Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: “B+ for Effort”

This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Paola de Varona discuss a Prudie letter: “B+ for Effort

Jenée Desmond-Harris: So! Was I too mean to this person? I re-read the question and he (I am going to assume it is a he) asked if he was being selfish at the end and I felt kinda bad.

Paola de Varona: No, absolutely not. I think people’s gut reaction (mine included) might be to think it’s a little harsh, but the more I read it back the more I realized how absurd his language was! Listing all her great qualities in the way he did was very bizarre to me. But at least he recognized the question itself has a degree of selfishness to it.

Jenée: And I guess the thing is, “selfish” wasn’t the worst quality he showed here.
The whole premise of the question was this completely backward and infuriating idea of what a woman is obligated to be. And it was so out of touch with reality.

Paola: Yes!! And all I kept hearing was well, here’s this entire laundry list of what she does for me and our family. But … I want more. At no point did he express what he’s done to dress up for her, take her out, make her feel wanted…

Jenée: That’s the key thing. I mean, I guess it’s OK (and probably not totally out of the ordinary for spouses of both genders) to wish for more effort and more intimacy BUT not because of some old pictures! He’s acting as if he’s being cheated out of her failing to live in both their present AND her past.

Paola: I would love to know what those old pictures were—like I bet it’s just a casual selfie or something and it completely set him off. But yeah, you’re right, she’s a different person now! Also, a few photos don’t tell you what she might’ve been like back in her youth either… It’s all just a story he’s telling himself.

Jenée: Like I said, I can pretty much guarantee she wasn’t working a shitty job, raising kids, running a household, and dealing with someone nagging and guilt tripping her.

Paola: The fact that he admitted the nagging and guilt tripping was something. At least he’s self-aware, I guess!

Jenée: Very weird combination of kinda being a jerk and being self-aware in this letter. You don’t see that a lot. I guess the most generous read of it is, “I feel like my wife and I have fallen off when it comes to attraction and intimacy and I miss that connection. What can I do?”

To which I would say … I guess, a nicer version of what I wrote here. Which is that you have to start with you, and create the conditions in your marriage for all of that to exist.

Paola: Yeah, totally, it needs to start with him. You can’t will someone to do something just because you want them to. If he wants spontaneity and the sorts of qualities he’s romanticizing about these photos, he has to will that into existence himself. This is the kind of question that would’ve been easily solved with a friend telling you: Dude plan a date, buy her an outfit you know she’ll love, hire a babysitter.

Jenée: Absolutely. The fact that he framed it as a failure on her part (and gave her a grade!) rather than an area of the marriage that needs work is what made my eyes itch when I read it, I think. I can’t get over the B+. Nobody is putting on a cute outfit for someone who gives them a B+.

Paola: I forgot about the grade!!! Oh man, I’m upset all over again. I hope his wife never finds this letter (or maybe I do, honestly).

Jenée: I just have this feeling she would laugh in his face.

Paola: And then proceed to give him grades on all the areas he’s falling short, I hope.

Jenée: Haha exactly. C- for being a decent human who lives in reality.