The “Backroom Hookup” Edition

Listen to this episode

S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Lucky you.

S2: Your freedom, your prudence here, prudent decision to approve here. Do you think that I should contact him again? Help! Help! Thank you. Thank you.

S1: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again. And as always, I am your host. Dear Prudence, also known as Daniel M. Laverick. With me in the studio this week is Jasmine Sanders, a former guest on the show and a writer from the South Side of Chicago. Jasmine, welcome back.

S3: Thank you. I’m excited to be back.

S4: So pleased that you’re here, especially on a day where we are both just doing our best. Your headphones just broke. Yes. I just realized I was listening this morning to one of the most recent episodes of the podcast just to check and see, like, how the sound issues were working out. And I realized sometimes when I’m getting an idea for a future answer, I’ll write down a couple of notes. And in the regular studio, this works great. And when I’m recording at home, you can absolutely hear me every time I’m typing. So just listening to the whole podcast and then I just hear it periodically. Click, click, click, click, click. So that’s not something I can do anymore. Oh, I’m sorry. Thank you. It’s great. It was really I think there’s something really meaningful in being able to hear, like the collapse of a particular coping strategy. Yes, it is. And that was one. I’m also yeah, I’m in a very open to imperfection and vulnerability. But I had another one of those moments this morning in the live chat every like once in a while. I will miss read and answer a question rather see there different. I’m mixing up questions and answers now and I’ll like blithely give an answer and then someone will type in and say, like, hey, you forgot that this person said not. And so your answer is totally wrong. And so this morning somebody was like, I’m also on unemployment benefits. And I was like, you could try applying for unemployment benefits. And a bunch of people wrote in to say, like, this person has very clearly stated they are already on unemployment. Like, well. That changes my whole answer. Thanks, everyone. Goodbye. Forever. Not forever. We should start the show now that we’ve done the Danny Self Recrimination Power Hour. Yes. Jasmine, how are you?

S3: I’m here. I’m good. I mean, I’m as good as can be expected. That sounds right. I have a cambell about flowers. Go back and sleep when I’m done with is the best you can hope for.

S4: That’s about as good as you can expect from today, I think. Yeah. Would you read our first letter?

S5: I would love to. So the subject is not as. Dear Prudence. I live in an old house, in a hot new area. I take care of my elderly grandparents. I have chickens and outdoor rabbit hutch and have a category where my indoor cats can sun themselves and c.b outdoors. The backyard is only partially fenced. My backyard is not a freaking floor used to. Since March. I can’t tell you how many bored rich mommies I have to tell to get the hell out of my backyard with their little plate carriers. I tried being nice, but I’ve literally caught these women standing by while their offspring tried to break into the structures or they’re off leash. Dogs harass my animals. One was having a dog damn picnic. I had to threaten to call the cops several times. It is stressing me out and stressing my grandparents out. We can’t afford a full fence some weeks. I can’t afford to fill up my car. I am terrified of my grandparents getting sick or my animals getting hurt or one of the women lying to the police because private property is only for white people. I’ve lived here 15 years and never had my back backyard treated like a public park. What do I do?

S6: I think the first thing that I would recommend this person do. There’s a lot to address here. Yes. Right. There’s a lot of affect. There’s a lot of intensity. There’s a lot of fear. There’s a lot of anger. Lots of which I can understand, some of which I think will be useful to let go of. But I do think that my first piece of advice is for this letter writer to look up what laws, if any, their city and state have about, quote unquote, attractive nuisances. Some states use that to refer to pools. Some states use that to refer to trampolines. I don’t know if something like chickens or a rabbit hutch or a cattery would count, but there are some places where you as like the resident or homeowner, could be legally responsible for anything happening on your property as a result of a child being drawn in by the quote unquote, attractive nuisance. So I would look that up first and foremost, because if there’s any chance that you could be held legally responsible for any, like, accident or incident that happened on your property as a result of other people wandering onto it, I wouldn’t want you to know about that. So you can protect yourself as well as you can.

S5: Yeah, I guess before I got to sort of near the end, my. Suggested. Fix was addressed, what it is, we can’t afford Holton’s.

S1: So, I mean, in the short term, in terms of like if you can’t afford a fence, can you make a sign? Can you borrow boxes from people? Can you, like, put out a call for some lumber? Can you ask a friend like anybody you know, who’s maybe it at all good at DIY? I don’t know who built the rabbit hutch for you or the cattery, but if that person’s in your life right now, that might be a great person to turn to and say, I really need help getting even a kind of awkward looking fence put up right now just because I’m having to deal with an unprecedented number of bored kids trying to get into the yard.

