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Dear Prudence: I want to ban dark wash denim from my home.

Aug 18, 2023

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence,

At the last two gatherings we hosted in our home, multiple guests wore dark-wash blue jeans (we’re all middle-aged and leave the trendy, baggy, light-washed denim for the kids). On two separate occasions, our guests unintentionally stained our large, expensive, light-colored couch. They also stained the walls by rubbing their knees against the breakfast bar while seated on bar stools. Of course, we did not mention any of this to our guests, repainted the wall ourselves, and paid $200 to have the couch professionally cleaned. The wall was easy enough to repaint. However, the upholstery cleaner would not book the job initially because it was so unlikely he’d be able to get the stains out of the fabric. We were extremely lucky when he saved our couch, though it’s still a touch darker in some spots. Now we’d like to host again. What is the best way to avoid this problem in the future without draping the furniture in sheets? Could we request all guests refrain from wearing dark-wash denim along with the invitation or would that be strange and/or rude?

—No Dark Wash Denim!

Dear Dark Wash,

You can ask your very close friends not to wear a common wardrobe staple, but only your very close friends. Your expensive light-colored couch and super-sensitive walls mean that you are probably not a good candidate for hosting a lot of events with guests outside of the small group of people who care as much about your fabric as you do.

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Dear Prudence,

I’ve been in my new job for about 9 months, and I have a massive crush on my project manager, “Graham.” He’s sweet, unassuming, and a great manager—super competent and take-charge without being an ass about it. He’s also extremely hot and—I would guess—around 350-400 pounds. Everyone loves him as a coworker, but in an office full of 20- and 30-somethings who love to gossip and moon over every other “eligible bachelor” at our company, no one says a word about Graham. Fine by me, though it’s not like it could really go anywhere, since he’s technically my superior.

Recently I was having lunch with one of my coworkers, “Janine,” who until now I really liked. She was telling me about her thing for a guy in a neighboring department, so in the spirit of reciprocity, I told her about my huge crush on Graham, thinking it would be fun to joke/commiserate about unattainable workplace crushes. I finished with “obviously, it would never work,” meaning that of course it wouldn’t because he’s my manager and it would be totally inappropriate. But she nodded sympathetically and said, “I know, I could never be with someone that big,” which wasn’t what I meant AT ALL! I tried to set her straight and tell her that it wasn’t his weight, it was his role, but she said something about how he has a great personality and it’s such a shame, he could be so handsome if he weren’t so big, so I don’t think she got the picture.

Even worse, she definitely told another coworker, “Rachel,” because this week when Rachel and I were having lunch together, she said, “I heard about Graham. It’s too bad, isn’t it?” When I asked what she meant, she said, “You know, that he’s such a good guy but he looks like that.” I was so thrown. She’d made it sound like he was quitting or had gotten a terminal diagnosis or something! My brain stalled out and I said, “Like what? Super hot?” and she looked at me like I had three heads. The rest of lunch was very awkward.

So now I’m not only mortified that Janine and Rachel think that Graham’s size (and maybe fatness in general) is an issue for me, but I’m also put off that both of them expressed such fatphobic things to me so openly and expected me to agree. How do I address this with them? DO I address it, or do I just leave it and limit my interactions with them to small talk from now on?

—WTF in West Virginia

Dear WTF,

If you can find an opportunity, you might say “Remember our conversation about Graham the other day? I just want to be clear that the reason I wouldn’t date him is that he’s my manager. I wanted to mention it because I hate to see people dismissed because of their size.” In this way, you’re both clarifying your values and doing a little, tiny bit to challenge your colleagues’ thinking in a way that could contribute to a world in which people aren’t disrespected, devalued, or ignored because of their bodies. Then just lay low. In two years when none of you work there anymore, delete Janine and Rachel from social media and ask Graham out!

Dear Prudence,

I am 45 years old and live with my partner of 14 years in his home. For years, we lived minimally in his 300 sq. ft. accessory dwelling unit while renting the main house out. We recently decided we would move my dad in where he lives with us intermittently while he establishes foreign residency. So we moved into the main house, and my dad rents one of the guest rooms. Then, my partner’s dad recently came for a visit, which now has turned into him moving into the ADU. The issue is that the ADU needs to be renovated, so he’s living in another guest room, and he now has a constant presence in the house, the kitchen, the living room, etc.

We were never close, and I’m a stress case currently. I was already taking a sabbatical of sorts/early retirement addressing health issues. I’m not mentally able to “host” his dad and mask while I’m dealing with health matters. But he’s a big presence, and we are fortunate to be financially able to help them both. I’ve resorted to “hiding” in our room and backyard while his dad has taken over the rest of the public areas of the house. Suggestions on how else we can co-exist? I love my partner, and he is incredibly supportive and is doing his best to quickly move his dad into the ADU, but I worry we may be pushing the resilience of our relationship as he becomes stressed by my stress. We tend to bite off more than we can chew sometimes.

—Full House Overflowing

Dear Overflowing,

You and your partner have a long relationship with shared values when it comes to caring for aging parents. Not to mention you lived in 300 square feet together for years! You have what it takes to get through this. Especially because the situation is temporary. A combination of small tweaks will help it to feel more bearable:

1) Your husband needs to take his dad out of the house or arrange for him to be out of the house for one weekend day and one weekday evening per week. It sounds like money isn’t an issue and that’s great. See if your local senior center has activities or outings, hire someone to take him to the mall, sign him up for golf lessons or water walking … whatever. He just needs to be out.

2) You get control over the living room and kitchen for one additional day. It’s okay for your husband to say to his dad, “Hey, my wife needs some time to herself to cook in the kitchen. Do you mind watching some TV in your room for a while?”

3) Get a little more comfortable being your father-in-law’s presence without “hosting.” You can do what you need to do and he can do what he needs to do. Feel free to use headphones.

4) Maybe spend one hour a week actively engaging with him in the common space. Play a game, eat together, or tell him about your health issues. Maybe you could interview him about his life and record the responses for your partner, who will no doubt appreciate it one day. I think this will remind you that he’s more than just an annoying house guest, but another human who you can connect with, and it might make his presence feel like less of a burden.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

I adopted a cat, Zayn, four years ago. He is a great cat, and I love him to death. I recently allowed him to be an indoor/outdoor cat. Normally he’d stay out for a few hours then come home, but now he doesn’t come home till 10 p.m. It turns out Zayn has been paying visits to my next-door neighbor. It started with him just hanging out in her backyard, but now he is allowed in her home. He even cuddles and takes naps with her. She has asked my parents several times if she could adopt him, as she found out that we are moving. My neighbor’s husband just died, and she has become really attached to Zayn. My mom said I should give up Zayn so he can keep my neighbor company, but when I rejected the idea, my mom got angry.

Submit questions here.Dear Prudence,Dear Dark Wash,Dear Prudence, Dear WTF,Dear Prudence,Dear Overflowing,