For such an uncontroversially popular body part, breasts are a surprisingly reliable and perennial source of angst for women and the men who love them. The letter writers in this week's newspaper and magazine columns were no exception, seeking counsel for problems concerning cleavage, bras, stray hairs, and stray hands. In Other People’s Problems, we rank and sort them. First up, the divorced couple reuniting to get their son’s girlfriend to wear a bra.
Least Subtle Hint, Dear Abby
My son has a wonderful girlfriend, "Michelle." They live with my ex-husband and visit my husband, "Daryl," and me twice a month and on special occasions. Michelle is sweet, caring, smart and funny. The problem is, she doesn't wear a bra. Ever. Relatives have commented about it to us at family gatherings because she's not flat-chested. We already know. It's obvious. Daryl feels a woman should go without a bra only in the privacy of her own home, and I agree. He thinks I should buy Michelle a bra as a "subtle hint."
Best Cleavage Rule of Thumb, Miss Manners
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What are the rules for showing cleavage?
GENTLE READER: ...For evening, she holds to the Victorian standard. No, wait, it was a lot lower than you think. But it was — ah, selective. Ball gowns were cut amazingly low, but they had sleeves. The idea was to show one thing at a time, although Miss Manners knows that there should be a better way to put that. Let her just say that cleavage should not be displayed when the dress is down-to-here in the back, or up-to-there anywhere in the skirt.
Boyfriend of the Week, Dear Prudence
I love my girlfriend very much and at the age of 27 feel like I’m finally with somebody who I could spend my life with. I have been supportive of her naturalist attitude regarding hair removal and even find her hairy pits, legs, and other parts sexy. The trouble is that she also has scattered hairs growing across her chest and about a dozen long ones around each nipple...It's the nipple hair that really throws me. When I've brought it up she's acted offended and explained to me that it's natural for women to get hair all over. She says she could pluck them but they will just grow back. I'm really falling for this girl but am fearful that as we age it's going to become more and more of a turn off until our sex life is dead.
Latest Onset Oedipal Complex, Dear Prudence
I live with my girlfriend and her 10-year-old son, with whom I get along very well. However, I have a major problem with the lack of boundaries. He slept with her until I moved in about a year and a half ago. He has adjusted to sleeping on his own, but she still sleeps with him anytime I'm not around. I can't watch a movie with them because he lies on her and rubs her legs the entire time. In public, he presses against her body and kisses her chest. At a restaurant he has to be touching her the entire meal. He walks around naked at bedtime, and when she puts him to bed he gives her a massage. He also touches and rubs me when we sit down to do anything.
The Male Office “Skank,” Dear Abby
I work in a professional office where nearly all my co-workers are married and live rather uneventful lifestyles. I was divorced a few years ago and have not remarried. I have dated a lot of women, and it has become an issue with my co-workers. They insist on hearing about the dates I go on and ask for the details of what took place, and I usually oblige them. Lately, there has been more and more gossip about my so-called "wild lifestyle," and I have become the talk of the office. Some co-workers have called me names like "skank" because I refuse to settle down with one girl. I'm looking for the right one, and it may take many wrong ones to get there. I think my co-workers are jealous.
Most Potentially Tragic Marriage, Dear Prudence
I'm engaged to marry this really sweet man, but I have a problem I'm not sure if I should tell him about. He's not the first partner I've had in his family. I lost my virginity to his older brother in high school. You'd think this would be a no-brainer because these kinds of secrets get out eventually, but my fiancé's brother was killed in an accident not long after our encounter, and I'm pretty sure he didn't tell anyone about our little fling.
Worst Reminder of Why You Use Condoms, Ask Amy
After a 15-year marriage, I was smug in thinking I was "clean." I found out after having Lover No. 2, realizing it wasn't safe out there and having every test done. Thing is, I think I've had it all along — during my marriage — and my doctor never tested for it, and it really didn't affect me, not even after having two kids. I now take the pill the doctor prescribed as soon as I feel it coming on, and the outbreak goes away fast. The problem is Lover No. 2 found the prescription bottle, took pictures of it and blackmails me if I try to break up. Bad enough, I know, I'm getting rid of Lover No. 2. My question is, something like 70 percent of people have this; I have a very mild version that occurs infrequently and is controllable; I know when it's coming and I can refrain from sex until it's gone. Do I have to tell right away?
Best Use of Seduction Technology, Old and New, Since You Asked
...As with most people, especially “das IT volk,” my boyfriend has his smartphone with him all the time — all the damn time. When I leave the room, he immediately gravitates to it, and regularly checks his Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter accounts. Lately I’ve been consumed by the worries about his going online and following a work colleague of his on Twitter. The only other people he follows from work are his bosses. She was the first person he immediately began following, although they do not have a Facebook friendship. At first he told me her tweets were techie (work)-based. They aren’t. It’s basically a lot of personal “banter” (a word he uses to describe their relationship as having) and flirty talk with friends and other people in her industry. And also? She can get kinda spicy. She’s mentioned going to party cities, crashing parties and made sexual references...He’s “favorited” a lot of her tweets and (to me) it feels like he’s trying to please and assure her of his interest — to my knowledge, she doesn’t respond publicly to his tweets, but I understand that they have a “fun banter” at work that I am not privy to. Bottom line: It really rankles me — makes me boil, in fact, as I stroke the lock of his hair and the Cajun voodoo chicken foot I’s been fixin’ to use on him — that he’s spending his private time thinking about somebody he already works with 40 hours a week (we don’t live together), that he is trying to please someone else.