S3: Yeah, and also, I mean, we’re in an era of mutual aid, maybe in the vein of what you suggested, or maybe there’s some type of like resources available to city or state to help homeowners.

S1: And that’s actually a really, really great point, I think, especially if you’re in a quote unquote hot new area. Sounds like you’re in a fairly developed city. There’s probably, hopefully a mutual aid organization in your neighborhood. You might be able to get in touch with them and ask, is anybody available to help me put up a fence or. I think that would be a really, really good option. Beyond that. Hopefully you’re not addressing these people as bored rich mommies or calling their kids plague carriers. Aye. Eh. They don’t know how much it’s going to help you to think of these children as only disease vectors. They are no more or less likely to carry disease than other people. And also, children can’t help helping children. I don’t think it really helps to blame them for being small and having poor impulse control. You know, maybe maybe try to let go of some of that. Like I get that it genuinely is awful if somebody, like, has their dog off leash harassing your rabbits. I would get upset about that, too. But I also imagine some of the parents in these scenarios are not bored and rich. I imagine some of them are stressed and overwhelmed and recently let go. And trying to maintain a sense of sanity doesn’t mean you have to say, like, welcome to my house. Come on in. Have a rabbit. But it’s maybe it’s maybe not the case that they’re all having a great time at your expense.

S3: Yeah, I agree. Regarding calling the children plague carriers, I am sure you don’t do that sort of visas. But yeah, I guess the stress that I most picked up on this one or most detectives, you’re caring for elderly people outside of the breaching of your property or disrespect in that way. It’s like literally a health concern in some way. Like, I understand wanting people to stay away from your grandparents and wanting those boundaries and borders to be respected.

S4: Yeah, I would say to that end, put that on the sign. Yes. Again, assuming your grandparents are okay with that, obviously they might feel a certain way if there was a sign that was like their weak and elderly in here. But assuming that they’re comfortable with it, I think including that information on the sign would hopefully go some way towards making people think twice before sitting down to have a picnic. The sign and then the fence is going to be really helpful so that you don’t have to yell so often. Beyond that, you know, you can at least then tell people, look at the sign. Look at the fence. You need to go. You’re allowed to do that. I’m really, really sorry. I don’t have a lot to add beyond that. I want them to, like, try to bear in mind that a lot of these people may also be in difficult circumstances. But I don’t want to go so far as to say, like, invite them all in. Forgive them. They know what not what they do. They must just really, like, need something like your you’re entitled to be frustrated about this. But I don’t think the cops are going to be helpful to either you or your grandparents. And I don’t think that’s going to ultimately solve your problem. No, I don’t think that’s going to solve the problem either. So often it doesn’t.

S3: Yeah, yeah. Or rarely. I would just like to say on a lighter note, as a recently minted rabbit owner, there are such awful pets. So God bless you for taking care of the rabbit. Because I personally struggle.

S4: I wish I had known that you had recently acquired a rabbit because I would have saved up more of my rabbit questions for you. But yeah, sadly, that was it. That was the only rabbit question.

S1: This next one is still a classic. I. I’m just gonna read this. I’m not going to editorialize. We’ll get to the answer afterwards. Subject forever. Living with mother in law. Dear Prudence, I am a woman in my thirties, married to a man in his thirties. We’ve been together for over ten years, married for four. He’s thoughtful, kind, hardworking and has a big heart. Before we got married, he asked if we could move in with his parents due to their health problems. He travels for business a lot and they needed a caretaker. I get along with him and was starting college, so I moved in happily and rent free. Sadly, his father died a year after I moved in. Years later, we still haven’t moved out. I have a good job and I’m starting to save money. My husband still has a job that takes him on frequent business trips. He’s adamant that we don’t move out. I love his mother. I know she has some health issues, but she’s retired and gets around okay. She has never not lived with her and I wasn’t aware that this was going to be permanent. He told me that we were going to be living here until she dies. Hopefully that won’t be soon. But that also means I’m going to spend my entire adult life living with his mom. He said I could move out alone and we could make it work. But would it? His mom is likable and I care about her. But he’s a total mama’s boy. And the house isn’t big. She makes all of his decisions and chooses what we eat. He runs every decision past her. I’m seeing him as her son and not my husband. And I’m getting resentful. I take care of all the chores, maintain the house, buy groceries, pay utilities. And I don’t mind. I love helping out and appreciate that the house is already paid for and that I don’t have to pay rent. I hate that I don’t have a quiet space. She’s very loud and has electronics on all the time to decompress. I want to enjoy my young years with him. We have never live. Together, just the two of us. He said that one day maybe we could build a place above our garage and live there while she lives in the house. But now he changes the subject if I ask about it. How do I talk to him about this or am I the problem in my heart? I know I’m lucky to live in a house that I don’t have to pay for, but instead I’m resenting both of them when they’re not doing anything wrong.

