Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is online 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. Peeing Standing Up: My spouse—a man—pees standing up. I have told him several times that no matter how careful one is, it leaves pee on surfaces—the toilet, the floor, and probably his legs! I have shown him several times how there is pee on the flat part of the rim. He huffs and cleans it up, but of course he doesn’t see what’s on the floor. My problem is that he acts as though he is doing me a favor by sitting to pee. If he cleaned up the toilet area and left it pee-free, I wouldn’t care a bit how he goes. But he gets very offended when I point out that standing up to pee just isn’t very clean. How can I convince him about this without getting him defensive?
A: If you want your husband to do something with his penis besides urinating, something that involves you, then lay off the demand that he pee sitting down. I agree with comedian Rita Rudner who remarked that as far as urinating is concerned often “men aren’t that specific.” But telling your husband his man-style method of relieving himself is not allowed in his own home could have an unfortunate spill-over to other areas of your marital life. Tell him you want to call a truce. Say that you understand that he doesn’t want you monitoring his bodily functions, but neither is it fun for you to find the bathroom floor is a slip-and-slide. Put a roll of paper towels on tank and ask him to try to get in the habit of wiping up if there’s a spill—explain that will take about five seconds of his time and will immensely improve your mood, thus his life. It’s true that the drip, drip, drip of conflict over domestic details is very wearing, but if he makes an effort even if it’s not perfect, that should help you accept the fact that your husband is not ever going to care as much about the mementos he leaves behind as you do.
Q. Birthing Photos on Facebook: While I was in labor, my mother-in-law used my cellphone to take pictures of me in various stages of undress and used my account to post them on Facebook. I had no idea as I was half out of it and only had vague awareness of her holding my phone. I didn’t check Facebook for a couple of days so the pictures were up there for all to see, accompanied by very detailed captions of how I was progressing. I can’t even begin to explain how violated I felt. I have taken down all pictures but I also feel embarrassed that my friends, co-workers, etc., all thought it was me posting photos of myself in such an intimate situation. Should I post some kind of an explanation? I don’t even know what to say.
A: First of all, I hope your husband knows he needs to discuss this with his mother. He needs to say something along the lines of, “We are appalled by your violation of Jenna’s privacy and our trust. We are shaken that you would take intimate photos and then post them under Jenna’s name for the world to see. Mom, you need to do some serious thinking about what you did, because we have a child now, and if we can’t trust you, that will be sad for everyone.” Now that you’re feeling more yourself, go ahead and post some cute pictures of your baby. You can add a brief message saying that if anyone saw the accidentally posted labor pictures, these were the result of unauthorized Facebook access by an overzealous relative and you apologize.
Q. Bathroom Intruder: I’m a male student who has moved in with my parents after finding a summer internship near their home. They aren’t charging rent, they cook for me, and they only ask that I help with the occasional chore. The situation would be ideal if their modest home had more than one bathroom. When I shower before work, my father will often barge in to go number two. I told him that he needs to wait until I am done but he claims that he has no control over when he needs to go and can’t hold it. The last straw was when he brought his breakfast with him this morning. I had to wait in the shower until he finished eating a full plate of meat and eggs. I told him that this behavior is abnormal and needs to stop. My father insists he is in the right, arguing that he was kind enough to let me live with him rent-free and that he shouldn’t have to change his morning routine. My mother is remaining neutral. I am trying to avoid spending loan money on an apartment but I don’t think that I can deal with this for another month. How do I get him to stop?
A: I wonder if bacon on the bathroom floor is more disturbing than urine. You don’t make clear why you didn’t find a way to deal with this when you were growing up, but maybe your parents have downsized since your departure. Possibly they did so to help pay for you to go through school. I agree that there is something odd about eating on the toilet, but maybe your father is a busy man and he wants to maximize the efficiency of his digestive functions. As for his barging in, well, when you gotta go, you gotta go. Here’s one solution: Shower at night! That way you can make haste during your morning ablutions. You are now in a countdown situation until you blessedly get back to school. If this is the worst thing you ever have to endure, consider yourself lucky.
Q. Re: Peeing Spouse: I agree men can be a problem, but women aren’t innocent. My office is home to some of the foulest bathroom perps out there in the ladies room. They smear blood on the walls, throw the little bits of TP on the floor when they can’t get the paper to roll out, all manner of hair and pee on the seat (when they’re squatters). It’s shameful!
A: I’m assuming that if original letter writer was one of these offenders then the husband would have already used this argument. However, thank you for pointing out how gross ladies rooms can be, especially when women want to protect themselves from toilet seat germs, so they hover over the seat and spray it like they’re using a water pistol.
Q. Just Add Water: I am 28-year-old, single, successful, on the better-looking side, debt-free, well-balanced, and active mother of one who has 50/50 custody of my amazing daughter. My life is great and, while I have dated in the past I, never felt a connection as the amazing man I met a couple of weeks ago. He is like my man twin—26, promising future, no children, no debt, good looking and caring and sweet. My mind is blown. I have done my fair share questioning and investigating to ensure he is not married or involved or a serial killer, etc. … (my skepticism is half complete surprise of finding someone so awesome who’s single and the other half is bad experience). We are ready to jump in head first out of excitement. We both want the same things in life including children. My question to you is this: Based on your experience of being married a short time after you met and advice you give out are we crazy? Do you wish you had waited?
