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Seeking Advice, Dear Prudence

Nothing off-limits. Slate’s “Dear Prudence,” aka Slate’s Emily Yoffe, joins us.

Slate writer Emily Yoffe. (Photograph by Teresa Castracane)

Slate writer Emily Yoffe. (Photograph by Teresa Castracane)

With all the blogs and search engines and Facebook buddies out there these days, you wouldn’t think America would have much use or need anymore for an advice columnist.  Dear Abby, Ann Landers sounds like artifacts of a bygone time.  But wait.  There’s Prudence.  Dear Prudence, the online advice column at Slate.

She tells identical twin brothers in love what to do about it, and thousands comment.  She adjudicates on the mother-in-law breast-feeding her grandson.  Stand back!

This hour, On Point:  a conversation with Emily Yoffe, advice-giving author of Dear Prudence.

-Tom Ashbrook


Emily Yoffe, writes the Dear Prudence column at Slate.

From Tom’s Reading List

Dear Prudence “My husband has been monitoring me through my laptop. How can I get him to stop?”

Dear Prudence “Prudie advises a woman who discovered her mother-in-law suckling her newborn son.”

Dear Prudence “My new wife postponed our tropical getaway to comfort her “best friend.” What gives?”

Video: Dad Caught Cheating

Check out this animated Dear Prudence column.

Video: Jealous Boyfriend in Afghanistan

Another animated Dear Prudie column.

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  • AC

    that is creepy!

    • ToyYoda

      Maybe the baby is into vintage breast milk? :)

    • Mike Card

      Don’t know for sure (who does?), but if grandma has been there helping out, probably gratis, she may well have noticed that the new mom is acting pretty wacky and guessed it could be attributed to exhaustion (I observed that in my wife, post partum).

      Grandma very likely thought she was giving DIL a gift of a couple hours of sleep.  Of course, what do I know about being a parent?  I’m only a dad–my job was to bring home checks and stay the hell out of the womens’ way until given an assignment.

  • Erin in Iowa

    Is it possible to have a wedding without inviting everyone you’ve ever met AND everyone your whole family has ever met? My fiance and I have taken a lot of flack from pretty much everyone (family and friends) about the fact that we wanted to go to the justice of the peace and take only immediate family out for a really elegant dinner. We’re saving for a house and thought that everyone would admire our practical thinking, but so far it’s only been negative feedback.

    • Erin in Iowa

      My question seems off topic now…

  • 7 years and counting!!!

    Dear Prudence,

    How do I tactfully and non-confrontationally ask my co-worker to stop clipping his/her nails in the office?

    Thank you very much,
    -Can’t take it anymore

  • irritated friend

    Dear Prudence,

    How do I tell my friend to not dump her giant purse on my kitchen table where my son commonly eats. It irritates me to unbelievable extent!

    Thank you,
    -irritated, but loving friend

  • Shay

    Wow this woman is ridiculous and so wrong. her advice is awful. What kind of person thinks spouses should lie about infidelity? Not only that but bashing lactivists… good lord.

  • TribalGuitars

    Can I get a job like this?  I’m always the one getting dragged aside at parties and outings to help family and friend with their more “interesting” dilemmas.  LOL

  • Maybe a bride?

    Dear Prudence, 

    How do you say no to a marriage proposal without destroying the relationship? Only been dating for one year…


    • cheers

      Not Prudence, but here is what I would say:
      First you tell them you have to think about it.

      Then you can say something like:

      Thank you very much, I am very flattered, but I do not think this is the right time for me. This is a very serious decision and I want to make sure it is the right one for me and my partner and I would like to be absolutely sure about it.

      And then you can proceed to have a deeper conversation about things that are important to you, like values, kids, in-laws, money, etc, or to outline a timeline when you might come back and consider his proposal again, lets say in another year or so. :)

      Or you can also say that you would like to take things slow and that you are not ready to commit now. It’s ok to say no. You are not responsible for the other person’s feelings and how he take “it”.

      I guarantee you, that if you are pressured by this person/others into making such an important decision now – you will be pressured to make other decisions later by the same person and the control this person exerts over you might get worse.

      Also if this person will “not take it well” – he is not the right person for you, or anyone at this point.

      -best of luck

  • Melanie

    Just want to say I love her column!

  • -What happened to manners?

    Dear Prudence,
    I don’t appreciate friends who send an invitation to dinner or a party through a text message – sometimes at the last minute. Call us old fashioned, but my husband and I think this is rude. What is your take on this? How does one respond (or not)?