S4: I think it’s a very generous ending. That neither of them are doing anything wrong. I think we can maybe leave room here for both of them are capable of sometimes doing things wrong, right? Yes. Can we can we agree on that? I agree. So in some ways, this seems like you’re kind of well suited to this guy because you’re you’re actually, like, really happy to do all the chores, maintain the house, buy groceries, then let your mother in law decide which of the groceries you’re allowed to eat. Like all you want is like a room where you can chill out some time. And the possibility of living over the garage with your husband some day, like your goals, are very modest given the situation that you’re in. And in a lot of ways, maybe you and your husband are kind of ideally suited for one another. Yeah. But I do think. Yeah. It’s like I think your husband has made it pretty clear he’s never going to not live with his mom, right?

S5: Yeah. I mean, if you’ve lived there since basically your whole look since you were courting OMOs and so now is it.

S3: No, I don’t I’m not placing blame, but is a terrible thing you discuss. Were you married?

S1: I do. I do think there was a real missed opportunity here because it sounds like he’s avoiding this kind of conversation and as much as possible. But he has said enough to clarify it. By the way, if you need to move out, that’s fine. So he’s really like letting it be known where he stands on this issue. But, yeah, I’m so curious. Like, you moved in with him and his parents, you assumed that it wouldn’t be permanent, but you never really, like, pushed for a conversation with your husband to say, like, how long do you envision us doing this? And I don’t say that, like, that was totally your fault. And therefore, like, he gets to do whatever he wants now. But I’m just curious why you avoided that conversation before you got married. And I wonder if part of the reason was because you were afraid that the answer was gonna be something like. You can move out if you want.

S3: Right. I have completely been there before. Like in a scenario where free rent is well, in this instance, it’s probably not the main. It’s like a pretty lengthy duration and big. Yeah, a pretty large consideration. And for me personally, they’re all there both times where I stumbled upon that luxury and that incredible privilege, especially like currently like at this time, right. There always came a point where the free rent was not worth it. Right. You’re paying for it in other ways. Oh, I’m usually immensely like there just came a point where. Especially you mentioned peace of mind or just like meeting time alone or just being. I mean, this is like obviously like someone who’s older than you and has a different lifestyle. And, you know, you said she’s loud and has electronics all on all the time. So you can’t decompress and. There are I mean, in the sense of like loyalties, it seems like it’s going to be those two and then, you know, I mean, like he’s made it pretty clear that, like, if this is a problem for the letter writer, she can move out.

S1: And so I think that gives you a sense of how much you can expect from him in terms of compromise. Now, if I were in your situation, I would say enjoy living with your mother. I will send over the divorce papers when my lawyer has finished drawing them up.

S5: It’s a great time for a divorce.

S1: This letter writer seems interested in at least trying other things first, which I think is fine. We could we are allowed to have different priorities here. So the kind of first issue is the question of like how do you establish some space or time as yours in this house? Are you entitled to do that even if you don’t pay rent? And I think the answer to that is quite obviously like, yes, you contribute a great deal to this household. You are entitled to, like, speak to your mother in law kindly and say, like, do you mind turning down the TV or I’m going to take a nap for part of the afternoon. Do you think we can, like, talk about turning some of the electronics off or asking her to speak quieter? Like, all of those are polite, normal, allowable things to say to someone you live with. And you don’t have to assume that they’re rude just because she’s, quote unquote, not doing anything wrong.

S5: Right. Yeah, because not rude doesn’t mean nice. Or even even if she were nice.

S3: That wouldn’t make it in some ways more desirable to you. Like at Addison. Wait, no matter how nice she is, you just don’t want to be there or you want your own or your own space. Right.

