The “Back to Home School” Edition

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S2: Your dear prudence gathered here, prudence, dear, dear, prudent here, pretty, do you think that I should contact him again? No help. Thanks. Thank you. Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again, and as always, I am your host, Daniel M. Lavery, also known as Dear Prudence.

S1: And with me in the studio this week is Violet Allen, a science fiction writer based in Chicago. I’m very excited to have on the show instead of simply trying to get her attention on Twitter all the time. Violet, hello. Hi. Hi. Do you feel like I saved the wackiest questions for you? Do you feel special as a result? Do you feel angry with me as a result?

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S4: I don’t know. They seem like good questions. They seem like solid couple of weirdos, definitely some weirdos in the mix.

S1: But I’m impressed that you found this one solid because I felt like the first one, especially whatever the opposite of solid is, is how I felt about my solid.

S4: I mean, I can I don’t want to say roast. I don’t want to roast these people. I want to help them. But there’s stuff to talk about solid in that sense, you know, because some advice is just, you know, they know the answer and you just tell them the answer that they want, you know? But this is like they’re things to get into.

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S1: Yeah, I’m I’m really excited about that. I am just really excited in general. I’m excited that this is the first time I’m recording the show in like four months or I haven’t had the air conditioning, like screaming in the background, which means now you can actually just hear the construction work that’s going outside on the street. But still, you know, it’s nice to exchange one sound for another sometimes.

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S4: That’s nice. No more ambient buzz is just the Buzz’s of life.

S1: Would you please, Violet, read our very first letter, because I don’t think I can get through that subject line without laughing.

S4: The subject line is a lot of subject. So my wife is too stupid to homeschool our kids, dear Prudence. I feel like a shit heel. I have a graduate degree and work in finance. When my wife and I got married, we both agreed and she fully embraced she to be the classic stay at home mom. She was literally a beauty school dropout. Yes, I remember Grease, but she’s amazing and kind. And the woman I knew I wanted to have kids with, we complement each other and it’s a good balance. She helped me in my career and I don’t want only her now. covid earlier in the year, it seemed we were just kind of coasting out the uncertainty until the year ended with our eight and 10 year old. Now she’s told me due to the continuing uncertainty, she wants to home school the kids. Prudy, she can’t do it. They’re already asking normal questions that have to be Googled or wait until Daddy gets home.

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S2: It’s not hard stuff, but not everybody is cut out to be a teacher.

S4: I’m terrified of my kids getting sick or falling behind, but I’m more scared of them being taught by someone who knows little about teaching help.

S1: No, I won’t help you. I don’t like you, I, I don’t want this guy to receive help. I think his problem is hilarious and mostly of his own creation, and I want him to suffer. I just I don’t think he’s going to suffer, though, because it’s not a real problem, you know, if your biggest problem is sometimes my kid ask questions that have to be Googled. Well, good news. There’s Google, you know what I mean? Like, oh, no, she can’t, like, recite Marcus Aurelius meditations off the top of her head.

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S2: Well, good thing someone wrote it down and it’s available for free because the copyright expired.

S1: It’s fine. It’s Google, man. Google it.

S4: Or just also beauty school dropout. It’s really what does that have to do with anything?

S1: I mean, yeah, to me, the issue here is not exactly like whether or not she is a smart or a dumb person or what kind of smart she might be. She sounds like a great lady. Frankly, so much is just this idea of like, wow, I married a person whose intelligence I didn’t really respect. And now, bizarrely, that’s not working out for me. Who could have seen this coming? Like, perhaps it’s not so much that you’re a shit heel. Perhaps it’s more that you are the one who has behaved stupidly because you married a woman you thought was dumb. And then you said, well, you can mostly take charge of raising our children. And then ten years later, you thought, wait a minute, if I think she’s dumb and I made her main job raising the kids, what if that has some sort of effect on the kids? They don’t teach you about cause and effect in your in your graduate degree, which, let’s be honest, he said it’s an MBA.

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S4: Yeah, there’s going to be a Ph.D.. Yeah, we both know what I mean. A graduate degree, quote, unquote. But, you know, it’s not hard.

S1: Yeah, I have no graduate degrees. I graduated without honors from an evangelical Christian college. I have no legs upon which to stand.

S4: But, you know, well, I graduated without honors from an Ivy League university. So I can say this guy is bad, actually.

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S5: Yeah. I mean.

S1: Play stupid games, win stupid prizes is, I believe, the expression you did something very stupid and now the exact situation that you created has come to pass. You caused this by marrying someone you thought was a dope and then saying, but it’s fine for you to raise our kids. Like, what did you think was going to happen, man?

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S4: You thought they were just going to ignore her, especially since you seem to think that, like, her influence, like he’s not just afraid of them, like falling behind, it’s that somehow her influence will bring them down to the level of beauty school dropout, which is. Like, come on and what do you think?

