Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Q. Hairy girlfriend: I love my girlfriend very much and at the age of 27 feel like I’m finally with somebody who I could spend my life with. I have been supportive of her naturalist attitude regarding hair removal and even find her hairy pits, legs, and other parts sexy. The trouble is that she also has scattered hairs growing across her chest and about a dozen long ones around each nipple. How can I explain to her that although I support her natural ways and was well aware of her preference going into things, that a little bit of removable would go a long way? It’s the nipple hair that really throws me. When I’ve brought it up she’s acted offended and explained to me that it’s natural for women to get hair all over. She says she could pluck them but they will just grow back. I’m really falling for this girl but am fearful that as we age it’s going to become more and more of a turn off until our sex life is dead.
A: I’ve got one word for your girlfriend: electrolysis. A few sessions with the needle will leave your girlfriend’s chest hair free. Yeah, it hurts, but it’s no worse than a bikini wax and it’s permanent! The issue is convincing her. I think it’s great you’re into her arm and leg hair, but she should be able to accept that the primate look on her chest (I advise you not to use that phrase) is not standard. I understand that she’s touchy about this, but if you handle it lightly, you might get her to come around. Emphasize you find her greatly sexy and you love that she’s a natural woman. Say that this is a little thing that’s distracting to you, and because she could take care of it pretty easily, you’d consider it a loving gesture on her part.
Q. Law School Husband: My husband and I have been married for five years and have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. Since we met, my husband has been kicking around the idea of going to law school, but never (even with my encouragement and support) took the LSAT when we were dating or even early in our marriage. He finally took the exam over the winter and got a good score. This fall he is submitting applications to law schools. However, I am dreading this process. We are both CPAs and make a good combined income, but cutting out an income and adding on tuition would be pushing the limit of our finances. My husband offered to take out student loans, but I cringe at that thought since we just paid off our undergrad loans. My husband feels that law school is “his dream” and he doesn’t want to give it up. On one hand I understand that, but on the other hand this will put a financial strain on our family. From a practical standpoint, l think he had plenty of time to pursue this dream after college, but now we have a mortgage and two very young children to consider. I want to approach this with respect for his dream but also the practical considerations of our family. Any advice would be really appreciated.
A: Your husband must have been spending so much time poring over other people’s books that he’s neglected to read about the prospects for new law school graduates. I’ll sum up: not good. Sure some of the 40,000 lawyers being churned out each year are finding decent jobs, but overwhelming numbers are not. I agree with you that having pursued a demanding, expensive educational path, now is not the time for your husband to drop a lucrative career. It especially is not the time to take on enormous debt and reduce your income. You are both CPAs so it seems that the best way to approach this is with some spreadsheets doing cost-benefit analyses, looking at the data on the prospects for new law school graduates, and crunching the numbers on what it would mean to have your husband out of the workforce for three years. This doesn’t mean he can never pursue his dream, but it seems to make a lot more sense to defer it until the economy is more welcoming and your finances more robust.
Q. Tough Decision: I am 45 years old, madly in love with my husband, and we have been childless by choice. Meaning he didn’t want any, I was ambivalent, and we’ve been happy with our life. Three days ago I found out I am pregnant. While I have no fantasy about what parenthood would be like, I find myself unable to contemplate an abortion. Even though I am strongly pro-choice and had an abortion 25 years ago and have no regret about it. My husband does not want a child, and I do not want to live my life without him. I want him more than I want a baby. At this age, it seems incredibly risky to go through a pregnancy to give a child up for adoption. And who knows if I’d be able to actually give the baby up once I see it. My mind is spinning. Am I missing an option here?
A: OK, here I go practicing medicine (actually going to medical school would have been such a drag). You are a 45-year-old woman who is in the very early stages of pregnancy. A late in life pregnancy is a high-risk one, your fetus is a higher risk for birth defects, and you are more likely than a younger woman to have a miscarriage. Before you do anything else, see your gynecologist and discuss all these issues. Both you and your husband are in shock, and you are facing a difficult dilemma. But while you are reeling is not a good time to make life-altering decisions. Yes, you don’t have all the time in the world, but you do have some. I think you’ve covered all the options here, but what you haven’t taken into account is how you both might feel in a few weeks when you’ve had more time to contemplate the implications of each course of action. And it could be that a neutral party can help you and your husband explore what this amazing turn of events would mean for the rest of your lives.
