Dear Prudence: My dog is wildly famous online. Should I quit my job to manage him? – Slate

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here.

Dear Prudence,

My dog is internet-famous, and it’s stressing me out. I made him an Instagram account when I adopted him as a puppy, because I enjoyed writing funny captions, finding increasingly funny sweaters to put him in, and using my amateur photography skills to document all of our adventures. But now he’s five years old and over the years, his account majorly blew up. It now has hundreds of thousands of followers, regular requests for sponsorship deals, and my phone is always buzzing with notifications. I realized a couple weeks ago that if I quit my job and ran his account full-time, by doing things like creating sponsored content twice a week, making merch, and accepting brand partnerships, I could earn 50 percent more than I do at my current job, which, while already partially remote, isn’t a job I love.

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However, I’m scared to bite the bullet and leave, and I have nobody to advise me because I don’t usually share the fact that my dog is a “petfluencer” with my friends and coworkers (I’m always scared they’ll judge me or think I’m the millennial equivalent of a cat lady). Plus, it seems wrong to make a full-time business out of my pet. Don’t get me wrong—he likes getting dressed in sweaters, going to new places, and loves it when strangers recognize and fawn over him. But I keep thinking of all the work I put in to get college scholarships and a degree from a good college, and then the years I spent working my way up to my current job. Quitting in my early thirties to take pictures of my dog adorably gnawing a certain chew toy seems too good to be true, and I can’t help but think I’ll end up crawling back to the workplace eventually. But this is also an amazing opportunity to turn what was basically a fun hobby into a job that I know brightens people’s day whenever they see my pup’s goofy photos in their feed. Should I take the risk and quit? How can I explain my career change to colleagues and acquaintances without seeming crazy?

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— Too Good at Fetching Likes

Dear Too Good at Fetching Likes,

Who knows how people make money these days? I went to school to be a novelist and now I’m writing advice on the internet. It’s a wild world. And none of it is guaranteed, but then neither is your current job. If it brings you happiness and seems to be a sure enough thing in the short term, I say give it a shot. You’re not selling out your skills or your education by pursuing a new money-making venture. Is doing petfluencing part-time an option? Can you use some of the additional earnings to bring on an assistant to help create the content? There are ways of professionalizing this that don’t completely abandon the traditional path of working your way up the corporate ladder. What you’re talking about is scaling a business that didn’t start off as a business. Any viewer of Shark Tank will tell you that’s easier said than done. The account has to keep growing, the content has to maintain its audience, and the corporate strategy for sponsorships has to keep aligning with what you’re doing. There’s a lot of variables.

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You may want to reach out to other petfluencers and talk to them about their business plans. Find out how other people are managing this new industry. And then think about your traditional path—is your job, or a job like it, still going to be available to you if you decide to go back to it? If the risk is low enough and the reward great enough, go for it. But go for it with a plan. Are you doing this to simply replace your income and find more professional happiness, or do you want to build a nest egg that will give you freedom to explore another industry down the line? Both plans (or any other) are fine and being able to articulate your reasons for taking this leap will help you explain it to colleagues and acquaintances. They don’t have to understand the wild and wonderful world of pet photos on the internet; they just have to understand that this isn’t a fluke. It’s a business.

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Dear Prudence,

One of my neighbors is my closest friend, and another couple that lives nearby is part of our friend group. The wife of that couple (let’s call her Q because she likes to refer to herself as “Queen”) seems jealous of the friendship between my neighbor and me. She repeatedly demanded we be her best friends and that we were not including her enough, though she never invited us anywhere. Whenever I would say I had plans that didn’t include her, she would guilt trip me. I have been a friend to Q and invited her to my home to many parties, but between work, family, and other commitments, I don’t have more time to devote to her—which I’ve expressed to her.

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Q and her husband have also been quite rude. They never bring food or drinks to our home when we cook out and ask them to bring something, then they invite themselves to our expensive liquor; they bring their own guests over when we ask for them not to; and they stay at our home hours after we ask them to leave. I feel like they use us for a good time and to swim in our pool. She even “broke up” with me through a text in the winter and didn’t speak to me until it got hot and then she wanted to hangout. Now that I’ve been distant, she has made pointed social media posts calling names to the friends she “lost.” Our financial situation has also changed, and we don’t have as many parties because it’s so expensive now, and our kids take up more of our time and disposable income.

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My husband wants me to repair the relationship, but I feel uncomfortable around Q. Am I being overly dramatic, and how would you suggest moving forward with her? I would love to stay cordial, but I don’t want the emotional stress of being her friend.

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— Girl Problems

Dear Girl Problems,

Drop Q like a pool noodle. That’s not really a phrase people use, but I’ve decided to commit to it and now it’s here and there’s no going back. Cordiality is fine, but there’s no reason to change your social schedule or bend over backwards to repair a relationship that you’re not getting anything from. What is Q bringing to the table here? It sounds like this person is a user and a manipulator, and while repairing the relationship might stop her social media posts, it will bring other kinds of drama into your life, not the least of which being a friend who doesn’t know how to leave when the party is over. If you husband wants to be friends with Q, he should go ahead and do that. But it sounds like you’re best served by this neighbor staying on her side of the fence from now on.

