Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here.
I have been going to a hair salon for about two years. I am very satisfied with my regular stylist and colorist but am struggling with one of the shampoo girls. Usually, during my appointments, there are two different girls. One is a little newer (but she’s been there at least six months)—I’ll call her Martha.
The first time Martha washed my hair it was awful! (For reference, after color the shampoo girl first washes out all of the color, applies toner, washes the toner out, gives a head massage, and combs you out.) The issue is that Martha has these long pointy fake fingernails. That first time I said something to her because her nails were digging into my ears and neck. I think she is making an effort to use the pads of her fingers on my scalp, but the nails still scratch the other areas. On my next visit, I got the other shampoo girl and she was great. I have had Martha the next two times, and while she has gotten a little better it’s still a pokey, scratchy experience versus a relaxing enjoyable one.
So the big question is: How do I politely request the other shampoo girl? You don’t select them when you book the appointment, but do I say something at that time? Or when I arrive for my appointment? The other bit that makes this potentially awkward is race. It is a predominately white salon in a predominately white affluent area. The shampoo girl in question appears to be Latina and the other shampoo girl is white. Race has absolutely nothing to do with my desire for the other shampoo girl, but I know it’s a big topic these days and it is possible that long fingernails are more favored by people of color. The sad part is that for me the shampoo part has always been the best part of a salon visit, and now it’s unpleasant.
—Keep Those Awful Fingernails Away From Me
Dear Keep Those Awful Fingernails,
This is a situation that lends itself to making a big deal about how this is your personal issue and no one else’s. Call the salon before your appointment and say, “I have an unusual request: I have an extremely, extremely sensitive scalp. Is there any way I could be assigned to a shampoo girl who doesn’t have long fingernails?” And when they agree say, “Thank you so much! I really appreciate you for accommodating me.”
My mother shot down my attempt at trying something new to make myself look good.
I was trying out some lipstick and lipliner just to see how it’d look on me. Makeup is not exactly my thing, but I’m having a high school reunion in a few days and I just wanted to up the ante a little bit so as to not look shabby, since I don’t usually dress up. I showed the look to my mom after trying it out in the mirror, and she said that I’m just trying to be someone I’m not. I felt hurt. It was hard enough to channel the courage and non-existent makeup skills to do the look, and she just straight up tells me to stop forcing issues that don’t need to be forced. I feel crushed, but even if I explain it to her, she doesn’t get it. What should I do?
—I Hate This Situation
Dear Hate This,
I hate this situation, too! But I see two things in your question that make me hopeful. 1) You are at least old enough to have a high school reunion, which means you’re hopefully not living with your mother anymore, and 2) you seem to know that applying a little makeup does not mean trying to be someone you’re not and that your mom was being needlessly cruel. Something tells me this didn’t come out of nowhere, and that she has tried to undermine your confidence throughout your life. The fact that you recognize it and have explained it to her is a good thing. It’s too bad she doesn’t get it, but you’ve done your part. Now, you just need to decide how much you want to share with her and how vulnerable you’ll be with her in the future. My suggestion: If you find yourself thinking, “I really hope my mom will affirm or compliment or understand me when I tell her this,” don’t. High school reunions are often times when people reflect on the bullying they experienced and how far they’ve come. Your bully just happens to be at home.
How to Get Advice From Prudie
I’m not sure the best way to end a long-standing friendship. She has always needed more emotional support and time from our friendship and I’ve given it from a place of care and a sense of equity; it’s OK to give more at times when a friend needs it and then take more when I need it. But that dynamic has never changed in our 20-year relationship. Recently, I got married and she told me she couldn’t come due to her kids. I gave her a lot of support (financial, emotional, and time) for her wedding and subsequent divorce. I felt so angry that she couldn’t show up for mine. I wasn’t sad she couldn’t be there. I was angry that she wasn’t showing up for me. I want to end our friendship. I only talk to her a few times a year. Not sure the best way to end it. Should I tell her how I’m feeling or just fade out (not return calls)?
—Still Angry Over It
Dear Still Angry,
You know, I don’t think there’s much you need to do here. I talk to my dentist a few times a year. That’s not a friendship. Things are basically over between the two of you, and if you want that to be very clear, you can simply reject her next call.
Dear Prudence Uncensored
“I figured why not have my own husband/father of my child (and also Slate colleague) reflect on my advice eviscerating someone else’s husband for being a bad father.”
Jenée Desmond-Harris and friends discuss a letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.
I am getting married next year in a large U.S. city. My fiancé and I got fantastic rates for hotel blocks at several downtown hotels near our venue. Two of those hotels are on the same block right next door to each other. One is a historic hotel and the other is a hip, modern hotel. Because the historic hotel had the best rates of all the hotel blocks, we encouraged all of our family members to book there. That’s the hotel I (the bride) am planning to stay at the night before and get ready in the morning of the wedding. My fiancé (groom) is spending the night before the wedding in the modern hotel next door and then I will be joining him there for our wedding night. Well… we just found out the historic hotel is very haunted.
