Our advice columnists have heard it all over the years. Each Sunday, we will be diving into the Dear Prudie archives and sharing a selection of classic letters with our readers.
We live out in the country and have always had a problem with people abandoning their dogs and them turning feral. We raise goats and chickens and have lost livestock to them. The problem has gotten worse as city folk move in and proceed to do nothing but bitch about country life (no, we can’t make our rooster crow at a later time—he doesn’t have a snooze button). Our new neighbor down the road lets his kids and dogs roam over everything without a care, even letting his 8-year-old daughter into the pasture where we had a horse who likes to kick.
The confrontation after we returned the little girl without a concussion has left our neighborly relations frosty. Last week, my husband shot and killed two dogs that got into our chicken coop. Yesterday I saw the missing pet posters on a tree by the turn off. It matched. My husband doesn’t think anything good could come from telling the owner, considering how little care he gives to his kids and animals. He thinks we should lie and say we haven’t have seen the dogs—only coyotes. Animal control is a joke, and going to the sheriff is bound to kick this up to a feud—I don’t know what to do.
I want to be mindful of the fact that country life is different from my own and that you have a right to protect your livestock. But it doesn’t sound like the two dogs your husband shot were the same feral animals who have killed your chickens in the past, and I wonder if you or your husband had ever warned your neighbor that if his dogs wound up on your property again, you’d treat them as predators, not pets. You say the dogs were in your chicken coop, but not that they were attacking or eating any of them. I wonder if your husband saw an opportunity to get rid of animals he considered a nuisance. (I also don’t think that because your neighbor lets his 8-year-old child play outside unsupervised, he doesn’t care about her. He’s perhaps slower to adjust to the realities of country life than he ought to be, but his crimes seem mostly to have been of ignorance, not a lack of affection.)
Here is my official ruling: I think you are already in a feud. I think your husband could have pursued other options before shooting the dogs. He is right that nothing good can come from telling the owner, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. I think your husband allowed his earlier frustrations with newly arrived neighbors from the city to influence his decision to shoot first and ask questions later. You two should own up to what you did and face whatever consequences come as a result. If your livestock was truly being threatened, tell him that you caught his dogs in your chicken coop and had to defend your animals. Your neighbor has a right to know what happened to his pets, and if nothing else, it will give him a clear idea of how closely to monitor any future dogs he brings into his home. —Danny M. Lavery
From: Help! My Husband Shot the Neighbor’s Dogs. (April 11, 2016)
My 14-year-old son recently came across some Polaroid pictures of me that his father took of me back when we were 14—we have been together for a long time and got married when I was pregnant with my son. The pictures were in an old shoebox filled with baseball cards and other adolescent memories. The problem is that the pictures are nude shots! You can’t really tell that the pictures are of me, as my appearance has changed pretty dramatically since I was 14—hair color change, weight difference, boobs, etc. My son came to me really worried with the concern that his father was potentially hoarding teenage porn. I didn’t directly tell him that the pictures were of me, but assured him that his father didn’t look at or keep teenage porn and that I would speak to him about it. But should I be more direct? Which is worse, thinking your father has kiddie porn or knowing that you just saw a 14-year-old version of your mother naked?
Oh, the good old memorabilia box—it’s launched a million reassessments of one’s parents as sexual beings. You are between a rock and a hard place here. Your choices are to have your son think his father is a criminal pervert, or realize just how hot Mom was when she was 14 years old just like him! Arghhhh. (I will put aside the fact that today if two 14-year-olds—and my, you two were precocious—took dirty pictures of each other, they both could end up on a lifetime sex offender’s list.) Since your son is worried about child pornography, I think you have to tell him the truth. Get a photo of yourself, clothed, at age 14. Put it next to the dirty picture, and put a Post-it note over your nude body, just keeping your head exposed. Then show both to your son and explain he has discovered some ancient history about his mom and dad, and there’s nothing for him to worry about. Make sure all the naughty photos are put somewhere safe and inaccessible—and I don’t mean the underwear drawer. —Emily Yoffe
From: Help! My Son Found Nude Photos of Me as a Teenager. (April 28, 2015)
I had a professor last semester who I am really, literally in love with. She’s married with a kid and I think straight, so it’s not something I would ever even attempt to act on. I’m fairly sure she knows I have a crush on her—it’s not subtle—and my guess would be that she finds it flattering. She just offered to be my adviser, and I was obviously ecstatic and said yes. The problem is, I have a couple of tattoos related to her. One is a small word in her handwriting, which is really cute, distinctive handwriting, that I got sort of in the spirit of unrequited love, and because it was a positive affirmation she’d written on some of my work, and having her say something like that about something I wrote just meant a crazy amount to me. The other is a line from some of her published writing; I’d sent an artist friend of mine a list of poems and articles and essays and other things that meant a lot to me, including some of this professor’s work, and asked her to turn it into a tattoo, which she did. My question is: Do I need to make sure to keep them covered whenever I know I’m going to be seeing her? (They’re on my foot and ankle, so not super difficult to hide.) Will she be creeped out and hate me if she sees them?
Oh, honey. I wish I could hug you out of your recent decisions. I have a lot of sympathy for your feelings, but there’s nothing we can do about those now; let’s go ahead and tidy up your actions. I’m glad, at least, that you are aware that your married professor does not return your feelings and that it would be unwise to offer romantic overtures she would have to politely reject. If she is a responsible person, she would not have offered to be your adviser if she knew the extent of your infatuation. I want to tell you to find another adviser, but I’m worried that’s advice you simply won’t take. I think you should find someone else to advise you immediately—yesterday of immediately—but at the very least, yes, cover up your tattoos when you are around her. Do not put her in the supremely awkward position of realizing she’s sitting with a student who has had her compliments permanently etched into her skin. That would move your crush from “flattering” to “impossible.”
