Dear Prudence

My Friend Won’t Stop Demanding I Get Pregnant

Prudie’s column for Aug. 15.

Photo illustration of a baby being held out. The baby has a shocked expression.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence,

My friend “Betty” is single, and I’m about to get married, but we’ve both noticed a recent trend with our friend “Jane” that we can’t abide. Every time we see her, Jane expresses how excited she is for us to have children. We hear some version of “You have to have kids!” or “I can’t wait till you have babies!” Usually she is drunk when this happens, but she’s mentioned it sober too. It makes us both extremely uncomfortable. Betty and I have explained why we’re not OK with this, but we can’t seem to get through to her. At a recent outing with friends, Jane got drunk and announced that “everyone should get pregnant and have a baby—it’s the greatest thing ever!” She kept pushing the idea. The next day, one of my other friends confessed to us all that she has a medical issue that pushed her into early menopause. I was absolutely mortified that she had to sit through Jane’s drunken exclamations.

Betty and I are on edge about the next time we see Jane at my wedding. We’re really hoping that she learned her lesson from hearing about our other friend’s medical issues, but I just don’t know that it’s enough—especially if alcohol is involved. Betty and I are willing to discuss this with Jane again, but we’re starting to feel like we’re “ganging up” on her and making her defensive. We assume that she is lonely as a mother, with few peers to share her experiences with, and it’s not as though we don’t care or appreciate the hardships she’s going through. We just want her to stop demanding babies from us! What else can we do to gently steer her away from this for good?

—Friend Demands I Get Pregnant

Your goal should not be to gently steer Jane away from anything. You’ve tried that, and it hasn’t worked. She is not going to learn her lesson from anything short of immediate and obvious consequences for her boorish behavior, and risking her defensiveness is worth making sure she doesn’t make a scene demanding you get impregnated on your wedding day. People should be ganging up on her about this! What she’s doing is rude and making everyone around her uncomfortable and upset. Plenty of women whose other friends don’t have children are still capable of having civil, respectful conversations without demanding everyone else get pregnant.

Tell her this: “Jane, I’m concerned about your habit of getting drunk and demanding everyone else get pregnant, especially when a few of us have struggled with infertility. I know I’m not the only person who’s asked you to stop in the past, but something’s clearly not connecting because you’re still doing it.” If she’s at all receptive to having this conversation once her initial defensiveness has died down, you might ask her what she’s getting out of this. You say you assume it’s because she feels lonely as a mother, which makes me think you’ve never asked. It may be useful to her to reflect what’s driving this behavior. If she’s able to acknowledge whatever fear or anxiety lies underneath it, she may find it easier to stop. But if she tries to bluster her way through it or laugh it off, then you’ll have to get more blunt: “I need you to be honest about whether you think you’re capable of getting through my wedding without telling anyone else they need to have a baby. If you don’t think you can, I’d rather know now so we can update the guest list.” I understand you’re afraid of making Jane angry, so the idea of being this direct with her might seem daunting, even inflammatory, but it’s time she learned that she can either drunkenly insist all her friends get pregnant or she can spend time with you—but not both.

Dear Prudence,

My partner subscribes to a subreddit called “Public Freakouts.” It’s a bunch of videos where people are yelling and swearing at each other and sometimes fighting. He finds it entertaining. As a sensitive person, I find it deeply disturbing to hear the videos. I feel as anxious and distressed as if it were happening to me. What’s more upsetting is that I’ve told him multiple times not to watch those videos around me (and why it bothers me), but he still does it occasionally. I would never continue to do something that my partner told me hurts his well-being. What should I do?

—Empathetic and Disturbed

You could spend more time explaining to your partner that his idle hobby hurts you, increases your anxiety, and makes you feel panicked. But he already knows that. You could also tighten up your own boundaries and leave the room, date, or house whenever he starts watching, and do something you find relaxing and enjoyable instead. Or you could decide that you don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who’s entertained by watching other people in moments of panic and crisis and who’s completely indifferent to the effect it has on his partner and break up with him.

If your relationship is otherwise really strong and this seems particularly out of character for him, you may want to have a come-to-Jesus-style conversation with him about it: “Normally, you’re pretty reasonable and don’t go out of your way to make me stressed-out and unhappy, so I’m having trouble understanding why you haven’t been willing to modify this habit for my sake. All I’m asking is that you not watch these videos around me. You know that it makes me feel agitated and disturbed, and it’s getting to the point where I feel jumpy around you, worrying when you’re about to pull your phone out and start playing real-life fight scenes. It’s making me question your judgment and our relationship. Is being able to watch people screaming at each other on demand really that important to you?” But if that doesn’t move him to change, then you have all the information you need in order to end things.

