June 19, 2018
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My man’s moles make me want to vomit, so how am I supposed to have sex with him?

Emily Yoffe
By Emily Yoffe, Slate

Dear Prudence,

I have met a wonderful man through the civic organization I have been a part of for years. We are both in our mid-30s and at that stage in life where we are looking to settle down and perhaps start a family. We have put off having sex because we both share common stories of how “sex too soon” really caused problems in past relationships. This summer we went to the beach together. As we stripped down to our swimsuits, I was in utter shock to see my dear boyfriend coated, I mean coated, in moles. I had seen a few on his face, neck and arms, but he is covered in them. He looks like a mushroom farm. When he asked me to put sunscreen on his back, I about vomited. Here is my awful moment of decision. I really, really love this man, but the thought of making love to such a “moley” person is more than I can bear. Should I ask him to get extensive cosmetic surgery? Should I get therapy to get over all the moles? If I break up with him because of the moles, I will live with guilt and regret. If I marry him, I will have to deal with extreme intimacy issues. Help!

— Holey Moley

Dear Holey Moley,

Some moles are attractive — think Robert Redford and Cindy Crawford — but as superficial as it is, I understand that slathering sun block on a “mushroom farm” was a desire killer. Although I’d love to play one on the Internet, I’m no doctor, but having a trunk that looks like it’s covered with fungi doesn’t sound normal. You can certainly say to him that since you went swimming you’ve been concerned about the amount and type of moles he has, and you think he should get this checked out by a dermatologist. (Don’t mention the thought of touching him makes you want to vomit.) Once you know more about this medically, that can help you discuss whether he needs treatment. Knowing what this is can even make you feel more comfortable. After all, if you really love him, you may start to see him less as a mushroom farm and more like your darling guy sprinkled with chocolate chips.

Dear Prudence,

My husband and I are dog lovers but we didn’t have any when we first had kids. Then our children started asking for a dog. My husband admitted he has enjoyed not dealing with vet bills, poop-scooping and fleas. Eventually I wore him down, and we spent months researching the right breed. I was unable to go and choose the puppy, so my husband made the final decision.

I hate this dog. He licks and chews on people constantly. He refuses to learn to signal us when he needs to go outside. He will go outside and pee, then race past me so that he can poop in my daughter’s bedroom. My children enjoyed him at first but are now ambivalent, as the dog won’t play calmly or allow anyone just to pet him. I don’t want to find him another home since, ironically, the dog and my husband have formed a close bond. Now if I mention to my husband how little I like this dog, he gets irritated. I thought I’d get to go choose the puppy with which I felt a connection, and I do not feel connected to this one. Do I suffer through? Take a doggie bonding class?

— I Hate This Dog

Dear Hate,

You don’t say how long you’ve had this dog, but surely you remember from having children that teaching good manners, and how to control one’s bladder and bowels, takes patience. You surely understand the feelings expressed in 1660 by the great diarist Samuel Pepys: “So to bed, where my wife and I had some high words upon my telling her that I would fling the dog which her brother had gave her out the window if he pissed the house any more.” But a year later Pepys had a portrait made of his wife with the dog in her lap, which he writes, “made us very merry.”

Invest now in some dog training classes and have the whole family participate. It’s likely that with perseverance and discipline on all your parts, you too can end up with a dog who makes you merry. But let’s say the dog never significantly improves. Stop dwelling on the irrelevant fact that you didn’t choose this puppy. It just may be that no matter how much you pour into your dog, he will never become the housebroken, loving pet you envisioned.

For 10 years I had such a dog. Despite several trainers, endless vet visits and even Prozac, she only just tolerated our attempts at affection and it wasn’t until after her death that we were able to put the rugs back on the floor. We now have a devoted, delightful, housebroken Cavalier who is everything we hoped a dog would be.

Today’s dogma is that your dog’s behavior is all your fault. This is odd since we now recognize that certain disabilities or wiring problems can cause children to behave badly and we no longer blame that on the parents. If a concerted effort with this dog doesn’t work, you need to have some difficult conversations with your husband about finding the dog a more suitable home. If you got him from a breeder, contact them because sometimes they will take back a dog that just doesn’t work out. I’m prepared to be told to roast in hell, but a pet should be more than a presence you simply endure.

Dear Prudence,

I’m a 25-year-old currently living with my parents, who are in their early 40s. They are planning to move out of my childhood home, which is also where my father grew up. They’ve found a smaller property, and the other night my mother told me they are going to be cleaning out everything, including all of my baby items, stuffed animals and toys. I had hoped I could give these things to my child one day.

That’s where the second part of my issue arises. I have endometriosis, and that, along with another complication, means there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to have children. Because of the same condition, my mother had a hysterectomy by age 30. I always thought I would marry young like my parents, but that hasn’t happened. I want to ask my mother not to throw my things out, but is that just selfish of me?

— Precious Things

Dear Precious,

There’s nothing selfish about your desire to keep some remnants of your childhood. I would think your parents would also want to retain a handful of these items. But it seems you have imbued these objects with a totemic power: If you keep them to pass on to your child, that reassures you that someday you will have that child. Much more important than your old toys is doing everything you can do to preserve your fertility. Make sure you are seeing a gynecologist who is well-versed in your conditions, and if you need to be in the hands of a specialist, ask for a referral.

As for your memorabilia, perhaps a family member with an attic or basement can put a box or two into storage for you. You can buy vacuum-sealer bags or even make your own. That way a bunch of stuffed animals can be shrunk down to a container you fit under a bed. Remember your child is not going to recapitulate your childhood, so pick a few meaningful objects, then let the rest go.

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. Questions may be edited.

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