Dear Prudence

Can You Predict What Happens Next in These Bonkers Letters to Dear Prudence?

Some wide-reaching tales are too good to be true.

A crystal ball with two hands around it.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

This column is part of Advice Week, Slate’s celebration of all things advice.

Sometimes, people write in with letters, questions, and wide-reaching tales that seem too good (and too chock-full of Lifetime movie dramatics) to be true. The twists and turns often lead to a much too-perfect reveal. We’re left wondering, that couldn’t have possibly happened… could it?

So, we decided to put these letters and our staffers to the test. We collected a few of our most out-there Prudie submissions, cut them off at a particularly interesting turn, and had some of our staff guess where our letter writer would take us. Do you know what comes next?

The Farm and the Flock

Dear Prudence, 

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When my grandfather passed away a year and a half ago, he left us his home and small barn in the rural Pacific Northwest. My husband and I work remotely and were itching to get out of our tiny apartment in an extremely expensive city, so we jumped at the chance to move. We’ve been fully moved in for a year and a half, and a year ago, we decided to use the barn. So we bought some ducks and chickens as well as a couple of small goats. I spent my summers taking care of animals on this farm, and I like caring for them, plus we’ve earned some extra money as our neighbors offered to sell the excess eggs and homemade cheese at their farmers market stall. But my husband, in particular, has fallen in love with poultry raising and spent a lot of time building safe facilities for them. Even just writing this sounds ridiculous: My husband, a man with two master’s degrees, who works for a large software engineering firm is…

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Lydia Gilbert: …spending all his time and money breeding prize chickens to enter into agricultural competitions. These chickens are too expensive! A single chick from these rare breeds with their beautiful plumage can cost over $200! He has spent our entire nest egg on fancy chickens, organic feed, and climate-controlled coops. Help, before these chickens come home to roost!

Nadira Goffe: …spending more time with the animals than he is with me! He works all day making these safe facilities—ignoring his day job, and messing up our financial prospects. That, I can work with. But, he gets so tired that oftentimes, he falls asleep with the goats and chickens! It’s like I barely have a husband anymore. I don’t know how to tell him that I miss him. I love our animals, too and they do bring us a little bit of income, but this isn’t what I signed up for when we agreed to move. How do I break it to him that this is ruining our marriage?

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Lizzie O’Leary: …planning to give up his tech job to care for the chickens full time. And while I admire his passion, I don’t think we can afford this drastic change. Or rather, if I’m being honest, I don’t particularly want the lifestyle that comes along with, well, giving up one of our incomes to take a chance on chickens. It’s grueling work and I fear it will take a toll on our marriage. But I don’t know how to break this to my husband without sounding materialistic AND like I’m squashing his dreams! How do I keep the chickens as a side piece?

The Reveal

My husband, a man with two master’s degrees, who works for a large software engineering firm is…on a mission to kill three coyotes, and it’s becoming an obsession. He was devastated when two coyotes killed three hens that managed to get out of the coop one night. So, he installed a camera and began trying to count the birds each night. But with 35 chickens and 20 ducks, he couldn’t keep up with it. Over three months, we lost one more hen and two ducks, and he saw on the camera that it was the coyotes.

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Now, he’s taken it to another level. He’s talking about buying a gun and getting a permit to shoot them because he “can’t keep going to bed and not knowing which of his hens will be dead when he wakes up.” I think this is ridiculous—it’s winter and food is scarce, so of course, two skinny little coyotes will take down a lost hen that’s escaped its coop. Clearly, we should be figuring out how to stop the birds from escaping, not killing wild animals acting on their instincts! But I can’t convince him to give up his plans to try and stop the coyotes permanently, and I’m terrified that he’ll end up making them die painful, botched deaths, or worse, shoot himself in the foot by accident. Please help! How can I get him to give up this stupid vendetta?

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—Wife of the Coyote Crusader

Lydia: Wow, I honestly didn’t see this going in such a murderous direction! The letter writer is right, any responsible chicken tender should invest in fencing and a secure coop. Keeping his ducks in a row (inside their coop) is best for them, the coyotes, and the husband’s mental health.