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Dear Prudence,

I have wondered for years if I am bisexual. When I was younger, I even discussed the possibility with my mother. Part of my hesitation may have come from my religion: I was raised in a strict Lutheran synod. I’m 30 years old at this point, and I still wonder. While I’m still Christian, I’m not sure I belong with that synod. I even think my mother still wonders because she’s mentioned a few times recently that if I wasn’t straight that she and my father would support me. (I don’t know if my siblings would, but that’s not a can of worms I’m willing to open right now.) I’ve never investigated things further since that conversation 14 years ago, but it weighs on my mind. I’m single and haven’t been in a relationship with a man in over two years. My longest relationship with a man was in high school. I’ve never had sex. However, I do enjoy looking at women.

While I know that alone probably doesn’t make me bisexual, I can’t help wondering still at this point in my life if maybe I am. I don’t know what to do to figure it out. I’m lost and don’t feel comfortable discussing this with the people around me—mainly because the only LGBTQ+ people in my life right now are co-workers, and that wouldn’t be an appropriate discussion for the workplace. I don’t know what to do to proceed here, and while it might seem trite, I need to know. What should i do to figure this out for myself? I’m concerned that if I reach out to a LGBTQ+ community that I’ll be judged for not being sure, but also for thinking I may be bisexual.

—Maybe Bi

I think you’re placing an unnecessarily high bar on what “makes” someone bisexual. If being attracted to men and women for years, consistently thinking you’re not straight, worrying about how coming out might affect your other relationships, and noticing other women as possible sexual and romantic partners don’t create at least the possibility of bisexuality, then what does? By this standard, you won’t “know” you’re bisexual until you’ve been in a relationship with a woman, but you can’t give yourself permission to pursue a relationship with a woman until you believe yourself to be “authentically” bisexual, which you can’t prove because you haven’t been in a relationship with a woman. You can see where this mental trap leads.

The more important question is: What does “reach[ing] out to a LGBTQ+ community” mean to you? You can go to a gay bar. (You can go to multiple gay bars!) You can sign up for queer-inclusive dating apps. You can look for local support groups for bisexual and questioning women. You can look for queer meetups and poetry nights and Pride events and hobby groups. You can ask out women you think are attractive. There are a lot of different ways to reach out, and there are a lot of different queer communities to explore. You may not form instant connections with every gay/bi/trans/queer individual you meet (and you may run into more than one person with stupid, boorish opinions about bisexuality), but there is no community bouncer with the authority to show you the door for not being bisexual enough. Give yourself time and permission to explore this part of yourself. Make it a priority and seek out events, people, and opportunities to meet other bisexual people, and try to foster new relationships with them, whether you think there’s romantic potential there or not. But don’t keep waiting for permission or certainty before you begin.

Dear Prudence,

Our oldest daughter graduated from college in May and will start her career in October. For the past two years I’ve been paying for her to see a therapist weekly, which costs $750 a month. She found a therapist in her new city that isn’t on our insurance plan. When we asked her to switch to someone in-network, she complained about “having to start over with a stranger” and wasn’t able to get the therapist to give her a sliding-scale rate.

Our daughter says she hasn’t had anything traumatic happen to her but sees her therapist about feeling stressed and anxious. In seventh grade, she went to a therapist for about a year and a half for “disordered eating.” She generally doesn’t seem very happy when we see her, and while she’s kind enough to us parents, she treats her younger sister horribly. But she’s quick to laugh with friends and around other adults. At this point I’m not sure what coping strategies she’s learned from therapy. She never mentions an end in sight, and frankly I’m tired of paying for it. I only work part-time. How do we tell her that we’re not footing the bill anymore when her job starts providing her health insurance? In a way I worry that we haven’t prepared her enough for the “real world,” even though she’s been working since she was 16 to buy things she’s wanted. My husband insisted that both kids not have any college debt, so we’ve done a lot for her over the past four years.

—Are We Coddling Our Daughter?

You are overthinking this! Tell your daughter that when her health insurance kicks in, she’ll get to take over paying for her therapy, which will give her a few months to figure out how to do it. This is part of that “real-world experience” you’re worried you didn’t prepare her for enough. This is a manageable first step toward increased independence. She’s not currently experiencing a mental health crisis; she’ll have several months to make whatever arrangements are necessary; she’ll have an onboarding session with HR that outlines all her employee benefits and health care information when she starts her new job; and she’s capable of making phone calls, sending emails, coming up with a quick-and-dirty budget, and deciding whether she wants to prioritize cost over the hassle of starting over with a brand-new therapist. That’s it! You just tell her and let her handle the rest. If she is unhappy with this new responsibility, that’s OK—it doesn’t mean you have to do anything about it. You can let her be unhappy with you for a little while. She can even talk to her therapist about it.