    • AC

      o this is a good one….

  • AC

    Dear Prudence:
    Do you think my husband secretly enjoys my nagging and shrieking about removing his shoes before he comes in the house? It doesn’t matter what I do, he’ll just play dumb & say he forgot. It’s been a few years…..I’ve tried everything from ignoring it to buying him fancy house slippers…..
    What does this mean? Is this an illness?

  • StarGeezer

    I’ve always wondered what sort of colossal conceit allows someone to blithley give advice to perfect strangers that may very well ruin their lives.

  • irritated friend

    RE: purse on the table

    Thank you Emily.

    The problem is really not telling her, but telling her in a way that she will not take as offensive and get all pouty and defensive and feel like I am “attacking” her.

    I think the gentle manner that you suggested is wonderful, and I would try that next time. :)

    Thank you

  • Awturnbull

    I missed the. Shinning, but I sure hope you played a bit of John Prine’s great song, “Dear Abbey”.
    Unhappy. Unhappy, you have no complaints
    You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t
    So listen up, buster, and listen up good
    Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood!
    Signed, dear Abbey

    • Alan

      Woops, iPhone autocompleted me badly!
      I missed the beginning, not the shining!

  • ED

    Two things:
    1. I think a lot of people (especially women) were taught not to express anything negative when they were kids — not even frustration.  And so they feel they need permission to do so and in this, you really do help them.  They don’t trust themselves and you help them see that they are right (if they are).

    2.  My mother had no parents to speak of.  In a sense she had less than no parents.  Dear Abbey was the only real source of guidance she got as a child.  She read it religiously.  It taught here much.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

    Many of us find ourselves without close kin & trustworthy friends. It can happen quite suddenly in a world that has sped out of control. Ann Landers once wrote that a close friend is better than a therapist anyday. It’s harder than ever to make real friends in this artificial, transitory, disposable culture.  Good show!

  • Ellen Dibble

    I’m liking Yoffe’s point about some things don’t lend themselves to answers.  She can pick those that clearly do.  I know that when I’ve felt cornered by a number of tangles of various sorts I took a month-long course in arbitration/mediation, and while I don’t think it allowed for solving anything or opened for me new approaches/avenues, I am not at all sorry I took it.  America is in so many ways culturally geared for winner-take-all and black-white standoffs, versus resolutions.

  • Jane

    I have a lifelong skin ailment that at times is not nice looking. I cover up whenever possible. In summer sometimes it’s too hot for long sleeves/pants. What do I owe other people? Is it rude/inconsiderate of me not to cover up?

    • SomeGuyNamedMark

      I don’t think it is a matter of rudeness on your part.  Is the ailment shocking to see?  If it is maybe covering up would be considerate (there are plenty of light clothing choices that won’t make you hot).  If not people may assume it is contagious or just gawk. 

      Either way others will make things uncomfortable for you.  Ultimately it depends on how thick your skin is (no pun intended!).

  • Samantha

    My pastor recently told me to save all my problems, complaints and concerns for my therapist, rather than look for emotional support from friends and family, and keep the friends/family connections only for “enjoyment” purposes only, like talking about “good” things and doing fun things together.


    • Ellen Dibble

      I’m not a therapist or anything like that, but I’m thinking maybe you have friends and family that are not good at “problems, complaints, and concerns,” and maybe your pastor knows that.  In that case, you’d have to go with the fun-things-together or nothing at all, I suppose.  Are there any problem-solving sorts in your galaxy of acquaintances?  If so, treasure them.

      • Samantha

        Hi Ellen.

        You are absolutely right, my family (and some friends) are not good at “problems, complaints and concerns”. Most of the time, all I need is an empathetic ear, supportive comment, reassurance, and in fewer cases – advice.

        They tend to take everything on as a HUGE problem and try to tell me “what to do” – and not in an “advice” kind of tone. And then they get upset/stop talking to me/call me names when I choose not to follow their – “do-this-you-must” – always well-meaning “advice”. :)

        That’s why, I think, at least – I – need columns and forums like these. To be heard, to be supported, to find comfort and empathy, because not all of us in this world are fortunate to have all those things available to us “in real life” at a drop of a quarter. :)

        Thank  you.

  • nj_v2

    What are the qualifications to become an “advice” columnist?

    • http://twitter.com/Interloping101 Interloper

      Haven’t listened to this yet, curious to know whether you feel it is worth the time.