S1: So there are certainly ways that you can advocate for that both just separately, like with her in the capacity of like your both housemates without necessarily having to go through your husband. But then there’s also, I think, that question of like I’m seeing him as her son and not as my husband. That’s a bigger issue. And while I think you have every right to raise that issue with your husband, I think you should be really prepared for him to say, like, yeah, I do see myself as her son before. I see myself as your husband. And are you okay with that? Like, if you push on this issue, if you say like when it comes down to it, I would really like to live together, just the two of us. And he says, I’m not willing to do that until my mother is dead. You may find that there’s not a lot of room for compromise there. You may find that hearing that is actually really, really painful. And you realize you don’t want to play second fiddle to your mother in law for the rest of your life. I don’t know. I can’t answer that question for you, but I think you have avoided having a kind of like come to Jesus conversation with your husband about this for a long time because you’re afraid of what the answer would be. And I think you should without saying like it’s an ultimatum, her or me right now, saying, like, do you ever see the two of us living together, just the two of us while your mother is still alive? Or do you think that that’s impossible? Can you ever imagine a situation where you would bring a problem to me before you brought it to her? Can you ever see a situation where you and I would plan what we wanted to have for dinner without asking her permission first? Yes. And, you know, really taking his answer seriously. And if he says, like, nope, none of that sounds good to me, you know? Then you get to ask yourself, can I live with that?

S3: Yeah. And also perusing the letter again. I’ve I guess it’s sort of sunk into me. How much time? It’s been like you mooting when you were starting college and now you’re in your 30s. You’ve been together for over ten years. And I’ve never lived alone or lived with just the two of you. It seems so critical. I think I would. Yeah. I think I would have to talk to us about it and also set a date. Like ask for a date.

S1: Yeah. Yeah. Ask for a date. Think about do you want to be doing this five years again from now. And I’d just ask again, like you say, that you buy the groceries and she decides what you eat. And when you say that you don’t mind that because you don’t have to pay rent. But maybe ask yourself that question again, giving yourself permission to say maybe I mind. Sometimes I’m entitled to mind these things. The fact that I don’t pay for rent doesn’t mean I don’t have the right to have opinions about how we live in this house. And good luck. These are really hard, painful questions. Let’s move on to a totally different problem that I’m so excited about. Would you please read it?

S3: Yes. The subject is constant piano playing. Dear Prudence, my roommate is a concert pianist who was furloughed because of the Corona virus. I am working from home. She spends eight plus hours a day practicing, even though she’s not going to be playing in the orchestra for the foreseeable future. I have asked her not to play while I’m working, which she respects. But then she’ll start practicing after five p.m. until I go to bed. I know she’s trying to compromise, but the constant piano music in the evening is grating on me. My question is, is it reasonable for her to keep practicing when she’s furloughed? Am I the jerk here? What can I do to mitigate the situation?

S4: This is not a problem. I hear a lot of. I do not get a lot of questions like this.

S3: Yeah. She said she respected your wishes to not play while she’s playing like. I don’t get at all your argument that she’s not going to be playing for the foreseeable future. Don’t those muscles, like, atrophy or like shouldn’t she. I don’t understand, Your Grace.

S4: That was really reckless. Don’t stay at the top of your craft like a concert pianist. Definitely need to keep practicing. She can’t just let herself sit idle until some day. They’re like, OK, everybody, back to work tomorrow. She’s like, whoops, I forgot Mozart.

S3: Yeah. Or the other guy would sing the second Beethoven.

S1: Yeah. Yeah. I will try to imagine a world in which having someone like play beautiful concert piano music from five p.m. until bedtime is a problem. It’s hard for me to imagine, but I get that life is a rich tapestry and different things bother different people. So I’m sorry that you do have to deal with a sound that is not relaxing to you, but you’ve already asked her not to play when you’re working. She’s giving you that she’s not playing at 2:00 in the morning. You know, I think this is a pretty reasonable compromise. And I think that you need to. Whatever you can do to medicate it now, it’s going to involve something like powerful earplugs, noise, canceling headphones, closing the door to your bedroom. Figuring out other solutions. Taking a walk like.

S3: I also wonder if it’s just one of those situations where because you are. Because we all are confined to the living space, that every annoyance is magnified. You know, not only technically because to spend so much time together, but just everyone’s nerves and users are so sure that you’re like a one more scale and I’m going to lose it. Right. It just doesn’t sound that. And I want to minimize.

