Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 17 1998 3:30 AM

(Continued from Page 1)

In the meantime, until the rules are changed, it would be wise of you to leave a tip or spend more on food. Otherwise you will not get a good table or will have crumbs brushed into your laptop, even though, strictly speaking, you are abiding by the rules.

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--Prudence, easterly

Dear Prudence,

This question is about the etiquette of having a love affair with a macroeconomist. He's 15 years older than me and a former colleague. I have an iron-clad rule about colleagues and sex (i.e., don't do it), but now that I've changed jobs he's made his personal interest in me pretty clear; and I like him a lot. In view of this quite relevant fact--and the global scarcity of men who, like him, are tall, funny, and smarter than me--the age thing doesn't bother me. BUT. The problem is: I don't know if he's still married to the mother of his two college-age kids, and I don't know how to ask. I know this sounds dumb. But our earlier professional friendliness did not extend to swapping details of our private lives, although he does mention the kids. Is this some kind of guy code for "wife"??

So, can you suggest a polite way to raise this, preferably using some kind of Southeast Asia currency-crisis metaphor to get the point across? (He's up to his neck in all that stuff out there right now.)

--Hesitating in Paris

Dear Hesitating in Paris,

Prudence is pleased that you are not put off by the fact that this man is a macroeconomist and 15 years older than you. There can be lots of life left in an old macroeconomist.

Now, how to find out if he is married:

You might say to him, "I understand that the IMF is committed to standing by Thailand to the end, no matter what happens. Do you think such a commitment is wise? How about such commitments between individuals, even between husbands and wives?"

You might try: "I suppose you are hoping that Congress will do something about the marriage penalty in the income tax this year. Would it make much difference to you?"

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