Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online at Washingtonpost.com to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.
I have been with my boyfriend for four years, and he is my best friend as well as the man I love. He has a friend of 10 years who is extremely flirtatious, a massive womanizer, handsome, and charming. I had no interest in him, although we got along really well. A little over a year ago, he appeared at my apartment door drunk one night. He said he couldn’t afford a cab. I let him in so he could call my boyfriend to pick him up. After I rejected several of his advances, he raped me in my apartment. Before he left, he said if I told anyone, everyone would think it was consensual, given his reputation and my friendship with him. I never told anyone, and my boyfriend has never found out. The friend has since moved away. Over the last year, I have had repeated nightmares and panic attacks. I’m haunted by the other women this man may assault. My boyfriend only knows I’ve been going through a “rough patch,” but he doesn’t know why. He’s still in touch with this friend. I love my boyfriend so much, and I know he adores me, but I can’t tell him. He will believe his friend over me, and I will lose him forever. Not to mention that I was the one who let the man into my apartment. I feel I am close to cracking all the time. Since that night, my body won’t respond sexually at all. Although we have sex sporadically, I often have to go to the bathroom to cry afterward. My boyfriend is understandably frustrated and has offered to come with me to see a doctor. I’m horrified of the idea of anybody, therapist or otherwise, probing into my sex life. It would be kinder to finish the relationship so the wonderful, kind, and funny man I’m with can find somebody who can make him happy again, but I don’t want to lose him. I don’t know what to do, and I’ve paid a high price for my stupidity. Please help me.
You did nothing wrong. Let me repeat: You did nothing wrong. Anyone in your situation would have let in a friend. But it turns out this man is a stone-cold rapist, a woman-hater, and likely a psychopath. You were violently assaulted and traumatized by this monster. But now it’s time for you to stop blaming yourself and get the professional assistance that will help you heal. First, call the hotline at RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. They will put you in touch with a local rape counseling center, where you can start the process of talking about what happened and finally being released from the state of trauma you’ve been in. You say the idea of talking about your rape is horrifying to you. But you wrote to me because you realized you could no longer carry this burden alone. Of course it will be painful to discuss, but it will be the beginning of feeling you’re getting your life back. Think how much it will mean to have professionals reassure you that none of this—none of this—is your fault. Next, you should talk to the police. It may be that it’s impossible now to prosecute your assault—again, that is not your fault—but the police should look into what happened, and at the least a file will have been opened on this man. You’re absolutely right that you weren’t his first victim, and he will strike again until someone is able to stop him. You also have to tell your boyfriend. If this prospect seems too overwhelming, a counselor can help you explain to him what happened. As horrifying as your story is, there will be a kind of terrible relief for him in understanding, finally, what’s been going on with you. If your boyfriend is the wonderful, caring person you say he is, he will be devastated to think he unwittingly brought this criminal into your life and you were too afraid to tell him what happened. If he doesn’t believe you and thinks you had some kind of consensual encounter with his creep of a friend, then your boyfriend is not the man you thought he was, and it’s time you moved on. You were attacked by a beast. Let’s hope he can be stopped so he won’t hurt anyone else.
Dear Prudence: Evil Twin
I am the co-chair of a daylong cultural and educational event at a local college. Our budget is small, and we have people from out of town, and over the years my elderly widowed mother has allowed me to put up some of the out-of-town speakers at her large and nice house. I also throw a reception at her house. Preparing for this is frantic and stressful. This year, five guests were staying at my mother’s. Two days before the event, I went to her house, stripped the beds, and washed all of the sheets and towels necessary for the guests. I placed the folded clean sheets, pillowcases, and towels on each bed, figuring that each guest could make his or her own bed. She felt not making the bed was tacky, and since it was her house (as she frequently reminds me), she could make the rules. We had a huge fight, and I left without making the beds. Acting the martyr, she got my brother’s girlfriend to help her make all of the beds. After the event, I stripped all of the beds and put the linens in the washing machine. My mother then wanted me to come back and remake all of the beds and fold the towels. I declined. My brothers often host overnight guests and have even thrown large parties there, and I have never heard her make housekeeping demands of them. Now my mother has informed me that I cannot host any guests at her house in the future. So my three questions are: Is it socially acceptable to place clean, folded sheets on the bed and expect my guests to make their own beds? Am I wrong to feel angry at my mother for making a big deal about a trivial issue when I had more important things to deal with? And isn’t she being a big jerk for having a double standard between me and my brothers? The fabric of our relationship is rent over sheets. Suggestions?
