Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 24 1998 3:30 AM



Prudence, drawing on her rich experience of life, will answer questions submitted by readers. She will respond to questions about manners, personal relations, politics, economics, and other subjects. Questions should be sent to They should not exceed 200 words in length. Please indicate how you wish your letter to be signed, preferably including your location.

Dear Prudence,

Is there a cure for unrequited love? Also, could you fully explain the law of diminishing returns? And, while you're at it, please share your opinion of the plays of Tom Stoppard.

--Too Much Time on Her HandsSeattle

Dear Too Much Time,

One cure for unrequited love is requited love. There are other cures also, such as devotion to the study of the Finnish language. If you are reflecting a personal problem, remember that unrequited love is not fatal. As someone said, "Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love." This applies to women also.

The law of diminishing returns says that if the amount of one input applied to a production process is increased, the yield will not increase proportionately. For example, if your boyfriend sends you a 2-pound box of candy, he will get more return than if he sent you a 1-pound box, but not twice as much return.

When I was young I felt it necessary to pretend that I understood and liked the plays of Tom Stoppard. I no longer do.

--Prudence, diminishingly