The Most Jaw-Dropping Questions Ever Asked in Advice Columns

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Human relationships are complicated. How do you set boundaries with friends? How do you break up with someone you still love but know would be better off without you? How do you choose a fork to eat your salad with when you’re eating at a rich person’s house and they set out, like, 14 forks? That’s what advice columns are for.

We can write in and ask about the vagueries of the human experience, and let an expert tell us what to do. The person writing gets a weight lifted off their shoulders. The advice-giver gets a feeling of superiority. It’s a win-win!

But some of the questions folks write into advice columns with are… yikes. How are these people so messed-up, so dumb, so out of control? Here are some of the most jaw-dropping, uncomfortable, horrifying, and outrageous questions ever asked of advice columnists.

I always thought I could accept anything that parenthood might throw at me. I knew that I could embrace my son if he were straight, gay, bi, trans, etc. If there is a controlling consciousness of the universe, it has a nasty sense of humor. Putting it bluntly: My son is sexually attracted to Pokémon. He dropped hints that I didn’t really pick up on. But over the last few years, I have stumbled across evidence of his browsing habits that left me pretty clear about his proclivities. Should I address this with him? Try to discourage an orientation that, to me, seems kind of pathetic?The Stranger

The Stranger question-asker Dan Savage recommended this dad refrain from shaming his son from his predisposition, since sexually imprinting on whatever’s put before them — like, say, Pokemon — happens sometimes, especially to males. And since the internet has opened up fetishes to everyone, there are a ton of like-minded Poke-fetishists out there that with whom he can find commonality. It’s actually sort of beautiful.

My coworker, Sally, recently hired a new grad, Jane. As Sally was making the verbal offer over the phone, she asked Jane if she had any questions. Jane replied, “No, but my father does.” Then, Jane’s father took the phone and started asking Sally questions about the offer! The questions ranged from logistics about onboarding, to asking if Jane could arrive late on her first day! Is there any way to respectfully give the parent feedback that they are not helping their child?Ask a Manager

Ideally, suggested advice-giver Alison Green, the manager would have refused to take the dad’s questions and ask to only speak with the candidate. If this dad had questions about the job, he should apply himself.

We dine at casual eateries periodically with certain friends. One of them habitually excuses herself by announcing, “I need to go potty.” This has progressed from embarrassing to simply annoying. What is the proper thing to say, or is it too late to say anything? Should it simply be ignored?uexpress

“Miss Manners is assuming that your friend has just completed toilet training.” Why will no one address head-on the problem of adults using baby talk like it’s a normal, acceptable practice? It is so weird, and I do not care for it!

I just started seeing the same therapist my boyfriend went to until three months ago, and I can’t shake the feeling that something happened between them. It was the way she was smiling when she was talking about him and the fact that she mentioned him without it being necessary. Also, he told me one of the reasons he stopped seeing her was because their conversations “got too casual” and the fact that I don’t trust him or myself. I asked him about it. He told me nothing happened between them and then immediately asked why would I think that. What should I do? I can’t stop thinking about it and would like to search for another therapist if something were to have happened between them. I feel like I’m losing my mind.Slate

Slate’s Daniel Mallory Ortberg gave some pretty solid advice: switch therapists immediately. The whole point of therapy is that the therapist has boundaries and doesn’t share their personal life with their patients. Not only did a previous patient, the question-asker’s boyfriend, say this therapist was “too casual,” but the therapist also brought up another patient unprompted! Get out of here with that mess.

There are two children that live across the street from us — aged six and nine-ish — who have serious boundary issues. They walk into our house without knocking, ring the doorbell during the day when my husband is sleeping, ask us for food and drinks (or just help themselves without asking), and ask my kids to give them their toys or money. We are very firm with them, always telling them, “This is not your house; you have to knock,” or “You can’t have our dinner.” We are firm, but they are willful and resistant. It’s a constant battle.Slate

Jamilah Lemieux recommended reaching out to the school and other community members to see if this has been an issue with others and if anyone’s tried anything already. But then, she dropped the big reminder — these are still kids in need, and something’s gone awry. She suggested this mom try adding a dash of kindness to her firm boundaries when dealing with these persistent, roaming children.

