Advice on manners and morals.
March 21 1998 3:30 AM

Many Slate readers have expressed regret that Prudence has abandoned her advice column in favor of her needlework. Sensitive to the continuing need for guidance among Slate readers, however, Prudence has prevailed upon her niece and namesake, Prudence, to assume the responsibility. In coming weeks, Prudie (as she is known to friends) will begin to respond to some of the unanswered e-mails that have piled up in her aunt's queue as well as to new inquiries that readers may submit. Like her aunt, Prudie will be drawing upon her rich experience of life in responding to questions about manners, personal relations, politics, and other subjects. Unlike her aunt, she does not do macroeconomics--though, in the family tradition, she does do needlepoint.

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As before, you should send your questions for publication to Prudence@slate.com. Queries should not exceed 200 words. Please indicate how you wish your letter to be signed, preferably including your location.

Dear Prudence,

One of my favorite aunts proposed to visit the White House along with two young nieces when they vacation in Washington this spring. Ordinarily, I wouldn't give this matter further thought, but since I've read so much about scandalous behavior in the Oval Office, I think maybe they should skip the White House and spend more time in the Capitol instead. Mostly I am concerned that my nieces' reputations will suffer when they return home to the inevitable questions from curious friends. Please help me: White House or no White House?

--Uncle Cautious

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Dear Unc,

Oh, by all means, White House. Prudie feels certain that young tourists are safe from the alleged scandalous behavior. You do not say how old your nieces are, so just a small caveat: If they are in the intern age bracket, simply advise them that the room off the Oval Office is not on the tour.

--Prudie, prophylactically

Dear Prudence,

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I couldn't wait to get e-mail at my office, because I hate returning phone calls. Now I find I hate returning e-mails. What do I do? And what's the proper etiquette for an e-mail kiss-off? How long can I keep saying, "Oh, I didn't get it. Can you resend?"

Sincerely,--Anxious in Austin

Dear Anxious,

You have definitely identified a problem for the '90s. I don't think an etiquette has yet been formulated for this problem, so here are two jerry-built options: 1) Ignore things you wish to ignore, or 2) fluff off troublesome e's with a brief reply. Something like "in haste" or "gotta run, but I got your message."

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And, dare Prudie say this in an online magazine? You can always say that your server screwed up ... sort of the electronic version of "the dog ate my homework."

--Prudie, briskly

Dear Prudence,

With winter comes a most embarrassing problem--incredible static cling. Static electricity, which not only turns A-line skirts into minis, but also affects hair and body, resulting in hair that stands out unattractively, and makes sparks fly whenever my body touches another. What can one do?

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--Clung to in California

Dear Clung,

Write to Heloise. Prudie hasn't the faintest idea how to solve this dilemma. However I do remember that a few nights ago at a party, a woman confided that her dress was clingy and electric, so she wore a light flannel nightgown underneath. She went on to say that this approach had the added benefit that should someone ask her to spend the night, she would be prepared.

--Prudie, statically

Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend wears totally unsexy underwear--plain white briefs that are too big for him and bag in the back. I've tried giving him subtle hints like "I think boxers are sexy" and "boxers really turn me on," but they just seem to go over his head. I even bought him a pair of boxers, but he just wears them to sleep in--with his yucky briefs underneath. What can I do?

--Turned off in Kansas

Dear Turned,

He wears the baggy briefs underneath? I offer you two suggestions. Since things are going over his head, try under his nose. Write him a short love note saying it would mean a lot to you if he--forgive the pun--bagged his lucky underpants and only wore boxers. Alas, the alternative is to forget it. Would you think Prudie salacious if she were to suggest that it's what's inside the briefs or boxers that counts?

--Prudie, briefly

Dear Prudence,

In the initial stages of dating, it is usual to assume that both parties are probably dating others. I prefer to describe my other dates as "having plans." I also take pains so that the people I date remain clueless about others I may be dating. One of the men I am currently seeing has asked me to dinner at a particular restaurant that he's been eager to try. I accepted, but when I looked up the address, I found it was located in the same (very small) building as the office of another man I am seeing. I am on the verge of suggesting another restaurant, lest I "collide" with the other man. Should I change the venue?

--Dating in D.C.

Dear Date,

Prudie thinks it would be wonderful to be seen by another swain and cannot imagine why you would want to pretend to be otherwise dateless in what you describe as "the initial stages of dating" this new person.

--Prudie, strategically

A Postscript From Prudie

Dear Readers,

I am honored that my dear Aunt Prudence has entrusted me to continue her service to the lorn of all stripes. I feel as though I am stepping into the family business, as it were.

Happily, I have no feeling that I am trying to fill her shoes. (Truth to tell, Auntie wears a rather large size.) Being of a younger generation, I may be a little less delicate in my approach but I hope of no less use to you.

Yours,--Prudie