Dear Prudence Uncensored

“It’s not cold or unsupportive to say ‘good luck figuring this one out.’ ”
Daniel Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss this letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.

Dear Prudence,

I don’t like to be the center of attention. I very happily just skipped having a 25th birthday party. I didn’t have a party when I got engaged, and I didn’t want a bridal shower. In the end I caved to pressure from my family and had one. While I’m grateful for all the time and planning that was put into the beautiful afternoon tea, it’s just awkward for me to make chit-chat for four hours with over 50 women I hardly know. Now that I’m pregnant, there is talk of a baby shower. I do not want one. Both of my grandparents are dead, so my formerly estranged extended family are all talking again, and it would be awkward to not invite them. I feel guilty that I’m taking away the experience of celebrating the first grandchild from both sides of my family, especially after so much loss over the past year. Am I being ungrateful for wanting to completely skip a baby shower?

—No Baby Shower

No! It’s fine! Cheerfully decline to have a baby shower thrown for you. If some of your relatives insist on sending you something, you can let them know which items you need. If you feel like you must have an excuse that forestalls follow-up questions, you can always say the pregnancy has been hard on you and you’re just not up for a party. But spending a single afternoon playing baby games, oohing and aahing over presents, and drinking tea is not the end-all and be-all of baby celebration. You’re not taking away anyone’s experience of celebrating a first grandchild. There are going to be plenty of opportunities to celebrate once the baby has arrived.

Dear Prudence,

I am a cis straight woman in my mid-30s, and I have started the process to legally change my first name. I haven’t felt comfortable with my given name since I was a child. I have discussed changing my name in the past, but my family hasn’t been thrilled. They have only ever known me by my birth name, which was given to me by my late mother, who was beloved. It’s taken me 10 years to get the courage to start, but only my close friends know I’ve filed the paperwork. They’re all supportive. But I’m afraid my family members will be hurt and maybe angry. They act like I’m a child playing pretend whenever this comes up. I know they won’t use my new name or even try to get used to it. I’ve made my peace with that. I’m also using my given name as my middle name, to show them that I’m still the daughter/sister/niece they’ve always known.

Filing the papers gave me a feeling of intense peace. But even if the name change is approved, which it probably will be, I’m still afraid to tell my family because I’m afraid of the embarrassment I’ll feel when they refuse to understand and the hurt feelings I know this will bring. I don’t see them often, and there’s not too many ways they could find out, aside from stumbling upon my utility bills or seeing me flash a credit card to pay for dinner, or a driver’s license at the bar. I don’t care what they call me; I love them and know they love me. Should I tell them upfront and face the music, or wait for them to find out for themselves?

—A Girl Has No Name

I do think it’s slightly optimistic to assume you could pull off a legal and social name change without the rest of your family ever finding out. Sure, you could try to hide your ID and credit card every time you got a meal together, but between mutual friends and social media, the odds are pretty good that they’ll eventually piece it together. And I imagine it would feel at least slightly uncomfortable once the name change goes through to spend time with your family members, all the while worrying if they’re about to find out and react defensively. The easiest way to maintain your peace of mind is just to let them know matter-of-factly that you’re moving ahead with this: “As you know, I’ve wanted to change my name for a long time, and I’ve finally filed paperwork. I’m going to be Newfirstname Oldfirstname Lastname. I’m really excited—it’s been a long time coming. But you’re always welcome to call me Oldfirstname.” If (when) they take it personally, you can say, “I hear that. I know change is hard. But it’s really important to me, and I’m keeping Oldfirstname as a middle name so I can stay connected with Mom.” Beyond that, you don’t have to argue with them or convince them that you were right to do it. What’s done is done, and you’re not asking anything of them. You can acknowledge that they may have their own private feelings about your decision but that you’re not available to argue with them about it and that you consider the conversation closed. And congratulations! I hope you love using the new name.

Classic Prudie

I am a 30-year-old woman who has been dating a lovely man for three months. He’s smart, funny, cute, and kind. I’ve felt so lucky to have found him. Here’s the problem: We recently became intimate for the first time, and he is, unfortunately, very poorly endowed—so small that I did some Google searching and think he might have a micropenis. I believe that sex is crucial to a relationship, and the thought of having a (potentially lifelong) relationship without an active sex life scares me. When you can’t feel anything during the act, that’s a problem. I know that there are other options in the bedroom, but I get pleasure by doing it the old-fashioned way. I feel awful about this—it’s obviously something that he can’t help, and it slays me that the universe would be so unjust to such a wonderful person. I’m conflicted. I see a potential future with him in every other way, but how do I deal with this? Do women who marry very poorly endowed men end up regretting it? If I let him go, what should I tell him that won’t absolutely crush him?