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My Boyfriend’s Sugar Mommy

I’m jealous of my partner’s patron.

Dear Prudence,

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I am gay and my boyfriend is an artist. We’re both in our late twenties, and he avoids starving by having a “patron.” This woman is 17 years older than him and filthy rich. They don’t have sex, and she only wants “companionship and romance.” He writes her poetry, surprises her with roses, takes her out dancing, and basically does things out of a cheap romance novel. He told me her husband was a heel and she has no real family, only some greedy cousins waiting for her to die. I have met this woman three times. She was open, enthusiastic, and very generous. I mentioned I was missing my high school reunion because I couldn’t afford airfare. She wrote me a large check the next day so I could go. My boyfriend and I are getting more serious, but I can’t get over his patron. I understand it is his job, that he couldn’t afford to do his art full-time without her, and there is no sex, but I am jealous she gets the poetry while I get the “please get milk” conversations.

—Leftover Love

I think this is something you two can address! You don’t seem to have much of an issue with the arrangement qua arrangement if you’ve met her several times, enjoyed her company, and taken money from her yourself. Your jealousy isn’t centered around the connection your boyfriend shares with his patron; it’s that his job requires significant emotional and romantic output on his part, and you want to make some space in your relationship where the two of you connect on a romantic rather than a merely domestic level. There are some things it may be reasonable to ask for (a regular date night, more affirmation of your feelings for one another) and some things that may not be possible (he’s not a romance-producing machine; he writes her poetry because she pays him to and not necessarily because it’s his favorite way of expression affection). But it’s very much worth talking about, especially if you make it clear that you’re not trying to discourage him from continuing with his patronage and that you support his work. At least part of the compromise may involve you being the one to pitch a bit of woo in his direction; it may be that he wouldn’t mind having someone surprise him with roses once in a while.

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Dear Prudence Uncensored

”Gimme someone to pitch woo at and I will merrily bustle about in a flurry of car-door-opening and jacket-holding and secret-note-depositing.”

Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss this letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.

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Dear Prudence,

My partner is a musician in a nationally touring band. He goes on tour for two to four weeks every few months. I find myself feeling anxious, jealous, and even resentful while he’s away. I trust him completely, but I really dislike the constant late-night partying. I’ve tried to throw myself into new hobbies, activities, and plans with friends, but nothing seems to ease my troubled mind. I want to be supportive, but I can’t help feeling sad at home while he’s out having new adventures without me. How do I cope?

—Left Behind

You don’t have to feel positive 100 percent of the time in order to be supportive. If there’s something you need from him when he’s on the road, ask for it. Do you two get to talk regularly while he’s touring, or does he tend to disappear and give you after-the-fact updates after being out all night? Do you feel like a part of his life when he’s on the road, or do you feel like a part-time partner? What are you afraid to ask of him, and what would it look like if you tried to share some of these feelings with him, rather than trying to talk yourself out of ever feeling sad or left out? I think the first step in finding a “way to cope” is to stop thinking of your anxiety, jealousy, and resentment as problems to solve, or signs that you don’t trust your partner. They’re not necessarily going to be the only feelings you ever have about this, but they’re an understandable response to being away from your partner one month out of every four, especially if he’s partying a lot and generally enjoying a rock-’n’-roll–adjacent lifestyle while you’re meeting the same old friends for a Thursday night movie.

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How to get advice from Prudie: 
• Send questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)
• Join the live chat every Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.
• Call the voicemail of the Dear Prudence podcast at 401-371-DEAR (3327) to hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

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Dear Prudence,

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My house is at the end of a long street bordering the woods, and I garden and raise rabbits and chickens. Recently some neighborhood kids have started showing up while I’m out in the yard, sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the evening. They’re 5 and 7 years old, and they’re polite and clean but always hungry. They never refuse food, although I’ve never had children myself, so I’m not sure if that’s unusual. They don’t belong to any of my immediate neighbors and can’t or won’t give me their mother’s phone number. If I give them a note for their mother, I never hear back. They once spent close to six hours with me while I worked in the garden. If they were older I wouldn’t worry, but my mother didn’t let me wander around that long by myself even back in the ’80s. They’re good kids, and I’m concerned that they are often alone and out of school. They don’t show any signs of abuse or neglect, other than sometimes wandering around alone on a weekday afternoon. Should I call Child Protective Services?

—Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

The question one should always ask oneself before considering calling CPS is, “Do I have reason to believe that state intervention, including the possibility of family separation and children being put into foster care, is absolutely necessary?” In the absence of obvious signs of abuse or neglect, I think the answer here is no. That doesn’t mean you have no cause for concern, but the threshold for calling CPS is much higher than what you’ve seen so far. To whatever extent you’re able and willing, I think you should continue to be friendly with these children and offer hospitality whenever they show up in your yard. You can also ask (gently and age-appropriately) whether or not they go to school and continue to ask if you can speak to their parents. Their situation may not be ideal, but if they seem clean, relatively well-adjusted, and no more hungry than the average kid (most kids won’t say no to food), then I think continued friendly observation should be the order of the day.

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Dear Prudence,

My 17-year-old daughter has befriended an 18-year-old boy (a friend of a friend of hers) online. They have talked on FaceTime, and her friend has confirmed who he is, so I’m not worried that he’s misrepresenting himself. However, he lives two hours away, and my daughter wants to meet him for a date somewhere in the middle. I am anxious about this idea. I do not know this young man, and I’m very skeptical of the online friendship that teens seem to acquire so easily. Should I go with her? Should she take a friend? I don’t want her driving off alone to meet someone I’ve never met.

—Worried Mom

It’s fine to go with her the first time she meets him. That doesn’t mean you should pull up a chair and join their date, but it seems like a reasonable precaution, given the relative distance and her age. Go along, exchange some brief hellos, and reassure yourself that he’s a run-of-the-mill teenager rather than a serial killer lying in wait, then go read a good book at a nearby coffee shop until they’ve finished their date.

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More Dear Prudence

• My Boyfriend Funds His Art by Romancing His Wealthy Patron, and I’m Jealous.
• How Do I Get Him to Pay More Child Support if His Income Is “Not Exactly Legal”?
• I Inherited Thousands of Family Photos When Dad Died. I Can’t Throw Them Out, Right?
• My Sister Thinks My Pregnancy Is Ruining Her Wedding.
• It Hurts My Feelings When My Co-Workers Make Fun of Rich People.

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Dear Prudence,

I broke up with someone a year ago. After we broke up, she unfriended me on social media, never responded to my birthday message, and stopped spending time with mutual friends lest she end up around me. Recently I found out that she is looking for new work opportunities. A friend of mine works in the same sector and has a job opening that would be perfect for her. She is extremely qualified, and I think she would enjoy this role. Should I reach out and let her know I can refer her? Given that she seems to want to cut me out of her life completely, I’m not sure if she would take this in good spirit or think I’m trying to force a conversation on her. What should I do?

—Want A Reference?

Don’t get in touch with her. You are, I think, trying to force a conversation on her. Your intentions may be good, but she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want any contact with you, regardless of how good your intentions are. Let her find a job on her own, and don’t look for reasons to re-establish contact with her.

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Dear Prudence,

My family is wealthy, and I am the only person in my social circle who isn’t up to the ears in student loans. I cover the lion’s share of rent and utilities at our house; I also drive my friends most places since I am the only one with a highway-capable car. I think some of my roommates are taking advantage of me but don’t know how to talk about it. I suffer from severe social anxiety and am not very verbally fluent. If I protest when one of my friends is late on rent again after I covered them last month, they gang up and lecture me about how lucky and privileged I am and how lousy it is to “nickel and dime” them when I have so much spending money from my parents. I don’t have that much spending money! Yes, I am getting support from my parents but not enough to pay for an entire house and car and other people’s living expenses! I budget. I plan. I am fine helping with an unexpected disaster, but not paying the rent every month. These girls are the first real friends I have made in ages and I don’t want to lose them … but I don’t want them if they aren’t real. How do I tell the difference?

—Too Rich

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There was a similar, and yet in many ways wildly divergent, question last week. That question was “How do I relate to my friends and co-workers when I’m wealthy and they sometimes criticize people who inherit their money?” The question here is “Do my roommates have the right to demand I cover their share of the rent at the last minute whenever they feel like it?” The answer to your question, of course, is “Absolutely not.” If your friends demand you pay for their rent without asking for assurance that you won’t have to do so again next month, then (as you’ve rightly guessed) they’re interested not in your friendship but in your pocketbook. Don’t get drawn into an argument about your family background or your monthly budget; if you’re not willing to indefinitely front them, then say, “I’m not going to be able to cover your share of the rent next month. You’ll have to make sure you’re able to pay on the first.” If their response is to insult you, or to make demands, or to imply that you’re being selfish, then you should look for roommates (and friendship) elsewhere.

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