Dear Prudence

Help! My Neighbor Is Running a Porn Studio Out of His House.

And my family gets a free preview through the window each day.

A mother covers the eyes of her children in front of an illustrated window.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jupiterimages/Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence,

​​My husband, small children, and I live next door to a small apartment building in which all units have large picture windows facing our home. Since the beginning last month, one particular neighbor on floor two has been repeatedly making “adult films” with the lights on and the blinds open, on average three times a week, as early as 7:45 p.m. I believe it is known that we can see inside his unit. The first couple of times I tried to ignore it, but it’s become incredibly and increasingly blasé.

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I don’t have a relationship with this neighbor, and we’ve never crossed paths in the neighborhood. I am not aware of his unit number. How can I get the message across that while we recognize he is welcome to do whatever he would like in his own home, this mother of two would so appreciate it if it could happen with the blinds drawn?

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— Porned Out

Dear Porned Out,

This is unfortunate, but I think the simplest and best plan here is to draw your own blinds in the evenings.

Dear Prudence,

I moved in with my big sister’s family after my lease expired in November because my job is transferring me out-of-state in the spring. I’m incredibly grateful for their hospitality. However, as a queer woman in my 20s, I am really struggling to relate to my brother-in-law, “Roger.” He is a good husband/father and a nice enough guy, but I’ve never known anyone so deeply stuck in the rut society has dug for cis-het white men. I don’t think Roger even has any friendships that exist outside specific (and conventionally masculine) activities, like his golf friends or fantasy football league. I know this sounds like a low-key problem, but he’s just a very different experience for me. I feel like my emotions overload around him. Honestly, I’m a little sad for Roger because his existence seems so confined by patriarchal expectations.
I wish I could help him expand himself, but he seems really uninterested in self-growth journeys. It’s also upsetting for me to be around him at times. For instance, working from home he wears a navy blue, long-sleeve t-shirt every day. I asked him why, and he said he can put a sweater on over them and look professional enough for Zoom meetings. I know I could not get away with that little care for my appearance in a professional setting, but he can’t see why coasting on a privileged double-standard is problematic.

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I’m also concerned for my two niblings, both of whom are identified as boys. I wish they had a more expansive model of masculinity because, even if they continue to identify as cis-male, they should know that doesn’t mean they’re limited to fixing cars and friendships based on nothing more emotionally intimate than baseball scores. I really need help processing all of these feelings in a way that’s constructive for Roger and my niblings without shaming or seeming like I’m meddling.

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— Out-Manned

Dear Out-Manned,

Assuming this is not one of those “libs gone wild” fantasias we sometimes get, I want to say this as gently as possible: You have to get a grip. You are living with this family for free. Nobody is doing anything to disrespect or harm you. Even if you are 100 percent correct that everyone would be better off if Roger were not so confined by “patriarchal expectations,” it is not his responsibility to change to suit your vision of the way a man should look or behave. And it is not your job to change him, nor is it even a reasonable goal. Would it be great if your niblings knew that men could talk about things other than baseball? Sure! But aside from stepping in to protect them from abuse or neglect, you just don’t get a vote when it comes to how they’re raised. Please keep your opinions on your brother-in-law’s need for a self-growth journey to yourself. I don’t want to get a letter from your sister complaining that her house guest is being insufferable and have to send her a script to ask you to leave.

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Seriously, I know you mean well. And your values are generally admirable. But you need to redirect your energy. Let the observations you’ve made teach you something about your passion for creating a world in which gendered expectations have less power over us. But put those beliefs into action in your own career, in your service work, and in your own life, not your sister’s.

Dear Prudence,

I’ve been married to my wife for 15 years. We met in the late aughts, married a little over a year after meeting, and have been together very happily ever since. I got married young (me 21, her 24), and we settled down quickly. I feel like I now have to overstate how earnest I am because of the nature of my question, but I cannot imagine being who I am today without her. I adore her, I love her deeply, I am grateful for every day she is in my life.

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That said: I’ve sometimes wondered what I missed out on, and I feel this weird idea that dating would be cool. Like, meeting, developing romantic connections (or not), committing to people (or not), etc., etc. Polyamory, basically. We’ve broached the topic, but it’s never been developed very far. She’s alright with the fact that I feel the way I do—I’ve been very clear that it comes from a place of genuine curiosity rather than dissatisfaction. She’s not opposed to the idea, but she’s also not emotionally ready to move forward with something like that. I 100 percent respect her decision. She’s been the only sure thing in my life, and I’d be a fool to jeopardize that for goofy shit like dating.

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I guess my question is this: Am I tricking myself into thinking that I’m satisfied with my life? I never feel like I’ve wasted my time or my love being with her. I’m just curious about what life is like when you’re dating.

— The Longer Than Seven-Year Itch

Dear Seven-Year Itch,

I see an important distinction between being curious about what dating is like and having an urge to date and have sex with people who aren’t your wife. You should try to be honest with yourself about what’s going on here, because “curiosity about what life is like when you’re dating” is actually pretty easy to satisfy, if that’s really the issue (Ask your friends! Read subreddits on dating! Watch Love Life on HBO Max—it’s really good). However, I suspect that you’re using this innocent-sounding (and possibly more palatable to your wife) description to sanitize the real truth: that you want to be in other relationships with other people. That’s okay, but since it’s something you decided after you got married and your wife isn’t on board, the question is not about whether you’re tricking yourself into being satisfied with your life, but about what you want more: Your marriage or the freedom to explore other romantic connections. I wish I could help, but only you know the answer to that question.

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Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From Pay Dirt

We have young children (under 8) and they receive a few dollars a week for allowance. We have gotten more sporadic about it during the pandemic, as we stopped using as much cash and didn’t have small bills available. I would like to open savings accounts for the kids, which could then receive automatic transfers. My wife thinks it would be better to stick with the physical money, to teach the concept of saving for things in a more hands-on way. I think banking is basically digital for most purposes now anyway, so why not get the kids into the system they will likely be using as adults? Would going cashless screw up their money sense?

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