Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
I am a woman in my mid-20s who went online to make some fast cash (outside of my full-time job) and I found it in the form of a “cuck for hire.” I answered a personal ad for a great couple only a few years older than me—“Patti” and “Eric”—and for the past year, I’ve been getting $500 twice a month for an hour or two of work. There have been a few times where they schedule an extra session in a month where they pay $1,000 for “overtime.” Sessions happen like this: I play Eric’s wife, coming home to find him in bed with another woman. I yell, get upset, and then am commanded to sit on a chair facing the bed. He “ties” me to the chair (I wrap my arms around the back, where he wraps some rope around them without tying it), and proceeds to make love in front of me while telling me how much better Patti is than me. He does this solely by praising her (“she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, she’s the best I ever felt”). At no point am I insulted, demeaned, or degraded. I’m not involved physically, and I don’t get aroused.
It’s weird, I know, and I can understand why it would creep people out. It works for us, it’s easy money, and I genuinely enjoy Patti and Eric! They’re all-around good people. I thought there would be an issue when my sister drunkenly spilled the beans to my mother, but my mom, while not particularly cool with it, accepted it. I don’t get graphic, but I have talked about them to my family the same way I talk about any coworkers. My niece’s birthday party was over the weekend, and when complimented on my gift for her, I stated Patti had recommended it because their kids love it.
Fast forward to Wednesday morning: At my full-time job in a small family-owned business, the owner was being questioned by police for allegations of sexual abuse against their children. We were all shocked but no more than she was. It was dropped quickly when she confirmed she has a wife, and the allegations were made against a mother and a father. When I told my sister about it, later on, she burst out “I can’t believe she actually did it!”
Prudie, my mother called CPS on Eric and Patti for sexual abuse after being “horrified” to learn they have children! She didn’t know their names, only that they were “my bosses.” Apparently having someone watch you make love when you’re childless is OK, but when you have kids, it turns you into a pervert! Their kids are never home during these sessions, and I’ve never met better parents than Eric and Patti. There is absolutely no basis for these claims, my boss is confused and scared someone will come take her kids, and I’m sick with my mother! What do I do? Do I tell my boss not to worry, that it was a case of mistaken identity and my mother meddling? Do I warn Patti and Eric? Do I contact the police or CPS myself, or wait in case they question me? Am I in legal trouble for prostitution, and should avoid authorities at all costs?
—Mother’s Monstrous Meddling
Dear Mother’s Monstrous Meddling,
As a parent with a same-sex partner, your boss is likely on high alert for any insinuation that there’s anything untoward happening in her home, especially in this climate. Same-sex couples with kids are frequently targeted by malicious false reporting to CPS and it can tie a family up for years and traumatize the kids. She’s in a very precarious position, even though CPS is no longer investigating her. The threat alone is probably unbearable. So, you should let her know that it was a case of mistaken identity as soon as you can and assure her that there is no report targeting her. It will be a cold comfort, but it may take some of the edge off.
Because this has gotten so out of hand, you may want to warn Patti and Eric as well. It doesn’t seem like they’re in danger as there’s no way for your mother to know who they are. But they need to know as it may affect how they proceed with your working relationship. They may decide that continuing to meet is not a good idea on the off-chance that your mother is able to put more pieces together.
I’m not sure that contacting the authorities is going to help anyone in this situation. It’s likely to make life complicated for you and possibly more people. However, you do need to have a conversation with your mother about trust and boundaries. This is more than meddling. The fact that she didn’t tell you about her plan to contact CPS is troublesome. She surely believes that she did the right thing and I’d be shocked if you came out of this conversation seeing eye-to-eye. But you need to know if you’re safe sharing parts of your life with her.
Lastly, I’d strongly encourage you to reevaluate whether you want to talk about this part of your work life with your family. They’re not handling this information well and as much as you may want to be open, you have to ask yourself whether it does more harm than good.
My (ex?)-boyfriend is British and I am American. We started dating in late 2019 when he was doing research for his British graduate school program in my American city. He was originally supposed to leave in May 2020, but then the pandemic hit, and we lived together in America until last spring. We moved really fast, I loved him, and our relationship was mostly good. We did have issues, namely his anger, and I felt he often invalidated my emotions. I was applying to grad school at the time and I was accepted to a program in London, but ultimately decided that I wasn’t comfortable moving across the ocean for him. I helped him move back to London for a job last spring, but then returned to America to attend a program closer to home… And that should have been the end of it, right?
