Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. (Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Read Prudie's Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at email@example.com.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. What a great day to be indoors.
Q. Relationship Problems: My girlfriend had a nose job done three years ago at my request. (I did not pressure her.) Tragically, the procedure went wrong and her face was disfigured. We stayed together throughout this and I covered some of her legal and medical bills and did my best to support her emotionally. For the past year, however, I feel like I'm with her out of guilt more than anything. I find myself losing patience with her and making excuses to cancel our dates. I do not have the heart to break up with her because I feel obliged to look after her. I'm sure she's noticed this but hasn't said anything to me—in fact she treats me more nicely, as does her mom. Am I a jerk for not loving her anymore?
A: Ladies, here's some advice that's as plain as the nose on your face: Do not surgically alter your appearance in the hopes of pleasing some jerk who doesn't like you the way you are. Ultimately, Want-To-Be-Ex, it doesn't matter whether you'd suggested you could look at your girlfriend more easily if she'd had plastic surgery, or you'd said, "Get rid of the schnoz or I'm out of here." She's an adult and it was her decision. (However, in cases such as this, the best answer is, "Goodbye!") It's good you stepped up and helped with medical costs. And if your (ex) girlfriend still is not looking normal, she needs to find a plastic surgeon who specializes in reconstruction. I'm hoping it's possible she can get to the point where she's satisfied with the repair, and you should offer to help pay for that. But this relationship sounds irreparable. Talk about adding insult to injury by longing to be free but hanging around because you helped persuade her to mess up her face. You've done enough to mess up her life, so if you want out, get out.
Q. Ethical Dilemma Involving Sperm Donation: I am a broke 26-year-old Ph.D. student. I have a female friend who's 35, single, and loaded. She's previously had bad relationships and "given up on men"—but she's desperate to be a mom. She doesn't want to go down the anonymous sperm donor route for various reasons and has asked me to father a child. The deal is that we'll live together until she is impregnated, she will sign whatever forms to say she doesn't want child support or my involvement, and I will get $15,000. She said I'm the ideal sperm donor candidate because I'm a healthy, intelligent, easygoing, single male. I've donated sperm before and also had casual sex. This deal seems to be a combination of the two, and I make money out of it in the end (and boy do I need it badly). What's your view on this—should I go ahead?
A: To you this may be a short period of hanging out, no-strings sex, a nice place to stay, and a sweet nest egg. But before you do this keep in mind you will also be fathering a child. I understand you've donated sperm, but that was with the expectation of anonymity (an expectation that is legally eroding, by the way). Once the deed is done and the baby is on the way, you may think you can go off to enjoy your windfall. But a child is going to be produced from this deal, and unless you are also prepared to step up in some way and be a father, you should say no. It doesn't matter what legal documents you and your friend draw up. I can assure you from my inbox that people have a compelling desire to know who their parents are. No matter how great a mother your loaded friend is, her child is going to wonder who his or her father is, and why his or her father just isn't around. I totally see your friend's perspective that she would rather reproduce with someone she actually knows, rather than someone she has just seen as a list of statistics in a catalogue. Ultimately, you may feel you want to help her be a mother. But that doesn't mean a piece of paper relieving you of "support or involvement" will mean you're not a father.
Q. Boyfriend's Sister Wants To Know Intimate Details!: My boyfriend, his sister, and I are all in our mid- to late 20s. My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost three years. While I entertain niceties with his sister, behind closed doors she is an immature gossip who has confronted both me and my boyfriend if we didn't tell her something about our relationship first. She is always wanting to press me for details about our sex lives, which I find strange and disconcerting. She will segue into it by casually mentioning the sex lives of other couples she knows, then asking me about my experiences. Prudie, I have no desire to share this information with her—but even if I gently tell her it's my own business, a few weeks later she's digging for more information. Is there a way to tell her that what goes on in my pants is hands-off? I'd never imagine asking her or anyone else for details like that.
A: Forget gentle. The next time she starts in, just say, "I don't want to hear anything about anybody else's sex life, and I'm certainly not talking to you about mine." If she continues to badger, limit your interaction with her to Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Q. Husband's Carpool With Attractive Female Colleague: My husband drives 50 minutes each way for work. There is a female colleague who lives five minutes from us, and they decided to carpool. He picks her up every day, they sit together alone in the car for an hour and half, and he drops her off afterwards. He's one of those men who are so kind to women that his actions are often misinterpreted, and it bothers me immensely that he and another woman are in a position to spend a significant portion of time with the potential to become close friends. Even I don't spend 1.5 hours a day talking to him leisurely and privately. I've told him it's inappropriate and it makes me feel uncomfortable. We've argued over this over several weeks and he insists I'm irrational and that it would be rude for him to suddenly stop driving her. Am I the unreasonable one here?
A: Clearly the answer is for your husband to quit his job and stay at home with an ankle bracelet that alerts you as to his movements so you can track whether he's being "kind" to other women. Guess what, however he and his colleague get to the office, he's going to be spending hours a day in close proximity to her and away from you. Would you be happier if your husband worked at a monastery? He might find his co-worker's company delightful or tedious, but commuting with her does not mean she's in the line-up to become his next wife. But if you want him to be unhappy with the wife he has, keep making irrational demands.