      • nj_v2

        I found the first few minutes unbearable. Grating tone of voice aside…

        (at ~4:00): “Well, you know, in a column like this…there are two things. You have to go with your gut, and you have to do a gut-check.”


        And, shortly after. “I didn’t know much about polyamory.”

        All after she disses “lactivists” right out of the starting block.


        • http://twitter.com/Interloping101 Interloper

          Thanks so much, you just saved me an hour of my life. I figured Ugh would be my reaction to the show but didn’t want to miss something. Thanks again!

  • Jean

    Hi Tom,
    You and Dear Prudence talked about how values/norms changed over time re. sexuality.

    you aware of this year’s Gallup Poll where people were asked about the morality of 17
    behaviors?  Gallup found that a high majority (89%) say that having an
    affair with a married person is morally wrong (only 7% thought adultery
    was morally okay.)

     Of the 17 behaviors Gallup polled people about (homosexuality,
    cloning, cohabitation, etc.), adultery was seen as the most morally

    This reassures me that despite lots of  people “doing it”, people still do not approve of affairs.  My husband is having an affair with a family court judge and seeing this poll, reassures me that it’s not just me who sees this as ethically wrong.

    • guest

      And yet a lot of married people have affairs. Go figure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jimmy-Scoville/581508499 Jimmy Scoville

    Just for your information, there is a very different advise column set-up where it’s a comic response. Here’s a link to one site it’s on:

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.nicholson.714 James Nicholson

    Dear Mr. Ashbrook. A (most likely in vein) suggestion:  How about some more ‘rear flank’ & (with stories as of late) less On Point?  Whats’ the words? Oh yea: they’re just un-inspiring. From Mexican Drug Cartels & their leaders..to Louisiana immigrant slave labor..to today’s topics.  Comment by Tom: “wow, I guess there really is’nt anything new under the sun”. well duh.  Twin Lovers, Sandusky..Priests doing those things that (you know) Priests do…and yea: Bat colorado.  I’m sure when Emily left your studio..she probably did feel a bit moribund; What can be said about things like colorado, other than they happen?  What can be said about the stories that people relayed..when they called on the night of your ‘Louisiana slave labor’ show?  I mean gee Tom, look at you: a Pulitzer Prize Radio candidate.  Keep up the pressure. Be Salacious. Be provoking. Throw whatever’s out there against the wall. 

  • Matt Thom

    I am a regular listener to On Point and I was somewhat surprised listening to this episode. I thought Tom Ashbrook was in two cases quite disrespectful to his callers. The first instance was a man who suspected his wife was having an affair. After the man stated that his wife had stayed at a hotel several times, Tom asked the caller whether he thought they were doing more than counting paper clips. I don’t know if this was just a bad attempt at humor or what. I thought the comment was really insensitive as the caller was clearly very upset. The second instance was a woman who was a raw vegetable vegan asking advice about attending a wedding. She wanted to know if they should bring their own food so as to not inconvenience the host. I thought Tom was clearly disrespectful asking her if her diet of raw vegetables was something she stuck too all the time. He said it in a somewhat mocking tone and didn’t seem to take her raw vegan-ism seriously. I’m not a vegetarian but I think you should treat your callers with respect and not be mocking them on the air. To be fair, I listen to the show often and always found Tom as an engaging, enthusiastic host. I think that’s why I was particularly perturbed by this episode.

    • Millstep

       i agree…I am a huge fan of almost ALL shows I’ve EVER heard on NPR, but this is certainly the worst and shallowest host I’ve ever heard!

  • Justin Whittier

    Dear Tom,
    I am writing because I am concerned that Mrs. Yoffe’s accusation against Father Drinan went unchallenged or without it being noted that the man himself is unable to answer the charge. Given that the matter was never adjudicated, I think that is necessary.
    Your appreciative listener,
    Justin Whittier

  • White Rabbit

    I wish I’d been able to call in during the show. I read Prudie’s column, and I’m often struck by the uninformed advice she offers to people who are either clearly, or likely, in abusive relationships. Her commenters usually pick up the slack, but it’s disappointing to see a long-time, widely-read advice columnist not making an effort to educate herself on a topic that affects a large portion of the general population. I hope that Prudence will eventually heed the calls to learn more about this topic so that she can offer advice that is better suited to these complicated, and sometimes even life-threatening, situations. Thank you.

  • nj_v2

    All the “advice” one needs:


  • Gregg

    Ms. Yoffe wrote a piece about her experience as a nude model. That was cool.

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