I recently got a new boss and things have gotten weird. To kick off her experience, she hosted a series of team bonding activities which included a lot of happy hours and lunches. During the happy hours, she would consume a lot of alcohol and make sexual jokes/comments. It didn’t really bother me and I’ll admit I found myself chuckling a few times, but after several weeks of happy hours I realized things we’re going too far. At our last outing, she literally asked everyone there how many sexual partners they’d had, and if we shied away from answering, she booed us until we acquiesced. I didn’t know what to say so I just made up a number to get out of the line of questioning. I wanted to leave but I felt pressured to stay because those who attend the happy hours seem to get more perks — flexible hours, work from home days, etc. I don’t know what to do. I feel like since I originally laughed/engaged in the more surface level sexual jokes/comments, now I’m part of the problem.Ask A Manager

Advice-giver Alison Green suggests this employee pump the breaks on letting their boss think this kind of talk sits right with them. “You’re allowed to object to this even though you laughed along earlier,” Alison said. “Second, you’re allowed to change your mind. Maybe it didn’t bother you at first but it does now. You’re allowed to feel it’s gone too far.” Finally, Alison recommends a trip down the hall to the good folks at HR. I doubt the boss will be comfortable with that conversation.

My close friend (a 28-year-old man) married a wonderful guy three years ago. They were both very fit. The husband is still fit, but my friend has gained a shocking amount of weight. (I’m talking 100 pounds!) I am really concerned for his health. When I mentioned my worry to his husband, he patted my friend’s huge belly and said: “More of him to love.” Should I let this go, or try to find out what’s going on?New York Times

Philip Galanes tells this question-asker “the intensity of our curiosity about a subject does not make it our business if it is not.” Everyone else in this situation is happy, and in fact, seems to not even realize there’s a situation. Makes you wonder if there really is a situation at all, doesn’t it…? (The point is, but out. Dude’s gettin’ big but he’s also gettin’ happy. Good on him.)

I have licked my knife after meals all my life. Whenever my friend “Jill” and I are at a restaurant together, she tells me how gross it is and looks away. Doesn’t everyone do this?Creators

Annie Lane says this practice is dangerous, and she’s not wrong, I guess. But also? Forks are curved weird, and I’m not here to tongue-shame anyone. If it feels nicer to get that last little bit of gravy off the flat surface of a knife, I say you live your life brother.

Yes, she provides snuggles… but at what cost?

My husband and I got a new puppy when she was about 10 months old. She likes sleeping on the bed with us, but sometimes jumps off and goes into her crate to sleep. My husband is crazy about her and loves it when she sleeps/cuddles in bed. Unfortunately, she leaks urine in the bed, soaking through the sheets and mattress pad — and I am now continuously washing bed linen. It smells terrible! I washed everything yesterday, and this morning everything was soaked, stained and smelly again. My husband says I am being too picky about things in the house. Am I crazy that I don’t want to sleep with the smell of dog urine? Shouldn’t our pup be crated at night?Tribune Content Agency

Amy Dickinson suggests three things: 1. Take the dog out one more time before bed. 2. Bring the puppy to the vet to check out its incontinence, because “leaking” isn’t a thing. That dog’s peeing the bed, yo. 3. Get a divorce. (Okay, not really, but she does strongly suggest that just asking this question means her and her husband “are on vastly different planes regarding the dog” and, presumably, “other things.” Ominous.) I guess this woman’s task is to decide if its worth it to cut Wag! walks in order to get a marriage counselor.

I quit my retail management job two years ago over work/life balance issues and started working as a private home chef for a wealthy married couple. Long story short, the wife caught the husband having an affair and rather than admit who it was with and have to stop seeing her, he lied and said it was me! She fired me. He apologized to explain himself and tried to give me money, but I was furious and told him off. So I’m on my own now. I need to look for a new conventional job, but I have no idea what to say about this last position on my resume especially because I can’t get a reference from them. But if I don’t list it, then how do I account for the last two years?Ask A Manager

Alison Green thinks this chef should put the last job on her resume, but none of the gory details. There’s no reason they couldn’t say “the couple’s marriage imploded, you were caught in the crossfire despite being scrupulously professional, and the situation between them was so volatile that you wouldn’t suggest them as a reference.” Easy-peasy!