S1: But I do understand that, like when you two moved in together, she probably did most of her practicing at her rehearsal space. And so there’s just a big difference between signing up to live with someone who plays the piano professionally versus like five hours a night. You’re listening to the piano as you unwind. I get it. I guess be grateful that she’s not a beginning concert pianist. You know, like, at least she’s good. But, yeah, I really do think there’s a there’s a limit to how much you can ask her to not play. This is her job. She does need to keep on top of her game, even if she’s been furloughed. You know, figure out what things you can do in your own time and in your own space. And if it’s really driving you nuts, take a walk and don’t like maybe like once or twice a week if you’re having a really difficult evening. If you can ask her to, like, wrap it up early, but do so cheerfully, politely and with the understanding that she might say no.

S4: It’s kind of all I got for that one. I wish there was a concert pianist living in my building. Me too.

S3: I did once live under someone who played the trombone. Oh, trombones. A totally different question. Yeah. That was not. Yeah.

S4: Yeah. And I would have a very different answer if the question was my plays the trombone. But this is not about the trombone. I don’t like the trombone as much as I like, you know. OK, so this idea of this next letter is how do I explain to my parents I write erotica for a living. The answer to which I’ll just give you a spoiler now is don’t.

S1: Dear Prudence, I am 22 and live with my parents. I flunked out of college because of the abysmal state of my mental health at the time. And now live in my childhood bedroom. A couple of years ago, I wrote the first chapter of an erotic fiction story and posted it online. People not only read it, but really liked it and they even asked for more as my stuff became more popular. I had the idea to solicit donations via a on cell requests and even put a few stories behind a paywall. I now have the money to actually move out, but my parents are going to wonder where I got it. They’re hardly Puritan’s, but while mom and dad people pay me to write masterbation, fodder on the Internet is a difficult conversation to have and mortified by the idea of them reading it, especially some of the kinkier stuff. BSN, sex with monsters, borderline rape fantasies and other things boomers probably struggle to comprehend. Should I just tell them I sell drugs?

S6: No. What is it with their questions this week? And like, how do I humiliate them? How do I tell myself? Drugs like don’t tell.

S3: What world do you think your parents respond better to? Mom. Dad. I sell drugs bad.

S4: I mean, I think that was like an attempt at a joke, but it didn’t work. Right. Shall we start by? I just want to throw this out there. I don’t think that boomer age people have never heard of PSM monster porn rape fantasies. That’s not something that like 22 year olds recently invented. Yeah, I get that. Like your parents hearing that you write about, it might have a particular kind of reaction. But like, people aren’t being your parents and not because they’re boomers. Freilich people in their 60s and 70s are aware of BBF them like read up on the history of like the Mr Leather competition, like. Sorry, I. I’m getting distracted. But like other people, you didn’t. And that’s sex. You didn’t invent erotica. You didn’t invent monster porn. You didn’t invent BDM. How do you think you got to. Yeah. This is a non-issue. You don’t have to like prove to your parents in writing where you got the money to move out from. All you have to say is like mom and dad. I have the money to move out. I’m planning on doing so on such and such a date. Thanks for the help. And if they’re like, wow. Where’d that money come from? You can say any number of things like I’ve been saving or I’ve been doing some copywriting online or I’ve been doing some freelancing, whatever generic made up thing you want to tell them. And if they’re less, well, a writer. Right. Like there’s so many bullshit answers that are like vaguely true that you could give them. I’m a little surprised that you immediately went to if I want to move out and put a downpayment on apartment. I’m gonna have to show my parents my erotica and they’re gonna want to read it. Yeah, sorry.

S6: I feel like I’m being very hard on this young letter writer who is anxious and 22 and like very recently going through a difficult time. Letter writer. I don’t wanna be a jerk to you. I’m so glad you were able to find work that you enjoy doing. So glad you’ve been making money at it. I think you can be a lot easier on yourself and also give your parents a little bit more credit. Or at least their generation a little bit more credit.

S3: I agree. I also think that because you are so young, like your you’re not a millennial. What are they like age and or whatever. Generation Z, Zillah. Generation Z.. Yeah. Millennials. What works to your benefit? Is that not only for you guys but also for millennials. Most of my employment is so precarious and odd. Any way that you could just sorry for your friends. Your freelance software hacker.

S6: Copyeditor. Ghost writer. Technical writer. The kind of boring writing that like they wouldn’t be like, oh, where can I see it? It would be like on a manual for a lamp. You can only buy in Sweden.