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Nadira: Wow, I didn’t even consider that more animals could be brought into this whole scenario! I can see how this is concerning—the underlying layer is not only how do I get my husband to listen to my advice and calm down, but also: I didn’t know my husband was capable of such blind and violent rage! But as Lydia noted, LW is certainly in the right here. The coyote hunt would be a solution to an effect, not a solution to the cause—and it wouldn’t stop other animals in the future from preying on these wayward fowl. Maybe if you explain the long-term ineffectiveness of these rather aggressive tactics, you might be able to get through!

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Lizzie: Oh my god. This is…not what I expected. I just thought maybe the guy was getting a little too into rural life. I’m with the LW on the “getting better fencing” part of this, though that isn’t a panacea. I have friends who keep guinea fowl and despite their best efforts, they do escape. I think the LW and her husband might also want to talk about getting a dog. A couple of big farm dogs might solve this issue in a less violent way!

Mid-Life Vice

Dear Prudence, 

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I’m 30 years old (she/her) and have been married for five years. My husband and I have a 2-and-a-half-year-old little boy. We have a great life and I love my guys so much. My problem isn’t with them, it’s with me.

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A few weeks ago I slept with one of my husband’s friends. It was not planned, it was a sudden yielding to temptation. It was also a stupid mistake that had nothing to do with my husband or marriage. I have been having somewhat of a mid-life crisis around turning 30, and this guy’s sexual attraction to me fed my ego. I haven’t confessed to my husband and don’t want to—I don’t want to hurt him for something selfish and vain I did, and I know for certain I will never do it again.

Of course, if that were the end of it I wouldn’t be writing

Lydia: This friend lost his job last week and can’t afford his apartment anymore. My husband is insisting that we let him stay in our guest room for a few months while he gets back on his feet! My husband won’t stop talking about how much fun it would be and how his friend could provide child care and help with the house. The worst part is, he’s right, and we could use the help! Can I let this guy move in and trust that we won’t make another mistake?

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Nadira: …this letter from the office of my husband’s friend. You see, this “friend” also happens to be my boss—that’s how I landed this job after I decided to make a big life pivot and quit my overwhelmingly demanding job in the restaurant business. Now, I’ve broken my vows and a whole bunch of HR violations and I don’t know what to do! This is so bad on so many levels, and even though it didn’t mean anything, I’m sure it won’t look that way to everyone who will be hurt by this. I think my boss and I are both capable of keeping this secret, but I don’t think my boss (and husband’s friend) wants this to just be a one-time thing. How do I get myself out of this mess?

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Lizzie: My husband told me last night that he and this friend are going into business together. It’s a dream they’ve had since college, and I don’t know how to handle this. It means I will see the friend all the time—and that our financial life will be linked to his. What do I do? Talk to my husband’s friend and make him swear to keep our secret? Avoid interacting with him? I can move on from this, but having him around feels like living with a live grenade.

The Reveal

My period is late. If I am pregnant, I don’t know if it is my husband’s or my fling’s. I seem to have a few options:

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1. Have an abortion (I am not from the U.S. so it’s not a problem for me to get one) and do it secretly so my husband won’t find out. Going through it alone would be appropriate punishment for me.

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2. Have the child and act as if it were my husband’s. My husband and my fling have similar physical attributes so the child wouldn’t markedly look like the product of an affair. However, I am not naive enough to think the child’s true paternity would not come up sometime in the future.

3. Ask my fling if he’s had a vasectomy. It’s silly but I am hesitant to do this. On one hand, if he has, then the child is almost certainly my husband’s. On the other hand, what if he hasn’t? What would his reaction be? I really don’t want him to know or be involved in my problem.

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Maybe there are more options but I either can’t or don’t want to see them. I’m very worried and I don’t know what to do. I’d value your opinion, Prudie.

—Weekday With Maury

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Lydia: This was my first thought! As a longtime Slate bonkers advice reader, my imagination ran away with me. Best of luck to LW, sending period vibes her way.

Nadira: This was also my first thought! But then I figured: Nah, it’s too soap-opera chic. Man, this is rough, but I think more surprising are the holes in the options. 1) Just because you don’t tell your husband you’re having an abortion doesn’t mean you have to go through it alone! I would strongly urge anyone in this situation to (well…try and avoid this situation), but also: seek out a “completely objective third party outsider with absolutely no personal interest in the matter” (to quote one of my all-time favorite films)—i.e.: a friend! And 2) predicting genetics, and then phenotype, is most likely a fool’s errand! I would caution anyone reading this against assuming what a child could look like once it’s born. But also, don’t do option two, which definitely is soap-opera chic.