Like featured on the ghost tour haunted. Written by Stephen King, haunted. Even the hotel website has a page dedicated to all the spirit sightings. I am the biggest scaredy cat of all time and do not want to spend the night before my wedding in a haunted hotel. My fiancé doesn’t want us to spend the night together before the wedding, even though he would also never want to stay in a haunted hotel. It looks like my best option is to use one of the rooms we blocked at the modern hotel (since our block rate is two times lower than the current rate!) and walk over to the haunted hotel to get ready in the next morning.
But, my entire family is staying at the haunted hotel and will think it’s odd that I would stay the night before the wedding at a different hotel than the one I plan to get ready in. I do not want to tell them the real reason. Is there any way to do this without attracting suspicion? Will they be upset if they find out the hotel is haunted and I was fine leaving them to fend for themselves?
— Don’t Want to Be a Corpse
Dear Don’t Want to Be a Corpse,
Okay, so…the thing about haunted houses, according to my understanding, is that you think about them being haunted and feel a little scared. You don’t actually get murdered in them. Your family will be fine. Take advantage of the old “The bride can do whatever she wants in the days and weeks surrounding her wedding and nobody is allowed to complain” rule and use one of the nice, modern, non-haunted rooms if it will help you sleep better.
Give Prudie a Hand in “We’re Prudence”
Sometimes even Prudence needs a little help. Every Thursday in this column, we’ll post a question that has her stumped. This week’s tricky situation is below. Join the conversation about it on Twitter with Jenée @jdesmondharris on Thursday, and then look back for the final answer here on Friday.
As a teenager, I was groomed (pardon my use of that lately so misused word) by a man in his 30s whom I acted alongside in a community theater production. Due to my being 16 and nebulous laws in the state I lived in at the time, there was never much grounds to take legal action, and I was scared of the social consequences of speaking out against a popular, charismatic figure in the community. My little bit of justice was bonding with his other (non-minor) mistresses and squealing to his live-in girlfriend, which didn’t quite live up to my John Tucker Must Die fantasies and, unsurprisingly, was cold comfort.
Now, 10 years later, I feel like I finally have a balanced perspective on the whole thing, and coming to terms with that chapter led me to Google this person and see what he has done with his life. I was alarmed to find that, among other things, he now specializes in working as a creative team member on high school plays. There is a legitimate reason he’s uniquely qualified for this job, and I can’t know if he has changed, but it does not sit well with me. I don’t know of any official channels through which I can make a report that would stop him from working directly with teenagers. But I feel partially responsible for any harm he causes or has caused to these kids that I am not able to prevent. What can I do here?
The next door neighbors have three young children, and I fear parenthood is not going well for them. Too much shouting, too much arguing with the kids (and occasionally between the parents). Life is great when grandma visits—everyone’s on good behavior and she’s great with the kids. But I don’t think the future is rosy for this family.
We don’t have children, and generally consider other people’s parenting none of our business. But the shouting is loud enough to hear when we’re in the house—so it’s not just concerning, it’s actually disturbing us.
We’re at a loss for whether and how to approach them. We’re on decent neighborly terms with them, and we really like grandma. Just wondering if there’s a way we can help turn down the heat, for them and for us.
—Concerned and Perturbed
Some families are just louder than others, and it sounds to me like your neighbors fall on the nosier and more argument-prone end of the spectrum. But I don’t hear you saying you’re concerned about abuse or mistreatment of the kids. That said, if you would like to be a source of support for them (and relief for their parents), make an offer and do it without a hint of judgment. The key here is to emphasize that you would love to spend time with the children, not to criticize the way they’re being raised. Something like, “We’re planning to go to the pumpkin patch this fall and we would love to have the kids over to make jack-o-lanterns. We’re happy to put on a movie afterward if you two want to have date night or get things done around the house!” If it goes well, make it a regular occurrence.
Last week was the five-year anniversary of my grandfather’s passing. My grandfather and I did not have any real relationship outside a call on birthdays. It did not occur to me to reach out to my mom to give condolences that day and I’ve heard secondhand that she is pretty hurt by my perceived callousness. I did see on Facebook from her sibling about her dad’s death anniversary that day but I just did not make the mental connection to send a “thinking of you” text. We talk on the phone once a month and the occasional text throughout the week but still haven’t mentioned it because now I feel like an ass for waiting this long. How can I broach this with her now? Is it worse to admit you didn’t think of it all?
You’re not an ass. Reach out and say you’re sorry you missed the anniversary, but say more than that, too. Tell her you haven’t given as much thought as you should to how she’s coping without her dad and where she is in her grieving process. Let her know she can talk about it with you any time, not just on significant dates. I guarantee she’ll appreciate it.
My husband and I have been together for about seven years. In that time we (thankfully!) have never had any big arguments or disagreements. We’re both pretty independent people who enjoy living their own lives while still being able to come home to a loving home. The issue is, an old friend of my husband’s has reentered the picture and she is really throwing a wrench in things. The two reconnected while I was backpacking abroad alone, as my husband dislikes traveling. Since then, the two have seen each other practically every day and are in constant contact—even having phone conversations all hours of the night!