Dear Prudence

The Right to Say I Don’t

The law finally allows me to marry my boyfriend—only he doesn’t want to.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend and I (same-sex relationship) have been together a few years. Last spring he lost his job and decided to go back to school. I added him onto my health insurance, which required an affidavit saying that we were in a long-term, committed relationship and were denied the ability to legally marry to qualify for spousal benefits. In that affidavit there was a clause that stated if marriage became a legal option we would have to get married within six months to keep the benefits. In October marriage equality reached our state and I asked him when he wanted to start planning our wedding. He said he wasn’t sure he still wanted to, which was a complete surprise to me. He said he loves me and doesn’t want our relationship to change, but he’s not ready to legalize our relationship. I don’t want to force him into anything, but now we have this deadline of either getting married or losing his insurance. Any suggestions?

—Not a Groom

Dear Not,
Now that marriage equality is becoming the norm, it’s inevitable that “When are you marrying me?” equality is just behind. Your dilemma is compounded by the absurdity of a health care system in which access is tied to employment. You signed an affidavit stating that if marriage became available, you two would become husband and husband in order to keep your low co-pay and in-network discount. Ah, the romance! It’s kind of amusing to think of those who outwardly cheered the Supreme Court’s recent decision that will allow same-sex marriage to expand, while inwardly thinking, “But I’m not ready!” You two should grapple with this question for reasons deeper than your employee benefit package. If your partner is a full-time student, his university might offer health insurance, and he should also look into your state’s health care exchange. You want him to feel in his heart that he’s ready to marry you, not that he’s doing it because he feels there’s something wrong with his heart and he can’t afford to see a cardiologist unless he says, “I do.” 


Dear Prudie,
My husband and I had a baby girl five months ago. Before she was born, we had a long conversation about breast-feeding versus formula and decided that breast-feeding was best and that I would try to do it for a year. The problem is that I’m completely miserable. I work full-time and it’s really stressful to fit pumping into my schedule. My breasts are constantly sore and I am always exhausted. Our daughter is beautiful and healthy and I want to do the right thing, but I don’t know how much longer I can bear this. My husband doesn’t want me to stop. Every time I mention formula, he gives me all the reasons why breast-feeding is best. He suggests I talk to our doctor or La Leche League. I don’t want to pump her full of chemicals or have her immune system suffer either, but I’m desperate. What can I do? I feel so guilty about all of it.

—Running Dry

Dear Running,
Mom, return the pump, toss the lactation bra, and get an economy-size container of formula. At great personal cost, you have breast-fed your daughter, she has gotten plenty of benefit, and now she would benefit even more from a happy, rested mother. Read Hanna Rosin’s article, “The Case Against Breast-Feeding,” which shows that the popular literature on breast-feeding overstates the scientific certainty of its superiority. In any case, you are doing no harm to your child by weaning her. To show how unhinged breast-feeding pressure has become, also read this story by Washington Post reporter Emily Wax-Thibodeaux about what happened after she recently gave birth. Several years ago, Wax-Thibodeaux was treated for breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction. Of course, she couldn’t breast-feed, but even explaining her lack of mammary glands to the lactivists at the hospital couldn’t stop them from harassing her about trying! Breast-feeding is making you miserable, and that’s all your husband needs to know. He has no skin in this game, so don’t let him bully you. You both want what’s best for your daughter, and that means switching to formula.


Dear Prudence,
I’m pursuing doctoral studies at a well-known university and am doing well there. But I need more income than my student salary provides—I help support my mother among other things. I did some massage training in the past so a few months ago I set up a massage studio in my place. My massage has an erotic flavor, even though there’s no sex involved in any way. I work in the nude and massage some parts that you wouldn’t get massaged at a regular massage center. My clients, mostly men but also women, love it and I am earning a steady income. No one from my personal or professional circles knows about it and I never put a picture of myself in my ads. I know I shouldn’t hide since there is nothing really wrong with what I’m doing, but I don’t want to be judged for it. I’m not sure if what I’m doing is unethical. I hate having these kinds of secrets, so I would really appreciate any advice from you.

—Dr. Rub

Dear Rub,
You must be studying philosophy because your letter is presented as a series of theses and antitheses: You’re definitely not engaging in sex; you provide erotic massage of people’s private parts. You must keep what you’re doing a secret; you have nothing to hide. What you’re doing is fine; what you’re doing may be unethical. I don’t even know what you’re asking me, so I will take your theses and antitheses and provide a synthesis: While I have no problem with your services, you need to make sure the law also doesn’t. If you’re putting your hands on your clients’ genitals for sexual gratification, and money is changing hands in gratitude, then you need to take some of that cash and consult a lawyer who can tell you how to stay on the right side of your state’s prostitution statutes. Sure, the chance of your getting arrested is remote, but you don’t want to find yourself one day negotiating with a client reluctant to take off his clothes because, it turns out, he’s an undercover cop. Although you say this extracurricular activity is lucrative and satisfying, don’t let it take too much time from your studies. You want to get your degree and start a career where the dress code includes clothing.


Dear Prudie,
My husband of 16 years and I carpool to work two or three times a week. Most days we have lunch together. On his birthday a couple of weeks ago, we rode to work as usual but didn’t have lunch together as he was going out with friends. After work I waited for him to arrive to pick me up and he didn’t come. I called twice, no answer, so I texted him. He finally texted back saying he was on autopilot and since we didn’t have lunch together, he wasn’t thinking about having to pick me up. He turned around and got me 40 minutes late. I’m devastated. How do I tell him after the fact that my feelings have been crushed? He’s gone about his business like it’s no big deal, but I can’t get over it. Am I overreacting? Or do I just move on, knowing that if I decide to carpool with him again I need to remind him he has a wife to pick up? 

—Tire Tracks on My Heart

Dear Tracks,
You and your husband have a level of togetherness that would be oppressive for many couples, so please stop perseverating about his one-time brain glitch. Maybe he and his pals went to Hooters and had a couple of beers, and your husband wasn’t at his sharpest the rest of the day. (If that is what happened, please don’t contemplate defenestration because he was served by some scantily clad waitresses. At least he wasn’t getting serviced by a Ph.D. candidate.) You normally have lunch together on the days you carpool, so it’s understandable that minus this ritual he forgot you’d driven in together. The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten won a Pulitzer for his wrenching 2009 story about parents who accidentally kill their children by leaving them in a hot car. What frequently happened in these stories was a simple change in the day-care drop-off routine; then, on autopilot, the parent would drive to work and spend the day in the office, forgetting the child was in the back seat. Your case is no such tragedy. It’s a comedy of errors, one that couples should be able to tease each other about. Your husband has gone on with his life as if this event was no big deal because it was no big deal. Make your belated birthday gift to him that you finally realize the same.


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