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Lizzie: I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me! I need to watch more Maury (Is Maury still on? Whatever the current equivalent is). There is one other option here, and I know the LW doesn’t want to hear it but, uh, she needs to tell her husband. If she is so far down this road that she’s considering having a child with uncertain paternity and just winging it… then, yikes. But also? Lady, take a pregnancy test! The odds might be in your favor.

Sisterly Love

Dear Prudence, 

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My fiancé’s older sister is painfully shy and relies on him as a big part of her support network. Early on when we were dating, he let me know that she would always be an important person in his life and that he would probably see her at least once a week.

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We have been dating for a few years now, and he has been indeed seeing her on a regular basis. It is usually just the two of them. She is about 35, and he has never mentioned her having a boyfriend. Recently, out of salacious curiosity, I asked if he thought she was a virgin…

Daniel Schroeder: …and he got a somewhat nervous look on his face before admitting that he knew she wasn’t because he had taken her virginity, and has been carrying on a sexual relationship with her since before we had started dating. I really love this guy but this feels like an extreme violation of trust and I don’t know how to go forward with this man. I care so much about him, but this might be something I can’t live with. Should I move on? Is there any way forward for us?

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Rebecca Onion: …and he turned bright red. Turns out, he knows she’s not, because she tells him everything about her life, and she gets up to some serious stuff—she overcomes her shyness only in the bedroom, let’s say. Why should I care about that, you ask? Well! My fiancé has been telling her everything that we do, sexually speaking—everything. I’m really private, and he knew that I would hate this, so he had kept this quiet, but truly Prudie—she knows it ALL, including very embarrassing details about my anatomy. I’m so furious and honestly terrified of the next time I see her in person. She’s so shy—how could I confront her about this? Or should I?

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Bryan Lowder: …and my fiancé got a very weird look on his face. He wanted to know what I asked and kept hedging. Now I was worried, so I demanded an answer. Turns out the older sister is not shy at all! In fact, she’s an escort and my fiancé is her pimp! Their weekly get-togethers are “business meetings” and the lack of a boyfriend is, well, a scheduling issue. Prudie, I don’t know what to think! I know it’s the world’s oldest profession, but can I really marry into a family in “the industry”?

The Reveal

He turned beet red and said he didn’t want to tell me. Finally, I pried the truth out of him: As far as he knew, she had sex exactly once…with him.

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It happened when they were in their 20s. She wanted to have the experience and didn’t trust anyone but him. So they went for it (using double birth control). Afterward, she said she enjoyed it, but would still only do it with him. He decided that it wouldn’t be healthy for her to depend on him for sex, so they stopped. According to him, the topic never came up again.

This has really opened Pandora’s box for me. First of all, I don’t completely trust him anymore. Secondly, I am not sure that I can trust them together, specifically. If we get married, I am afraid that I will spend the rest of our lives wondering what he is doing with her. Am I overreacting to a one-time event?

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—Don’t Want to Share

Daniel: Wow, alarmed by how right I was! But sort of relieved it only happened once? Like once is still way too many times, but depending on how long ago it was, it might be something you could get through. Even as I say that, though, I really don’t think there’s any amount of time that has passed that would make this OK, especially if they still have such an intimate (albeit nonsexual according to them) relationship.

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Rebecca: Daniel!! You did it! “Double birth control” is making me laugh SO hard. As if that fixes things!

Bryan: I figured this was the real story but mine makes a better LMN movie—those viewers wouldn’t go for full-on incest, sadly, but The Cheerleader Escort (2019) was just on the other night, so… if anyone wants to option my treatment, slip into the DMs!

Wander…lust

Dear Prudence,

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I have been married for 27 years to a woman who grows more beautiful and sexy as the years pass. After we had two children, I was offered a job in a European capital, which I accepted. It paid a decent amount of money, so much so that there was no real reason my wife had to go out and get a job. We were even able to employ a part-time nanny to help out around the house.