Q. Dating My Ex’s Sister: The woman I married turned out to be a horrible person, and I’m happily divorced. Thankfully we never had kids together, so we barely have anything to connect us at all and I haven’t heard from her even once since our divorce three years ago. But there is one complication. She has a sister, “Darlene,” who she also hasn’t spoken to in years. But I’m seeing Darlene. When my ex kicked me out, Darlene set me up with a job in the city where she lives. The difference between her and my ex is like night and day, and we hit it off from the start, but agreed not to get too involved in each other’s personal lives for obvious reasons. Well, a year ago we started having casual sex from time to time, and lately it’s been a lot more frequent. Enough so that Darlene asked if I am interested in a more steady relationship with her. I really like her and want to say yes, but I’m hesitant to rush into anything. The fact is I’ve known her for longer than I was married to my ex, so I think a relationship with her would be fine, but not everyone, especially my family, agrees with me. Do you think I’m ignoring red flags?
A: Based on this letter it sounds to me as if you and your ex were well matched. You may not be a horrible person, but you certainly are a deluded and oblivious one. You say you hesitate to “rush into anything” with Darlene, but you’ve already rushed into Darlene. It’s a little late, but better than never that you are considering the idiocy of getting more seriously involved with your “horrible” ex’s estranged sister. Of course you’re all single adults and entitled to do what you like, but I hope you don’t need your family members to alert you to the potential pitfalls of marrying you’re ex’s sister. You need to start thinking about why you find yourself drawn to the wrong woman over and over again.
Q. Re: For Law School Husband: If the husband is serious about law school, he should find a program that allows him to take classes at night, part time, and keep his day job. Lots and lots of people earn law degrees in this way. It might not be less expensive, but he can still earn his income. Also, it will be a good test to see if it is “his dream,” without sacrificing a lucrative career. It he is really passionate, he should be willing to take a shot at part-time education.
A: This is true, and I didn’t suggest it because it will still cost a lot of money and if I had two very young children to care for I wouldn’t be thrilled if all my husband’s free time was taken up with classes and studying. There is no reason his dream can’t wait until the children are in school, he’s more established in his career, and (let’s hope!) the economy is better.
Q. Too Many Toys!: My mother-in-law loves spoiling our 18-month-old twins. She buys them both an outfit and a new toy almost every week. Our house is overflowing with flashy toys, stuffed animals, onesies, bath toys … you get the picture. We literally don’t have room for anything else in our home. I talked to MIL about this months ago, and she dismissed me outright. Since I couldn’t convince her to stop bringing the gifts, I began selling them online and saving the proceeds in an education fund for the twins. When MIL found this out, she became furious that I have so little consideration for her. She says I need to be more thankful for all the effort she puts into making the twins’ childhoods memorable, and that I don’t have any right to sell her gifts to her grandkids. My husband says he feels stuck between a rock and a hard place and refuses to take sides. Is there any way to reason with this woman?
A: You have tried to reason with her, now just benefit from her. Thank her for each and every gift, then turn the ones you don’t want into cash. Don’t tell her what you’re doing, but when she comes over, if she expects to see all her clothes and gifts, explain that some the kids outgrew and some they couldn’t use. If she stomps around like Rumpelstiltskin, ignore her. If she stops sending gifts, problem solved. If she continues, turn her generosity into college tuition.
Q. Fiancé Wasn’t My First: I’m engaged to marry this really sweet man, but I have a problem I’m not sure if I should tell him about. He’s not the first partner I’ve had in his family. I lost my virginity to his older brother in high school. You’d think this would be a no-brainer because these kinds of secrets get out eventually, but my fiancé’s brother was killed in an accident not long after our encounter, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t tell anyone about our little fling. Do I owe this information to my fiancé, or is this a secret I can take with me to my grave?
A: In the Bible a lot of people hooked up with siblings, but that seemed to be explained by the fact that there weren’t that many people to choose from. My inbox certainly is indicating that keeping it in the family is a hot new trend. I wrote not long ago that people are entitled to their sexual pasts without having to spill all to their current loves. I made an exception for material facts such as one’s STD status, or having slept with your boyfriend’s brother. You slept with your fiancé’s brother, even though your story comes with a tragic ending. You’re right that the fact that up to now no one has said anything might mean that it will never come out. But whenever you two are around people who knew you back when, you will live in fear that someone will make a crack about your having a thing for the men of your husband’s family. Tell you fiancé. This will be emotionally complicated news, but he’s entitled to know.
