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Many years ago I had a brief, passion-filled affair with a co-worker. I had no kids (I now have one), and he had two (now has more). There was no fallout as our spouses (the same then as they are now) never found out. We were utterly enamored with each other, but never considered leaving our families due, in a large part, to our diametrically opposed political outlooks. I am incredibly liberal, he staunchly conservative. Were we to have attempted being together in the real world, the amount of strife caused by our differing views would have made the relationship unsustainable. Still, I do occasionally think back on our affair with intense longing. Eventually, he moved several states away, and I had a baby and got on with my life. I have never had another affair—for me it was about him, but I’m not sure if he ever has. We aren’t in contact, though I think of him fondly. He has transitioned into politics as a career, become even more conservative, and is now running for a powerful position. If he is elected, he will be able to enact what I consider to be very negative changes to women’s rights and the environment. I have proof of the affair that would likely derail his campaign—but maybe not, as he’s a charmer. I am now wondering if it’s my civic duty to come forward. I don’t think I could do this anonymously, but I think my husband and I could weather the storm. I also don’t want to hurt his wife or family. But maybe I should take this hit for the greater good, because there are millions of people who could be negatively affected should he win. What should I do?
—Blue About It
Please spare us yet another politician making that lipless grimace while standing next to a wife who looks as if she’s been hit with a 2-by-4. You’re right you can’t out him anonymously. While you hope your marriage would weather this, you actually have no idea how your husband would react. You’d be giving him a terrible shock, then opening your private lives to public ridicule. If he shares your political beliefs, he’ll be thinking that you slept with the enemy solely because the guy was so damn good in bed. Let’s say your confession causes your husband to divorce you. Telling your child you blew up your family so that a bad man wouldn’t vote for abortion restrictions or would allow fracking is likely not going to make you a heroic figure. If your ex-lover doesn’t win because of you, that just leaves an opening for another conservative in the next election. If during your affair he had impregnated you and assisted you in getting you an abortion, then he could kiss this election goodbye. But that didn’t happen, so while his views on reproductive rights may be repellent to you, he’s likely not running on an anti-infidelity platform. If it turns out he’s not a compulsive screw-around, he can say that years ago he made a terrible mistake, deeply regrets it, and all he can do is ask forgiveness of his family and the voters. Even you acknowledge there’s a good chance he’d receive it. Voters might even be sympathetic to a politician who got blindsided over a long-ago dalliance by a lover who simply hated his politics. If you want to do something to make yourself feel better, give the biggest check you can afford to his opponent.
My husband of five years (we met in college) is a Halloween enthusiast. He likes elaborate costumes and we’re always either going to multiple parties or hosting a big one ourselves. Normally I love playing along, but his costume idea for this year has me a bit concerned: He wants to go as the character Joan from Mad Men. Over the years he’s done a drag costume only one other time, an intentionally goofy cheerleader thing. This time he wants to be realistic and he’s got nice features, so he could probably pull it off. I’ve got no other reason to think he’s expressing a gay or gender-confused side, so I can’t put my finger on why this bothers me but it does. Maybe part of it is that I know actress Christina Hendricks is his biggest celebrity crush, which just makes it stranger. What should I do?
—It’s a Drag
Halloween used to be a holiday in which kids dressed up as ghosts and monsters and went door to door collecting candy corn and Tootsie Rolls. Now it’s a bacchanal of adults displaying their id. Last week I advised the husband of a woman who wanted to surprise her new colleagues at their office Halloween party by going as Jim Jones or David Koresh that he should urge her to choose a less murderous persona. This week I understand why you wish your husband would choose a buttoned-down one. It would make many wives uneasy to know their Mad Man was the sexiest woman at the party. It’s also true that if your husband does capture Hendricks’ eye-popping allure, this will be an indelible memory for your friends. But I don’t think you should try to stop him—this is a social, not work, affair. However, since you are feeling real discomfort, you need to have an frank talk with your husband about whether there’s some other message he’s sending in this desire to embody his biggest celebrity crush.
