Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, chats with readers weekly on Mondays here at Slate. 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.)
Emily Yoffe: Welcome, everyone, to the first live chat at Slate! We’re really excited to take the chat to our home base. Please bear with us today as we figure out how to get our chat software running smoothly. If I suddenly fall silent, I hope it’s not a stroke, but just a technical glitch.
Q. Daddy’s Escort Girl: My daughter is in her last year of college, and of course with finances tight, it has been a family economic concern getting her through. I just found out that my wife has given her blessing for our daughter to become an escort to men who, as it was explained, is only for dinner and legitimate social events that will pay extremely well. I have a hard time believing this, much less stomaching the whole idea. Are there really legitimate escorts? I’m figuring rich men probably are seeking more than a dinner date and can dangle their wealth as a means toward seduction.
A: The Obama administration just issued suggestions for Congress to consider about how to relieve the crushing burden of student debt. Fortunately, no one is suggesting the Sugar Daddy Education Relief Act of 2014. I share your stomach-dropping concern about the idea that your daughter would be a dinner companion to men who want to pay for the pleasure of her company. That is skin-crawling enough, but I agree that a meal is likely the opening wedge to more lucrative and intimate encounters. But even if her old-enough-to-be-her-father companions behaved as gentlemen, learning how to exchange her loveliness for money does not seem like the kind of lesson she should be focusing on in her senior year. Yes, college is outrageously expensive, and avoiding debt is crucial. So if you all are having trouble paying for her degree, you need to discuss your options with the school’s financial aid office. And you and your wife need to have some private talks about what you want for your girl and presenting a united front.
Q. Dilemma: In October a cousin I have always been very close to died of a terrible illness. It was devastating—to me, her husband, her four kids, her entire circle. I cried for three days straight, nonstop, and sporadically since then. Her husband has always been good about keeping me up to date on everything, and we chatted off and on ever since her death. In March, things changed. I met him for the weekend, and we had sex for two days. We talked constantly from that point on about getting together again. I developed strong feelings and thought things were progressing. He did not. He has a new girlfriend in his town who has already spent the weekend at his house. I am devastated. Am I a terrible person? I had been planning to go for a visit this summer because I want to stay close to the kids but is it now out of the question? I do not sleep around. He’s the second man in my 40 years of life.
A: Neither you nor your cousin are terrible people. Grief is a different country, and perhaps not so paradoxically, people suffering loss sometimes feel a new urgency about being alive. So you two came together intensely but briefly. I understand you are now hurt and baffled, but please don’t disappear from the lives of these children. I’m concerned that their father is already bringing a new woman into their lives—he needs to be very careful about attending to their emotional needs and not confusing them—but his romantic life is not an issue you can address. But you two do need to address your situation. You should contact him and say you understand your personal interlude is over but that you still want to come see the kids this summer. Say that you two need to be sure you can put your issues aside and just focus on the children; but please only say this if you truly mean it. You lost a dear relative, and now you feel battered by this romantic encounter. But I hope you can use this experience to realize that even if this widower is not the man for you, you are ready to get more out of life.
Q. Schedule: So what will be the Slate schedule now for your column? A live chat on Tuesday and then your regular column on Thursday?
A: The chat is going to go back to its Monday at noon slot next week—and now Slate readers will be able to read it on the site in real time. The regular column will continue to be posted on Thursday. Lots of people have questions about the relationship of the chat to Slate Plus. As you can see, the chat is on the site and free to everyone. Of course, we want you to join Slate Plus for all sorts of extras, but Dear Prudence is available to all readers.
Q. Well-Meant Job Help: I am a twentysomething struggling to find work in my field (like everyone else!). I have many well-meaning people in my life who try to help me out by sending me postings from jobs that they think I should apply to. A lot of the time they don’t really understand my field, and the jobs either require skills I don’t have or are intended for someone far beyond my experience level. Am I bound by politeness to apply even though doing so will be a whole lot of wasted effort? Or can I just say, “Thank you for thinking of me,” and then toss it later? With closer people, I’ve thanked them but explained that this great job is out of my league. They then get hurt or try to persuade me that I should be confident enough to make a leap. It’s frustrating enough to apply for dozens of jobs without hearing a word back, but being told over and over that you could have the higher-level position if you just believed in yourself is maddening.
