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Advice on manners and morals.
May 30 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 Queries should not exceed 200 words in length. Please indicate how you wish your letter to be signed, preferably including your location.


Dear Prudie,

Do you know anything about the Zone diet? I seem to recall there was some controversy surrounding it, but I can't remember what. My friend is seeing a nutritionist who has him following the basic premise of the Zone. I am curious as well as confused. Any info, Prudie, would be gratefully appreciated.

--Andrea,New York

Dear And,


Prudie is not a fan of diets. She prefers low-fat foods and smaller portions. The trouble with diets is that they are demanding, boring, and most often do not offer lasting results. The trick is to retrain oneself in terms of how one eats and to reach a new set point in one's weight.

For a fast start, Prudie does approve of diets, however trendy, and spas where the right foods are chosen for you. This is just to permit shedding a few initial pounds to provide motivation and hope, along with the feeling that one is able to achieve success.

Prudie knows people who swear by the Zone, and others who swear at it. The real problem with any prescribed diet is lack of balance, and the fact that feeling deprived leads to chocolate cake. Perhaps a reliable approach is the one the late Jacqueline Onassis is said to have used. She ate whatever she felt like--and left half of it on the plate.

--Prudie, trimly


Dear Prudie,

I have an irritation, not a problem, but I thought perhaps you could offer me a palliative.

What is behind people telling you they are going to "the best doctor," sometimes "the best doctor in the world," in such and such a field? I know there are many fine physicians around, but this seems to me to be a form of bragging. How do these people decide that their doctor is the best? These pronouncements on subjective issues annoy me no end. I have yet to hear someone say they are going to a doctor who is kind of mediocre.

--Thank you,Barbara in Phoenix


Dear Bar,

Prudie is in your camp, though she has made her peace with this manifestation of human nature. People just need to feel that their care is top of the line.

Whenever Prudie hears such a declaration, she basically zones out, and the remark has the same weight as "I just had the best cheese Danish."

--Prudie, medicinally


Dear Prudie,

I read your response to the writer who wondered how he should introduce his grandmother's beau. I have found a good term for women to use: "gentleman caller." It's very handy in the early stages of dating, because it's wonderfully vague--not to mention that it provides an opportunity to poke fun at oneself and modern dating rituals.

If things move in a more serious direction, the gentleman can be upgraded to "my fella" in casual conversation, or for introductions, "my James" (or whatever the appropriate name is). This allows others to join in the fun by referring to the gentleman as "So-and-so's James." Of course, while this form of address does away with the confusion created by the term "my friend," I think you'd agree that one should put off using the possessive endearment until it is truly called for, or it will come across as treacly baby talk.

--Wryly,Kate Wrath

Dear Wry,

"Gentleman caller" is not only wonderfully vague, but very Tennessee Williams. Of course, you knew that.

Prudie heartily approves of your suggestions for the relationship upgrade nomenclature. She is sure you have been helpful to countless people over 30 struggling with proper designation for the beloved and is grateful for the assist.

--Prudie, nominally

Dear Prudence,

Why does the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League get to drop an initial from its acronym? Why do writers and editors call it "NARAL" instead of "NARRAL"?

Would it be OK to follow this trend and refer to NOW as NO or OW? Could the ABA be just AA? Are government agencies allowed to drop letters? The DOJ would sound so much more hip as the "Deejay." And even Microsoft would project more power and mystery if it went by "M" rather than the prissy, feminine "MS."


Dear X,

It sounds as though you have time on your hands. You might want to consider volunteering at a homeless shelter.

--Prudie, busily