Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
Our neighbor owns a large pack of dogs and hasn’t picked up after them in more than a year. My spouse and I are at odds over whether to report him to the city. We asked him politely about a month ago to remove the waste, and he was noncommittal. When two weeks went by and nothing happened, my spouse asked again politely, and the guy blew up at him (it should be noted that each time, my spouse offered to assist in removing the waste). He then removed a few bags of waste, but since the mountain of waste was so big, this has done nothing to fix the problem. Meanwhile, the flies are atrocious and I cannot play with my toddler in the backyard because the smell makes me gag. My spouse says the guy is talking about moving and we should wait it out, but I am going nuts. Is it worth calling the city, even if we start a feud with this guy? And how do I convince my spouse?
— Odorous Neighbor
Dear Odorous Neighbor,
I almost gagged just from reading your question. Of course, call the city! You’ve tried everything else, and this sounds like it could be an actual health hazard. You don’t have to convince your spouse (who I’m guessing is home looking for non-disgusting places to play with your toddler less than you are). You can just tell him you’re going to do it. Or that you already did it. How upset can he really be about your taking steps to be able to go into your yard without gagging, after exhausting all other options?
I’ve recently decided to get out into the world and start dating. I signed up for a dating app and made a profile, but ran into a bit of a hurdle when it came to my photo. I find it very difficult to take a photo of myself, and I feel very uncomfortable with seeing myself in a picture. I’m not self-conscious about my looks, there’s just something that bothers me knowing when pictures of me are taken. I can’t complete a dating profile without a picture, and I don’t want to just grab some random picture off the internet. How can I get over my discomfort with photos and make something presentable for my profile?
— Fear of Photos
Dear Fear of Photos,
Hand your phone to a good friend and let them populate your dating app profile with pictures from Instagram, Facebook, and your other friends’ phones. You definitely don’t need a special photoshoot — random pictures from the internet are totally fine, maybe even better because they’ll show you living your life — and you don’t have to be the one to do the choosing. Putting your fears aside, people who care about you will be better than you at selecting photos that make you look good—and most important for dating app integrity, look like yourself.
My 15-year-old daughter has been playing piano since age 4. She is extremely talented but never practices. She says piano playing does not bring her joy. Should I let her quit? I fear she will regret the decision later in life. Right now, she just wants to hang out with her friends.
— Piano Please
Dear Piano Please,
I’m going to disclose my bias here. As a child I did ballet, tennis, horseback riding, track, soccer, volleyball, and basketball, but none for more than about four months or however long a season lasts, because I wanted to quit everything I did and was allowed to. (All sports seem like much more fun before you’re out there sweating every afternoon.) With basketball I only lasted one practice because I got hit in the face with the ball while turning the wrong way during a drill and decided it wasn’t for me. In retrospect, I really wish I would have been forced to stick with something and actually get good at it. So, my first thought was that you should strongly encourage her to stick with piano because she might look back and wish she’d continued lessons.
But … she’s 15. She’s been doing it for 11 years. And my understanding (based on checking in with a former piano player) is that if she’s not practicing, her lessons will probably have stalled out, meaning that, effectively, she already has quit. Your daughter has had plenty of time to appreciate the instrument and develop a passion for it, and if she hasn’t done that, I think she’s really unlikely to grow up and regret stepping back. And if she does, she has a great foundation and can always pick it up again.
Her not having an interest in anything outside of hanging with friends does seem a bit troubling to me. Friends are great, but most teens have something other than school and friends that brings them joy or feels meaningful, whether it’s student government or drama or dance or a job or volunteering. It would be worth checking in with her to see if anything brings her joy these days, and if she’s doing OK overall. If you’re confident that she’s not depressed, move on to a talk about what she’s like to do after high school. If it’s college, now is the time to think about her applications and what it will take to get into the schools she has in mind. That will almost certainly involve extracurricular activities. Encourage her to choose something to occupy her time (and put on her resume) if not because she absolutely loves it, then because it serves her long-term goals.
As she gets older, your role is changing from making her do things to helping her make her own decisions, and this will be a good step in that direction.
More Advice From Pay Dirt
I know that I should tip 20 percent at a standard table-service restaurant. And I should tip something—maybe a bit less? 10 percent? 15 percent?—for takeout. As we’re emerging from the pandemic, I went, for the first time, to a table-service restaurant where I ordered via my smartphone from the table. I didn’t have to flag anyone down, or feel forgotten—but what to do about the tip? A standard 20 percent seems like it’s a bit much, considering how much less the server actually did in this case. What’s the etiquette here?