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How to Get Advice From Prudie

Submit your questions anonymously here. (Questions may be edited for publication.) Join the live chat every Monday at noon (and submit your comments) here.

Dear Prudence,

I am a married mom of three: One in the armed services, one leaving for college in the fall, and an elementary schooler. I have been happily married to the love of my life for 20 years. I recently had weight loss surgery (a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, to be precise). I am losing weight and inches, and it’s phenomenal. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. My husband was very supportive during the entire process; in fact, he is just downright supportive of everything I do and vice versa. We have an amazing family dynamic.

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After surgery, we had a mutual friend warn us of the bariatric failed marriage rates, and they are alarming to say the least. Basically, what happens is that either the spouse gets jealous of the new attention, the person who had surgery initiates an affair or the divorce, or other basic marriage breakdowns occur. My husband and I are devoted to one another. I couldn’t image life without him; I’ve been with him more than half my life. And he loves the person I’m becoming, which he demonstrates by showing me how to avoid post-surgery pitfalls and changing his diet to support me. My question is: How can I be sure I don’t make him feel inadequate? How can we avoid falling into these statistics?

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— Not Big on Divorce

Dear Not Big on Divorce,

While statistics do give us information about trends and likelihoods, they don’t always illuminate underlying issues. No couple divorces simply because of bariatric surgery; they divorce because of the things that weight loss can bring out in a person or in a marriage. So, I’d suggest you worry less about making sure your husband doesn’t feel inadequate, and work on shoring up the foundation of the marriage you share as you both continue to change. A life change like bariatric surgery is a great reason to schedule a few sessions of couples therapy as a checkup or a recalibration. You deserve to talk through your anxieties and to have a safe space to ask your husband the questions on your minds. And a trained therapist can also help you both to verbalize anything that’s getting swept under the rug, positive or negative. You sound like you’ve got good tools at your disposal and you communicate with each other. Why not give yourselves the gift of recommitting to everything that’s working and maybe learning a new tool or two that will make your marriage even stronger?

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Dear Prudence,

My wife and I (both early 40s) have one child and a comfortable lifestyle, but it doesn’t seem like “my” lifestyle. I feel like I went to sleep and woke up in another man’s life. Corporate job, living in the suburbs of a mid-western city. I have never had a strong calling or dream job (I recall when I was about 5 I wanted to be both Jacques Cousteau and a veterinarian, but that didn’t last), so I find it hard to argue against suggestions from my wife. (Moving to the mid-west because of a job offer for her, for example).

My question is, is it fair to argue against something when you don’t have a good alternative? We usually get to the point of my wife saying “well, if you don’t want to do that, what do you want to do?”, to which I have no good answer. She seems content to work corporate jobs and climb the ladder, but I feel like I am dying inside a little bit every day that I spend on 4+ hours on zoom meetings. We used to have vague plans of starting a business and/or moving abroad for a while, but they seem to be easily forgotten when they are just maybe sometime in the future. We have a child coming up to Kindergarten age, so I am not advocating for sub-Saharan Africa or off the beaten path in South America. Any advice for someone who doesn’t know what they want to be when they grow up, but they know this isn’t it?

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Reluctant Suburbanite

Dear Reluctant Suburbanite

It sounds like you’re in a great space for some coaching, be it personal coaching from a therapist or life coach, or professional coaching or mentorship. Feeling stuck, knowing you don’t want one option but don’t have an alternative, and other signs of stagnation can be common throughout life, especially after passing various milestones, like having a kid or entering a new decade. You have the opportunity to get to know yourself again, to ask yourself the question of who you are and what you want, and then to listen for the answers. Sure, your surroundings may not make a round-the-world trip of self-discovery possible at the moment, but that work can begin internally right from your suburban living room. Talking with someone else—be it someone trained to ask the right questions or someone who has simply lived this experience and come out the other side—will be illuminating for you.

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Dear Prudence Uncensored

“I think it’s so easy to just look out at the yard and think ‘Okay, what have I done?’”

R. Eric Thomas and friends discuss a letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.

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Dear Prudence,

I had an affair for two years with a married man six years ago. We split because I told his wife. We have always stayed in contact but not seen each other until recently, when we started back up with the affiar. We no longer live in the same state, so I flew to him, and it was like no time had passed. Unlike when we first started, I’m now in a relationship, and yes, it’s unhealthy and unhappy; my affair partner does not know and I don’t want to tell him. Also, now he’s paying for my stay when I come, and he gave me money while I was there and a check before I left.