S3: Yeah. So does that make sense. Like it works to your been to the letter writers benefit that so many. These are so precarious and like odd sounding anyway that your friends will go OK. You work for it like it’s fully usable. They like you work for a plant, Instagram or something. Yeah. Like, whoa.

S6: And another thing that will work in your favor is the fact that tons of people who do any sort of like remote sex, adjacent work. Not that I’m describing this as like sex work in the sense that you have the same concerns and needs as other people in that community. But like maybe contact other people who, you know, write erotic. I mean, like, hey, if people ever wonder about the source of your income, what do you tell them you do? Like people have fake names for that sort of thing. They have backstories. They have cover stories like this is a common problem for anybody who makes money from, like writing or producing any sort of erotic content. You are not alone in this.

S4: People have been coming up with possible cover stories for a very long time, including boomers, including some baby boomers. Anyway, sorry, again, I’m being really hard on this person who is doing they’re both in a difficult situation. We have good news for you. You don’t have to tell your parents you write erotica. You don’t ever have to tell your parents that you write erotica. Yes. All right. I think that’s it. Right. We solve that person’s problem. I think so. This next one, I’m very excited that you get to read and not me because it’s a real humdinger.

S3: OK. The subject is, is there a polite way of inquiring about the mental health of potential partners? Dear Prudence, after quarantine is up, I’m going to be actively dating my last serious relationship and the briefer one before that. We’re both marred by the mental health issues of my partners. I was always supportive and flexible with them through it. But I did get extremely it did get extremely draining. And if possible, I would like to avoid situations like that in the future. I feel very much for all the people close to me who have mental health struggles and try to support them. But I just can’t be someone’s caretaker again. Neither of those last partners really let on before it was late, a.k.a. the relationship with Steve that they had these issues. I’m wondering, is there if there is a way to politely non-judgemental, we ask potentially new partners if they struggle with their mental health before I catch feelings? I imagine there is not. But if you had any perspective, I’d love to hear it. Do you have any perspective? Well, you know, I the mentally ill. I guess sort of the start of my question, my counter question would be, what do you mean by mental health? Do you mean an actual diagnosis? It’s kind of like vague language to where it feels stigmatizing. But, you know, I could just be feeling attacked wrongfully. But I’m wondering if what you’re talking about this particular diagnoses and disorders or if you just mean, like, generally depressed, you know, I mean, like you don’t define what you’re talking about. You say mental health. You can’t stress. It’s like a mental health issue because that’s everyone.

S6: Right. Or like unexpected grief. Like what if you date someone who’s like. No, I promise you, I have perfect brain, no problems. And then the next day, like half their family dies in a bus accident. Like you can’t perfectly control for. Oh, wait. Like I’m with you, too. Like, my first instinct was to read this question as somebody who’s, like, bordering on like a eugenicist approach to dating, which is basically like I only want to date someone who I can categorize as mentally normal and anyone else I need to weed out.

S3: And even going that far, even with just that very simple step or that simple qualifier, like in a country where the majority of people don’t have health insurance or health coverage or have recently lost theirs, are you demanding, like medical proof or like self-diagnosis? Like, what are the criteria?

S6: Right. So, yeah, I think that that can be helpful in the sense that I think the current the kind of like plan that you’re attempting to come up with right now has a lot of flaws in it. That said, in terms of what I see in this letter that I do want to try to help this person with is like you can absolutely come up with an idea of what do you want in a future relationship? Like, I want a partner who has a robust support network outside of me, like I want a partner who either sees a therapist regularly or has in the past who like is on top about going to whatever doctor or psychiatrist they might need for any, like, medication needs or just general health, who has lots of close friends they talk to regularly, is able to express like anger relatively appropriately, like has their emotional support network kind of in place ready to go. So that you’re not their primary or sole source of support. Totally reasonable to look for in a partner.

S3: Yeah, and then another. I agree with you that these seem like issues that route maybe particular to those people. You know, like you said, you were a caretaker. That isn’t like someone who maybe relied too much on their women to partner to help them through these particular things.