—Not My Mother’s Maid
In one corner we have Elderly Widowed Mother, who opens her home to provide free lodging and banquet facilities for your guests. In the other corner we have Daughter With Important Things to Do, who’s not about to provide maid service. Since I’m the referee, I’m ending this bout, and I think the crowd will agree that Elderly Widowed Mother wins by unanimous decision. Let’s take each of your questions. One, while it’s not the world’s biggest faux pas to leave the sheets on the end of the bed, it also isn’t gracious. Being a good hostess is important to your EWM, so if you didn’t have time to make the beds, you should have gotten someone to do it. Two, your EWM may not have been understanding how overwhelmed and stressed out you were, but you were equally unsympathetic to the stress this generous older woman was feeling about providing a lovely experience for her—I mean, your—guests. Three, when you start this one by calling your EWM a “big jerk,” you don’t make a good case for yourself. Maybe your mother is sexist, or maybe your brothers are much more attentive and grateful than you when she allows them to use her home. As for suggestions, start by buying a large bouquet of flowers and personally delivering it to your mother. Include a note of apology that says you were wrong and you are so sorry you lost your temper. Go on to tell her how much you appreciate everything she does for you, how remarkable she is that she can still throw a hell of a party, and how you need to learn to better manage your stress. You might also want to book the hotel now for next year’s event in order to lock in the best rates.
I’m a 39-year-old man who has never been in a relationship that’s gotten serious enough to discuss cohabitation. My partner “Beth,” a 41-year-old woman, is in the same boat. We’ve been dating six months and are now discussing renting a home together, as something of a marriage trial run. But the thought of coming home to someone every night exhausts me. I just need to completely unplug and be alone with my thoughts. I’ve always scoffed at guys who shy away from commitment, but I’m definitely a person who needs alone time once or twice a week. I’ve started to get squeamish at the thought of spending every evening together instead of the four or five per week we do now. I’m truly in love with Beth and enjoy our time together. But how do I get past this? Is there a way to share our lives and still have some “me” time?
—Trying Not to Be Alone Forever
As Philip Larkin wrote: “He married a woman to stop her getting away/ Now she’s there all day.” I understand your worries, because like you, I need lots of solitude. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to talk about with Beth without it being a sign of wavering commitment or uncertainty about your love. You tell her that until you met her, you never thought there would be anyone you could contemplate living with. You say you’re excited but also recognize that with separate domiciles you are able to have the quiet time you sometimes need, so you can’t figure out how you would incorporate that into your new living situation. Then you figure it out. Maybe when you come home some nights, you signal you need some down time to listen to music and read the newspaper before you’re ready to be social. Maybe Saturday mornings you agree to be away from each other. Maybe Beth likes to take classes or meet up with friends a couple of nights a week, leaving you contentedly alone for the evening. It could be that Beth, like you, thinks togetherness is sweeter when it’s not incessant.
A few months ago I moved into a small apartment building in a lovely neighborhood. I noticed that someone was leaving bags of dog poop right outside of the front gate of the entrance to our building. My boyfriend and I decided to write a message in chalk on the brick wall outside of the building: “Please! Pick up your pet’s poop.” When it didn’t stop, I wrote a follow-up in chalk. The day after that I found this note taped to the wall in response: “What you’re doing is against the law. We will be putting cameras up and pressing harassment charges if it doesn’t stop. P.S. You’re a coward!” A bag of poop was thrown over our gate into the front entrance. I’m sure this person doesn’t know I wrote the note, but I’m now concerned about having charges pressed. I’m also concerned about getting this to stop. What do I do?
—Doo Doo Problem
I think the note you saw was not in reply to you but a vote of solidarity from a fellow tenant about the solid waste. The offender in response is now practicing canine shot put. (Or should we call it shit put?) Your building must have management, so bring this up with them. I know it’s distasteful, but until this is solved, when you see bags out front, you could toss them into a nearby receptacle. Forget interacting with the miscreant, which will only result in an ordeal over the ordure.
More Dear Prudence Columns
“Reign of Terror: The president of my company just ‘pantsed’ someone at work.”
“Come Again Never: My two little neighbor girls need somebody in their lives, but their visits annoy me.”
“Too Much Kindness: A man keeps giving presents to my 5-year-old daughter, and it’s freaking me out.”
“A Separate Peace: I’m losing my battle with cancer and want to stop treatment, but my family thinks I’m giving up too soon.”
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“Occupy the Dollhouse: In a live chat, Prudie advises a mother whose niece flaunts her expensive toys in front of her cousins.”
“Toilet Paper: In a live chat, Prudie advises a man whose co-worker always takes the office newspaper to the bathroom.”
“Me or the Dog: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend wants her to give away her cocker spaniel.”
“Snip and Tell: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman who’s been trying to get pregnant—only to find out her husband had a secret vasectomy.”