Unbeknownst to me, my wife embarked upon a decades-long affair shortly after we moved to Europe. For years, I was completely unaware that when we had sex it was more likely I was the second man she was with on any given day, and I was gullible enough to believe that her twice-yearly, two-week trips to see her mother in California weren’t actually holidays spent in the Caribbean or Italy with her lover.

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Eventually, I found out that the landlord I had been paying rent to for over a decade was spending most of his afternoons in bed with my wife. I was angry and moved out with the children to a different neighborhood the next day. I fully expected my wife to stay in our old flat and carry on her affair, but she knocked on the door to our new house the next day and wanted to talk it out…

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Daniel: …and wanted to talk it out between me, her, and the man she’s been having an affair with, who knocked on the front door with her. She thinks it’s entirely reasonable to add this man to our home. It means we wouldn’t need a nanny anymore! Should I let her and this man into my family’s life? Should I consider some sort of throuple situation? Should I run?

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Rebecca: …and told me that my two children weren’t mine, either! Apparently, she didn’t acquire the adultery habit in Europe but brought it along. I love these children—what should I do now?

Bryan: When I opened the door, fully expecting an apology, instead I got a punch in the face from the landlord, who was hiding in the stairwell behind my wife! When I came to, I was tied up to a chair. The pair told me that I would need to continue paying rent on the old apartment for my cheating wife because it’s a tough market, you see, and the landlord couldn’t bother with finding a new tenant (not to mention one offering such attractive fringe benefits!). They’re currently out gathering paperwork that will contractually bind me to this scheme, after threatening violence against myself and my kids if I don’t agree. Prudie, I’ve wriggled my hands just free enough to write you this plea on my phone—should I go along with them? Make some kind of escape? Any ideas on how to get out of here? Help!

The Reveal

To make a long story short, she seduced me, and I forgave her. That’s been a feature of our marriage ever since. Once she was forgiven for her affair, she went on to have many more without being secretive and she eventually began to distance herself from our marriage. She would run off with a lover for a week, stay a month, come back for a few weeks, and disappear for half a year. Our children became resentful, and this kept her away more. The final straw was a two-week trip to Australia with a lover that turned out to be for two years.

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Something happened during her time in Australia that she won’t discuss. She eventually came back a year ago and has been remorseful ever since. She feels ashamed of her past behavior although exactly what that was, she won’t discuss. I would like the fun, sexy wife back that I married a long time ago. She’s still a stunner, confident and charismatic, but she’s developed a hang-up about sex and won’t even discuss the matter with me. I never actually had an affair during our marriage, and I put up with months and years without sex and would like to begin enjoying life to the full again. Don’t recommend therapy. That’s something she refuses to consider.

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—Lonely in London

Daniel: Wow, I was not right at all, though do think my answer would’ve led to a much more fun life than whatever life this man is leading. WHY IS HE STILL TRYING TO MAKE IT WORK WITH THIS WOMAN?

Rebecca: What is going on here? This letter’s twists and turns have my head snapping! This is a letter about…helping this wife get back into having sex with this man? She doesn’t want that, obviously. And the kids are right to be pissed!

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Bryan: Not the ol’ two-week to two-year switcheroo! Dear Lonely in London, you sir might want to look into cuckolding because you are already living that life! Turn this comical series of betrayals into a feature of your relationship, rather than a bug—clearly, you’re both already getting something out of it in addition to all the frequent flier miles.

Subscribe to My Patreon?

Last summer, my neighbor found a baby chick wandering around her yard. While trying to find its owner, she did her best to care for the chick without a coop, run, or a natural place to raise it. Throughout the year, I asked about the progress of raising the chick, which she named Alice. For about a year, my neighbor raised Alice among her cats and chihuahuas until this summer, when she mentioned that Alice had become aggressive toward her at any opportunity. I reached out to a friend who works at an animal sanctuary. They put my neighbor in contact with a different sanctuary, which was able to pick Alice up and bring her to their farm.

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The woman who runs the animal sanctuary, “Melody,” has been posting updates about all of her animals, including Alice, on her Patreon. I want to share these updates with my neighbor who definitely is not tech-savvy enough to access and subscribe to the Patreon. I know that my neighbor would be happy to see photos of Alice and hear about her new environment.