S6: Fray. Right. And so absolutely fine to say I don’t want to be somebodies primary caretaker. But your leap from that to should I be screening people for mental health issues? No. Lots of people with mental health issues have robust emotional support. Networks know how to look after themselves and have developed really good strategies. So the thing that you want to look for is somebody who’s not looking for a caretaker. Now, unfortunately, people don’t just like, say, on a first date, by the way. What I really want out of a partner is a caretaker. So six months in, all of a sudden I’m going to start falling apart on a daily basis and expecting you to carry me. But that doesn’t mean you can’t kind of keep a weather eye out for it mentioned that you really value a certain degree of like mental and emotional independence in a partner. If at some point they’re leaning on you a lot early ish into a relationship, you can absolutely say, I’m not able to do that for you. All of those things are available to you. And we’ll be able to be used in your quest to not be someone else’s caretaker. You can absolutely avoid being someone else’s caretaker in the future. I just don’t think you can do it by saying, hey, take this mental health test first.

S3: Yeah. And then I guess part of the issue is, well, part of what could be an issue is, again, because I like the language here is so vague and I’m assuming that you would present it to the other person. A question as degli. Do you struggle with your mental health as kind of a loaded question? So you would have to rely upon, again, like someone, oh, barometer or someone’s own measure of their mental health. Right. And it’s sort of like those I love those means on Instagram. Those like, you know, a depressed person do this, like make it up because. So, yeah, they’re I don’t think as to the central question, which is, is there a polite or nonjudgmental way to ask? Well, you you’re asking a judge mental question. Like you’re literally looking to make a judgment on whether you see this person as fit for dating or continuing to develop a relationship with. So I don’t think there’s a nonjudgmental way to ask what is a hugely judgmental question.

S6: Yeah. Better questions have more to do with like. And again, these aren’t all like first date screening question do you can’t be like, what are the five things you do to take care of yourself and you’ve had a difficult day. But there’s certainly ways to both directly and indirectly attempt to learn more about somebodies like inner life. Right. Or their emotional life or their support system. There’s ways to talk about those things. So some of what you’re looking for is totally achievable. Some of what you’re looking for is totally understandable. Some of it the like. Maybe I can screen out mentally unwell people, mentally unhealthy people, or I can find somebody who’s never going to go through grief or trauma or a bad period in life. Not that I felt like exactly that was what they were asking for, but I worry that that could potentially become the next thing is like if you are looking for a relationship of like some emotional depth and duration, you might go through a season where they need maybe not everything from you, but maybe a lot from you. And so, you know, I totally understand why you wouldn’t want that to be your primary dynamic. But I hope you can be open to the possibility that, like, somebody is not out to fleece you just because, like three years into a relationship, they have a really rough couple of months and need you a lot.

S3: Yeah, that’s the thing is like the question, even if you could whittle it down to something more specific or more pointedly reveal what you were looking for in the manner that you were looking for it. You can’t predict future mental health like you can’t predict whether they’re just undiagnosed right now. Like Ben, would you feel like CVD or not? I mean, like. Yes. Yeah. Yeah.

S6: I mean, I think just the answer is basically really what you’re looking for is a person who knows their strengths and their weaknesses, knows who to turn to for professional help when they have need of professional help, is able to appropriately distinguish between things you can reasonably expect over the long run from a partner, from a friend, from a therapist, from a medical professional, and knows how to kind of like adjust accordingly that you can find in a lot of different kinds of people, maybe some of whom would even have diagnosed mental health issues.

S3: Yes.

S1: OK. Last one. The subject is sex in communal coworking space. Dear Prudence. I’m a woman in my early 30s, and I recently secured a desk in a somewhat unusual coworking space. There’s a large front room with desks for coworking, a middle room for a jewelry making company, and a back studio with a kitchen couch and fold away bed. The landlord lives in another state. Her main employee is a woman in her mid 20s who also acts as an unofficial building manager. Let’s call her E.. During lockdown, Ian Dive and the only ones using the space yesterday. E told me she’d be taking a nap in the back room and asked me if I needed to access the kitchen before she closed it off. I told her I’d probably be leaving in the next hour and didn’t need kitchen access. Shortly afterwards, as I was wrapping up my work day at my desk, I heard what was definitely people having sex in the back room. I thought I heard some sex noises a week ago, but wasn’t sure because I was also listening to music on my headphones. Now, there was no doubt she is sleeping with her boyfriend in the back room regularly while I am there. I feel very disrespected. I paid two hundred fifty dollars a month rent this space and consider it a unique but professional space as far as I know. Both she and her much older boyfriend have their own places. I don’t know how to confront her about this. I feel very awkward bringing it up. But I also like this space and want to keep it. I feel like if I don’t confront her soon, she’ll continue to have sex with her boyfriend at the space. But I don’t know how or what to say, and I’m pissed as hell.