A: I bet you are thinking about the times you pulled an all-nighter before the anthropology exam, and how you couldn’t wait for school to be over so you could be out in the real world. I can understand if your real-world experience makes you want to run back to graduate school, but as frustrating as the job search is, how you deal with “helpful” people is going to be a great life lesson. First of all, be grateful that people care and want to see you succeed. Sure, most of what they forward won’t be helpful. But David Stern, Slate’s head of product development, who is sitting right next to me developing this chat software as we speak, got his job because of a Slate-reading friend who saw a job posting on our website. So don’t try to shut down your suggestion box. If some jobs are just too outlandish and the person is not really close, just send a note of thanks, a short summary of your search, and say you appreciate the help. For people you know better who are missing the mark, have a conversation with them expressing your thanks and giving more information about what you’re looking for. It could also be that you need to expand your own horizons beyond your field—what’s most important about an early job is that you get one.
Q. Working From Home: Without talking about it with me first, my husband accepted a job that gives him the option to work at home. He can go to the office if he wants to, but of course he doesn’t want to. I home-school our kids, so I am home all day already. I’m really not feeling this new arrangement, but I don’t know how to tell him without hurting his feelings. We have been married for 17 years; we don’t need to spend this much time together.
A: As the cliché goes, “I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch.” There are lots of couples in this chat who are suffering from a failure to communicate. For a husband to take a job without discussing it with his wife means that you two need to talk. You say that “of course” he wants to work at home—but I think a lot of readers are imagining they would flee each morning rather than find themselves trying to work while you were conducting math class with the kids in the next room. I assume having Dad around is distracting for the kids and for you, and also makes it confusing to everyone about where school, work, and family life begin and end. So instead of opening with, “If you don’t get out of the house I’m going to scream,” you want to frame this discussion about what’s best for the kids—and all of you.
Q. Re: Well-Meant Job Help: The first thing I thought of when I read that question was the recent stories saying that men are more likely to apply for jobs even if they don’t have all the skills. I don’t know if the reader is male or female, but it might be worth applying for some of the seemingly out-of-reach jobs. Sometimes you realize you’re more capable than you thought.
A: Thanks for making this point. Obviously, if you utterly lack any of the skills required for a job, you’re wasting everyone’s time. But I agree that for fairly entry-level jobs, an applicant is essentially selling more general qualities: an ability to work tirelessly, be a self-starter, organize and research, etc. And young job-seekers should be open to opportunities outside their dream fields, because dreams have a way of changing.
Q. Constant Communication: I met this really great guy three weeks ago, and we have completely hit it off. In large group settings (two parties and an informal dinner), we’ve found ourselves with the same plans three weekends in a row, and we’ve run into each other a few times in the past couple of weeks. He’s funny and charming and intelligent and attractive, and I’ve definitely developed a huge crush. We are both young and part of a generation that is completely attached to our phones, so we’ve been texting a lot. The problem is that we’ve been communicating constantly, but I don’t feel like I’m ready to be in constant contact with him. It’s hard because sometimes I don’t feel like responding to a text, but I’ll be active on another form of mobile social media (Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat). I’ll feel bad for not responding knowing that he could know I’m on my phone, but I don’t like the pressure of this constant communication! I should add that I enjoy talking with him, and conversation, both virtually and in person, is free-flowing. However, what can I do to quell the nonstop talk?
A: I’m of the generation that doesn’t get this, but it sounds as if you would like to be an honorary member of the “I’ll talk to you later” cohort. But no matter what generation you are, presumably daily life has certain ongoing demands—like getting work done—that mean you can’t be exchanging meaningless texts all day long. You hardly know this guy, and if he won’t back off, you’re not going to want to know him better. So next time you see him in person, both of you put away your devices and talk. At some point during your discussion, you can tell him that you’re the kind of person who can’t be connected all day long, so while his texts have been charming, he has to understand that your bandwidth is limited.
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