Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Toenails and the Coffee

Every week, Danny M. Lavery and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: the toenails and the coffee.

Daniel Lavery: “This is what happens when human dignity becomes scarce”

Nicole Cliffe: OH MY GOD


I have so many questions!!’

How did he respond when he FOUND THE CLIPPINGS

why did you do THIS and not ANYTHING ELSE

why will he not act like a human being

Hell is full and the devils are walking the earth

Daniel Lavery: I mean

this letter haunts me

there’s such a limit to what I can advise someone when you can’t count on “If I tell my partner this one small habit of theirs is disgusting and soul-crushing, they’ll put in a good-faith effort to change”

who is this person, who for five years has been regularly hearing, “Please, I’m begging you, just sweep your toenail clippings into the bathroom trash” from the woman they married and vowed to cherish above all overs in front of a room full of witness, and just…does nothing

Nicole Cliffe: I have NOTHING


other than to say you cannot pursue this man into a whirlpool of depravity

he is not normal and I don’t know how to make him throw out his vile clippings

Daniel Lavery: I feel like the end of Death of A Salesman about this


Nicole Cliffe: but you are still salvageable



Nicole Cliffe: YOU ARE A HUMAN


Nicole Cliffe: Is…is the rest of your marriage SOMEWHAT NORMAL

is this a fetish?

I cannot believe this person can be an attentive, self-aware partner in the rest of his life

Daniel Lavery: It’s just so

Nicole Cliffe: HE TASKS ME, DANNY

Daniel Lavery: it would take THREE SECONDS of effort from him

the little lamb the poor man loved….the rich man slew to feed his guests….

Nicole Cliffe: and now you have turned to madness in response

he has so broken the social compact that you find yourself in quicksand

Daniel Lavery: yeah I absolve you of feeling bad about putting the clippings in his coffee

I mean, I don’t recommend that as a future tactic

because I do not think it will serve to make your life with him more pleasant

Nicole Cliffe: Once you were a young woman, who never thought she would place toenail clippings in her husband’s coffee

Daniel Lavery: and I imagine you are sheltering-in-place, or something like it, with him at present

right?? tripping lightly down the aisle, never thinking…

“someday I’ll want to make him drink his toenails because he doesn’t listen to me”

Nicole Cliffe: obviously I feel, like, “get a telemedicine therapist and tell them exactly what you have told me” but I am UNDONE by this question


Daniel Lavery: I think this is just garden-variety (but maximal) grossness/carelessness/disrespect

I don’t think it’s a diagnosable issue necessarily

Nicole Cliffe: it has to end before you drug his coffee and put him in a wood chipper and the police find you luxuriating in your clipping-free home, soaked in his blood

tell him you will LEAVE HIM

Daniel Lavery: my best advice was to go to him and ask for his help

Nicole Cliffe: it is a MERCY

Daniel Lavery: like, “I admit defeat. You have broken me. Why are you doing this, and what can I give you to get you to stop?”

Nicole Cliffe: sure!


I have nothing better than that

Daniel Lavery: I know there are plenty of gross behaviors that everyone has

I don’t want to try to pretend to be above grossness

Nicole Cliffe: WE ARE ALL VILE

Daniel Lavery: and I know living with other people means, you know, putting up with inconvenience

Nicole Cliffe: but in SECRET

Daniel Lavery: but there HAS to be a line!!!


Daniel Lavery: and “five years of being begged to throw away your nail clippings”

is a real line

Nicole Cliffe: it’s less work to throw them out then to step on them blithely as you go about your day

Daniel Lavery: yeah I mean — telling him that you feel disrespected and grossed out and that you’ve been reduced to looking for ways to get back at him, which is (I imagine) is not what either of you want for your marriage and asking for him to give you SOMETHING in terms of coming up with a solution is my best offer

Nicole Cliffe: and then PLEASE write back

Daniel Lavery: love can die by a thousand small nail-clipping cuts just as easily as the stroke of a sword!!

Nicole Cliffe: I need to know

Steve used to floss next to me in bed and I was like, “please do not send shards of decay onto our bed,” and he forgot twice and I sweetly reminded him and he stopped

like a PERSON