S4: Yes, I mean, I feel, you know, I understand why it would feel uncomfortable to hear, you know, the only person you kowalke with having sex in the back room of your coworking space. I also feel like the whole like I pay two hundred and fifty dollars a month to not hear sex in this building is right. It’s a bit much.

S3: That’s true. Because even if you didn’t pay. Just the fact that it’s a communal space means that it should be respected as such, you know. Yeah. So I don’t think there’s like a financial point at which it’s like after one hundred and fifty dollars, I will not. I am not hearing sex out in the rain.

S4: I mean, like I feel like my answer to this is just gonna be pretty straightforward. Wait until you’re not pissed as hell and then just say like, hey, this is really uncomfortable. But I heard you having sex in the back last week. Please don’t do that again. Yeah. You know, literally all you have to do is name the thing. You’re not the weirdo for bringing it up. You know, she then gets to carry more of the embarrassment of like, oh, people heard me having sex at work. That’s literally all you have to say. And if she’s like if she gets really flustered, it’s like, I don’t know we’re talking about. It wasn’t me. You don’t have to say anything. You can just be like, cool, I’m going to go make myself some coffee. Like, you don’t need to get drawn into an argument. You can just be like, please don’t do it again. Yes, right. Like, it’s I don’t know. Is there anything I’m missing here?

S3: No, just. Yeah. She’s in her mid 20s. I was going to say that since, you know, all the bookstores lose. I guess there’s nowhere for young people to have sex. Well, only one of them’s young. You know, he’s old.

S4: Presumably he’s out of place, but maybe he’s old and married and he can’t have her over social distancing. I mean, that was my assumption, is that he’s married. Oh, my God. Total speculation. Yeah, I, I think filed this away under like a minor irritating problem rather than like the most shocking thing that’s ever happened to you, like. People not infrequently try to get away with having sex at work.

S6: Yes, you have every right to object to it and put a stop to it, but don’t think of it as like the most shocking thing that’s ever happened. And you’re the only person that’s ever happened to just be like, please knock it off.

S3: I agree. I think I do think that it’s one of those things where, like, the embarrassment will be enough to get her to not do it anymore.

S1: It’s one of those things where, like, all you have to do is be like, hey, I can hear you having sex, knock it off. Like, you don’t have to say more or less than that. It’s fine. It would also be fine if you just, like, wanted to ignore it and leave. But you don’t have to ignore it. You’re under no obligation to, like, be cool with it. Tell her don’t knock it off.

S4: I agree. Jasmine, do I have your permission to address what you just texted me on the air? Oh, good. Because I also used to work at a borders and people absolutely also had sex at the Borders, which is what you just texted me.

S3: Yes, I worked at Borders Bookstore and my boyfriend and I still have sex in like the kids section because we were teenagers. To be fair, we were children. Like, these are grown. I don’t know what they’re doing, but we were like teenagers and the kids section was always empty. So it was like, you know, like kind of secluded. I was like, yeah, yeah.

S4: Customers love it sometimes. I’m having borders. I mean, it wasn’t my favorite part of working at the borders. I like I’m not suggesting like the whole world. Everyone should be having sex wherever. I just mean, like sometimes people have sex at work and, you know, you can be like, you know, spraying with a little water bottle. Yeah. Yeah. Jasmine, thank you so, so much for coming on the show. Five minutes after your headphones broke. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

S3: Thank you for having me. This is so fun. Of course. Enjoy going back to bed. Yes. And you enjoy the rest of your day to.

S7: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence. Our producers, this circus. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Had to slate dot com slash. Dear Prudence to subscribe. And remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to sleep dot com slash pretty pod to sign up if you want me to answer your question. Call me and leave a message at four zero one three seven one, dear. That’s three three two seven. You don’t have to use your real name or location. Keep it short. 30 seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.

S8: Well.

S6: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday.

S4: If you want to in that last conversation with her, like really elucidate the ways in which it is cruel and shitty and involves reveling in her good fortune, you have my total permission. But look, I think, honestly, the most humiliating thing is just going to be being found out and letting her know like you’re weird, creepy little blog vlog series about me is pathetic and you suck like that. I think she’s gonna be stewing in her own juices for a little while after this to listen to the rest of that conversation.

S6: Joint Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy Pod.