Dear Dear Prudence, Volume V

I gave up posting for Lent.  As penance, a fresh Dear Dear Prudence, to be shared by you and the almighty.

Every week Slate, an online magazine that’s a lot like if Harper’s was written by the editors of Entertainment Weekly, runs an advice column called Dear Prudence.  Written by D.C.-based Emily Yoffe, the column is similar in format to Dear Abby (ask your librarian) and covers a range of topics such as manners, etiquette, familial relations, and of course how to deal with ill-conceived sexual decisions.  At least one of that last one makes it into the column every week.  Drink when you hit it.  We here at Dear Dear Prudence like to take another crack at the questions she has been posed, so that the people who ask them may have the benefit of a second opinion.  

This week (hah!) we hear from a woman whose husband’s only flaw is that he is a terrible father and probably impossible to live with, a guy who doesn’t want us to know he’s thinking about cheating on his wife, and a huge jerk.  Sounds about right.

Dear Prudence,
I hit the jackpot with my husband. He treats me like a queen, cleans the house, has a successful career that allows me to be a stay-at-home mom, encourages me to have evenings out with girlfriends, etc. We’ve been happily married for 10 years and have two wonderful children ages 5 and 7. My concern is that while I know he loves our children, he doesn’t enjoy them. He was raised by an obsessive-compulsive-type mother who still vacuums twice a day. He barks at the kids if there’s a sock lying around or a toy on the floor. He yells if he has to ask them twice to do anything. When he gets home, he wants to tell me about his day while I’m cooking dinner. The kids sometimes interrupt, which drives my husband crazy. They hate to be left alone with him because he’s “grumpy.” He thinks, wrongly, that they are naughtier than other children, and I feel defensive that he’s criticizing the way I’m raising them. My mother says he parents the way he was parented and he turned out great. I’m going away with some girlfriends, and he’s said that “things are going to change” and he’s going to “fix the kids.” I’m secretly afraid of him trying. Should I just accept that he’ll always be hard on them? The kids are the only thing we argue about.
—Dad Dilemma

I would congratulate you on your kids being “the only thing” you and your husband argue about, but that would require ignoring the fact that without kids, there’s pretty much nothing to argue about other than the placement of the potted plants in the house and whether you should spend the evening watching CSI or NCIS on Netflix. This horrible situation is fraught with the potential to go nuclear. You should count yourself lucky that they haven’t yet conveyed to their first grade teacher that they’d rather not be alone with their “grumpy” dad. Next thing you know, you will have to explain the details of your home life to a government employee in a polo shirt holding a clipboard with a form that has checkboxes for “violent, “pederast,” “both,” and “neither.” I don’t know about you but I don’t like having to answer to someone who wears the same uniform as a Best Buy employee and gives you a one-in-four chance of exiting the conversation with a clean record. It’s 2012 and being a good provider isn’t enough to earn a Good Dad medal, he has to actually win the kids over.

So what do we do about your husband who, for the record, is a shitty father? You say he thinks your kids are “naughtier than other children,” so let’s try surgically removing that stupidity goiter from his brain. Figure out who in your 7-year-old’s class is the Daniel. The Daniel is the kid all the adults don’t want to admit is horrible – he’s reading a year or two behind the rest of them, his parents think Ritalin causes Autism, and he’s bigger and taller than the rest of the kids. Invite him over for a sleepover, tell him he can do whatever he wants, and then excuse yourself for an errand that should take fifteen minutes but actually leaves your husband as the only adult in the house for a good six hours or so. If Daniel doesn’t change your husband’s attitude about your kids, you need to consider the possibility that the man of the house is right and that your kids need fixing, in which case Central America has any number of “summer camps” that can do wonders for little hellions like yours, and they’ll take the Daniel too!

Dear Prudie:
I’m a fiftysomething happily married man. Awhile back a woman joined the exercise class that I attend. She’s single and in her mid-40s. She is the most attractive woman I’ve ever met. I’ve never had such a stupefied reaction to another woman in my life. When she walks into the gym, I momentarily stop breathing. If she asks me a direct question I can usually formulate an answer, although completely void of the wit for which I’m universally renowned. As I said, I’m happily married and not looking for a romantic relationship, but I would like to cultivate the kind of acquaintance where we could discuss the events of the day. She’s bright, successful, and outgoing. We have many things in common: owning dogs, listening to NPR, enjoying exercise. How can I get beyond my fear? I’ve considered honestly sharing my feelings, but that opportunity hasn’t presented itself. Any suggestions?
—Speechless

So, you’re happily married and you’ve met someone who is so attractive that you have trouble forming sentences around her, and you want to…discuss the events of the day with her? I have never in my life wanted to be casual acquaintances with someone that badly, and I bet you haven’t either. What you are is a man in the beginning stages of debating whether or not to cheat on his wife. Luckily, this comes up fairly often, so I have whipped up an easy-to-follow flowchart for gentlemen like you:

This probably shouldn’t require explanation, but just in case, if you choose “NO” and opt not to cheat on your wife, then you need to drop it with this woman completely. She is attractive and interesting, and therefore has enough friends without you making things awkward with your obvious regret for not choosing “YES” on the above flowchart. If you chose “YES,” then congratulations! Welcome to the club, it gets easier every time. Start sending your money off-shore now, before your wife suspects anything.

Dear Prudence,
An old friend recently got in touch with me. We went to high school together, and I was best man at his wedding. After looking at his Facebook feed, I suspect he is now totally on the other side of the political spectrum from me. I am one of those people who after hearing, “America, love it or leave it,” left in the 1990s for Europe. My friend works in a nuclear power plant and lives in a Republican part of the U.S. I live in a country with universal health coverage and a mistrust of nuclear power. Do I ask what he really thinks or do I keep the relationship skin deep? I don’t have many friends from that time and I’d like to reconnect but feel restricted in what I can say.
—Past and Present

The ‘90s sure were a tough time to be a liberal, weren’t they? There was a Democratic President who was easily re-elected, Fox News barely existed, there was no such thing as the Tea Party, and Conservatives didn’t answer every criticism with “Stop calling me a racist! You’re the REAL racists, you know!” Wait, I was mistaken before, it wasn’t a tough time to be a liberal. It was incredibly easy. It was incredibly easy and you left anyway, you quitting quitter. While you were enjoying free healthcare and not absorbing radiation, those who stayed behind have had to argue with their friends over birth certificate minutiae, the implications of wearing a hooded sweatshirt, whether capital gains are the product of work on the part of the investor, and – I kid you not – whether torture is a good idea. Way to sit out the second half, jerk. The rest of the liberals sure could have used you over here when they were trying to convince their grandparents that Obama wasn’t a jihadist sleeper cell, but you decided to go sit it out over there. You actually did it – you quit America. Alec Baldwin didn’t even do that. You’re a bigger douche bag than Alec Baldwin.

I don’t even remember your question. Fuck you.

Well that’s all the loving compassion we have time for today – just a reminder, if you’d like your question answered you have to get it on Dear Prudencefirst, just send your questions to prudence@slate.com.  Don’t send them to me, I don’t have an advice column on Slate.  Yet.

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