I’m afraid my ­16-year-old daughter is missing out on the best parts of her youth. She’s a good kid, gets good grades, but doesn’t seem to have any friends, doesn’t date, doesn’t go to parties, football games or dances — nothing. Her entire life is focused on a blog she runs and the fan fiction she posts on another site. I’ve checked her blog. It’s okay, but nothing most girls would be interested in. These are the years to have fun, learn social skills, and build a good resume for college. My daughter will have absolutely no extracurricular activities unless she writes about her Superman and Batman fan fiction. My husband and I have told her about all the fun she’s missing — he played football and ran track, I was a cheerleader, in the theater club and never missed a dance — but she’s just not interested. In anything. We don’t think she needs to be a cheerleader or an athlete, but we do think she needs to be involved in something. What should we do?The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax hits the nail on the head — this young woman is absolutely interested in something. It’s just not the same kind of stuff her mom is into. And this mom needs to accept that. And you know what? I’m gonna take it one step further — this girl is roughly 10 times cooler than her mom, since writing Superman-Batman fan-fiction is awesome and unique. You want to cram her in one of the two or three boxes of things kids traditionally do — sports, academics, acting — when she found her own deal that makes her happy? Step off.

When I was a teacher at a boarding school, we had an athletic director who liked to call students and faculty “tiger” or “handsome.” He always felt that if he could say something nice to someone, he would do it, as that may be the only nice thing that person heard that day. He passed away a few years ago. As a nice memory and in admiration for his kind agenda, I like to call people handsome also. A supervisor today — who I CC’ed on an email in which I called someone handsome — wrote an email back. I was told to “refrain from calling people handsome.” I’m curious. What is wrong with the salutation? I’m clueless how this may be a bad thing.New York Times

Caity Weaver lets him know that, while the intent may be good, complimenting someone’s looks can “leave a person feeling uncomfortably scrutinized.” Maybe they could consider complimenting them on something they specifically chose to do, like an achievement or skill they have? Then they’ll feel like they earned the compliment, as opposed to wondering why you’ve been spending so much time looking at them.

Years ago, I was friendly with a man from work who was very close to his mom. She came along with us once for lunch and ended up really liking me. From that point on, whenever he and I would get together for lunch, she would tag along. At one point, without my permission, he gave her my phone number, and she began calling me. A little has turned into a lot. She contacts me every day via text or phone, almost always to complain about something in her life. She always wants to get together for lunch and is constantly asking me for favors, including rides to work (we do not have the same job or the same hours) or taking care of her dogs and cats while she’s away. I no longer speak to the man, but I speak to his mother every single day. She considers me a dear friend and is a very sensitive person with obvious abandonment issues. My problem is, I have zero desire to be this woman’s friend… I get together with her, respond to her messages, answer her calls and do favors for her out of guilt, not wanting to be yet another person who kicks her to the curb. How do I handle this?UExpress

When I first read this question, I was like “Oh yeah, ghost this weird old mom ASAP.” But Dear Abby herself Abigail Van Buren changed my mind almost immediately, suggesting he just wean off contact, making himself less and less available. She even called out me specifically (or at least it felt that was) when she said, “The alternative would be to stop responding at all, which would be cruel.”

In the middle of last year, I was promoted to manager of a small department. At the time it was just me and one other person, Fergus, but we’ve since added one more, Bob, to the team. Fergus has been at the company longer than I have, and we’ve become fairly friendly over my time here. For every birthday of his that I’ve been with the company, I’ve baked a treat (think cupcakes, nothing crazy extravagant) to share with everyone. It’s also good to know that I’m a hobby baker, and at various other times I’ve brought in treats to celebrate other coworkers’ birthdays or just because I wanted to try a new recipe. Fergus’s birthday is coming up soon, and it will be his first since I’ve been promoted to managing him. Bob’s birthday is a few months away. Bob and I have a good professional relationship, but our personal one is not at a level where I would feel moved to make the effort to make something for his birthday. Would it be inappropriate to make something for Fergus’ day but not for Bob’s, since they are both my direct reports? My desire to make something for Fergus has always stemmed from our personal relationship, not our professional one.Ask A Manager

Alison Green says part of a manager’s job is to not make her staff feel like someone is getting preferential treatment, and there’s really no other way to read birthday cupcakes for one and not the other as anything other than preferential treatment. So she has to bake them for both, or bake them for neither. That’s the choices. And why not just bake Bob some cupcakes too? Did she forget she can eat one of the cupcakes herself?