S1: And just like you said, you wanted to have kids with her, you should probably have written down or something. If you have kids with someone, they’ll probably impart some lessons upon those children. The children will probably learn some stuff from them. That’s that’s not an accident. That’s parenting. And then it seemed like you were just coasting until the school year ended. So it doesn’t sound like you gave the issue a lot of thought. Doesn’t sound like you gave a lot of input. Doesn’t sound like you initiated a lot of conversations or brought your, you know, MBA business degree brain to bear into problem solving. And now your wife has offered up a suggested that you don’t like. And it’s like, oh, how could this have happened? Well, again, let me point you to your own actions. You haven’t done anything on this subject and your wife came up with an idea. And the first idea is not always the one that’s going to like again, like just exactly what happened happened. Why are you acting so, like, horrified and shocked? Like, what have you given her as an alternative? What other solutions have you tried to come up with? What research have you done on the subject? What are you willing to do to help teach your kids, man?

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S4: Yeah, and I also I guess I just think, like teaching kids can be really hard. My my Twitter feed is full of very educated people who are struggling, teaching their kids stuff.

S1: Yeah, man. Like, if your hope is that your kids are going to get out of this without falling behind, like abandon that idea right now. And I don’t mean to say like just throw your kids in the backyard and say, come back in five years. Let me know what you’ve done with your life. But they’re going to fall behind. There’s going to be days when they don’t learn like they would have at school because there’s no more fuckin school they’re going to fall behind. There’s going to be stuff that they’ll miss that’s going to happen. So you need to update your, like expectations to reflect reality. And if you’re like, I need my eight and 10 year olds to be quoting Marcus Aurelius at me and never Googling anything like again reassessment.

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S4: Yeah. And also, I mean. I don’t know that much about kids, like, is there really that much my memory of elementary school is that there was a lot of just learning the same thing over and over again.

S6: So I kind of feel like maybe four months a year. What’s it? I don’t know.

S1: I don’t know. Like, talk to your wife about books. You want the kids to read or think about what things you would like to teach your kids and think of ways that you can ask them questions about it or encourage them to learn about it or ways that you can be something of a participant. Like I’m not saying all this. You have to just say like great home school, the kids have a blast. But certainly I think you can drop the shocked and horrified act.

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S7: Definitely don’t encourage you to tell your wife you think she’s just like an amiable moron who up until now was fine to, like, keep your kids, like, clothed and fed and upright, but now has to be like phased out and replaced with, like an upgraded wife bought 2000 who has, like, calculus thrown in there.

S1: My thought, too, is like my other thought was like the questions that are like, you have to wait until Daddy gets home. He gets home and he’s like, well, fuck, I don’t know that either, you know what I mean? Like, yeah, exactly. That felt like part of it to me to just see, you know, the answer to all these questions.

S4: Like, so if I were approaching this guy and he hadn’t exhausted all of my goodwill in his question, I would say, like you’re concerned about your wife’s ability to do home schooling, try to help get her, help her prep. I feel like crap is like probably the main thing more than like being smart. Like, I’m sure there are websites and all that kind of business.

S1: Yeah. I mean, if she was like actually able to help you in your career, she can presumably, like, put a sentence together, like you didn’t marry, like, I don’t know, a tree with, like, a little self-awareness. You married a human woman who’s, like, capable of having conversations and thinking critically and planning ahead. Like, I don’t think she’s nearly as dumb as you give her credit for. And I think if it were me, I would laugh and I would laugh and I would laugh and I would say, I hope your kids grow up to become like trees like that, just like I just want to be a redwood. I don’t know. Only trees are coming into this one so much. But I just hope they reject everything about his idea of what it means to be like a person and that neither of them go to work in finance.

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S4: This guy’s worldview. Is. I mean, it’s not unusual. He works in finance, I saw this man coming, he remembers the movie Grease Grease.

S1: And yeah, yeah, you remember the movie Grease, great. Here’s the answer to your problem get into a flying car and fly away from them. Exactly. I know you have a little money, man, like hire a tutor to assume in with your kids, like, I’m sorry, I’m done. I don’t like this man. I don’t want good things for him. I find his problem hilarious, which is probably not a great way to start a show. But I’m only human and sometimes I need to laugh.

S4: Yeah, I think I think everyone will be the kids will be OK. Maybe I feel like he’ll probably say something to the mom at some point. I’m not wishing divorce on it.

S1: No, of course, like say something, talk about, OK, what are our goals going to be in home schooling? What resources are available to us? How can I help you? Of course, have that conversation. You just don’t have to tell her you secretly thought she was dumb this whole time.

S4: Oh yeah. I was more thinking that just. Because he thinks of this wife this way, I feel like it’s kind of a matter of time before he says something that he shouldn’t do her that will lead to troubles. Think about your relationship with your wife and why you think she’s not as good as you.

