Dear Prudence online weekly to chat live with readers on Monday at noon ET. Here’s an edited transcript of this week’s conversation.
Q. Is that Bill Tuttle in my bedroom? My otherwise charming, generous, loving girlfriend makes a spitting noise when she brushes her teeth, otherwise I’d assume a 1950s baseball star had chewed tobacco down her throat. I can’t tell you how loud and phlegmatic it is, or how it can be heard from everywhere in both her and my apartment. I tried to move further away during his routine, but it can be heard down the hall. I love it and have asked him to tone it gently (normal spitting is fine!) but he says he never feels like his teeth/mouth aren’t clean unless he does it. Words cannot express how much this habit has destroyed me and hurt me. Tips for making peace with it or adjusting to it?
A: Well, congrats on the brilliant post and no! I can totally hear that noise from the description in your letter. And it’s not nice. i feel you It sounds unbearable.
As a general rule, you shouldn’t make rules, or even demands, about what people do and what noises they make in the bathroom. Your girlfriend doesn’t get involved in his disgusting phlegm business at the dinner table. A bathroom with a closed door is the perfect place to be rude. Even in a small apartment with thin walls. You’ll want to have this understanding the next time you have the stomach flu.
But there is good news! Tooth brushing generally occurs at very predictable times throughout the day. Just figure out when he’s going to the bathroom to do his thing and put the headphones on until the bone-spitting symphony ends.
S. Dissatisfied with food: My friend is trying to make it as an actress and is always talking about how she needs to lose weight to get a role. When we go out to eat together, he often comments that he can’t eat this or that because of whatever restrictive diet he’s been on lately. It bothers me when she talks about needing to lose weight, because when I don’t say something to agree with, I feel like I’m silently accepting all these harmful ideas about needing to be thinner. On the other hand, when I tell her there is no problem with her weight, she tells me that I don’t understand because I’m not an actor and there’s more pressure in acting than in society in general. for women to be super skinny, I’m sure it’s true! But I feel terrible for letting her say these things about herself, and part of me worries that these thoughts about restricting food and needing to lose weight could turn into an eating disorder. Should I argue with him when he says these things, even though I know he’s dying to change his mind? Am I supposed to accept that this attitude is one of the occupational hazards of his chosen job? Should I just mind my own business and not comment on it?
A: No need to argue or When your friend makes comments that hurt you, it hurts in silence. You can do something in between these two options, which is to tell him how you feel. It’s perfectly reasonable territory for two people who care about each other, especially given that he’s the one who brought up the subject so many times.
How about the next time she reveals that she can’t eat the croutons on her salad because they’re too high in carbs: “We’ve talked before that there’s nothing wrong with your weight, and I’ve made it clear that I don’t understand the pressure you feel as an actress. But I still feel so awful when you say these negative things about yourself. If you want to say those things, you can, and I won’t argue with you, but I want to make sure that it doesn’t mean you agree with being on a diet – it’s just that I know it’s not mine. it’s work and I don’t want to spend our time together discussing it with him.”
Hopefully, that—along with responding to future comments about her eating habits with a blank stare and a sip of water—will settle things.
Q. Life is not your coach: I’m a rising senior in high school, and a couple my parents are friends with (along with their 14-year-old daughter) won’t stop bombarding me with questions about college. Most of it is advice for her daughter, but at least they call and text every few days. Most of the time they could look up the answers themselves on the internet, but they see me as their one stop shop for all their school needs. I understand that checking in with me gives them and their daughter more control, but I don’t have infinite time! I’ve always tried to make up for it by not taking their calls or telling them how busy I am, but now they’ve started interfering with my college applications and the whole situation is stressing me out. I’m always happy to help, but this is overkill! I’m just a kid, not a paid professional waiting on the phone for their call.
A: For the last time in your life, you are still a child and you can pass it on to your parents. Take advantage of it. Ask your friends to tell them to quit. If they don’t, you can set a boundary by politely not helping. By that I mean, “Where do we get our daughter to take the SAT?” do not answer the question. until you have time—ideally, many weeks later—and then say, “I apologize for the slow response. I’ve been really busy with school and haven’t gotten around to it! I hope you were able to find the answer!”
