Editor's note: The first question below includes a reader's response from a Dear Prudence online chat.
Q: A few days ago, my 10-year-old son asked me to watch a YouTube video. It was a girl putting makeup on her brother. He asked, "Can we do that?" I said, "Not right now; maybe later," because I didn't know what else to say. I don't mind if he'd like to see how he looks, but I feel like I'd be doing something wrong.
A: You were caught unawares and were uncomfortable, so your response was just fine in the moment. Given that you remained calm and didn't express disapproval, I think letting this lie and waiting to see if your son brings it up again is also fine. I have a daughter, and while she practiced with my lipstick a few times when she was that age, I also would have been uncomfortable doing a full makeup on such a young child. If he does bring it up again, I think it's fair to have a calm, honest conversation. Ask him what makes this interesting to him and listen open-mindedly. You can tell him doing makeup on him does make you feel a little uncomfortable, but it's a fair request, and you'll try it. Then make sure the makeup you use is clean — you don't want him to get an eye infection because of this exploration.
Reader: Wow, the question clearly wasn't about how to use makeup, or even the age of the child. It's a BOY asking about makeup and this clearly is what freaked Mom out. This is about gender, not how to use makeup remover.
Prudence: Yes, I totally understood it's a boy, and I totally understood that this made her uncomfortable. I assume your response means the mother's answer should be, "Boys don't wear makeup!" But a generation ago a parent might well have freaked out and said, "Boys don't wear earrings!" I think staying calm and finding out what makes this interesting to him is the way to go.
Slumber party etiquette
My almost 9-year-old daughter wants to have a slumber party for her birthday party. She is quite the tomboy with both boy and girl BFFs. We would like to invite all her friends to spend the night, regardless of gender. All of her previous birthday parties had both genders invited. My question is should I say anything on the invitiation about it being boy/girl? And what should I say?
Even if your daughter has lots of friends it's not too many for you to pass the word to the parents of the girls that there will be boys there. (That it's a mixed-gender sleep over will be apparent to the parents with sons.) You just say to the girls' parents you want them to know boys will be sleeping over, too. For any parents who have questions, you explain your plans for supervising the celebration.
Boyfriend's leg fetish
My boyfriend and I are in a loving, dedicated relationship. He is such an amazing guy and all of my friends and family say he is one-of-a-kind. The other day, though, I discovered some bizarre videos on his cellphone. He catches the subway for work and he has been surreptitiously recording women's legs. There are no faces or other intimate body parts — just legs. At first I thought it was an accidental recording but there are five or more videos. I don't know what to do. Is this illegal, recording women's legs? Is this a deal-breaker? I love him so much I wonder if I should just pretend I haven't seen it.
If only he lived in Massachusetts for that brief period before the Legislature closed the loophole in the law that allowed Massachusetts perverts to take upskirt photos. Your beloved apparently is skirting illegality by limiting himself to leg videos. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that there is no expectation of privacy about one's exposed limbs. However, your boyfriend is exposing himself to being declared a creep because anyone who realizes he's filming her is going to be appalled. Sure, there's nothing wrong with a man enjoying a woman's lovely legs. And maybe your boyfriend has what's on the whole a basically harmless fetish. But he's not limiting himself to looking at legs on the street and online, he's gathering his own cache, which is worrisome. (And I'm betting he's got more than five of these videos stashed away.) I don't see how you can pretend to ignore what you've discovered. Let's face it, neither do you — you know you'll never think of your boyfriend the same way and that you need to find out what's going on. So tell him you saw the videos and ask what's up with that. His response will help you sort out just how one-of-a-kind he is.