I am a proud new mother of a 3-month-old baby girl. We live far away from our families and send lots of pictures and videos. The other day I sent a video by email of the baby splashing around in the bathtub. My brother became upset on receiving it. He called the video child porn and said everyone was at risk by having it on their computers. The baby wasn’t covered but also wasn’t in any sort of sexual positioning and I see absolutely nothing sexual about the video. Is this true that this qualifies as child porn? Are we no longer allowed to take pictures or videos of our babies in their natural state?
—A Proud Mama
Child pornography is a scourge, but there is something lunatic about a culture in which an uncle is fearful that a splish-splash video of his infant niece could result in his living in government-funded housing. I contacted Mary G. Leary , professor of law at the Catholic University of America. She explained that each state may have a slightly different statute defining child pornography, but most are similar to the federal law. That law declares that in order for an image to be child pornography, it must depict sexually explicit conduct such as intercourse or other genital contact, or bestiality, or sadistic or masochistic abuse, or lascivious exhibition of the genitals, etc. That would leave your innocent little shampoo video in the clear (although to keep your brother from crying bestiality, you might want to leave the dog out of the tub). You can reassure your brother that nothing he has received from you will end his freedom. However, now that he’s exposed his paranoia, simply leave him off the recipient list those times you’re sending shots that show your little girl in her natural state.
I have been working as a gardener for the gardening columnist of a newspaper. I was laid off from my real job several months ago, and this is a stop-gap measure to avoid poverty. The columnist is rich and also eccentric. The latter is most obviously expressed through her frequent, loud, and lengthy farts. At some point she made it plain that she has no health complaints, aside from the arthritis that requires her to hire me, so she has no disease that causes uncontrolled flatulence. The first time she blasted one, I almost thought I’d imagined it, because she went right on talking as if nothing had happened. I’ve concluded that the Garden Farter sees me as the help so it doesn’t matter what she does in front of me. On the occasion of one recent fart, I announced, “Excuuuuse you!” She replied, “I hope you’re not mortally offended” in a tone that suggested I was the one with the problem. She does have professional connections and acts like she wants to help me out job-wise. I don’t think she will fire me if I say something, but what should I say?
—I Hear Thunder
Ah the buzz of the bees, the hum of the cicadas, the toot of the garden columnist. I get that she is a blast to work for, if not in a good way, but you should stop taking this so personally. Yes, it’s rude and odd, but you don’t actually know if this older woman does suffer from chronic digestive issues (or whether she’s recently gotten off gluten and gotten into beans). In any case, your duties must regularly have you up to your elbows in manure, so you’re being a touch delicate in the face of her foul emissions. She breaks wind, but you’re broke. So don’t risk your only current source of income simply over this. Just let her sulfurous eruptions continue unremarked upon. Although no one will blame you are unable to resist saying, “Oh, dear, I thought I just stepped on a frog!”
More Dear Prudence Columns
“Sharing Is Caring: My new crush says he’s in an ‘open marriage.’ Should I go for it?”
“Bad Dad: A husband who confiscated his 5-year-old’s blankie—and other quandaries for Father’s Day.”
“End of the Line: I don’t want kids—but that means my boyfriend’s parents will never have grandchildren. Am I evil?”
“Sexy and I Know It: I’m engaged to a great guy. One problem: I’m way too pretty for him.”
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“Grave Secret: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a man whose in-laws have discovered he once killed a man in self-defense.”
“This Old House: In a live chat, Prudie offers advice about an elderly grandma who can no longer maintain her giant, run-down home—but refuses to move.”
“Strap In or Get Out: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a pregnant woman whose husband refuses to wear his seat belt.”
“Girls, Girls, Girls: In today’s chat, Prudie counsels a single dad uneasy about the appearance of hosting his daughter’s slumber party.”
Check out Dear Prudence’s book recommendations in the Slate Store.