Dear Prudence

My Friends Are Freaked Out I’d Rather Be Alone Than Settle for Some Jerk

They say I’m too cold and too picky. I’d rather die alone!

A woman looks down and to her left, with a blurry photo of a man in the background.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,

My friends and family tell me, regularly enough that I suppose I should consider it, that I’m too cold and too picky. (They do dress it up, but the prevailing message is that.) Their concern seems to be that I’ll end up alone if I am not more accommodating, and my response that I’d rather be alone than unhappy seems to freak them out. The main problem is that I break up with partners if they don’t make me happy. I don’t expect to dance on the ceiling 24 hours a day, but if I can’t imagine living with something in the long run, then I’m out. One ex was bad in bed and didn’t want to get better; one refused to clean the bathroom, ever; and there was one who was cheap in restaurants. I know a lot of people could live with that, but the thought of 20 years with someone who’d throw a fit in a barbecue place because his fork was dirty so he could get a free side … and wouldn’t stop when you asked him to just let it go? I’d rather die alone! My friends say they had similar issues with their now-spouses and just “learned to live with it” and “make do.” I can see how being less stringent could change my life; they definitely have a point there. I just don’t know if it is really worth it. What do you think?

—Sacrifice More?

If you decide to date someone who doesn’t make you happy merely to keep your friends from seeming “freaked out,” then you will make no one happy. Sure, maybe your friends will feel a vague sense of relief that your loose ends are “all tied up” in their minds, but it won’t actually improve their lives one bit, and it’ll seriously negatively affect yours. That’s leaving aside the fact that dating someone for a long time or even getting married doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with whether you “die alone”—most people die alone in hospitals after visitors have left for the night. I’m being a little flippant there; I understand that the basic idea is establishing some sort of permanent social structure that you’ll be able to rely on well into your old age, but there are plenty of ways to do that without bringing romantic relationships into it. It doesn’t sound like you dumped these partners of yours at the first display of a bad habit.

You say the bad-in-bed ex refused to “get better” or pay attention to your needs during sex, which implies you had more than one conversation about how to have a satisfying sex life together and they ignored you; the one who threw fits in barbecue restaurants apparently wouldn’t cease his tantrums even when you asked him to. So I’m not seeing a pattern of magnifying small, barely noticeable flaws so much as walking away when you realized your partner wasn’t willing to meet you in the middle. That seems pretty significant to me! Your friends are free to make whatever choices, sacrifices, and compromises in their own romantic lives they believe will make them happy. Their complaint is not that you manufacture problems that don’t exist or that you don’t give other people a chance to change—their complaint is apparently that you’re single, which for some reason makes them uncomfortable. I wish them the best in releasing that discomfort. Don’t let them convince you that it’s your problem.

Help! I Caught My Boss Looking at Porn During a Work Trip.

Danny M. Lavery is joined by Molly Woodstock on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.

Dear Prudence,

I really like my gym—it is owned by some really cool people who are tremendously kind. It seems like they are both experienced owners, but this particular gym is new. I find some things they do really cringe-inducing, but I don’t know if it’s just me. If you go over a week without stopping by, they send an email asking you to visit soon. These messages are personalized. I get the intention, but when I have been out of town for work, really sick, or just super busy, I feel like the last thing I need is another email telling me I’m not doing enough. I imagine others feel the same way and the intensity might be scaring customers away. In general, they seem to take cancellations and things like that very personally when those things probably have more to do with gymgoers’ schedules. Should I speak up and mention that it’s too much? Or just quietly filter and ignore?

—Overbearing Gym

You do not have to be afraid of the emails your gym managers send you! They’re not your bosses or your in-laws, and you don’t have to coddle their egos. “These emails are too much—I don’t want you keeping tabs on my schedule. Please stop sending me messages about when I’ve last been to the gym.” If they push back or insist that this level of intensity or monitoring is what makes them stand out and helps their clients “get real results,” then that’s probably a sign you need to look for another gym and that their super cool, tremendous kindness is inextricably bound up with kind of intense client surveillance. You don’t have to worry about what other clients may or may not feel about these emails, or whether the emails are scaring away potential business; you don’t own the gym, and it’s not your job to worry about customer retention in general, just your customer experience in particular. You have a right to ask them to knock it off (politely!) on your own behalf, and if they don’t, to take that as a sign that while they may be otherwise lovely people, you don’t have compatible gym attitudes.

Dear Prudence,

Later this year, I will be traveling with a few co-workers (who are also close friends), and my mom is joining me for the trip. One of my friends is in a relationship with another woman, who will be traveling with us too. My mom can be homophobic sometimes, though it stems from ignorance and not malice. I have spoken about this friend and her partner to my mom on numerous occasions—she knows who they are and that they’re dating. My co-worker, however, has not spent much time around my mom, and I am worried that my mom will say something rude or offensive around this friend and her partner. I have already spoken with my mom about this (during the conversation she tried to suggest that they are “just friends” and not actually romantically involved—I corrected her and told her they are definitely a couple and their relationship should be respected as such) and will continue to have these conversations with her as we approach the trip. My question is, should I tell my friend? I am torn, because I want my friend to know that if my mom says or does anything, my friend can come to me and I will address it with my mom (it’s not her job to educate my ignorant mother), but I don’t want to put my friend and her partner on the defensive from the minute we leave.

—Should I Warn Her?

Please tell your friend in advance. It would be thoughtless and terribly unkind to throw her and her girlfriend in a small car with a homophobe with a history of intentional rudeness. Your mother, by the way, is perfectly malicious; you’re trying to soften her cruelty by pretending she’s just very confused, or homophobic by accident. She is homophobic on purpose, and she knows exactly what she’s doing when she pretends a lesbian couple are “just friends.” I worry that you will not be the helpful ally you believe yourself to be if you try to downplay your mother’s homophobia to your friend in real time. (“I’m so sorry she said that! She didn’t mean to say it. She just said it on purpose with her mouth, but that’s not who she really is. Who she really is is trapped in a wonderful gleaming pearl buried at the bottom of the sea. Shame you won’t get to meet that pearl on this trip.”)

Telling someone, “Hey, my mom is almost definitely going to say offensive shit to you on this vacation and my strategy for dealing with that is to just wait for it to happen, then ask you to tell me so I can halfheartedly and ineffectively deal with it,” is not a good strategy. Especially when that person is a colleague whom you’ll have to maintain a good working relationship with in the future! Saying you’ll “keep having conversations” with your mom before the trip makes it clear you’ve already conceded significant ground. Tell your mother that it is a condition of the trip that she not be homophobic; if she can’t agree to that, or if you don’t believe her agreement is sincere, then she can’t come. If you’re not able to manage that, then the very least you can do is warn your co-worker in advance so she can decide whether she wants to travel with this woman for hours or even days on end.

Dear Prudence Uncensored

“Yeah, you shouldn’t have invited your homophobic mom on this trip.”

Danny Lavery and Nicole Cliffe discuss this letter in a special Saturday edition of Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From How to Do It

“I’m marrying a wonderful man. We’re super excited and love each other, and everything is so happy and great. But we don’t really have sex very often, I’m not sure if I should be worried or not … or if I care. We have sex about once a month or less. I’m not really bothered by this, but it feels like I should be? How can we get out of our rut, or are we even in one? Am I overthinking this?

Danny M. Lavery’s new book, Something That May Shock and Discredit You, is out now.