Grandma’s gotta get hers.

My siblings found out through an email from their nephew (my son) that I am going to be a grandmother. I was away at the time, having just found out myself. They all emailed their nephew to offer congratulations. It is now four days later and not one of them has contacted me to congratulate me about the fact that I am going to be a grandmother. We otherwise have regular communication. Am I being over-sensitive, or are they being insensitive?Tribune Content Agency

Amy Dickinson told the soon-to-be grandmother that her siblings could have a hundred reasons they haven’t reached out — they didn’t know she had heard herself and didn’t want to spoil the news, or maybe they were focused on communicating with the soon-to-be father themselves. Lot going on in the lives of those siblings. Maybe this grandma needs to accept that this moment is a little about her, but it’s mostly not about her. “Being a grandparent,” says Dickinson, “is a grand opportunity to become more expansive and generous, and please, less sensitive.” In other words? How you gonna make it about this actual baby, and not yourself, you big baby?

And now Grandma’s gonna get hers.

I have a four-year-old son and am expecting another child in a few months. I started my own business a few years ago, and my husband works full time. My son is in daycare three days a week (we can’t afford more care right now). I asked Mom if she would commit to helping me care for my son on one of the days when he is not in daycare… She balked at the suggestion and actually started yelling at me about it. She works as a sometime-realtor, but makes herself very busy with women’s groups and volunteer work… She makes me feel selfish for asking, but I really need the help to grow my business and support my family. I get upset that she doesn’t “want” to help me when she spends so much time doing things that to me aren’t as important as helping her family. She constantly calls me to tell me how “busy” she is, but it’s with things that are completely voluntary, and meanwhile I’m drowning… I realize she has her own life, but I can’t see why she won’t just agree to one day or even a half-day a week, when she often helps my sister (a stay-at-home mom with three kids).Tribune Content Agency

Amy Dickinson again comes out with the truth, saying, “You obviously value your time and energy more than your mother’s. And guess what? She has needs, too.” We got some mad entitlement going on here. you don’t get to decide what is and isn’t important to your mother! Get on out of here with that mess.

I work for a small start-up that’s seen its share of turmoil. Most could be attributed to our chief executive, and it’s largely manifested in the form of turnover… A lot of people who I enjoyed working with and consider friends no longer work with me. I put a picture of three of them — one who was fired, two who left — on my cubicle wall. My supervisor said, “some people” have expressed concern about the picture because it gives the impression that I’m resistant to the “positive strides” the company’s culture has made in the past few months. He asked if I wouldn’t mind taking it down. Given that he has only been with the company two and a half months, I have to conclude that the “people” he referred to is the CEO. I agreed to take it down because I like my supervisor. But the notion that I should be expected to take down a completely appropriate, inoffensive picture of my friends because the CEO doesn’t like it feels like an abuse of power. Is this a valid concern to raise with HR?New York Times

Caity Weaver hedges a little here, saying that the boss is “weaponizing decor to make a silent hostile point” while also saying, “cool ex-colleagues are not a protected class,” implying that this employee doesn’t necessarily have the right to hang the picture themselves. Well I won’t be so wishy-washy — I say this employee start cutting out pictures of his ex-colleagues’ faces and taping them over the faces of the boss’ family, one at a time, in all the pictures in his office.