S1: If your wife has not already picked up on your contempt for her intelligence, she will. Even stupid people can tell when someone thinks that they’re stupid, you know, like everyone can pick up on condescension sooner or later, even if you’re very, very good at hiding it, it will eventually out. And either that will damage the intimacy between the two of you or she will respond with some version of like, well, I knew that I have contempt for him, but he’s got a lot of money. So I found myself a great way to not have to get a job myself, in which case, you know, who’s who’s the idiot there. I would I would suggest that it is not her. At any rate, kids are going to fall behind. It’s fine. You can also talk to your wife about your concerns about homeschooling without saying you’re a big old dumdum and I’m worried you’re going to fall over. And that’s all I have to say to him. Congratulations on your MBA. The subject of our next letter, which is a little more serious, I’m going to I’m going to bring some more of my this is a serious one. Yeah, this is the real problem. My full self to bear. The subject of this one is can’t leave. Dear Prudence, my girlfriend and I have been fighting a lot because of the lockdown. We’re basically living in each other’s pockets. Sometimes I leave the apartment and drive around to cool off. My girlfriend hates when I do this. She calls a cowardly. The last few times we have fought, she has hidden my phone and keys. I’ll tell her to give them back and she’ll refuse. Have locked myself in the bedroom and just straight up left the apartment to go hang out in the parking lot. My girlfriend has a short fuse, but she’s also tiny. I could hurt her by accident. I grew up with alcoholics who love to abuse each other. It makes my anxiety go into overdrive when I can’t escape.

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S2: I have explained this all to my girlfriend.

S1: I told her it was borderline abusive and she cried. She told me that was impossible and I needed to see that when I leave, it makes her feel abandoned. I was hurting her. I know this will go away when everything goes back to normal, but as much as I love her, I can’t live like this help. That last sentence really troubled me.

S4: Oh yeah, that’s normal.

S1: And do you share any of his belief that when this all quote unquote goes away, that it will just be as if none of this happened? They can forget about it. Let it go. Move.

S4: Oh, not at all. Not at all. I mean, there are a number of concerning things. It’s all concern, really. You know, what concerns you the most? It’s hard to pick one. I mean I mean, for one, just straight up, he says borderline abusive. It’s just abusive. No, no question. Hiding some of keys. Yeah, that’s like. That’s the biggest red flag I can think of short of actual physical violence, like preventing you from being able to leave like. Come on, yeah, I thought the sentence where he said he was afraid of hurting her was kind of weird. I didn’t know what he meant. Like, is he afraid that she’ll attack him and he’ll defend himself? I, I yeah, it was. Whole thing just seems like I mean, you need to not be together, right?

S1: Yeah, this to me does not feel like I mean, I think there’s lots both of them could potentially learn about different strategies to conflict resolution in the future. But nothing about this feels like, oh, this is a relationship that’s really worth saving, that will be able to like pretty easily like return to safety. I have to say, I think my general rule for stuff like this is if one or both parties has a lot of trouble adhering to basic principles of safety and respect in in conflicts or in arguments, that is not worth putting in the work for, that is worth getting away from each other. And then if it’s anything short of that kind of safety, freedom of movement and you both want to do a lot of work, I say do that a lot of work. But yeah, as as you were saying, the short fuse but is also tiny. I was like I could read that is either she has a short fuse, meaning she’s often getting up in my space trying to provoke me, potentially trying to get physical with me. And I’m really worried that any attempts to defend myself because I’m so much bigger would hurt her, or if it was more along the lines of She provokes me emotionally and I’m worried, one day I’ll snap and just smacker. I don’t I don’t know that we have enough information here to make a ruling one way or the other. So I’ll just say, you say that often during fights you become worried about the possibility of physical harm. That’s not good. I think the thing that concerns me the most was that when the letter writer said, when you hide my keys and tell me I can’t leave, that’s abusive. And she says, no, you don’t understand. That’s not possible. First of all. Yes, it is. It’s always possible, unfortunately. And the other thing is that her response to that was when you leave, I feel something that I find so overwhelming and unable to regulate myself that I can justify any action. Like basically what she’s saying is like, no, no, no, you don’t understand. I feel like I have to do this, which is not reassuring. It’s not exculpatory. It doesn’t justify it. It’s really worrying. She’s saying like, no, no, no. I feel so out of sorts when you leave that I should be able to hide your keys because it’s impossible for me to feel this way. And that’s just worth doing anything or crossing any line to get rid of that feeling. So what she’s basically saying is like, yes, I sometimes feel in a certain way that means I will do anything and it’s OK because I feel so bad inside and that’s your fault. And that’s not to say it’s necessarily a great strategy. I don’t know. There’s lots of ways you can leave an argument that might be more or less upsetting to somebody else. I could definitely see a version of, like we’ve been fighting for an hour. I need to go clear my head. I’m going to take a walk. I will be back later versus like, just. Walking away in the middle of a sentence versus like screaming and storming out again, we don’t have that information. So I’ll simply say I’m not going to try to make any kind of a ruling about whether or not the way in which he’s leaving is as good as it could possibly be or simply say you do have a right when arguments just like kind of going non-stop to say we need to cool down and I need to take a walk. And if your partner says not only is that impossible, it makes me feel so bad, I’m going to start hiding your keys. That’s just a that’s one of those things where you say we’re not going to come back from this.