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The only problem is…

Heidi Strom Moon: I’ve discovered that Melody and the neighbor are mortal enemies! They were once roommates after college and adopted a bichon frisé together. They named it Macaron and entered it in dog costume contests together, winning first prize at their neighborhood block party one year. But Melody eventually got a job in another city and wanted to take Macaron with her. My neighbor was bitterly opposed, so was shocked and surprised when she came home from work one day to find Melody’s half of the apartment completely cleaned out—she had skipped town and taken the dog with her. I can’t bear to let my neighbor know that Melody has once again wound up with custody of a beloved former animal.

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Shannon Palus: …that just the other day Alice found a baby alligator wandering around her yard. She swears she’s trying to find its owner, and in the meantime, is trying to care for it without a reptile tank, or supply of baby mice. The alligator is getting bigger. I’ve asked about the progress in raising it, but she couldn’t even pay attention to me because she was screaming at her chihuahua to get away from the (now, rather large!) alligator. I’m worried that she’s too busy to think about Alice, or else that focusing on her will just be painful since the alligator situation is so much worse than an aggressive chicken. Help!

The Reveal

…that Alice is not yet living the life that my neighbor had imagined for her when she was taken to the farm. Apparently, she is still aggressive toward humans, is absolutely terrified of other chickens, and has yet to join the flock because of this fear. Melody posts photos of her wearing diapers around the house, begging for pizza with the dogs, and poking around her work-from-home setup.

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I can tell that Alice’s new home is loving, and Melody is committed to making progress with her, but I worry about the guilt my neighbor might feel when she learns that Alice’s upbringing has stunted her ability to fit in with the flock and lead a normal life. Do I share the reality of Alice’s life, or do I continue to allow my neighbor to think she is roaming greener pastures?

—Fear of the Flock

Heidi: When I was trying to guess what the craziest version of this reveal could be, one option I considered was that Melody was dressing Alice in offensive costumes; does putting diapers on a chicken count?!

Shannon: I think my answer was correct, in a small way: Seeing a former flock member move on can be difficult.

A New-Age Picasso

Dear Prudence,

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I have a very modern problem. My friend “Greg” is an artist who has never had much luck selling his art. I really respect his hustle but his art is a bit of a tough sell. I doubt he reads Slate so let’s just say he sells hoodies with fan art of cartoon characters in streetwear. For context, we’re both upper-middle-class, white men with no connection to streetwear culture. He recently switched to a more colorful, abstract art style. Lately, though, his new pieces have been flying off the rack and I just found out why…

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Heidi: He’s gone full conspiracy theorist and is incorporating QAnon symbols into all of his designs, then selling them on Truth Social and at Trump rallies. Now, he’s talking about joining the Proud Boys! Help, before I see him on the evening news trying to enter the Capitol!

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Shannon: …they’re objectively very beautiful, and in his own unique style. I’m so jealous! I realized the real reason I’ve been so judgmental about Greg’s art is that I’ve felt self-conscious about pursuing my own side-hustle dreams. (“What does it mean if crocheting hats for small dogs doesn’t work out financially?” is something I’ve been exploring in therapy.) Now that Greg is through a growing phase with his designs and has hit his stride, I’m plagued by the thought that creating good art comes down to a lot of trial and error, pursuit, mistakes, and luck, and because I haven’t started yet, I’m so much further behind than I thought.

The Reveal

I was happy for him and we were having a beer to celebrate when he let me know that his new art style is the result of an AI art generator he purchased. He doesn’t do anything to it at all. He told me this in confidence and he wasn’t ashamed—he was more gleeful and like he’d found a neat trick. He referred to it as his money printer. All he does is put in a prompt and it spits out art for him to print on clothes. I don’t know how to feel. I’m definitely not proud of him anymore and I’m honestly kind of disgusted. I’m considering at least tipping off the store. Those artists all put in actual work while Greg is basically selling twinkies and calling himself a baker. On the other hand, this income would let him move out of his parent’s house.

—But Is It Art?

Heidi: Using an AI art generator is ethically dubious, but much less egregious than the rabbit hole I’d imagined Greg falling down, so this is almost a relief.

Shannon: Greg, how could you! I was rooting for you!

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