My boyfriend has made a habit out of using birthdays and holidays as an opportunity to upgrade his lifestyle under the guise of generous gift-giving. He recently gifted me his used laptop — which he did spend money on, getting it cleaned up — for Christmas, after buying himself the latest upgraded laptop. My last birthday he gave me his used scuba gear and took that opportunity to upgrade his own set. The thing is, I’m not a big diver, and my current laptop is perfectly adequate and better suited for my needs. However, he gets upset if I politely decline, so these presents are really just taking up valuable closet space. Am I ungrateful or am I justified in feeling a bit stuck in an ungrateful-recipient position? I’m also not able to figure out why exactly this irks me, and it seems disingenuous to fake enthusiasm as I’m walking gifts over to the closet.The Washington Post

It was clear right away to Carolyn Hax that this guy is self-centered and trashy. She hopes this woman can “see him for who he is and act accordingly.”

My sister and I are open with each other. This year we got a frightening tax bill and I vented to her. She was sympathetic but didn’t commiserate. I found this a little strange given what I know about her finances. It bugged me enough to ask her how much she owes, and she said she was getting a refund but wouldn’t say how much. I was floored. I asked her for more details, including who she used for tax prep, and she refused to divulge them. I am jealous she is paying a lot less and also concerned about whether what she’s doing is even legal. Can I bring this up to her again? And how do I do that?The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax reminds this tax-payer that a) it’s not his business to ask, and b) that she might have been paying a ton in taxes and simply over-paid out of her paycheck, so it’s not like Uncle Sam is playing favorites. But if I could go one level deeper — this guy is just upset about his tax debt and is letting that upset slop over onto his sister — a sister who, it should be mentioned, is undeserving of that slop.

I recently started my first “real” job in a small office (eight people). We have strategy meetings every morning for about 30-45 minutes. My boss is REALLY intolerant of bad ideas. She keeps a tape dispenser on the table by her chair and whenever someone suggests something that she thinks is dumb, she will peel off a piece of masking tape and pass it to them, at which point they are required to put it over their mouths so they cannot contribute any more “bad” ideas for the rest of the meeting. Needless to say, the first time I saw this, I was shocked! But my coworkers don’t seem too bothered by it. Or maybe they just don’t want to complain, I’m not sure. My boss can be kinda scary. My issue with this is that enforcement of the rule seems arbitrary. It depends entirely on her mood. Some days, no one will “get taped,” but other days, if she is feeling particularly sour most of us, if not everyone, will end up “taped” and the meeting is just her dictating to us! Is this normal? I’m thinking not. But does that make it inherently bad? Is there something I should do? Other than this idiosyncrasy, it is mostly a great job and she is, for the most part, a good boss.Ask A Manager

Alison Green is straight up not having it. In fact, she won’t even engage with the premise, saying, “She is not a good boss. There’s no way that someone who thinks it’s appropriate to tape people’s mouths shut — daily, no less! — is managing effectively outside of this. It’s not possible.” Usually, you don’t want to let one annoying quality define an entire person. But in this case? This one annoying quality is the corona virus of qualities — it overwhelms every other quality, and becomes the only thing anyone can talk about.

My husband and I met working at a major tech company. He left with more than $2 million at age 36. On the outside, our life looks great. But he hasn’t worked since we got married nearly 20 years ago, and as a result, he’s blown through all our cash. I’m a best-selling author, and my early books netted nearly $1 million from book sales. He claims he couldn’t work all those years because he was too busy setting me up in my writing career. He’s a smart guy who can do just about anything. He’d actually be great working for a company. But he doesn’t believe it. The negative voice in his head has become too strong and his ego is too fragile. What am I to do?Slate

Here, Daniel Mallory Ortberg recommends the catch-all, jack-of-all-trades of advice — communicate more. He suggests regular state-of-the-finances meetings. Those awkward conversations should get easier over time, but if the husband keeps shutting down, it might be time to consider bailing on the relationship.

I have a 4-year-old daughter and a 4-month-old son. We recently enrolled my daughter in weekly ballet lessons. We love everything about it … except an issue with a sibling of one of her classmates. One of my daughter’s classmates has a brother (approximately 6 years old), and … he is obsessed with babies. I sat in a chair more in the middle of the room with my baby napping in his stroller. The boy came up and stood right in front of him, staring at him for most of the hour. It made me really uncomfortable, but he wasn’t touching the baby or disrupting his sleep, so I didn’t know what to say. The boy’s father tried to lure him away from my baby several times with no success. What can I do or say to alleviate this situation?Slate

Again, Ortberg tells this person to open their mouth and talk, but specifically, to the father. The question-asker should keep the conversation from getting confrontational. It’s more about asking the father to get the boy to move and leave them alone instead of saying she finds his kid creepy.