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S2: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

S4: I just think it seems like they’re they’re coping mechanisms are so opposed to one another that it’s hard for me to imagine any kind of finding a middle ground or working through it because it’s just like, yeah, like you say, it’s hard to like judge from the letter on some of these issues.

S1: But sort of either way, it’s really bad hiding the phone in the keys at the same time. So it’s like not only can you not leave, you can’t even contact somebody else. There’s not a middle ground with that. There’s I have a right to basic privacy and alone time and somebody else saying, not when I feel upset. You don’t.

S2: And there’s no middle ground there.

S1: So this fantasy that things are going to go back to normal, I don’t think is one that you should cling to. I think this will come up again in other ways. And I think that you need to tell someone else in your life what’s going on so that you’re not keeping this a secret for her. And I think you need to go.

S4: Oh, no, absolutely. Like, my actual advice is just like leave now. Like now, just as soon as you can. Like, there’s no you can’t live like this. You said it yourself and it’s like it’s not going to get better. I mean, I know, you know, quarantine, it’s a stressful time. You might believe that, oh, when things are normal, it’ll be calm, but like if you’re actually planning any kind of life together, things will not be calm pretty often. Life is filled with stresses, and if this is like what’s going to this is not even if it never gets worse than this, which I think it probably would if it’s pretty. Yeah, but even if it gets worse than this, this is still very, very bad.

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S1: Yeah. You got to go. I’m so sorry. She’s not going to like it. She’s going to try to tell you you’re not allowed to do it. She’s going to tell you that you’re abandoning her. And I want you to be prepared for that. So I want you to, again, ask for help from the people in your life who are going to be there for you and who can support you and do what you have to do to get away from her because you need to. I think we should move on to our next letter where.

S2: I think it’s a little bit less critical, but spoiler alert, my advice is going to be very similar and I think it’s your turn to read, if you don’t mind.

S8: OK, subject long time boyfriend, horrible sex. Dear Prudence, I’ve dated my boyfriend for the past six years. We are completely in sync on everything except for our sex life. We started dating when we were very young, 15 and 16, and I didn’t know anything about pleasure when we started having sex. Sex with him includes jackhammering, fingering is rapid and produces no response, and oral from him is a slobbery mess that literally feels like nothing. When I was young, I thought this was normal and unfortunately I played along, including fake moaning and orgasms. This is carry through to the present. I have never orgasm with him or even in his presence. I didn’t even achieve orgasm until a few months ago when I experimented alone with a sex toy and decided that I can’t keep faking it as it’s not fair to him or me. I take responsibility for my part in this and for not addressing it sooner.

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S3: How do I tell him I’m not satisfied and that every moan orgasm I’ve had has been fake? So I’ll start by just saying.

S1: I think it is good in general to say I want to take responsibility for my own pleasure and for speaking up in my sex life, I also want to say, if you’ve been dating this guy since you were 15 and you’ve been dating for six years, I would not encourage you to take on too much responsibility about the idea of being 15 years old and not knowing what to say when your partner’s three jackhammering you. And just going with I guess this is fine. There’s a limit to how much responsibility I would put on you in that moment. I don’t want to say, like, don’t take responsibility, it’s society’s fault, but let’s throw in a little bit. It’s society’s fault, you know, I mean, we don’t live in a society where much sex ed comes dedicated towards. Health advocacy, talking about pleasure, telling somebody who you love and are doing something vulnerable with maybe for the first time in your life, that this isn’t working, which is a difficult thing to do, especially if you’re 15 and just generally is not geared towards like, hey, young women, think about yourselves in pleasure when you’re sleeping with your boyfriend, which again, is not to say that such things are impossible or that all people start having sex for the first time are like doomed to repeat old patterns of sexism and what have you. But yeah, you didn’t do that in a vacuum that didn’t come from nowhere. And, you know, without saying like, oh, he must be a terrible chump and a jerk who doesn’t care about you because, like, you know, maybe he had every reason to think that what he was doing was working and thought that he was being considerate. I don’t want to be so hard on him that I’m like he should have magically seen through the faked orgasms and known that you didn’t like it because one person’s jackhammering is another person’s like great, vigorous lovemaking. Sometimes I never want to make a ruling one way or another on jackhammering. I don’t want to I don’t want to be either pro or anti jackhammering so much as like, well, you know, use it judiciously.

