Dear Prudence

A Night Not To Remember

My roommate is traumatized by the blackout sex she had. How can I help her?

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photograph by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I’m a 23-year-old professional woman living with a close friend. A few months ago, we were out with a big group and everyone was drinking. My roommate was very drunk and ended up having sex with a guy I work with who was also extremely drunk. The next day, they woke up together, but neither of them remembered how they ended up there. She was very upset because she didn’t remember consenting to sex. I believe they were both too intoxicated to consent, but I also don’t think that he took advantage of her. Since then he and I have become good friends. Recently, I mentioned to my roommate that he’ll be at an upcoming party. She freaked out, forbade me from saying his name, and went on a tirade about how she couldn’t go and that I shouldn’t either. I don’t blame her for being upset, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame him. He and his roommate overlap many of our social circles, so she’s definitely going to run into him. I think that she should go to therapy, to try and work through what happened to her. But I’m not sure how to say that, or if it’s even appropriate. Please help!

—Bottle Blues

Dear Bottle,
Finally, a letter that convinces me that my frequently stated stance against drunkenness is wrong and that I’ve been too censorious. I can now appreciate that excessive alcohol intake is just a delightful social (and sexual) lubricant. Getting so hammered that you don’t know what you’re doing enables you wake up in mysterious locales and have intimate adventures with people whose names you haven’t quite committed to memory! I know a case can be made that because your friend was intoxicated she was unable to give consent, therefore she was raped. Some will argue she should pursue this case legally. But if the story is as you say—two young people voluntarily had too much to drink and were too much in the bag to make a rational decision about how to consummate the evening—I think seeing herself as a victim would keep your friend psychologically stuck, and turning the guy over to the police would have the potential to unnecessarily ruin his life. Imagine watching a remake of Knocked Up in which the Seth Rogen character ends up on the sex offender registry. Your friend’s unfortunate one-night stand should help her realize she needs to learn the difference between taking the edge off and ending up in a walking blackout, and how to stay on the right side of that line. I think your friend needs to see a therapist, not to explore the wrong that was done to her, but to help her process this regretted evening and get her to the point where she can comfortably be in this guy’s presence. You should say that as her friend you’ve become concerned that she hasn’t gotten past this event and that it’s affecting her enjoyment of life. Tell her that you think some focused therapy will help her regain her composure and confidence.


Dear Prudence,
I have a dear friend who has two children the same age my as mine. Our older children never clicked, but our younger ones are best buddies. My friend’s older child, a 13-year-old, has some behavioral issues. The child is very bright, but has a terrible temper and says awful things to my friend and the younger sibling, some of which I’ve heard. He’s broken things and made threatening comments. My friend is getting him help (therapy, medication, etc.), but I’m concerned about allowing my younger one to play over there. Frankly, I’m afraid of what the older child might say or do and he scares me. My friend has mentioned having my younger one for a sleepover on a few occasions, but I’m not comfortable. Should I just keep inviting hers to play at our home? My friend knows something’s up, but neither one of us has addressed it. I know it’s difficult dealing with a child with these issues, and I don’t want to add to her stress or risk damaging our friendship.

—Mum’s the Word

Dear Mum,
In light of the horror of Newtown, many more people are going to be looking warily at hostile, troubled kids. It’s really important to keep in mind that very few of these children are truly threatening. They cause agony for themselves and their families, but they rarely become violent. Your friend has been dealing with a heartbreaking situation for years and deserves your kindness and support. But as close as you are, apparently she has not confided in you about her concerns over her older child, so I think you should follow her lead. You have to trust your instincts. Her 13-year-old has made disturbing comments and you just aren’t comfortable leaving your younger child around him. That’s fair enough. So you just need to keep countering her sleepover offers by saying you’d rather host. If she asks you point blank what’s up, say that you know she is doing everything possible to help her older one deal with his temper, but for now you think it’s easier to let the little ones play at your house. Tell her how much you admire how she’s handled this difficult situation. Let’s hope all these kids, and their families, find more resources to get the help they need.


Dear Prudence,
I’m a cute-enough, slim-figured marathoner and academic who will be turning 35 in January. Before I reach my birthday, as is the case every year, I will have figured out a socially acceptable way to spend New Year’s. But as of late, I’ve had an unexpectedly acute onset of night sobbing, loss of sleep, and have been isolating myself from discussions that involve weddings or kids. I feel like I need to get used to the idea that I might not ever have children or a companion. Although I’d like to find someone, I’ve lost interest in being set up by friends and getting gussied up to go out. I’ve done 15 years of it. This impending birthday has me stuck and terrorized. Every solution I come up with just makes me feel more isolated. Help.


Dear Alone,
I’ve been there, so I know the dread of which you speak—the sense that finding a partner was somehow easy and natural for everyone else, and for whatever combination of reasons it may not ever happen for you. I was one month shy of my 39th birthday when I married my husband. The one thing I decided was to look at my life patterns and realize it wasn’t just a coincidence that over and over I chose men who were terrified of commitment. I decided I’d rather be alone than invest any more years in dead-end relationships. That one shift helped me connect with a man who previously wouldn’t have been my type, precisely because he himself was looking for marriage. Of course everyone’s situation is unique. But my suggestion is for you to move forward on parallel tracks. One is accepting that maybe you won’t marry and have children, and that you’ve got to find a way, as do millions, of finding satisfaction in your work, your friends, and those things—culture, social action, travel—that bring you pleasure. Consider taking a break from the search for say, the next six months and see how you feel. Then, when you resume, do so with a combination of willingness and acceptance of the absurd. Take advantage of online dating. Keep your social network alert to prospects for you. Host some cocktail parties in which you ask friends to invite someone they like (of either sex) whom you don’t know. Enlarging your social circle can only make your life better. Throw yourself a 35th-birthday dinner party or brunch—surrounding yourself with people who care about you will make you realize you don’t need to be paired up to have a full and satisfying life.


Dear Prudence,
I went to see Zero Dark Thirty this weekend with my father and during the movie we ate popcorn and drank soda as normal people do. This guy next to us kept giving us dirty looks and then after the movie went into a diatribe about how they spent millions for the sound and it was so rude of us to eat during the movie. I ignored him and made my way out of the theater, but I pride myself on being a good person. Is it wrong to eat during a movie? I assumed that the concessions stands were there for that exact purpose and as long as we weren’t passing the popcorn bag back and forth an undue amount or chewing with our mouths open, eating was totally copacetic. What is the right way here?


Dear Hungry,
Zero Dark Thirty hasn’t opened in Washington, D.C. yet (I can’t wait!) so that wasn’t me giving you the stink eye. People go to the movies to be transported, but mass masticating, texting, and talking can make patrons feel like they’re in an experiment testing their ability to focus. When I saw the The Bourne Legacy I sat next to man who had containers of popcorn and soda big enough to conceal a dirty bomb. For the entire two plus hours he ate the popcorn—mouth open—one kernel at a time while frequently washing it down. It was a Dolby-quality munching and slurping extravaganza, rather like listening to a cat cough up hairballs. However, you are right, concessions are sold so that patrons eat and drink them, and it’s silly to chastise someone for increasing the theater’s profit margin. But given that before the feature starts you sit through about 20 minutes of ads and trailers, I think movie-goers should endeavor to make a big dent in their snacks during this prelude. Certainly the rustling and gulping should be completed early in the show. You were right to just ignore your critic. But by the time the helicopters are descending on Abbottabad, no one should have to listen to another patron finishing off the unpopped kernels.


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