Dear Prudence

I Hate My Boyfriend’s Ridiculous Facial Hair

He keeps shaving his beard to look like Gen. Burnside or Elvis.

A portrait of Ambrose Everett Burnside.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Bettmann via Getty Images.

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Dear Prudence,

My long-term boyfriend has developed a habit that’s driving me nuts. Whenever he gets tired of his beard, he shaves it into a retro, ridiculous mustache or sideburns. The first few times he did it, I thought it was funny—until I realized I would be living with “the Tom Selleck” or “the Elvis” for more than a few hours. Now I just cringe every time he picks up his razor. He works in a creative field where he can get away with it (and I don’t), so maybe that’s part of it, but in my opinion your mid-30s is too old for ironic facial hair, especially at formal events like weddings. He knows I hate it but continues to do it regularly. Does he need to grow up, or do I need to let it go? I don’t care if he has a beard, a mustache, or goes clean-shaven. I just don’t want to sit across from Gen. Burnside at dinner!

—Mustache Madness

There’s always a balance to be struck between making a reasonable request (like “Please don’t wear a handlebar mustache to Florin’s wedding”) and acknowledging your boyfriend’s right to style his facial hair as he likes it. You say he knows you hate it, but I’m not sure you two have sat down for a conscientious discussion, or if you just said, “Oh God, not the Yosemite Sam” when he last pulled out his clippers. If you haven’t yet done the former, tell him you recognize that it’s his choice and that he may get something out of that look beyond just ironic pleasure at an old-timey set of mutton chops. You might ask him to share what exactly he likes about that look, so you have a better sense of where he’s coming from. But if it’s something he only does out of boredom and whimsy, and he’s not especially attached to the looks, tell him that you vastly prefer him either bearded or clean-shaven. Once you’ve said your piece, it’s time to let it go. After that, there’s not much more you can do to make your case about his face.

Help! Why Do I Keep Striking Out When I Try to Date Women?

Danny M. Lavery is joined by Jordan Blok and Grace Lavery on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.

Dear Prudence,

My brother-in-law “Elie” leeches off his parents. They paid for college, a failed business, and then graduate school. They continue to pay for his housing, even now that he is a 31-year-old professional with a six-figure salary. They’re nearing retirement age and don’t have any substantial savings. I think the way he takes advantage of them is terrible, especially because he could easily support himself. He’s also made it clear that he won’t be taking care of his parents (financially or otherwise) when they’re older, and that will fall on my wife and me. Of course, I realize none of this is my business, so I have never said anything to Elie or my wife.

For Christmas this year, Elie gave me a fancy pair of shoes. He always gives everyone generous gifts. In fact, his gifts are so generous that I often give Elie nicer presents than I normally would. But this time he accidentally included the receipt, which showed that he paid for it with his parents’ credit card. I now assume that all gifts I’ve received from Elie over the years have been paid for by his parents. This taints the gifts: I feel guilty I’ve contributed to his parents’ financial predicament (however slightly), and I resent what now feels like fake generosity. What can I do or say? I don’t really want to wear the shoes because they remind me of the resentment and even more so the guilt, and I don’t look forward to exchanging “generous” gifts with him next year. At the same time, I don’t want to stick my nose where it doesn’t belong.

—He’s a Leech

While I agree you can’t (and shouldn’t) try to fix the relationship between Elie and his parents or persuade them to cut the purse strings, I don’t think it’s exactly none of your business. Your brother-in-law is an entitled asshole, and you have a right to decide whether you want to spend Christmas with him, or exchange gifts, or get together with him for dinner every couple of months. You’re allowed to make an assessment of his character and decide whether you care to know him! And there is plenty of room to maneuver between kicking him to the curb permanently and buying him mink cufflinks next year. You could donate the shoes to a consignment store and get him something inexpensive next year. But the most important thing you could do right now is have a serious conversation with your wife first, then her parents, about their plans for retirement, what if anything you two are prepared to offer them financially or logistically in the event that they become unable to care for themselves, and start coming up with end-of-life plans so you don’t find yourself taken unawares. That’s going to help a lot more in the long run than returning the shoes and trying to slip the cash back into your in-laws’ wallets.

Dear Prudence,

My roommate is a liar. I like her personally and trust her with the rent or looking after a pet, but she habitually tells obvious lies about trivial things. She’ll claim that dirty dishes left in the sink aren’t hers when there’s only two of us and I didn’t cook anything that day, or she’ll eat my yogurt and say it wasn’t her, or crack a glass and claim “it was always like that.”

While mildly annoying, dirty dishes and the occasional missing yogurt don’t bother me, but being lied to really does. I am just baffled by these lies. They are so obvious but so persistent that I don’t know how to respond to them. It’s like I’m living in that Shaggy song, “It Wasn’t Me.” How can I talk to my roommate about her trivial lies when it clearly doesn’t faze her that she and I both know that she’s lying? Or should I just be letting these little things go?

—It’s So Obvious

I do think you have the option to cheerfully ignore these lies and mentally reassign her from “good roommate, potentially a friend” to “adequate roommate, not someone I need to worry about trusting.” If all you want from this situation is to live together amicably and you don’t mind occasionally picking up an extra yogurt, you can absolutely let it go. That’s probably what I’d do in your situation. That doesn’t mean you have to pretend to believe her. You can say things like, “Give me a hand with the dishes? I’ll dry if you scrub them” without bothering yourself with just how many forks each of you used that week, or “We need some new glasses since these are cracked. What do you think we should aim to spend?” That will go a long way toward making the occasional swiped yogurt feel like less of a big deal, since you’ll still be able to make sure you two are pulling a shared weight when it comes to household chores and everyday expenses.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From How to Do It

I am a woman who didn’t lose my virginity until I was 30, to my first boyfriend whom I ended up living with for almost five years. We broke up last fall, and I haven’t even considered sleeping with someone else because I don’t feel physically or emotionally ready to start a relationship, which is the only way I would be interested. But I do miss the regular sex and have been masturbating much more regularly, which was something I had never done before I met my ex. My problem is the only way for me to really enjoy it is to imagine that I’m with him. Even when I watch porn, I tend to go for videos where the man resembles my ex: tall, dark hair, dark eyes. I find myself muttering his name just the way I used to when I was with him.

I am 100 percent over the loss of our relationship, which was great at times but a bad fit in a lot of different ways. I think my issue is that I don’t have much of an imagination, and on top of that I am incredibly shy, so the thought of intimacy with someone other than him is more a source of terror than pleasure. I know that eventually I will feel comfortable enough to start seeing new people and find someone with whom I can build that same level of trust, but for now I just feel like a loser who fantasizes about the guy who dumped her. Is it common to fantasize about an ex instead of the much hotter guy in the porn? It’s not like he was some dynamo in bed, but sex with him was comfortable and pleasurable and the only thing I have to compare to. I’ve had brushes of intimacy with other men and I’ve tried to focus on those memories instead, but in the end, it’s always my ex’s name that I’m calling. Any advice on how to learn to enjoy myself without fantasizing about him? Or is this not as pathetic as I’ve made it in my head?