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S8: There’s a place for everything in the world, all of that to say.

S1: I think my worry here is that this person is going to do the thing that I think I hear from people often, which is like, OK, just acknowledge to myself that I’ve been faking it and that I don’t want to keep doing that. I also really don’t want to have this conversation. What if I, like, gradually phase it out? I feel like I hear from like a lot of people think this will be the solution to my problems is I will slowly, slowly, slowly stop faking orgasms until enough time has passed that my partner just forgot that I used to come every time we had sex and now I don’t. And then I’ll really incorporate like, oh, maybe try this. And then like over the course of a year I can stop doing this, but we’ll never have to talk about it. Do you know that, that like wishful thinking.

S8: I’m talking about that kind of thing, certainly. No, I know. I think she definitely needs to have a conversation about this very directly, frankly. Because I feel like, to be honest, I think she’s in a better position than a lot of people in that she had her first orgasm ever like a few months ago. So she can be like, yo, I didn’t know what sex was like.

S4: Like, I didn’t even know like I wasn’t I thought it was real. I thought I just thought that’s what it was. But then I was wrong. We can figure out what it is together. Oh, interesting.

S1: Interesting. I am I’m not saying that’ll work, but in terms of the conversation, I feel like that works better than just being like, yeah, from the beginning I knew you were bad, but I just like, went with the. Yeah, I am sort of tempted by that because I appreciate the face saving appeal, but I think the problem here has been for a long time that she has been so worried about displeasing or upsetting him. And again, that doesn’t seem to be coming directly from him. It doesn’t seem like he was saying if you don’t come right away, I’m going to freak out. So much is just like an internal sense of pressure to be pleasing. So I worry that if if I suggest anything here that’s about saving his ego or saving him from embarrassment, that that’s going to continue the problem in some sense. And I would simply ask, like, if if the situation was reversed and your boyfriend had been faking it every time since you were 15 or 16, even if you were embarrassed and even if it kind of hurt your feelings, even if I hurt your feelings a lot, you know, would you rather have him just be straightforward with you and try to figure out if there was a way you could move forward with it? Or would you rather he give you a partial version of the truth that kind of made it sound like he just didn’t know what an orgasm was and he had just discovered it and was now like what feels to me like kind of an obvious lie, but that you can both say, sure, we pretend to believe it. And I just I want I guess what I’m driving towards is I think you’re going to break up over this. And I think you probably should, even if he’s a really nice guy. I don’t really know how you come back from the last six years of sex were all fake. Not that every moment of it was fake, but in one pretty big sense. And I just sort of think that that’s fine. I think it’s fine that you break up with your boyfriend who’s terrible at fucking you at 21 years old. I think you should break up with him and go to a lot of other people and fuck a lot of other people. And I want to, like, help you get there indirectly. So maybe this is my chance to come out and be direct and say, even if he’s terrific and even if he was genuinely doing what he thought you loved, I think you should tell him. I think you should be pretty straightforward and I think you should prepare yourself for the fact that he will be kind of upset and that’s OK. But that then also you need to try and see if you can have sex again under different circumstances or jack off in front of him and show him what works for you. And if you can move past that. Great. And if, as I think is likelier, he’s really like, oh, no, this is so upsetting. I can’t believe that you didn’t love the slobbering. I’m devastated. Then you’ll eventually get so sick of it that you’ll fucking dump him and go sleep with a lot of other people and figure out what you like. Yeah, I mean, I’ll say that I was I don’t think she should lie or exaggerate. I was kind of exaggerating for comic effect. Um. Oh, OK. Like you shouldn’t know. It’s fine, just like you don’t.

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S5: But I just think like as a general idea. It the conversation is probably easier to have than you might be afraid. Just from the fact that you’re figuring things out, but you do not lie or exaggerate for this dude’s feelings.

S1: OK, I see, so it was more like. I didn’t realize how it was going to work, not like I didn’t I literally didn’t know what an orgasm was and all those times I thought I was orgasm. Oh, I see. I just I was putting in those terms because I was just having too much fun. This is a real advice show that I remember.

S5: But anyway, I feel like 20 year olds think that they want to stay with the person they’ve been with since 15, but.

S6: You know, it’s probably better to like, you know, so handsome. See the subject of this next letter. That’s little problem. A crisis person wants your prudence here, my boyfriends.

S5: But, you know, sure can try to make it work with this young man, get better with sex. I mean, I feel like might be an opportunity to learn what, you know, you like in terms of with somebody who also doesn’t know anything and then who knows where that goes, maybe actually has a it’s hard because I really don’t want to default to the sort of like, well, obviously no one likes rapid fingering, sort of like everyone likes one thing.

