Dear Prudence

My Date’s Job Is to Make Spam Calls All Day

She says it’s just a job. I think it’s predatory.

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Dear Prudence,

Recently I’ve been on four dates with an engaging, beautiful, kind, and compassionate woman I met online. She told me she worked at a call center in “customer service,” but as she described her job, I realized she makes spam calls all day, every day, even to people who’ve tried to opt out of her call list. She seems to view it as “just a job,” whereas I think she is actively causing frustration, annoyance, and ill-feeling in the world. We make roughly the same amount of money and come from similar financial backgrounds, so I’m not being a job snob. Am I unreasonable for viewing this career choice as a bad one? Is realizing your date is a spammer a good-enough reason to call off a blooming relationship that’s great in all other ways?

—Turned Off by Great Date

After only four dates, even with the most gorgeous and engaging woman imaginable, pretty much anything is a good-enough reason to decline to schedule a fifth, if you’re really turned off by it. It’s not the worst job imaginable (she’s not a pharmaceutical CEO hiking up the price of insulin), and plenty of otherwise lovely people take on bad or indifferent jobs out of financial necessity, but you’re not being asked to offer a permanent judgment on her character. You’re just trying to figure out if you think you two are compatible enough for a fifth date, and it sounds like you’re pretty sure that the answer is “no.” Taking someone’s profession into account when deciding whether you want to date them seriously is perfectly legitimate, and people do it all the time. Maybe she’ll find a great new job in a year or two, and you’ll feel a pang of regret, or maybe you won’t. But if you don’t want to spend any more time either fighting over her day job (or biting your tongue to avoid fighting over her day job), just appreciate the four mostly good dates you had with a lovely woman, and look for your next date elsewhere.

Help! My Girlfriend Is Late to Everything.

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

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Dear Prudence,

Like a lot of kids, I had imaginary friends, mostly versions of preexisting fictional characters I read about. As I grew up, I noticed that other kids stopped mentioning and “playing” with them. I never really did. Back then, I would talk to these characters to pass the time, often pretending that they were at school with me or that they came with me on trips to the store. I still do. It’s kind of like having a lot of roommates—they all just kind of hang out. I don’t talk to them out loud unless I’m alone. No one knows that I do this, and I hide the habit well. I’ve always been fully aware that they are not really there; these aren’t hallucinations.

I’m 18 years old now. The tales I construct around them grow more complex as I get older. I have the life I live as a normal member of society and a totally different storyline going on in my head with the characters I talk to. Is this normal? Am I OK? I don’t have a problem with the fact that I do this. It actually makes me very happy, and it helps me to be less lonely, especially now. I have real friends, too, and a therapist, although I haven’t mentioned this habit to her because I’m afraid she’ll think it’s silly. I’m just not sure how much of an issue this might be or if I should be worried about it.

—Still Talking to Imaginary Friends

Let’s treat “normal” as a shorthand for “falling somewhere within the diverse spectrum of human experience” rather than “exactly like everyone else.” While I can’t guarantee most people have similar internal dialogues with fictional characters, you’re hardly alone, and I don’t think you have to worry on this front. Many of us rehearse arguments, hold imaginary conversations with interlocutors both real and imagined, and conduct elaborate interpersonal fantasies when we’re by ourselves. If you’d noticed that your flights of fantasy were holding you back from making connections with other people in real life, or impeding your ability to function throughout the day, I’d encourage you to share it with your therapist, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening here. I do think you should discuss your relationship to fantasy with her at some point—not as a problem that requires management, but because therapy is more effective (and less draining) when you stop trying to impress your therapist with how “normal” or put-together you are. She’s an experienced professional who’s trained to reserve judgment and create an open, trusting environment where her patients can speak freely.

Dear Prudence,

I’m an active woman in my late 60s. I’ve always had a strong sex drive and have enjoyed some terrific physical relationships over the years. Although I’ve only ever had sex with men, I’ve always admired and been attracted to women. My husband died about five years ago, and since then I’ve had a couple of lovely relationships with men, but they haven’t worked out. I now find myself wondering more and more about having a woman as a lover. But I don’t want to lead anyone on or exploit someone just to satisfy my own curiosity. I’ve been thinking that it might be a good choice to hire a sex worker to explore this part of my sexuality. Unfortunately, paid sex is not legal where I live, and I’m not even sure how I’d go about finding such a person in a way that’s safe and respectful for both of us. I also have a wide range of dear female friends, but none of them seem open to exploring this with me. Any thoughts?

—Curious but Nervous

Saying “I think you’re attractive, and I’d like to have sex, if you’re interested” is not inherently predatory, inappropriate, or misleading. If you walked into the nearest coffee shop and propositioned a barista in the middle of a busy shift, that would be inappropriate. If you told a woman you were interested in a serious relationship in the hopes that she’d be more willing to have sex than if you said you wanted a fling, that would be misleading. But it’s not intrinsically exploitative to hit on women. Sleeping with any new person—regardless if you’ve slept with people with similar bodies in the past—always requires learning their likes, their dislikes, their favorite positions, their boundaries, and their hard limits. It’s likely that you’ll experience first-time butterflies, and you’ll probably want to be upfront with any future partners about the fact that this is new for you, but that’s for your own comfort and peace of mind, not because you’re under any obligation to detail your sexual past.

If none of your friends are interested, and you can’t safely hire a professional, the next option is to sign up for dating or casual encounter sites and apps, or go to a gay bar, if your city has any and if it’s safe to do so. Look for women you’re attracted to, and then ask if you can buy them a drink, or if they’re interested in meeting to see if you have in-person chemistry. Be straightforward about what you’re looking for: If you’d like to go on a date, say so, but if you’d rather just have sex and part ways on friendly terms, say that instead. Mostly, though, I hope you can treat yourself with more kindness and less suspicion. Pursuing casual sex is a good thing in its own right and something you can do honestly, respectfully, and proudly. Allowing yourself to name your desires after years of quietly admiring women in private is a good thing too. You’re not looking to instrumentalize others in the name of idle, dehumanizing curiosity any more than you instrumentalized the men you’ve dated in the last few years. Go forth, and good luck.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From Care and Feeding

My husband and I have a 3½-year-old who is the only grandchild on his side of the family. My in-laws are very loving with her and want to see her constantly. Recently, after our daughter spent the night with her grandparents, she came home talking about taking a bath with Grandma. I asked a few questions to clarify, and it turns out that, yes, she and Grandma took a bath together. I am all about body positivity, and we use the anatomical names for body parts, but for some reason, this makes me feel icky. We used to take our daughter into the tub or shower with us when she was an infant, but we haven’t done that since she was about a year old. While we don’t hide our bodies from her, we don’t parade around naked in front of her either. We’re trying to get the point across now that some body parts are “private.”

When I brought this up with my husband, he thought it was a good thing because our daughter gets to see different types of bodies (his mom had a mastectomy a few years ago). Logically, I understand his point, but part of me still feels weird about it, and part of me is a little more than bothered that my in-laws never asked if this was OK.

As a side note, my in-laws have made well-meaning but somewhat damaging comments in the past around our daughter about women’s bodies (being “pretty,” staying thin), so I’m not always thrilled with having them be the messengers for her when it comes to talking about bodies.

My husband agreed to talk to his mom, but he hasn’t yet. I can tell he thinks I’m making a bigger deal about this than I need to. Is this weird, or do I need to relax a bit?