I wish you a speedy recovery from your feelings. —DL
From: Help! I’m So in Love With My Professor I Got Tattoos in Her Honor. (Feb. 22, 2016)
My partner and I, who are in a gay relationship, are close friends with a lesbian couple. “Mary” and “Jean” desperately want a baby, and after some discussion my partner decided to donate his sperm. We have no interest in being parents but are happy to be uncles. Unfortunately Mary experienced a significant illness and Jane got laid off from work, and now they are worried they can’t afford in vitro fertilization. Mary is infertile, and Jane is already 38, so waiting until their financial situation improves might not be an option. Mary and Jane have now asked whether Jane can conceive a baby with my partner the old-fashioned way. My partner and Jane used to date in their 20s so it won’t be anything new. I totally trust my partner, but this is just too much for me. Am I being too old-fashioned? Should I let this happen so my two wonderful friends can become parents without spending tens of thousands of dollars?
I don’t think you’re being too old-fashioned! This is not an especially old-fashioned problem. Their problem is a sad one, certainly, but you shouldn’t let guilt over your friends’ situation affect the decision you and your partner make. There’s no guarantee that your partner will be able to impregnate Jane on the first try; how many times would you be willing to let the two of them sleep together? Five tries? Ten? As many as it takes? It’s wonderful that you trust your partner and want to help your friends have children—and in this case, I think, perfectly appropriate—but that doesn’t mean you have to feel great about the two of them sleeping together. You two should have a serious conversation as a couple about the pros and cons and figure out whether this is something you are comfortable doing before discussing your decision with Mary and Jean. —DL
From: Help! A Lesbian Friend Wants My Partner to Impregnate Her the Old-Fashioned Way. (Dec. 21, 2015)
I’ve been overweight most of my life. During my childhood and teen years I was always just 20 to 30 pounds overweight but when I got into college my weight spiraled out of control. I graduated from college morbidly obese, weighing over 300 pounds. I continued to gain and, at my heaviest, was 420 pounds. I finally hit rock bottom when I realized I had nothing in my life but food. I started to eat right and exercise. I got results and was encouraged by family and friends to get bariatric surgery. The surgery was a tremendous help and I now weigh well within normal limits. My problem is that all my life I have told myself that once I lost weight things would get better for me. Not just better, but amazing. I’d meet a great guy, I’d get a great job, I’d go on amazing adventures instead of sitting around the house. None of that happened. Not even close. I still have nobody special in my life. I have the same dead-end job I did when I was heavy. I don’t go skydiving or surfing or all the great things I thought I’d do once I wasn’t heavy any more. I’m kind of waiting around for my new life to begin and can’t figure out how to jump start my dreams into reality. Can you help?
Kate Harding wrote once about what you’re experiencing: “The Fantasy of Being Thin is not just about becoming small enough to be perceived as more acceptable. It is about becoming an entirely different person—one with far more courage, confidence, and luck than the fat you has. It’s not just, “When I’m thin, I’ll look good in a bathing suit”; it’s “When I’m thin, I will be the kind of person who struts down the beach in a bikini, making men weep.” See also: When I’m thin, I’ll have no trouble finding a partner/reinvigorating my marriage. When I’m thin, I’ll have the job I’ve always wanted. … You can be anything or anyone you want to be, in theory. The question is, who do you really want to be, and what are you going to do about it? (Okay, two questions.) The Fantasy of Being Thin is a really convenient excuse for not asking yourself those questions sincerely—and that’s exactly why it’s dangerous.”
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t feel happy about your weight loss, or your new relationship to food and exercise, merely that your size is not a guaranteed road to personal satisfaction. What Harding described, and what you’re coming to realize, is that your weight is not necessarily the cause of, nor the solution to, problems related to your job, your love life, or the number of adventures you undertake. People of all sizes have great jobs; people of all sizes have miserable jobs; people of all sizes are in happy, healthy relationships; people of all sizes are single; people of all sizes are in unsatisfying, unfulfilling relationships—you get the picture. Perhaps you neither surf nor skydive because you’re afraid to, or because they simply don’t interest you. I can’t answer that question for you; it’s up to you to figure out what it is that you really want and how to get it. That may involve journaling, therapy, career counseling, talking with friends, all or none of the above. The real loss, I think, is that you spent so much of your life thinking you did not deserve a great job, or to pursue your interests, or to invest in your own happiness because of your size. There is no “new life”—there’s only your life, and it’s just as much yours, and it’s just as important, at a size 6 as at a size 16, or 26, or any other. —DL
From: Help! I’m No Longer 420 Pounds but Didn’t Become the Person I Wanted to Be. (Sept. 6, 2016)
More Dear Prudence
Nearly two months ago, I met a guy on Tinder, expecting nothing more than a casual hookup. However, we ended up clicking really well and have gone on a lot of real dates since then. I think I’m falling in love with him (and vice versa), and we are exclusive. There’s just one little problem: I never told him I have a kid. I’m a single mom, no dad in the picture, and my child is 3. I didn’t think to mention it initially, not expecting to enter a relationship, and since then I’ve just never found the right moment. I totally know this is wrong and my fault, but at this point I’m not sure how to break the news. We can’t keep on seeing each other only at his apartment or when my kid is at Grandma’s, and I really want my child to meet him. How do I get out of this mess?
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