S1: Everyone knows what that is. And people who don’t pick up on it are always like at best, deluded chumps, in part because I really do know a lot of different people who love really different stuff about sex. And there are absolutely people who love a slobbery mess. And then there are some of us who feel like not so much. So I don’t want to default to this guy must be a monster and an asshole or a dummy because he didn’t know. Do you think that’s the right question, do you think the right question is get rid of the crash, keep everything else as is, don’t talk about it? Or do you see another way through here, Attari with your killing and then I guess it’s like shouted at him.

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S8: He was like, I’m this question was I mean, I’m sure frankly, I’m sure this guy is pretty incurious, but that’s teenage dudes.

S5: Usually are sitting in sisterhoods, at least like that’s how it goes.

S1: I mean, I don’t want to go into anything autobiographical because that’s nobody’s business. But I will simply say that it’s time for the next letters. You’ll all just have to wonder if I faked it with my high school boyfriend.

S9: Yeah, yeah.

S5: These are real feelings, so it’s like maybe you should talk to your partner.

S1: Yeah, I I’ll see you. My first most straightforward advice would be if you just like don’t want to go into kind of the other psychosexual dynamics here, which I would totally understand. I think all you have to do is say to Ashley, I love that you and Steve have that flirty relationship. It’s not working for me. I would really appreciate it if you would stop making jokes about how I could tempt you. I love spending time with you. I love our friendship. I’m not saying that you have to suddenly treat me like a business acquaintance, but I want you to stop those jokes. That would be fine. You would not need to ask Steve’s permission to say any of that. If Ashley is as good a friend as you say she is, her response will be something like, oh, my God, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize you got it. And she’ll be a little mortified for a little while and she’ll get over it.

S5: Oh, yeah, absolutely, the flirting, that’s an easy. Surface level fix for some of the issues, I just think that seems like there’s some deeper stuff going on. But yeah, definitely the ending. The flirting is something you can do with no trouble.

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S1: And you don’t have to do it in a way that makes it clear, like, oh, obviously, like it’s because I’m kind of in love with both of you and I wish we could do like a slow dance together. It’s not tipping your hand. It’s not inherently going to make her think like, oh my God, you must have fallen for me. Lots of people would just say, I don’t want to have a flirting relationship with my partner’s best friend. I really like you and I like joking around together. But I do want to have a line and here it is. That would be fine. And again, you would not need Steve’s permission to say that even if Steve were to say something like, Oh, it’s fun, I like it, then you could just say, I don’t. I need you to stop. Like, you could disagree on that subject. And that would be fine. You would have every right to still push for it. I feel a little bit, as you were saying, like my hands are kind of tied here in a couple of different respects. One of them being like, what is Steve’s idea of monogamy if he refers to this person as the light of his life, if they often like create some version of a date, you know, getting dressed up, taking each other dancing, flirting in front of everyone. And he also expects that that will extend to his partner like. And I don’t want to say, like, obviously, he just really wants all three of you to, like, be in a tree at a tree at Triad, and that’s going to solve all your problems. I’m not saying that, but it is very like. What he has invited you into is in a lot of ways, not a monogamous relationship so much as a big dancing around this one line, and it’s like, well, as long as nobody is talking about sex, this is what monogamy looks like. But I read this letter and I think, like, I know a lot of monogamous people who would say, no, thank you, that is not monogamy. And so, again, not to say like you should go tell him he’s a hypocrite or that the solution is for for all of you to denounce monogamy. It’s just like. He is creating a situation where non monogamy is definitely like it’s knocking at the door, you know?

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S5: Oh, yeah, I mean, it’s definitely seems like, you know, a romantic thing between Steve and Ashley. Yeah. And I can see this guy kind of feeling this dynamic, kind of wanting to be a part of it. It doesn’t seem like Ashley or Steve actually want that, they just sort of enjoy. Their thing with this guy sort of attached, not that they don’t have like genuine feelings, but just that like. They’re not considering the writer’s feelings, which, you know, isn’t not necessarily like a cruel way, they’re making assumptions.

S1: I think, as you say, it’s not necessarily cruel. I can see actually some connection between Steven Ashley and the boyfriend of the last letter where they may have good intentions. They’re simply making assumptions that somebody else is enjoying the same thing that they’re enjoying because they’re having such a nice time and nobody else is yelling like this sucks. But it’s not the same thing as checking in, asking questions, asking open minded, curious questions, and like giving someone else a chance to say something potentially fraught, which not everyone does well.

S5: Oh, yeah, exactly. I think it’s just, you know, like like you say, I find a lot of times when people are having a lot of fun, they assume that other people must also be having fun. And if you tell them, they’ll be like, oh, I’m sorry. Like I mean, I think the real issue here is that Steve should talk to his partner about his feelings. Like, I feel like if his partner, like, respects him, he’ll be able to take it in. No, take it in stride. I mean, know what I mean? I won’t say No.

