Ask Dear Prudence: Exposed Strangers

Thursday, June 27, 2013

This summer Emily Yoffe, also known as the Dear Prudence advice columnist for Slate, takes listener questions on thorny ethical and etiquette questions and offers her advice.

This week: how do you let a stranger know he or she is accidentally exposing a body part...that is not usually exposed? Think an unzipped fly or a see-through shirt. 

  • Have advice about this situation? Post it below. 
  • Need advicePost your own dilemma here and maybe you'll join Emily on the air next week! Or give us a call during the show at 212-433-9692.

Some of the advice that came in today about the lady in the cafe with the see-through shirt:

  • Emily: "In general, you don't say to women, particularly in their 60s, 'excuse me, I can see your breasts.'" She figures the woman may have known, and the writer was correct to mind his or her own business.
  • Caller Bettina: Said she lives by the golden rule - she'd want to know, so she would gently alert the person. 
  • Wilson in Queens: Suggested he would have asked the waitress to discreetly mention it to the woman.

Plus, several commenters on our website suggested that the woman may have dressed like that on purpose. 

Got more advice? Keep posting more in the comments. 


Emily Yoffe

Comments [18]

Cindy from Newark

Her daughter doesn't act gay?????? How do gay people act?? Geeze woman read a book.

Jun. 27 2013 04:01 PM
JM Livingston from Broooklyn

I'm glad the advisor told the woman to allow her 16 year old to attend gay pride. Thank you! But what I might've said, when the woman was afraid that her daughter would see "the dark side" of gay culture, which seemed to mean openly displayed sexuality, particularly BDSM sexuality, is that 1) having gone to movies and seen advertising, your daughter has seen plenty of the "dark side" of sex and sexuality. This will not be new, just because it's LGBTQ 2) most of the pride parade is actually boring. It goes on for hours and includes gay/lesbian/trans members of churches, synagogues and mosques, marching bands that look pretty much like any marching band, floats from banks, etc. There's definitely some sexuality (as you'd see at, say a football game, or in the movies) but the number of marchers who will make your daughter yawn will far outweigh the dark legions! Worry not. This is what I wanted to add to your calm and sensible advice.

Jun. 27 2013 03:25 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Perhaps folks are interpreting "sheer" differently here, with some thinking obviously sheer and others thinking sheer in a certain light -- like the Lulu Lemon pants. I thought the latter, and that maybe the woman didn't realize...

Jun. 27 2013 12:11 PM
barbara from NYC

Nope, in NY (City, at least) it's perfectly legal for women to be topless. Unusual, yes, but legal.

See, on NY Times website, article entitled: See Topless Woman? Just Move On, Police Are Told

Jun. 27 2013 12:03 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Doesn't a braless woman in a sheer top violate indecent exposure laws? It might be a good idea notify her so she doesn't get arrested.

Jun. 27 2013 11:58 AM
The Truth from Becky

The special needs person should be gently corrected, as many times as needed but corrected indeed.

Jun. 27 2013 11:57 AM
The Truth from Becky

An unzipped fly usually happens on accident. I would gesture, the guy would get the drift immediately!

Jun. 27 2013 11:56 AM
Marechal Brown

I took offense at Ms. Yoffe's assumption that the woman in the sheer shirt "forgot" her bra. I feel like we should be beyond this discussion almost 50 years after bras were burned in the '60's. That could very well have been her choice today, and is no one else's business whether she is 20 or 60.

I have attached a link to the 1968 event at the Miss America Pageant, Atlantic City, NJ.

Jun. 27 2013 11:54 AM
Horatio from Brooklyn

This segment should be called "Larry David's Writing Room"

Jun. 27 2013 11:53 AM
jennifer from princeton

If your brother in law is special needs, he is used to having limits set for him in other contexts and actually needs it

Jun. 27 2013 11:49 AM
The Truth from Becky

Agreed, a woman in her 60's who leaves home in a sheer top, no bra is VERY aware of what she is doing. It is a calculated move. Inappropriate, perhaps BUT a calculated move none the less and NONE of my business!

Jun. 27 2013 11:48 AM
barbara from NYC

Agreed; in summer there are so many people who wear clothes I find just disgusting, but if I stopped every one ("Hey, dearie, your bra is showing") I'd never get to my destination. (Not to mention having to see their hideous tattoos.)

Jun. 27 2013 11:47 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Excellent question about letting people know if they're exposed, etc. I can relate to this, because I tell people all the time...I don't know, I absolutely would DISCREETLY let the bra-less woman know. Because I would want to know. If she doesn't care, no harm no foul, right? Isn't not letting her know because she's an elder and it's about her breasts kind of prudish?

And, err, are most people really naturally "attracted to both sexes"? Or is this mom a bit in denial?

Jun. 27 2013 11:45 AM

The caller, "Stephanie":

My kid's grade school has a float in the Gay Pride Parade.

He's had nothing but a positive experience participating.

The "dark" side NEVER got him!!

Have a damn conversation with your kid!!

Jun. 27 2013 11:44 AM
jennifer from kendall park

Susan: egg zackly. Let it all hang out, honey. And when I asy all...

Jun. 27 2013 11:43 AM
jennifer from kendall park

Although once, when I worked at a sandwich shop, I turned off the stereo and announced to a woman that she had lettuce hanging off her chin. But that was just plain mean of me.

Jun. 27 2013 11:41 AM
Susan from Upper West Side

Oh that was hilarious!! She might be like Phyllis Diller and simply not care anymore.

Jun. 27 2013 11:39 AM
jennifer from kendall park

Um why do we assume that this woman didn't want her breasts showing? she may have been enjoying the gaze of the man next to her. :)

Jun. 27 2013 11:38 AM

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