Dear Prudence

Should I Tell My One-Night Stand That He’s Probably the Father of My Child?

Prudie’s column for July 6.

A man and a woman walking with a child between them, all holding hands.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

To get advice from Prudie, send questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.) Join the live chat every Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion. Or call the Dear Prudence podcast voicemail at 401-371-DEAR (3327) to hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Dear Prudence,
I have been with my significant other for a little more than three years. We’ve had our ups and downs, and during a down time, I had a one-night stand. I wasn’t sure if the child was his or my boyfriend’s—until recently, as the child is starting to look like the one-night stand. My boyfriend knows about the hookup, and he also knows that there is a chance that our son isn’t his, but he thinks that we should continue raising him and just forget all about the incident. Should I tell this other man? I am almost 100 percent sure my son isn’t my boyfriend’s. What do I do?
—Long Story Short

The first thing to consider is what your intention would be in telling the other man. Do you think he’ll want a paternity test? What if he doesn’t want to know? Would you be willing to leave it at that, or would you want to explore your legal options? If he does turn out to be the father, would you seek child support from him? What if he wants partial custody or visitation? What if your boyfriend is your child’s father after all? Does your boyfriend’s status as the presumptive father give him any legal rights in your state? It might be a good idea, as you try to answer these questions, to contact a lawyer. (Don’t use this as a substitute for legal counsel, but you can look up a primer on various state laws about paternity here.) Try to keep your son’s best interests in mind at every stage, and be as honest as possible with yourself about your motives, so you have a clear sense of why you’re taking a particular action before moving ahead.

Dear Prudence,
I’m a mid-20s gay man working in an industry that requires a lot of networking. Occasionally other gay or bisexual men in my field ask me to coffee or drinks, and I never know when it’s purely professional and when it’s something else. Recently I declined a meeting that I’d been invited to via my work email that had felt like more of a date than otherwise. That person is now reaching out on very different, nonprofessional social networks like Snapchat, which validates my fears that this wasn’t a work meeting. I’m happy to meet to share advice and help one another out professionally, but I’m not looking to date within my field. Is there a polite way to say I’m available for work engagements, but if it’s more personal than professional, I’m just not interested? I don’t want to seem arrogant or like I’m jumping to conclusions, but this kind of thing is exhausting and frustrating and has me lamenting working with other queer men when that should be a good thing!
—Professional or Personal?

I agree that one of the worst possible outcomes would be coming across as jumpy or arrogant, but that doesn’t mean you have to waste a lot of time wondering whether an outing is work drinks or drinks drinks. I think the best way to signal strictly professional interest without saying, “You’re not asking me out, right?” is to respond to an invitation along these lines: “I try to reserve time every week for out-of-office work meetings, so I’m free on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 3 and 5. Do either [coffee shop A] or [coffee shop B] work for you?” You can also clarify your intent by sending a calendar invitation from your work email, emailing a discussion agenda, having an excuse to leave after 45 minutes, avoiding bars in favor of less energetic locations, or all of the above. You can also come up with a scripted denial for any non-LinkedIn social media requests: “Sorry, I don’t use social media for work. You can find me on [professional website] or at [professional email].”

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From Care and Feeding

My husband and I have always been fairly fashionable and work in fields that reflect that. (I am an interior decorator; he has spent 20 years in the skate/surf fashion industry.) Our children, however, are drawn toward the most heinous clothing: socks pulled up to their knees, glittery bedazzled appliqué shirts, patterns on patterns on patterns.

Where do you draw the line between self-expression and bad taste? I feel like they know that we’re bummed about their clothes selections and I’m afraid we’re going to give them a complex. But I also don’t want my 6-year-old daughter to look like she dressed herself by running through a Salvation Army. Should we draw the line somewhere or keep letting them dress like “the Dude” from The Big Lebowski?