Advice on manners and morals.
April 18 1998 3:30 AM

Drawing upon her rich experience of life, Prudence (Prudie to her friends) responds to questions about manners, personal relations, politics, and other subjects. Please send your questions for publication to Prudence@slate.com. Queries should not exceed 200 words in length. Please indicate how you wish your letter to be signed, preferably including your location.

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Dear Prudence,

I don't know how much you remember of your college days, but I would like some advice pertaining to the dreaded topic of roommates. My roommate, just in the last two weeks, has developed a habit of going out and coming in late. I'm a light sleeper, and I've been suffering from her nocturnal excursions. We had decided (before these last two weeks) to room together next year--until yesterday, when I found a note from the roommate saying maybe we should not proceed as planned due to our different sleeping habits. Since then she has either not been in the room or has come and gone so quickly as to leave no time for discussion of this matter. I might add that our housing papers are due in five days, and it's disturbing to me how irresponsibly she is handling the situation--which stemmed from her suggestion in the first place.

Please help. Thanks so much.

--Tired in New York

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Dear Ti,

Prudie remembers this of her college days: There were curfews making it impossible for students to keep vampire hours. (A few stealth roommates evaded the rules, but even this was rare.)

Given the irresponsibility you describe, not to mention the sleep disturbance, prudence (the virtue, not yours truly) demands that you either rustle up another roomie--preferably a young woman who is planning to become a nun--or take your chances being assigned a stranger. It couldn't be much worse. Well, actually it could, in which case you are within your rights to pester the proper authorities for a change.

And good luck with finals. Prudie remembers them well.

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--Prudie, restfully

Dear Prudence,

I retired after making a pot of money in my business and looked forward to the life of Riley ... traveling to places I never had time for, fancy eats out, and so forth. But something happened on the way home from work. My wife and daughter are the ones doing Riley. They give me a paltry allowance while they live high on the hog with cruises, flying trips, etc., leaving me home to feed the cats and empty the litter pans.

I'm unhappy, Prudence. What can I do?

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--Grampsy

Dear Gramp,

Prudie has the slightest suspicion either that you are joshing her or are tucked away at some prep school. The situation you describe does not have the ring of truth. Rather than lost dreams of "Riley," the dilemma you describe reminds one more of "Ripley."

It is hard to imagine a tycoon emeritus at the mercy of a wife and daughter who park him at home while they travel the globe. Giving you the benefit of the doubt, however, and assuming that this problem is genuine, Prudie suggests, unless you signed everything over to the women, that you stop being a wimp and take control of your money, your time, and their frequent flyer miles.

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--Prudie, skeptically

Dear Prudence,

Please help me. I've been dating this guy for six months and we get along fine most of the time, but I often find myself comparing him to my ex-boyfriend, with whom I broke up after we dated on and off for five years. I ended the relationship because of his alcohol problem. I find myself having to fight off the urge to call him--and sometimes I give in and call. Then I feel guilty. Does my calling him mean I unconsciously want to get back with my ex?

--Feeling Guilty in Wis.

Dear Feeling,

Prudie sympathizes, having herself, once or twice, become attached to the alcohol-impaired. There is some kind of magnet that draws women to troubled men. Do try to fight the urge to reconnect with Jim Beam. Perhaps by recalling the alcohol-induced difficulties you can keep your hand from reaching for the phone.

--Prudie, magnetically

Dear Prudence,

In nature, animals kill for only a couple of reasons: food and defense. Is it not insane for people to murder? If the murderer did not eat the victim, he or she did not need to kill the victim in the first place.

Second issue: What do you think of the people who want to take the word "man" out of common words? Thank you for your time. I just needed to get these two issues off my chest.

Sincerely,--Pheonyx

Dear Sin,

Prudie hopes you are not condoning murder if one eats the deceased. Jeffrey Dahmer comes immediately to mind and, of course, he was insane.

As for what Prudie thinks of the people who want to neuter speech by removing the word "man" from words, she thinks they are hersterical feminists.

--Prudie, traditionally

Dear Prudence,

Please don't get me wrong, I love kissing, but there is such a thing as the appropriate kiss for the appropriate occasion. My problem is the pseudopassionate hello kiss with heavy tongue action. Am I the only one put off by this? Have mores changed when I wasn't looking? And the big question: How do I handle this without making an enemy for life?

--Not That Irresistible

Dear Not,

Interestingly, this happened to Prudie--but only once. The shock was so great she found herself downing too much white wine (this was at lunch) as an antiseptic, since Prudie did not know the gentleman nearly well enough to be familiar with his health history.

You are entirely right to find this revolting, unwelcome intimacy outré. Mores have not changed--you have just managed to connect with some clods. It would be perfectly correct to pull back and make a show of surprise and displeasure. As for making an enemy, is a person who would do this worth having as a friend?

--Prudie, antiseptically