My son, Steven, and daughter-in-law, Julia, are expecting their first child and our first grandchild next month. I had what I thought was a good relationship with Julia, but I find myself devastated. Julia has decided only Steven and her mother will be allowed in the delivery room when she gives birth. I was stunned and hurt by the unfairness of the decision and tried to plead with her and my son, but Julia says she “wouldn’t feel comfortable” with me there. I reminded her that I was a nurse for 40 years, so there is nothing I haven’t seen. How can I get them to see how unfair and cruel their decision is?Slate

The advice given here by Daniel Mallory Ortberg is solid — this mom-in-law needs to accept that she is “entirely in the wrong” by refusing to accept a “totally appropriate boundary.” In other words, Grandma better check herself before she wrecks herself.

My fraternal twin and I (both men) are in our late 30s. We were always extremely close and shared a bedroom growing up. When we were 12 we gradually started experimenting sexually with each other. After a couple of years, we realized we had fallen in love. Of course we felt guilty and ashamed, and we didn’t dare tell anyone what we were doing. Our dilemma is how to deal with our increasingly nosy family and friends. I feel we should continue being discreet for the rest of our lives and blow off their questions. My brother, though, is exhausted with this charade. Is this one of those times when honesty is not the best policy?Slate

Slate writer Emily Yoffe believes “a family gathering in which you announce you two have found life partners — each other — will give everyone the vapors.” That’s a much less heightened version of how I suspect the family would react, but if the brothers can meet in the middle between the full, shocking truth and complete secrecy, “a limited version of the truth should back everyone off.”

A few months ago we received an email from the boss that we are entering a “cost-cutting” exercise due to business needs and they need everyone to make efforts to ensure our costs/expenses are “as close to zero as possible.” I’ve done what I can — e.g. I walked five miles with heavy equipment rather than take public transport which the others did. I “forgot” to claim for overtime payments that I should/could have claimed (not in the US so those laws don’t apply), didn’t claim mileage for driving two hours out of my way multiple times, etc… We have to work late a couple of times a month due to client deadlines (the company usually orders food in) and I’ve gone on “hunger strike” conspicuously refusing to eat or order, and working through while others eat the company-paid pizzas, etc. (We know in advance when we’ll have to stay late — why didn’t they bring their own food?!) because I don’t believe that’s a legit business expense. I’ve tried to convince the others but without success. I’ve now asked to reduce my retirement contributions (matched by the company) which will save them thousands a year. I’ve indicated to HR that I want to opt-out of the healthcare insurance at the next renewal date. I’m becoming more and more resentful of coworkers who haven’t even considered the things I’ve done. They still submit overtime, travel expenses, etc. At some point we all have to pull together but I feel like I’m the only one pulling.Ask a Manager

Alison Green here sets this sad employee straight — “‘Help us cut costs’ means ‘watch for extraneous spending and be frugal with business expenses.’ It does not mean ‘take on great personal sacrifice for the benefit of a company someone else owns.'” This employee needs to get what’s theirs or risk losing their coworker’s respect. How they got to this point, confidence-wise, is unclear, but this employee should absolutely consider watching How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

“Honey! I met the new neighbors! I mean, I really really met them.”

I have really nice neighbors, and we are always pleasant to each other. We put up a large above-ground pool in our backyard, and they put up a trampoline. I would like to enjoy our pool (how to put this delicately?) without tan lines. I do not want to offend them or expose myself to their teenage son when he’s jumping on their trampoline. Is there a tactful way to ask them to move the trampoline since there is no other way to stay discreet in my own backyard?uexpress

Dear Abby suggested the question-asker try on some “tan through” swimsuits and use sunscreen. But I think this is less about tan lines, and more about wanting to be naked in your own backyard, which, sorry, you can’t do. I think she should scream “SHAME” at the neighbors at the peak of their every jump.

