Dear Prudence

Help! My Husband Says I Abandoned Him at a Hockey Game. I Think He’s Being Dramatic.

Read what Prudie had to say in Part 1 of this week’s live chat.

Woman cheering with a foam finger.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence is online weekly to chat live with readers. Here’s an edited transcript of this week’s chat.

Jenée Desmond-Harris: Hope you enjoyed your long weekend if you had one. Let me know what’s on your mind!

Q. Power play: My husband and I were killing time by walking around the arena during intermission of a hockey game. While he stopped to use the bathroom, I went back to our seats because the game had resumed. He got super mad because he “thought we were hanging out.” I think he’s being dramatic and it’s a pretty weird flex that he’d want me to miss the game to stand outside a men’s bathroom while he pees. It was the last home game of the season. What do you think?

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A: Have you and your husband … met before? I just ask because this seems like the kind of situation in which for many more practical, less emotional couples, going back to your seat would have been the obvious choice (the thinking here would be “Why miss any of the game that we paid to see?”). And for many other couples, waiting for the person who’s in the bathroom would be seen as the thoughtful and normal thing to do (the thinking here would be “If we’re spending time together, the purpose is to be with each other, and waiting for each other outside the bathroom is the kind of common courtesy you’d offer to any friend or loved one.”).

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But it’s strange that you and your spouse aren’t on the same page about the kind of couple you are and what you expect of each other. Your situation reminds me of a letter I received from a husband who wanted to know whether it was okay to take advantage of his TSA pre-check while his wife stood in the regular, longer security line. I said then, “This is a perfect example of how there are no rules for relationships, only things that work for you as a couple and things that don’t. Your positions are both totally reasonable,” and I’d say the same thing now. You should take this conflict—both his feeling that you somehow didn’t care about hanging out and your seeing his expectation as a weird flex—as a pretty big red flag about a gap in communication and expectations in your relationship, and some possible deeper issues.

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How to Get Advice From Prudie:

• Send questions for publication here. (Questions may be edited.)

• Join the live chat Mondays at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the discussion.

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Q. Wedding harpist: I am a musician who is commonly hired to play for weddings. As I was looking at my usual pitch for a gig, I realized how gendered my language is. I can easily use the word attendant instead of bridesmaid, but I can’t think of any non-gendered words for what used to be bride and groom. I have heard the word “nearlywed” suggested, but that seems a little bit too sweet, and doesn’t really fit my style. I absolutely want to send the message that I support LGBT and non-gendered people! Can you suggest some appropriate language for me?

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A: I wish I knew a little bit more about the specific kinds of sentences you’re thinking of, because the language that works will depend on the context. But in general, if you’re talking about both people together, you could use “the couple,” “the new couple,” or “the married couple,” maybe even “the guests of honor.” It gets a little trickier when you need to refer to them individually. For example, maybe you need to make adjustments to a form you ask all couples to fill out that currently asks what song you should play for the bride’s dance with her father and the groom’s dance with his mom. Here you could replace those gendered words with something like “Spouse #1 and parent” and “Spouse #2 and parent,” and just lean into the fact that while this may sound different from what people are used to, it will also make very clear to everyone that you made an effort to avoid gendered language and it’ll make more sense for many of your clients—and that’s worth it. I’d love to hear other ideas in the comments.

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Q. No baby, please: I have never wanted kids; the realization I had as a teenager that I didn’t have to follow the conventional mold for women and have kids was one of the best, most freeing moments of my life. I can still remember that feeling of relief. I have also been told many times that I’ll change my mind, that I’ll never know “real love,” or worst of all, that there must be something wrong with me. For the most part, I can shrug these comments off.

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But sometimes, I feel like I’m scanning myself for any feelings that might “betray” me. I can’t even let myself feel joy at the birth of my niece because it scares me—I’ll think “what if being happy for her means I do want kids?” and then the thought of me having a kid makes me panic, as if I could trick myself into having a kid I don’t want. I know with 100 percent certainty that having kids is not for me, but years of people questioning and (sometimes) insulting me seems to have gotten in my head. What can I do to let this go? I want to be able to enjoy my nieces and nephews.

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A: The fact that you’re sure you don’t want children but are still experiencing doubts actually makes sense to me, because the societal messages about how women are expected to have kids are so overwhelming. I think the best thing you can do to counteract the message you’ve received since you were a teenager and continue to receive every day is to give yourself some different kinds of input, from people who are child-free and happy about it. Join a local group or even just a few online communities with the hope of absorbing the stories and perspectives of others and maybe even getting excited about what your life without kids could look like. This will build your confidence and reaffirm your choice, not to mention let you enjoy your nieces and nephews.