Q. Re: 45 and Pregnant: I tried for years to get pregnant, had three miscarriages, spent a fortune at a world-renowned fertility clinic at 40 and 41, and got kicked out for not getting pregnant. I got pregnant the usual way and had a healthy baby boy at 42. I always wanted a second child, my husband was ambivalent. I got pregnant unexpectedly at 45, and got completely freaked out. The likelihood of a seriously impaired baby (if it is even born live) are enormous. I know this because I spent a lot of time between 42 and 45 looking into this. If you think you cannot take care of a seriously disabled child on your own (and there is no shame in acknowledging this), then you must terminate. But talk to your gynecologist first. I was lucky—although we were contemplating terminating pretty much as soon as we discovered the pregnancy, I miscarried at 7 weeks.
A: As you confirm, miscarriage is a high risk in this situation. So is genetic defect, although it is not a certainty. Some people are pointing out it’s ambiguous as to whether the father actually knows the LW is pregnant. If we know and he doesn’t, that needs to be rectified pronto.
Q. Forever Till Divorce?: In order to protect my assets, I have asked my fiancée for a prenup. It was awkward to bring it up but fortunately she agreed. I encouraged her to review it with her own attorney before signing. She came back to me with an odd proposal. She has no problems with the prenup itself, but she wants to alter our wedding vows. Specifically, instead of better or worse, she wants to say something like “I take you as my husband/wife for the foreseeable future unless otherwise arranged.” She wants to include similar phrases throughout the vows—“I forsake all others, until death or divorce parts us.” “This ring symbolizes my current love for you.” She says using words like “eternal” or “till death” are contradictory to prenups, which prepare for a potential divorce. I wonder if she is just being passive aggressive, but she insists it’s necessary to avoid contradictions in our wedding vows and prenup. What should I do?
A: How nice of you to “encourage” your fiancée to review this contract with a lawyer. I assume if you’re someone with enough assets to need the protection of a prenup, you’re also sophisticated enough to know that no one should sign a contract like that without their own legal representative reviewing it for them. But it sounds as if you’re not a sophisticated enough partner to recognize sarcasm and dripping resentment when you hear it. It may be that you built a thriving business prior to meeting your beloved, or you are a member of a wealthy family and a prenup is simply a sensible business decision. It could be that you just have a nice condo, a better car, and more in the bank than the woman you propose to spend your life with, so you want to make sure that if you decide to trade her in, she doesn’t get your Lexus. In any case, you two should not go through with the wedding until you resolve the issues your assets have raised.
Q. Re: Law School CPA: I am a CPA that just graduated from law school and I had an incredibly difficult time finding a job, even with a solid career history. Also, the pay offered to law school grads is nowhere near comparable to what CPAs are making. I’d urge the husband to wait a few years until the economy rebounds, and during that time they can start saving up a financial cushion to ride on while he is in school.
A: It’s distressing but not surprising to hear this. Thanks for the update from “out there.”
Q. My Family’s Swing Vote: This will be my first election ever, and I’m really excited to vote. My parents are both political junkies and do a lot of volunteer work. The problem is they are in opposite parties. This has never been a problem at home since they are very good at agreeing to disagree and respecting each other’s opinions. But its different being stuck in the middle. I’m pretty sure I know who I’m voting for, but I haven’t told either my mom or dad and they keep trying to convince me their guy is better. Do you think I should just tell them who my candidate is they might just accept it and stop campaigning for my vote?
A: Tell them that if they each were on television as part of a political ad, you would change the channel. If they were phone canvassers, you would hang up. If you want to tell them who you’re voting for, fine. But don’t expect that will shut up the other one. If you don’t want to tell, remind them that in this country we have a secret ballot.
Q. Re: Dating My Ex’s Sister: My husband actually married sisters. After he divorced the youngest, he married the other sister, which also ended in divorce. When we first started talking, it was a red flag to me and, at the expense of sounding rude, I asked what on earth he was thinking! We continued talking for a few months and finally started dating, which allowed me time to conclude that he really was sane, but like all humans, makes (very) bad decisions sometimes.
A: It’s a good thing for both of you that he ran out of that family’s sisters!
Emily Yoffe: Thanks everyone. Talk to you next week.
In a new approach, we’re publishing the chat transcript in shorter, more digestible pieces. You will still be getting all the questions and answers, and we may even publish bonus letters Prudie didn’t get to address during the chat hour.