Help! My Boyfriend Calls Me Fat When We Fight.
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Help! My Sister’s Careless Parenting Has Gone Too Far.
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Dear Prudence Uncensored: “Reluctant Job Quitter”
Help! My Husband Doesn’t Want Us to Get Pregnant Unless I Leave My Job.
Our advice columnists have heard it all over the years. Each Sunday, we dive into the Dear Prudie archives and share a selection of classic letters with our readers. Join Slate Plus for even more advice columns—your first month is only $1.
My boyfriend loves me, is unfailingly kind, self-identifies as a feminist, and is always interested in and supportive of my academic work. Here’s the weird part: He says “good girl” to me, usually when I’ve done something to take care of myself, like put my glasses on when my eyes are tired, or get to sleep and wake up at a reasonable hour. We live together and I adore him, and honestly, I like the “good girl” thing, at least to some extent. I am an approval-craving person, by nature and even though I don’t need it, I love to be validated. I wouldn’t want him to say it in front of anyone, but I do feel guilty, because liking it makes me feel like I’m some kind of sick, weird throwback or that he is. (He doesn’t say it in bed; it’s not a sex thing.) What do you think? Is it a warning sign? Is it OK?
I am so pleased to be the person who gets to inform you that you are not in possession of a problem! Your boyfriend playfully affirms you when you take care of yourself, and you like it! He respects and supports you in every meaningful way, so don’t worry that this is some early warning sign that he actually sees you as a child who can barely take care of yourself. He’s cheering on little victories with a slightly silly twist. It’s perfectly fair to let him know that while you enjoy this in private, you don’t want him to say it around other people who might misunderstand, but by all means, continue to enjoy this low-key bit of whimsy in private.
—Danny M. Lavery
From: “Help! My Boyfriend Says, “Good Girl!” to Me. I Like It.” (Feb. 23, 2017)
After four years with my partner, he tells me that he has some love letters from his teens, and he wants me to send them to him. He has moved away and I’ll be joining him soon. I was very angry about these letters and he said they are his memories and he wants to keep them. Also, we’ve argued about photos of women from his past which he keeps because of the nice memories he has of them. We threw out all his photos with his ex, and two years later I found some of them, which he took out of the bin and kept them behind my back. When I asked him about them he said that he can’t remember and that he was under a lot of stress. He’s much better now but will still have a go at me about the photos. He does see what all the anger is about. Please help. I don’t know what to make of him. After 4 years together, I feel very betrayed by his response.
It sounds like robot partners can’t come too soon for you because you would prefer a machine programmed to meet your specifications. Your partner’s previous experiences helped form who he is and presumably you find who he is appealing. I’m trying to imagine the Dumpster event you organized that was supposed to consume all evidence that he even had an ex. You are not entitled to go through his memorabilia and edit it to suit your insecurities. You don’t say that he disappears for hours and you find him obsessively poring over photos of his exes, so I will assume you are not objecting to some Vertigo style obsession with his past. Given the level of your jealousy, it is odd that he would specify that he wanted his high school love letters. But maybe he realized he left a box of high school stuff behind and the only way to get it was for you to forward it, and he knew you would squirrel through it for content. The real questions here, given the evidence you have presented, is not about his betrayal, but why he’s spent four years with you. —Emily Yoffe
From: “Help! My Dorm Mate Diddles Herself While I’m in the Room.” (April 2, 2012)
I am a 29-year-old woman who is fat. I’ve always had a big belly, ever since I was a small child, and as an adult I commonly get questions about my pregnancy. I have never been pregnant and don’t ever plan to become pregnant. I often just say “I’m not pregnant, just fat!” which elicits a wide array of responses; most I just laugh it off. Sometimes people will follow up with, “I’m sorry, you aren’t fat!” I had a co-worker once say, “I didn’t know you were pregnant!” When I responded “I’m not,” she just laughed at me. I once even had a client argue with me that she was sure I was pregnant the last time we spoke a few months ago.
How am I supposed to respond to this? I have gotten this response from strangers, rude co-workers, and clients at the domestic violence shelter I work at. I don’t mind being fat. I am healthy and able to do everything I want to do. I’m mostly OK with my body. I grew up with a lot of cruelty from my family, and it can be hurtful to hear mean things said about my body. I obviously can’t tell off a co-worker or client, but I want to make it clear to them that my body isn’t open for discussion. Additionally, I want to make it clear that they shouldn’t be concerned with anybody’s shape, size, or body.
It’s so remarkable to see, in that moment, someone realize just what they mean when they say, “You aren’t fat”—namely, “I like you, and fat people are [lazy/unattractive/bad/fill in the stereotype here], and you’re not any of those things, so you can’t possibly be fat,” even though you’ve just asserted your own fatness, calmly and without asking forgiveness. Their discomfort at realizing just how much they use the shape of a person’s body to assign value is serious, and I think it’s fine to let them sit in an uncomfortable silence without trying to rescue the moment, even if it is a client. But you can always change the subject after that with, “I’m ready to stop discussing my body now. Are you?”
Maybe a local domestic violence shelter doesn’t have a robust corporate human resources department, but surely there are companywide policies about things you should never say to clients. You might talk to your supervisor about adding discussing other people’s bodies, whether client or co-worker, to that list. I’m so sorry that you’ve been put in this situation so often, and I’m so angry on your behalf that, on top of the difficult work you’re already doing, you have to repeatedly argue with other people about whether or not you’re pregnant because they’ve decided your size means your body is up for public debate. And while your job may require a great deal of sensitivity and patience, it’s still perfectly polite and professional to tell someone they’re being rude and they need to stop when they laugh at your body or start sputtering about how you must be pregnant. With co-workers, especially, you have the grounds to say, “You need to stop talking about my body, and I hope you don’t say these things to our clients or other people in your life.” —D.L.
From “Help! I Can’t Afford to Leave My Husband.” (March 4, 2019)
Please settle this question for me! I have one bridesmaid for my upcoming wedding. I gave her a budget and told her to select her own dress, which I will pay for, and as long as I didn’t hate it I would be happy for her to get a dress she was happy with. She came up with a design which was fine with me. But now that she started the process of getting it made she is insisting that she wants to wear white. I told her she could have any other color, including black, but I do not want my bridesmaid wearing white. Besides, it defies wedding traditions and many of my guests and family would find it odd. We have been arguing over this and she has her heart absolutely set on white. Since Kate Middleton got married with a bridesmaid in white, my friend is even more insistent that this is the way to go. Am I a bridezilla for not wanting my bridesmaid to be in the same color as me?
I have the feeling that the gorgeous Pippa Middleton, with her glamorous white bridesmaid dress, is going to launch a million all-white weddings. You are paying for your friend’s dress and gave her carte blanche on its design. I officially declare you not a bridezilla. That she would engage in a tussle with you over wearing a white dress makes her a maidzilla. So what to do about it? Try to ratchet down the anger. Say as lovely as the Windsor wedding was, you particularly don’t want to look as if you’re copying it. Say the entire rainbow is at her disposable, and it would mean a lot to you if she went with another shade. But if she won’t, then let it go. No one is going to confuse her for the bride. And it may be that if she’s so stubborn and willful, in the future you won’t confuse her for your best friend, either. —E.Y.
From: “The Bridesmaid Wore White” (May 2, 2011)
More Advice From Dear Prudence
A co-worker and I have recently begun to discuss leaving our company and setting up our own business. We’ve worked together for several years and he has good knowledge in our field, so I was all ready to go ahead. Then I discovered that he is going through a divorce because he cheated on his wife.