A: It’s true that my husband and I were married four months after meeting. But I was almost 39 and he was 41. We had tons of mutual friends, we wanted children and obviously didn’t have time to wait, and I did not feel it necessary to double-check to make sure he wasn’t a serial killer. (And we have never regretted our alacrity.) You are in a totally different situation. You are both young, so there is no rush regarding reproduction. More than that, you already are a mother. That means that if you engage in a flight of what turns out to be idiotic romantic fancy, this will have significant, possibly a deeply damaging effect on the life of your child. Also a red flag is that fact that you’ve had plenty of bad experiences, so your rush seems to be partly based on wanting to lock yourselves into marriage before things inevitably go south. Slow down, way down. You could have productively waited to hop into the sack, but now do not rush to the justice of the peace. Put off talk of marriage, children, and permanence, and concentrate on getting to know each other over the next year. And if his name is Dexter, wait even longer.
Q. Help for Friend’s Face: I have a dear friend, Bob. Bob was born with a minor deformity of his lips. He is extremely self-conscious about it and some rude people do, in fact, stare a bit. A mutual friend of ours recently discovered that there is a cosmetic procedure involving Botox that could help make Bob’s lips look more normal. The problem is that neither of us wants to broach the topic and risk hurting his feelings or humiliating him. Any suggestions on how to proceed?
A: This is a really hard one because you don’t want to seem as if you focus on this minor deformity. On the other hand, it’s very possible Bob is unaware that there is potentially an easy and effective treatment that would make a significant difference. I think you should take the risk of bringing this up and that this should be done one on one—so decide between you who would be most comfortable. An easy way to broach this could be to say you (or your friend) were researching Botox for your own cosmetic improvement, and saw that doctors are using this widely for a variety of conditions, including Bob’s. That’s all—if he’s interested, he’ll pursue it.
Q. Re: Peeing Spouse: What the heck is wrong with some guys that they can’t hit the bowl? I always used to know when my brother had friends over because there was pee on the floor in front of the toilet. My brother and father (and every boyfriend I’ve dated seriously) have not had this problem! What the heck!
A: I agree that even if one’s aim is bad, the solution is right there with an easy swipe of some toilet paper. A male commenter has written in to stand up for his sex and say there’s no excuse for leaving a mess. But as you note, some men do. For the letter writer to micromanage her husband’s stream will have downstream consequences. Let’s hope that if she puts the paper towels there and says she’s going to back off, he will step up.
Q. Recently Dumped: My now ex-boyfriend and I were together for over five years and he proposed to me at the end of March. Then about a month ago he said he had “made a mistake” and wasn’t ready to get married. Then two weeks ago he abruptly left, said we were incompatible, and dumped me. My problem now is that I’ve got barbecues and parties to go to and I see casual acquaintances who congratulate me on my engagement. I don’t want to become a hermit but it’s very difficult to not burst into tears when this happens. How should I deal with these well-meaning people? I have another party Saturday and I’m debating skipping it just to avoid this interaction.
A: I hope you have some good friends with big mouths. Authorize them to spread the news far and wide that you are single again. Of course you are hurting and licking your wounds. And it’s fine to spend some time alone listening to heartbreak songs and watching sad movies. But it’s also therapeutic to get out there and get your mind off your ex. The more you practice saying, “Well, we’ve decided to go our own ways,” the easier it will be. Please go this Saturday. And keep in mind bathrooms are good places to go and shed a tear or two.
Q. Long-Lost Daughter: About four years ago my husband found out he has a 23-year-old daughter from a hookup. This girl grew up with a mother who was on drugs, men in and out of the home, and at one point was placed in foster care. My husband is a quiet and reserved man and when his daughter found him via the Internet naturally she was excited and happy. She right away started calling him “Daddy” and telling him how much she loved him. I think she overwhelmed him and he felt uncomfortable. He tried to get to know her and the more he did the less he liked her. He stopped talking to her about a year ago, because she was almost stalking him. Now she is close to a family member and that family member is pushing her on him. He doesn’t know what to do. Should he feel guilty for not wanting to have a relationship? I’ve kept out of it because I don’t want to influence his decision. What should he do? He doesn’t like her.
A: What a heartbreaking life this girl has lived. How sad to think that if your husband had been in her life he might have been able to blunt some of the effects of this disastrous childhood, and provide love and stability. No wonder she is like a barnacle hoping finally to attach to someone who could care for her. Number one, your husband should have a frank discussion with the family member. It’s fine that his daughter has developed a connection, but he needs to say his relationship with his daughter—or lack of one—has to be separate. Then, I think your husband should discuss this with a therapist who specializes in reunited families. Maybe after he gets some clarity, he could invite his daughter to join him at some sessions. It may be that she is so damaged that he simply cannot have a relationship with her. But it may be that with guidance, they could arrive at some kind of contact that helps her, and even becomes gratifying to him.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks so much, everyone. Talk to you next week.
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