However, even though we broke up, we never really stopped talking. For a while, I couldn’t picture myself dating anyone else, but that feeling has passed now. I’m doing really well, have made a lot of new friends, and love my program. A few months ago, I really missed him and asked if he would visit me over the summer. He said he wanted to and we started planning flights. Then, he realized that I only have a few weeks where I don’t have to work or take classes, and he was upset that it was a short amount of time. So when we ended that phone call, I was under the impression that he was no longer coming.
I realized that, even though I asked him to come, I felt this immense amount of relief at the thought that he wouldn’t be coming. I thought the next time we talked would actually be the end, but he said that even though we didn’t have long, he would still rather see me and enjoy the time we had together. I was really caught off guard, and I should have just told him not to come at that time, but I didn’t. So he bought flights and is now due to come in a couple of weeks.
I am dreading it, but I don’t feel like I can tell him not to come at this point. I do love talking to him and spending time with him, but I am anxious because I think he will want to have deep conversations about our feelings or our future and I think we are on very different pages. I don’t want to resume our relationship. I also really don’t want to upset him, because I do care for him. How do you break up with someone you are already broken up with? Should I just enjoy his company for two weeks and try not to have any deep conversations?
—Should Have Just Ended Things
Dear Should Have Just Ended Things,
While it’s not ideal to have a state of the union conversation over the phone, in your case I think it might be a great idea. Trips, particularly reunion trips, are often over-burdened with expectations and assumptions. But just like many people find solace in a well-planned itinerary, it’s often useful to map out the emotional terrain beforehand. Call your ex and tell him about your anxiety. Ask him about his expectations. Don’t be afraid to bring up the subject of the future and don’t be shy about advocating for what you need: a pleasant trip that doesn’t lead you two back into a relationship. It’s possible you’re on the same page, but if you’re not talking about it before he lands, while potentially awkward, will clear the air and empower each of you. If you’re not aligned, he may decide that coming isn’t the best idea. But neither of you has the chance to take preemptive action if you don’t talk first.
I’m a gay man in my 30s, I’ve been out for a long time, and my family is very chill. My boyfriend “Bryan” grew up in a fundamentalist home and when he came out there was violence and lectures about shame and Bible quotes. They basically only stopped short of cutting him out of the family. His parents are the biggest figures here, but his disabled brother relies on them financially and toes the line. They forbid Bryan from telling the extended family. He still could, but he says it’s not worth it.
Even though they made it clear they won’t give it, it feels like Bryan can’t stop auditioning for their approval. He calls them about twice a month and his professional accomplishments, advanced degree, and passionate volunteer work are met with polite disinterest. He told them about me, and was met with complete silence, a fact he enthusiastically shared with me because it was “an upgrade from the way they treated other boyfriends.” I don’t need these people to like me. I know if he looks for that, he won’t get it. I don’t know what to say when he shares these updates with me, and it’s so painful to see him try to get them to love him or take an interest in his life.
What can I say in the moment when these things come up? And how can I help him find the right kind of therapist to tackle this? He’s talked about being interested in therapy before but discarded therapists because he felt like they didn’t understand his family. This is complicated by the fact that I think his family is terrible, which I’ve never said out loud but I’m sure he knows.
—There’s No Water in That Well
Dear There’s No Water in That Well,
It can be hard to find therapists who understand the complexities of fundamentalist upbringings, particularly therapists who also have competencies in working with LGBTQ+ people. But it can be done! Try looking for queer therapists who have also worked with religious communities or people of faith— people who can speak the language that your boyfriend grew up speaking and the language he speaks now. Queer religious leaders sometimes offer counseling or have therapeutic training and can bridge that gap. Essentially, he needs someone who isn’t going to totally dismiss his past because it’s clear that he hasn’t yet dismissed it. He may be on a journey to letting go of expectations but he needs to get there on his own time.
As to what you should say, I think you can hold your boundary while still acknowledging that these updates mean something to him. A simple “I’m really glad that feels good for you” might work in the moment. And still leaves open the door for you to say, later, that you don’t think he needs to chase after love from people who won’t give it. But if you shut him down when he’s excited, he may stop sharing with you. You don’t have to be excited, too, but acknowledge that’s where he is for now.
More Advice From Care and Feeding
We popped in to visit our son, a college junior, last Sunday and discovered his plastic clothes hamper sitting in the bathroom filled with a mixture of bleach and water. When we asked about it, he went red and his roommates started laughing. No one would tell me what happened, and I started getting flustered, and we wound up leaving slightly earlier than planned. It had not been a planned visit, we were just driving by his college town, so now I am both inordinately obsessed with what happened to his hamper and also embarrassed to be That Mother, barging in and demanding answers.