Dear Prudence is available weekly online for live chat with readers. Here’s an edited version of this week’s conversation.
Jenny Desmond-Harris: Happy two. Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels that January is already three months away – and yet for some reason I’m not ready to take my Christmas tree. Anyone else have complaints? Let me know and let’s chat.
Q: Too much sex and too much excuses: My physical education teacher is, at best, a viewer of lewd YouTube videos, and at worst, a complete pervert. He often plays videos of us in class, and his recommendations once appeared. At least half of them were “soft music” with pictures of women in bikinis with big bottoms. Something tells me it wasn’t the soft music he was interested in. On another occasion, he offered the phrase “recommended to you” a bare woman whose breasts were barely out of her arm. Once, my friend had to use his computer on a project and accidentally click on the wrong tab. It was a picture of underwear! My teacher also showed us a saucy video in class of a man asking hundreds of women while doing yoga. It was supposed to be funny, but it felt uncomfortable. Again, I played a video of people doing exercises with music for us to listen to while we were exercising ourselves, but they were all girls. Video viewing is not approved by our region, but it can override it. All this at the expense of his school.
Even worse, I am one of his favorite students, and I hate it. My friends and I try to make use of it, but it’s weird and scary! My male friend is in the same class and whenever I complain about the teacher, he tries to step in and make excuses for him. He’s the kind of person who sees the best in everyone (he’s stressful) and doesn’t understand that no one wants to hear “I think he’s just doing his best just to be a good teacher, maybe that’s an accident” after rants about maybe a perverted teacher. I’m so frustrated, especially since he feels like he’s ignoring all my fears. How do I politely correct him the next time he tries to make an excuse for this strange teacher? To be honest, I would hit him on the head with the heaviest textbook, but that’s not helpful at all.
a: Your teacher knows exactly what they are doing; This is not good and you absolutely should not take advantage of it! I want you to think about the adult in your life who historically listened to you the most and showed the greatest concern for the well-being of children and adolescents. It could be one of your other teachers, a parent or the father of a friend. Tell them exactly what you told me. The school needs to know this, and any responsible adult will understand this and make it happen. It’s not your job to convince your male friend about the problem (it would be great if he understood and advocated for you, but he’s not there), but it’s your right to address it and your obligation to make sure there are no more kids. Don’t be exposed to this frightening behavior.
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Q: Attachment Anxiety: My partner of three years ago has previously expressed an informal interest in connecting with other people. I’ve said I’d be willing to explore the idea of an open relationship with them, but they don’t believe me because I’ve shown some jealousy in the past. I have shared that I fear being lied more than anything else. They have told me (recently) that they will not act on these desires, and we have agreed that they can safely bring them up with me if they have the desire so that we can talk about them. We didn’t discuss it further.
Now they have gone on a business trip out of state. We talk and video chat regularly. However, I started to feel very anxious. I searched for their dating profile on the app we met and found that they updated their profile location to the flight location and other biographical details. I feel warm. I also feel guilty for intruding, and that reflects a mistrust on my part – but then again, my distrust proved to be true.
We obviously need to have a conversation about this, but I’m nervous about it. How do I bring it up in a way that won’t make them defensive or angry at me for intrusiveness? I can be ok with this if they are only using the profile to boost confidence or to get out of boredom, so I want to be tactful in asking it and not go straight to “burning it”, but I can’t stop wondering why they need to update their site if that’s the case. To me, this refers to the intent to actually meet people. They’re still out of town, so I’ll have to talk to them on the phone. Brody, what do I do?
a: Your partner wants to connect with people and decided to go ahead and try it against your desires. When you tell them what you saw on the app, I guarantee they’ll say “I was only looking because I was bored!” or “You’re signed in to research a co-worker’s options.” This would be a lie. Listen to your instincts. You are with someone who wants a different kind of relationship than the one you want and is being dishonest with you. There is no conversation you can have that will fix this, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend giving up and not monogamy while feeling anxious and betrayed. So let them know what you saw, but don’t put the ball in their court. Move on to the conversation after you’ve decided if this behavior is a problem for you. I hope you are.
Q: Who am I to worry about? As someone who is submissive to trippers (the first two, plus the booster), what are the ramifications (legal, otherwise) of pulling my mask off at the supermarket and coughing when someone is in the same aisle as me, and they get caught? (Our state does have a 100 percent indoor mask requirement, and there’s signage at the entrance, but it’s not enforced?) Other than risking a punch in the face, would I give someone a “proudly unmasked” just that little inner thrill that they’ve fallen under Mine leather? The supermarket is not about to reduce its profit margin further by firing customers who pay, so internal authorization is not effective because there is no enforcement. Am I just an idiot? If someone is in a place where they are supposed to wear a mask, and they are not, can they even claim that I am coughing, or that this is a risk they are willing to take, and therefore has no legal basis?
a: I understand this kind of thing can be satisfying to think about, but please let it remain a fantasy. You may actually risk hitting you in the face, but you also risk passing the virus on (yes, you can get infected even if vaccinated three times) to someone who simply forgot their mask, or to someone else who gets off. The corridor is behind them. It’s very frustrating that some people don’t care about others, but since you won’t change that, I suggest trying to redirect your energy away from physical confrontations and toward helping people who are being hurt by ignorant, selfish behavior from others. Perhaps you can donate masks to students, teachers, or others who have no choice but to stay close to others and may not have the best protection. Or you can offer to perform tasks for people who are vulnerable and do not want to reveal themselves. How about volunteering at a test site or vaccine clinic? There are ways to respond to people who seem to want this pandemic going on forever without having coughing fits.
Q: Very dependent on: My friend has an older sister who is 2 years old, and to the outside world they seem to have the best friendship. But I get that bad feeling when we’re all together, like she doesn’t love me and she’s jealous too. It gives me some brightness and tries to draw his attention away from me when we hug or hold hands; There were times when I would hug him and this look in her eyes seemed to be filled with jealousy as if she wished to be with him. I’ve talked to some friends about other incidents that have happened and they all agree that this is more than just a sister relationship with him. They gave me the advantages and disadvantages of staying with him, but I am lost in what to do in such a situation. I always trust my intuition and being a girl, I grew up noticing subtle and inaccurate cues when someone wants the person I’m with.
a: If you think your boyfriend is having a sexual relationship with his sister, that’s enough. You don’t need more evidence or any other voices from friends to walk away from this relationship. Even if I’m wrong, it’s not a great way to feel and you’re not likely to ever get over it. time to move on.
Re: attachment anxiety: I don’t think searching for your partner’s dating app profile is intrusive. But the fact that both of you still have dating apps with active profiles means this may have been going on for longer than you think. They didn’t need to update their site recently.
a: good point. And yes, I didn’t even touch the snooping part because… who cares! You are allowed to peek at an application. I almost feel like the letter writer wants to do something wrong up to the score and feel better about staying in the relationship. No.
Q: Re: Who am I to worry about? The whole purpose of a mask is to contain your germs. Sometimes we all end up sneezing or coughing to me our masks. not important. But if you think you have the right to pull your mask down so you can cough for you Germs are in the common air, just stay home and pay for your grocery delivery.
a: Yes, stay home and take deep, mask-free breaths in your home while you think of other ways to deal with pandemic anger.
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For the past five years, I’ve been in a relationship with a guy that I currently live with. We’ve had some issues with infidelity in the past, and I, right or wrong, rummaged through his computer and phone to see what he was doing while he was out of town at work. From what I can see, my fiancé was chatting with boys aged 14-17 on an app mostly used by teens. Pretending to be 16 years old with photos that are clearly not his photos.