My husband and I eat out frequently with a couple we like. But the husband doesn’t order his own drinks. When cocktails are served, he asks to taste my husband’s instead. I find this disgusting! My husband refuses to say anything; he doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. But what about me? My husband is jeopardizing my health over this man’s feelings. We have fought about this. How do I make it stop?New York Times

New York Times writer Philip Galanes suggests this wife speak up for her husband and say, “I don’t want him catching a cold and giving it to me. Can’t you order your own drink?” But here, the advice is what’s coo-coo banana-pants. What an overreaction! Just let your husband share sips with his friend. You’re not going to get sick unless he’s sick, and unless dude’s a psychopath, he’s not going to sip if he’s sick.

It’s hard to believe, but I think my husband is trying to poison me… I suspect he’s putting something in my coffee. I notice it smells funny, and when I drink it, my eyes get superpuffy and swollen. I suspect he’s also adding stuff to my lotions and bath products, which created brown discolorations on my skin. I’ve now switched to drinking tea, have left decoy shampoos and skin products in the bathroom, and have hidden my “good” products. (My hair and skin improved almost overnight.) Last month I purchased a small camera and hid it in the bathroom, but I think he discovered it and deleted the files. So I moved it to a new location, and he put something in front of the lens. I need help. I’ve been married to this man for 11 years! I don’t know what to do! I’m freaked out!Elle

Elle’s E. Jean says, “If you gotta video this chump because you think he’s trying to murder you—does it matter what tests reveal?” When the trust in a relationship has eroded this much, it’s time to throw in the towel, no matter what the footage says.

I have a coworker who is terrified of clowns. Once in a while one of my other coworkers thinks it’s funny to change his wallpaper on his laptop to a scary clown picture. He will react in what the others think is a funny manner by screaming or running out of the building. This month, due to Halloween, they have been pranking him daily and have even taken up a collection to buy a clown costume to wear later this month. I want to tell him about it because I think it is juvenile and pathetic, but I worry about repercussions from my boss because she is in on it and a driving force behind it. What should I do?Ask a Manager

Proving that she’s a well-adjusted human being, Alison Green found nothing funny in the perpetual pranks. “You should tell [your coworker] because it’s profoundly crappy to set out to terrify someone.” How messed up do you have to be to get joy out of inspiring terror? Does this person work with Batman villain The Scarecrow?

I was sexually and mentally attracted to this guy for 12 years. We used to have the best times together, then suddenly he seemed a little standoffish, though I continued to be sexually involved with him. I find out he got married while we were still sleeping together. He had been married six months before I even found out about it. I still love him. His wife is extremely bougie, and he is not that type. He is like me — just likes to laugh and enjoy life. He is constantly calling, telling me he misses all the fun we had and the laughs. I don’t know what to do, but I do know I can’t sleep with him now, knowing he’s married.The Ellsworth American

Carolyn Hax is suffering no fools in her response. “Oh, Honey. You’re the lap-dog-complicit other woman who saves him from his awful wifey shrew-lady. In the Big Book of Stereotypes, you’re on Page 1.” She suggests getting the hell out of there, because that man is toxicity incarnate.

I have recently become engaged to my longtime boyfriend. Whenever the topic of children came up, he would insist he only wanted girls because his siblings were all brothers so another male in the family would be boring. Last week, however, he forwarded me an email from his brother (also his best man) with some information I needed for wedding planning, but the email was part of a much larger running conversation. I was mortified when I read his real reason for not wanting a son is that my “Asian genes” would mean his son would have a “small package!” My brother was bullied by jocks using this idiotic stereotype in high school so I was incredibly angered, but I haven’t said anything about what I read yet. He has begun asking why I am so distant lately, but I have no idea how to confront him!Slate

The advice? Pull the ripcord, the ship has lost its sail.

Some fine advice from Ortberg here, recommending the question-asker is lucky they got to see this side of their fiance — the sad, racist side — before the wedding. He warns that the guy will try to weasel out of it — that “that’s not who he is” — but that it is who he is. This advice echoes something Maya Angelou once said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”