S. Sincerely, Chicken: My boyfriend and I have been dating for a few months now and it’s honestly the best relationship I’ve ever been in, but sometimes it seems too good to be true. We met online and never saw each other face to face. I heard his voice and he heard mine and we even made plans for the future (like where we would live and what jobs we wanted). He is very kind and shy, but sometimes I have second thoughts because it seems so perfect. I just don’t want to ruin it, but I don’t want to look like a fool and get my heart broken.
A: I want you to give a big push to FaceTime, Zoom, GoogleMeet, Facebook messenger video chat, or anything else that will let you see that your boyfriend is what he says he is. There are options. Many, many options. But you know that. In the meantime, tune into a season or two of the MTV show, Catfish, it’s about people planning a life with someone they’ve never met. I’m sorry it doesn’t usually end well. Then listen to what your gut tells you. Wanting love—and wanting it enough to overlook some red flags—is nothing to be ashamed of. But our goal is to bring you to a real future with a real life person. If this person you’re talking to online isn’t going to be with you, it’s time to move on to someone who doesn’t bother you to look like a fool.
Q. That’s Not My Name: My co-worker Ron is incredibly annoying to work with. He is the slowest person on our team, consistently mispronounces my name, and is very needy, both emotionally and in terms of asking questions he needs to know the answer to. My manager will never do anything about it because he’s good at it and one of our biggest clients inexplicably likes him. I recently learned that he is involved with the local branch of an organization labeled as Satanists. I really don’t care. I only found out because my friend is also a member. But I think my manager would be very interested and that might be what finally makes it go away. Would it be ethical for me to insult him for this? The man gets my name wrong every day.
A: Do you have a workplace human resources portal? Can you log in and check to see how many vacation days are left? No matter how many they are, take them! If not, I think you have a nose. Take some sick time. You need some space away from your work environment and the frustrations that accompany it.
Hopefully, after a while, you’ll find that the correct response to a co-worker who misspells your name is to correct him or accept that he’s a rude person and that it’s not personal and decide not to waste any more energy. about him. The correct response to a co-worker who asks questions they should know the answer to is to say you are busy and refer it to your manager. You’re not trying to fire him for something stigmatized in his personal life. You just don’t. Enjoy a mental health break.
Re: Q. Is Bill Tuttle in my bedroom?: I’m sure you make horrible, disgusting gag-inducing noises in the bathroom too, but your boyfriend respects your right to make them. You’ll never find someone in the bathroom who isn’t rude – that’s the nature of bathrooms and people. Please get over yourself.
A: Well, once again, if you’re going to be gross (and we all are at some point) the bathroom is the place to do it.
Re: Q. Is Bill Tuttle in my bedroom?: I don’t think it’s intentional, but the letter writer is very sexist about brushing teeth. Unfortunately, all straight men eventually find out that their very attractive girlfriends are actually people under the angelic facade. Prudie offered some very practical advice, but it’s best to work with these shutdowns where the normal behavior is “off”. Trust me, even if he changes it for you (and he shouldn’t) something else will come up. Take him off the couch, turn on the fan, and embrace your partner’s harmless quirks.
A: Hmm, I read that as someone who is female and averse to a lot of mouth and sinus related noises, so I didn’t see it as sexist. BUT you may be on to something here. It’s worth thinking about, LW, and whether you have the same level of rude behavior that you expect her to accept.
Jenée Desmond-Harris: We will wrap things up here. Thanks to everyone! Then let’s talk to you week.
Additional Advice from Slate
My husband and I have a love story to rival a Disney princess. We communicate well, share the workload, go on lots of dates, have fun with our two kids (ages 8 and 9), and are friendly to each other. We share similar interests (but still have our own hobbies and personalities) and are always flirting and complimenting each other. But there is one thing missing in our marriage: sex. I just can’t.