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S1: One, if you’re a monogamous person, you might not love hearing that your partner has a crush on someone, but being able to sort of respect like. Things get complex and they’re coming to you with like, yeah, things, yeah, I think talking about it is the actual solution. Yeah. And like, if if Steve were, you know, in this relationship with you saying this is the light of my life, this is the woman who’s basically going to be at all of our dates all of the time. And she and I are going to wear like matching Victorian dancing costumes. And she’s going to periodically say, like, I wish I could fuck, you know, I don’t you know. And then you say, I’ve developed a crush on Ashley. He’s like, oh, no, my monogamous feelings are hurt. I would say, eat shit.

S5: Steve, like you said, that much pithier than I did.

S1: I didn’t want to be mean, but yeah, I to say like if he’s yeah. I don’t want to say like they created the situation there, you know, like forcing you to have feelings. I don’t mean it in that sense. I simply mean like they have both crossed a number of boundaries without checking in and kind of assuming that you love it. And if the idea of saying this has had an effect on me, I’ve developed some feelings I’m having a difficult time resulted in him or her or both of them saying like, whoa, where the fuck did that come from? How could you that’s so upsetting. Then I would say that that would be very hypocritical. And I think short sighted. Again, it would remind me of another letter, which is the first one, which is like you have certainly created a situation where in it is not impossible that somebody might develop feelings like not that it was inevitable, but certainly if you put a, you know, beautiful, incredibly flirtatious person in front of somebody who is, you know, dating someone close to them, and you’re just like it’s going to be, you know, like Cory and Shawn and Topanga from Boy meets World all the time, which was, I think, really, really my first introduction to an unhealthy triad. But that was very appealing nonetheless. As a young person, his television program about some children who were friends, I know quite a bit about it in high school. I was. But you do remember then Cory and Kapanga and.

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S5: Oh, yeah. I mean, I think I maybe had a different read on the situation, though, is that it was I mean, I guess it’s still an unhealthy triad, but it’s very much seem to me that, like Cory and Shawn were deeply in love with each other, but were, you know, just changed by heteronormativity, as many of us are as young people. And Topanga is like a convenient, like sanghas, cause with Topanga, we don’t have to think about our feelings.

S7: Listen, that that is, I think, very much covered by the unhealthy triad dynamic. I think you and I are very much in agreement, like the episode where Shaun kills everybody to make sure the Halloween episode. Yes. Yeah. Because he want they have to be the guy.

S5: There’s so much. What a show, yeah, yeah. Did you ever see any girl meets World? I didn’t. It’s truly insane. Do they ever bring Angela back because I love Angela. Yes, there’s a brief. They brought everybody back except Rachel. Angela comes in like, oh, the redheaded lady. Yes, yeah, Angela comes and explains some problem, Tashaun, about why he’s bad at relationships. Wow. It’s so.

S7: Anyways, OK, I’m going to get back to the actual problem sorry, I’m like I have like eight different tabs open now of everyone who’s ever been on that show. Yeah. And I’ll just say.

S2: You know, because obviously part of me also feels a little bit like there might be a way that if you maneuver this, all three of you can just be together in a sort of complicated way.

S7: And I don’t want to push too hard for that, but I do want to leave open that possibility that in some ways.

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S1: You’re already in an unofficial three-Way relationship, and it would not be outrageous or awful of you to suggest, hey, what if we what if we actually give it a shot?

S7: Sometimes people like those dynamics because they never have to name them or think about them too hard. And if you suggest that you do, then they really flip out. And I also don’t know to what extent. Sometimes people make jokes about being, quote unquote, tempted because they feel so comfortable and secure with where they’re at, that it feels light. And sometimes people make jokes about being, quote unquote, tempted because they are a little surprised to find something changing and they don’t quite know how to acknowledge it straightforwardly. And they want to test the waters. See how it feels. See what happens. It’s good not to make assumptions there. I guess that’s all I’ll say on that front.

S5: Yeah, I guess in at least in my experience, I’ve encountered very little joke flirting that isn’t kind of just flirting.

S2: Like, maybe I mean, maybe I don’t want to say that Ashley is definitely secretly down or wants to do anything.

