also sufficient. If people don’t want to do a group gift, then go ahead and send a card yourself. If everyone goes along with the sister’s request and signs up to deliver lasagna, you can still ignore the list. If anyone says anything to you about it, you can reply: “I want her to recover. That’s why I won’t subject her to my cooking.”
Recently, I was invited to brunch with my brother’s family at their home. My sister-in-law’s mother, “Jane,” suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. She has always been kind to me, and fortunately she still knows who I am. My sister-in-law made a huge bowl of fruit salad and, because I am a fan, put it at my end of the table. I got up to get coffee and when I returned to the table, I noticed that Jane was taking strawberries from the bowl, licking them, and putting them back. I don’t think anyone else saw. I didn’t know what to do, so I admit I didn’t do anything—except take a pass on eating any fruit salad. I now feel guilty since several people ate strawberries after Jane had “sampled” them. I felt that the drama of announcing to all that the fruit salad had been contaminated would have been a bit much. However, should I have at least made an effort to quietly inform my sister-in-law of the situation?
—Please, Don’t Pass the Fruit Bowl
What a curse this horrible disease is. As soon as you saw, you should have said to your sister-in-law, “Cindy, I need your help with something in the kitchen.” Then you should have told her. At that point, one of you could have whisked the fruit salad into the kitchen for repair—scooping out the visible strawberries and anything touching them. I understand more fastidious readers will say the entire bowl should have been chucked, but some surgical action with a serving spoon would have restored the salad to edible condition. However, clearly no harm was done to the people who consumed the salad. After all, if contamination with saliva regularly sent people to the hospital, not even the French would French kiss. You probably should tell your brother, who can tell his wife. Then at the next gathering, all of you can be on the alert and step in, if necessary, to quietly rescue Jane.
More Dear Prudence Columns
“A Cornucopia of Crises: Prudie takes on Thanksgiving quandaries involving uninvited guests, the ghosts of holidays past, and exiled smokers.” Posted Nov. 18, 2010.
”Bob & Carol & Ted & Malice: My parents’ swinger friends are trying to blackmail our family after Mom and Dad’s tragic deaths.” Posted Sept. 30, 2010.
”No Debt of Gratitude: I borrowed cash from Dad to care for my dying mom. Now he’s demanding payback.” Posted Aug. 12, 2010.
”Dirty Pretty Things: My girlfriend has worn the same undergarment for weeks. Isn’t that disgusting?” Posted Aug. 27, 2009.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“The Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving: Prudie counsels readers on Turkey Day predicaments, such as flying solo for the holiday, hosting irritating in-laws, and attending multiple dinners. Posted Nov. 22, 2010.
”Baby Mama Drama: Prudie counsels a sleuth who uncovered a baby-trap scheme—and other advice-seekers.” Posted Nov. 1, 2010.
”The Family That Bathes Together: Prudie counsels a mother who wonders when the time is right to stop bathing with her little boy.” Posted Oct. 12, 2010.
”Help! I’m Too Hot for My Age: Prudie counsels a woman whose youthful looks bring her nothing but problems—and other advice seekers.” Posted Feb. 8, 2010.