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Q. Clean hair patrol: My adult daughter and her husband only wash their hair once a week! This bothers me because they look a bit rough by the end of the week! Should I say something?

A: Absolutely not.

Q. Could really use a mom right now: I moved back in with my parents last year at the age of 30 to save money while I plan for the next step in my life. This week I adopted a cat and while she is very affectionate and will probably be a great companion, it’s taking some time for me to adjust. I’m very prone to anxiety and depression, and it’s triggered a bit of an episode for me. I’ve been reading forums and apparently this is pretty common among new pet parents.

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What I’m most upset about is how this has become yet another instance of my mother hijacking my sadness. My mother is also prone to depression and I spent a lot of time caring for her as a kid. I feel like most times when I’ve confided in her, even in childhood, she has been initially comforting and then dissolved into years and self-pity about “why can’t my kids be happy?”…in front of me. When I have tried to explain to her that I understand why she’s upset, but I sometimes just need to be comforted, she’s said something along the lines of “well, I have feelings, TOO.”

Now she’s been quietly fuming around and I feel deeply alone. Is there anything I can say to make her understand that I’m not being a selfish, emotional vacuum by sometimes needing to be comforted without her co-opting my sadness?

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A: At this particular moment—when you and your mom are both battling depression and you’re living under her roof, I think anything related to “trying to get her to understand” you and what you need from her should be put on the back burner. Getting another person to change their behavior is really tough (often impossible) and I worry about you putting your efforts there when you need to get yourself through this episode and get to a place where you feel more stable. Turn to your forums, your real-life friends, and your dad if he’s available for support and comfort as much as you can. Hopefully before long, your cat will be part of this equation, too! At some point down the road when you’re out of the house and feel that your anxiety and depression are manageable, you can begin—hopefully with the support of a therapist—to tell your mom what you need from her. I just don’t think you should do this while you’re feeling so vulnerable that a negative reaction from her could devastate you.

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Q. Re: Power play: On the one hand, your husband getting “super mad” seems like a bit of an overreaction (of course details of what him getting super mad actually looks like in practice might help clarify how over-the-top his reaction might have been), but on the other, it is slightly rude to have ditched him without saying that you were thinking of going back to your seat, before he went into the bathroom. Overall, I’m inclined to side more with you, but I think a basic perfunctory apology might be in order just to keep the peace (and especially if it means both of you can move on quickly from this non-issue), assuming that this isn’t part of a larger pattern of him making mountains out of molehills.

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A: You know, I didn’t really focus on that but you’re right: “Super mad” is a lot for this situation. I definitely agree that all of this is probably part of a larger pattern of something that deserves attention.

Q. Re: Wedding harpist: I think we need more info on what your pitch includes—does it give examples of what you’ve played at weddings, for example? That can be covered with using real-life examples, including same-sex couples, e.g. “a favorite piece is music that two brides, a bride and groom, have walked down the aisle to.” There are ways of zooming out and zooming in that really show that you are all-couples friendly.

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A: Great idea.

Q. Re: Wedding harpist: If you’re looking for a word for the wedding couple, how about “the betrothed”? This works when you want to refer to both: e.g. “the betrothed and their parents.” It may not be as helpful when you’re referring to the individual members of the couple, though along the lines of what Jenée suggested, you could consider Betrothed No. 1 and Betrothed No. 2.

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A: This works too, and also sounds very fancy.

Q. Re: Clean hair patrol: Great response, Prudie! Many of us curly heads wash our hair around once a week or even less frequently. The letter writer should mind her own follicles.

A: Yes, I’m a once a week-washing curly head myself! I suspect that these people might have a hair texture that might look a bit better with more frequent removal of oil buildup (just because the letter writer said they appear rough by the end of the week), but either way, I didn’t hear anything about a bad smell or anything that would call for an intervention.

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Discuss this column on our Facebook page!

Classic Prudie

My wife and I are a month away from having our first child, a boy. My wife is very close to her grandfather, who is currently suffering from end-stage terminal cancer. To honor his memory, she wants to name our son after him. Unfortunately, this name is also shared by a very well-known male porn star (with crossover appeal, who has appeared in nonpornographic films and TV shows). In other words, when a future employer plugs my son’s name into a search engine, he will be greeted with reams of videos from the 1980s featuring a very endowed, very hairy adult-film star. My wife is innocent as can be, so she is unaware that our son would share this name. Do I let her in on it?

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