S7: It’s just that, like. The way. You described the flirting, just sounds like. Maybe they’re not even aware of it, but it sounds like there are more feelings going on than are being acknowledged. Right. And of course, that’s tricky because it’s not as if you can say, like, I think you really feel something. You know, all somebody has to say to that is like, no. And you just you have to kind of leave it there. So it’s not so much that I think we’re saying this because we think the letter writer should say, like, I think you really do want to have sex with me. And I think you and Steve and I should all talk about it so much as people, I think, usually flirt with someone that they want to flirt with. Even if there’s the cover of a joke, it doesn’t always mean that they know what they want from that person or that they’re interested in pursuing what they want. But again, it does. It’s it’s something, not nothing. She’s she’s pursuing or asking for a certain type of emotional connection with you that you are no longer comfortable giving without having at least a conversation about what it means. And you don’t have to bring up the possibility of all three being together if that’s not something that you think will work out. But it is. I think you’re not like you’re not poisoned. I guess that’s what I’ve been like bringing this up for us. Like the sense of like I feel like poisonous. Like the problem is just me. Steve and Ashley had a great will and grace thing going on that totally worked for them. And then, like, dumb bisexual me came along and like had feelings about it and ruined everything. And I just I want to push back against the idea that, like, they had a great thing and then you were just too dumb to figure out what it really meant. Like they had a dynamic that worked for them that would not have worked for everyone. They threw you into it and gave you a part without checking to see if you’d shown up to audition for that particular role. And now you’re noticing that it has an effect on you, which of course, it does. None of that’s shocking and that’s poisonous. None of that makes you bad. Certainly doesn’t invalidate anything about anyone else’s identity. If you have feelings, you’re not you’re not trying to kick Ashley out of the asexual club and you’re not trying to tell Steve he must, you know, join the bisexual club and have sex with her. You’re simply naming the things that you feel.

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S5: Yeah, exactly. I do think that is a a general problem. I think especially amongst young people, I don’t know how young they are. But the idea that, like, you know, being honest about your feelings is somehow a transgression in itself and that therefore you have to just keep it bottled in. And then it’s this big, dramatic thing. And it’s like if these people really care about you, you should be able to say, like, hey, I have these feelings. I recognize that, you know, maybe you don’t actually want these things to happen, but I feel like I need to talk about it because this is a real meaningful thing.

S7: For me, yeah, yeah, and I just I think my last thought here is just like, again, without saying Steven Ashley must be like malicious jerks who delight in jerking around. I’m not saying that, you know, I would question that the best relationships of your life are ones that make you feel like poison. And again, that’s not to say they’re completely responsible for your feelings. They’re not. But it is not ruining anything, to be honest. And the dynamics that you have described here were mostly handed to you premade rather than something that you said. You know, what sounds like a great idea is if we all three went dancing and then stared into each other’s eyes and said how much we tempt one another, and then we all just go home and take cold showers, like your feelings make a lot of sense. They are not awful or shocking. And for you to say, you know you know, Janaya Janning, your style, like, I am not an automaton, that is OK. So you don’t have to share all this if you just want to tell Ashley, stop flirting and move on, but if you think that these feelings are going to feel overwhelming and that you will always feel like you were holding poison inside, I think it would be better to start having these conversations, even if it made things difficult for a while, and even if it eventually meant that you and Steve broke up because of the alternative is just you sort of like quietly hate yourself all the time. And whenever Ashley’s over, like, longing, music plays in the back of your head and you’re envisioning, like, the three of you dancing around a maypole together, that’s not going to be the best relationship for you.

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S5: And I think that’s it. Yeah, I agree.

S7: Yeah, I’m sorry, I also wish I could give you the cute fanfiction ending that’s like, oh, some that has somehow you three can all be in a relationship that incorporate and accommodates everyone’s identity to a degree that feels right to them. And that also means that it’s always just like really hot and really fun. And I do believe that sometimes possible, but maybe not in this situation.

S5: Yeah, but I think he’ll feel better if he just talks about it. And at the bare minimum, cut the flirting, bare minimum. You can’t do anything else cut ask for there to not be flirting.

S7: Yeah. Saying to someone, I love you very much. Please don’t bat your eyes at me. It’s uncomfortable. Super. OK, yeah. So, Violet, I’m so glad that you were here today. And I’m especially glad that you were able to bring this sort of like science fiction, speculative imagination to imagine a more conclusive and a mindset to bear here, because it really bore fruit, I think. Oh, well, I was glad to be here. Thank you for having me. Thank you so, so much. And I hope we get to have you back on the show again soon.

S10: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence, our producer, Phil Cercas, our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show had to slate dotcom. Dear Prudence, to subscribe and remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to Slate Dotcom pretty to sign up. If you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message for zero one three seven one dear. That’s three three to seven. And you might hear your answer on an episode of the show. You don’t have to use your real name or location and at your request we can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short 30 seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.

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S11: Call.

S1: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday.

S7: It’s like that thing of like, oh, we’re so progressive, we’re accidentally racist again, where it’s just like any invitation to learn more about somebody else’s culture is inherently suspect. And we should just all keep to ourselves because it’s all bad and it’s all evil. And there’s no way for us to interact or like learn from one another or share an event that’s not just so bad and fraught. And we’re all going to get in trouble that we’d like. The best thing to do is not be friends with this girl or go to parties to listen to the rest of that conversation.

S3: Join Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy pod.