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I like him for him, and he also has expressed that it’s not about the sex with me, it’s the whole package. My problem is I don’t want him to feel like he has to pay me—or should I say, I don’t wanna be anybody’s sugar baby—but I also don’t want to give up this affair because I do love this man. Should his actions be a red flag to me, or am I wrong in thinking that he’s trying to keep me like a sugar baby? He is older than me but not by much. Every time I tell him he doesn’t have to give me money or pay for things, he always says “you’re right, I don’t have to, but I want to.” I just don’t want to turn into one of these mistresses that is being financially supported or taken care of by a man that I’m sleeping with.

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— I Just Don’t Know

Dear Just Don’t Know,

If you don’t want the money, don’t take the money. Don’t cash the checks, pay for your own trips, return his gifts, and send him the money back. Spending cash on you may be part of his love language or part of his sexual pleasure practice, but if it’s getting you in your head, you don’t have to be a part of it. You’ve already told him that you don’t want it, so the next step is making that clear. Is his gift-giving a red flag? I doubt it. The only thing that is concerning is his lack of respect for the boundary you’ve set. So, I’d make sure that you’re both on the same page about it. Does he know this is a deal-breaker for you? If he does and he keeps doing it, then that’s a bigger problem, and you should consider breaking things off.

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From your letter, it seems like there’s also some errant anxiety about your own feelings and also his wife’s feelings. Even though you don’t have any intention of stopping the affair, you owe it to yourself to talk through your feelings with someone else, ideally a trained therapist who won’t shame you for anything but will help you sort out what’s yours to deal with, what’s his, and what you two share.

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Dear Prudence,

My 38-year-old, chronically ill, closeted sister “Jamie” is isolated in the sad little rural house we grew up in, caring for our elderly, disabled parents, who, due to past abuse, none of their other kids will have anything to do with. She has only two outlets: her 2-to-3 hour, 2-to-3 times per week phone conversations with me, and watching horror movies. Hearing about the details of my life depresses her, since hers is so bleak by comparison, so instead we used to talk about all kinds of books and movies. But ever since our parents got sick, and then the pandemic struck, she’s pretty much stopped reading, and only wants to watch horror: the gorier the violence, the more world-destroying the apocalypse, the sadder and more nihilistic the ending, the better.

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The trouble is, since getting pregnant and giving birth to my daughter in February, I have completely lost my taste for all but the mildest horror and anything remotely apocalyptic. I just can’t help mentally inserting myself and my family into these scenarios. Hearing about vicious torture-murders revolts and angers me in a way it never did before, and my sister yammering gleefully about all humanity being destroyed basically sounds to me like, “I hope you and your husband and your stupid baby get raped by zombie cannibals and vivisected by mutant sharks and burn up in the exploding sun and DIE!!!!”

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Thanks to our strict religious upbringing, Jamie is extremely sensitive to being judged for her tastes. But I can’t get away with muting her or avoiding her calls for much longer. How can I tell her the one caring person in her life doesn’t want to hear about the thing that’s become almost her whole life, without making her feel abandoned or condemned? And I’m not nearly as good at talking at length about something the other person hasn’t read or watched. So what can we talk about instead?

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— Tortured by Torture Talk

Dear Tortured by Torture Talk,

I understand your aversion to horror movies, but I encourage you not to take Jamie’s affinity for them personally. Some people really like the release of gore and on-screen violence without wishing for it in the real world. And it makes sense that someone seemingly trapped in her own life would want an outlet for her frustration that does no harm but offers some semblance of catharsis. There might be a few ways for you to avoid having to listen to all the gorey details, though. First, I wonder if there’s some part of these movies that speaks to her which she can talk about without going long on the most disturbing aspects. Can you talk about the allegory, the filmmaking style, or the performances instead? Can you steer the conversation away from a play-by-play and into something that better resembles a conversation about shared ideas?

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Alternately, since you’ve previously talked about books, do you have the stomach to find a book that might appeal to her horror sensibilities without upsetting you? My first thought went to John Fram’s The Bright Lands, which concerns a gay man who goes back to his small, football-obsessed Texas town and discovers a disturbing supernatural secret. Having something to talk about that intersects with what she’s trying to process, but that doesn’t make you feel worse about your own life, might be a happy medium. In either case, however, I think it’s wise to let her know that your taste has changed a little bit and ask her if you can solve this together. My sense is that she’s trapped, and I would hope that your conversation would eventually lead to a talk about finding other ways for her to expand her world, or talk to someone about her depression. She doesn’t have to give up the horror, but she should also know she doesn’t have to fight this monster on her own.

Classic Prudie

My parents are very ambitious, successful people. I was their only child, and they were determined to mold me into someone extraordinary. Instead I rebelled against their efforts and turned out very ordinary—an indifferent student, never got more than a bachelor’s degree, and I work a mid-level office job. I may pursue more education later, but I’m not in a hurry to do so. I’m happy with my life: I’m married to a wonderful man and we have a lovely, energetic toddler. So what do I say when my parents start in about how they wished I’d gone further in my education, wish I’d change X about my life, or tell horror stories about what a “difficult” child I was? 

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