Dear Prudence

Beyond the Pale

Should I tell my infertile Asian wife that I want all-white babies?

Emily Yoffe.

Emily Yoffe

Photograph by Teresa Castracane.

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My wife, who is infertile, and I have recently decided to have children—we’d like eventually to have three—using an egg donor. (We decided against adoption because we would have no biological connection to our children.) We have just settled on this option but it has thrown open a whole new dilemma for me. I am white and my wife is East Asian. Her race isn’t a problem for me and I would have had no difficulty raising mixed race children, but frankly, now that I have the choice, I’d prefer my kids to be white. We live in a fairly homogeneously white area and at the end of the day I want my kids to look like me, their cousins, and the kids they’ll go to school with. I don’t think my wife has ever experienced racism, but I think she might understand my point of view. Then I think I maybe I’m just convincing myself about this. I really could use a second opinion before I broach the subject with her.

—Want To Be a Dad

Dear Want,
Reince Priebus, is that you? I can see how increasing the white population might be a good strategy for raising GOP turnout on election day. However, if you’re not the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and you only want to increase the white population because you don’t want your kids to resemble your Asian wife, then it’s good you ran this by me before proposing it to her. How generous of you not to have a “problem” with the fact that you married an Asian woman. And how grotesque that now that her eggs are out of the picture, you’ve decided this is a great opportunity to keep your kids from being mixed race. There’s just no way to express to your wife the thoughts you’ve conveyed here without sounding as if you’re a spokesperson for the Council of Conservative Citizens. There are many ways to become parents, as you know. With adoption, sometimes it’s obvious that the children are not the biological offspring of the parents. In the case of sperm or egg donation, the parents may choose to keep private that they used assisted reproduction, which is possible by selecting a donor who resembles the infertile parent. (I still think the child should be told about this, but that’s a separate issue.) Now that you and your wife have decided on egg donation, you first need to just listen to what she’s thinking about the criteria for your donor. It could be she very much wants an Asian woman. It could be she just wants someone healthy and smart to donate and she doesn’t care about race. But your desire for your future kids to look only like you because you have a pre-Brown v. Board of Education view about their social lives means that before you have children, you need to do a serious reassessment of your assumptions about the world they are going to live in.


Dear Prudence: Son With a Plunging Crack Line

Dear Prudence,
I’ve been dating my girlfriend for a year now. We get along great and moved in together a couple of months ago. One issue has been causing friction. She wants me to perform oral sex on her, which I did when we first started dating. I enjoy doing it but the problem is my girlfriend’s vagina has a strong odor. I’ve never been with a woman whose smell made me cringe. I don’t want to tell her the reason that I don’t want to go down on her because I’m sure it would hurt her. Because of my reluctance, she has stopped performing oral sex on me as a kind of standoff. She has been bringing this up so much that I’m going to have to give her an answer as to why I’m holding my nose.

—Holding My Breath

Dear Holding,
You two have certainly reaching a sticking point, or perhaps I should say, stinking point. There’s an exhortation at the end of some toothpaste commercials that their product should be part of a program of oral hygiene and regular professional care. You need to deliver a similar message to your beloved: only in this case, she needs professional attention for her hygiene in order for you to be part of her oral care. The cringe-inducing odor you describe is not normal. It doesn’t mean your girlfriend isn’t clean, but she may have a yeast or bacterial infection, for example, that needs treatment. Clipping a clothespin on your nose in order to discharge your duties might be one of way of alerting her to the problem. But better that you just gin up the courage to tell her that her vaginal odor is unusually strong and you think she should check it out with her gynecologist. Being grown-up enough to do that should end this silly sexual tit for tat. It’s likely that with a doctor’s care your girlfriend will easily lick this problem.


Dear Prudie,
I’m a graduate student and one of the other students here is writing her thesis on an actress in her 70s. This classmate is extremely obsessed with the actress. She has seen all of her movies and shows many times, read all her articles and interviews. She talks about this woman constantly, to the point that if a conversation is not about this actress, she will quote a line from her movies in order to change the subject to her. My classmate recently confessed to me that she used her graduate funding to track this woman in New York City. She has figured out approximately where this lady lives, and knows what restaurants she frequents. She said she spent time sitting in a nearby park hoping to see the actress. She also used property records to find the actress’s summer home. She has tried to get an interview, but has been firmly turned down by the actress’s management. She’s angry that the manager is standing between her and the actress. Other people have brought up to her that her obsession seems unhealthy, but she has rebuffed them. She says everything she does is for research. I think she’s a stalker. Should something be done, and what?

—Worried Student

Dear Worried,
There’s something malignly brilliant about hiding sick fan obsession under cover of a thesis. Since you’re doing graduate work yourself, you know you have to be somewhat obsessed with your subject. Your classmate would be remiss if she were writing about an actress and wasn’t familiar with all her work and the literature about her. There are also plenty of fans of actors and actresses who know way too much about their crushes but are of no danger. But you make a convincing case—the conversational compulsion, the physical tracking—that this student may be more than a dogged biographer. I think you should have a low-key conversation with this woman’s adviser. Just say you’ve gotten increasingly concerned about her level of fixation on her subject, then cite your examples. If this student is going off the rails, an authority figure should step in before she crashes.


Dear Prudie,
I live in an apartment in a large city. My elderly neighbor immediately across the driveway has started playing the tuba and never stops. He is not talented and literally sits and blasts out the same few notes over and over for hours at a time. He never leaves the house, so tuba playing ends up being a constant possibility. I work from home seven days a week on my Ph.D. I don’t have an office on campus, and I can’t carry all my dissertation books to the library to get some peace. I understand that I have no control or say in what other people do in there home, but I am wondering if it is appropriate to talk with him? If so, what should I say?

—Please Stop

Dear Please,
Here’s one for you: Q: “What’s the difference between a chain saw and a tuba?” A: “Some people enjoy listening to a chainsaw.” I got this from an entire page of tuba jokes that I’m sure you’ll now find even less funny than you would have before your neighbor took up his musical passion. Talk about a cry for help. I’m wondering if this poor guy is trapped somewhere and what you’re thinking is a tuba concert is his desperate attempt to signal for an ambulance. You need to go over and discuss this with your neighbor. Sure he could blow you off, but a civil conversation might bring some relief. Arrive with a box of chocolates or some such, explain you’re a poor graduate student who needs quiet to do her work (please tell me you’re not writing about the career of a distinguished actress), and you’re wondering if he could limit the hours of his practice, or play the tuba in the basement (if he has one). If that doesn’t help, it could be that the constant honking is violating a local sound ordinance, so call the police. And if there are other neighbors who are home during these Grateful Dead-length marathons who would feel grateful to be dead rather than have to listen to any more, maybe you could all get together and buy this guy a piccolo.


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