Advice on manners and morals.
May 16 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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Prud,

I'm assisting a friend in wedding prep and have made a number of requests to Bloomingdale's for a digital version of the bridal registry. They offered to fax me information. I told them I don't do faxes anymore. Mike and Ellen, the to-be-wedded parties, are true digerati and have the expectation of electronic invitations with embedded links (to Bloomie's, for example) for this bicoastal event in June.

Do you think I'm expecting too much of Bloomie's? Their Web site is lame, and they don't seem to understand e-commerce in the e-world. I do not want to be impolite, but I do want them to understand the lucrativeness of this burgeoning market. Mike and Ellen's wedding helper needs your guidance.

--Wedded, digitally

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Dear Wed,

Ah, yes, trouble with cybergifts. Prudie is sorry for your frustration with Bloomie's being behind the e-commerce curve. Would you feel better to know that they sometimes screw up their plain old-fashioned mail-order business? A friend of Prudie's ordered an expensive lamp as a wedding gift, and the embarrassed groom inquired why she had sent an embroidered footstool bearing the wrong initials.

In defense of some high-end retailers steering clear of the Web, Saks announced they were aborting their Net effort because the results were next to nil. This, the store believed, was due to the fact that catalogs show the merchandise more clearly and that selecting "things" is a touching and feeling exercise.

The Tish Baldridge part of Prudie's brain is a little put off by the idea of imbedded Web links to stores. This makes the invitation seem a little more like an invoice than usual. But by all means send Prudie's best to Mike and Ellen.

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--Prudie, festively

Dear Prudie,

My problem is one that I'm sure affects many more women than you'd believe. I was widowed when I was 47 and have been on my own for five years. My situation is something of a good news-bad news thing. The couples who were our friends have been wonderful to me. They include me in everything--something I know is unusual for a single woman. The problem, though, is that not one of them has ever fixed me up with a man. And it's not that they don't know any. I'm assuming they never think of me in this context because to them I was the other half of a couple with "Rob," and it would somehow be disloyal on their part to introduce me to other men.

I do not wish to seem aggressive, but my friends are well connected, and I don't know how to tell them that I am ready for introductions. Any ideas?

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--JoAnne in Minnesota

Dear Jo,

It sounds as if your friends are keeping you in widow's weeds longer than is necessary. Ideally, you would be able to include a gentleman you've met independently in a function involving all the old friends, thereby making a statement. If no one suitable has crossed your radar, mention to some of the women--not the men--that you are ready to meet appropriate escorts and perhaps they know of someone. In other words, spread the word. And the reason to tell the women, not the men, is that it's been observed that women cannot accept the idea of any man being on his own. So once you've "deputized" the women in your group, Prudie predicts results.

--Prudie, providentially

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Dear Prudie,

I feel so hopelessly clueless! I'm seeing an older man who works in the same company I do. He is paid at least twice what I am (and is well aware of that fact) and dips into his salary only when he runs short of trust fund money. He's obviously made a killing in the latest stock market boom. Yet when we go out we split expenses.

When this man and I first started seeing one another I would offer to split the check, not being of the persuasion that the man should automatically pay. But it's been almost a year now, and we've grown close, if you get my drift. What's going on?

--Wish I Were Making This Up

Dear Wish,

What's going on is that your gentleman is close with a buck. To louse up a well-known Latin phrase, he is fui generis--in this case meaning "What's mine is mine."

Unfortunately, to be politically correct in the beginning, you suggested going Dutch. Now that you have become "close" (drift received), and your significant other is way better fixed than you, Prudie suggests you have a heart-to-heart. An opening gambit might be "I can no longer afford our romance." Explain that when you started dating you didn't know it would lead to something serious and wished to be correct. Now, however, you think it would be appropriate for him to assume the expenses incurred when you are a twosome.

As, of course, you know, money can be the Bermuda Triangle of relationships. If this is a thorn in your side, and Prudie believes it is, state your case, but be prepared to be disappointed. If he doesn't see it your way, just e-mail him a farewell, at www.cheapskate.com.

--Prudie, fiscally

Dear Prudie,

Is it moral for the government to refuse to provide sterile needles to groups of intravenous drug users in order to prevent the spread of AIDS? Does the excuse that needle exchange encourages and condones drug use seem reasonable?

--David WorlRochester, N.Y.

Dear David,

You have pressed one of Prudie's buttons with this one. Statistics show that needle exchange programs, among other benefits, are a way of getting people into rehab. The government is being both foolish and cowardly, afraid of being attacked by conservatives for doing anything that might be labeled "immoral." The real immorality, of course, is failing to do whatever is possible to lessen illness and disease. To imagine that withholding clean needles from addicts will keep them away from drugs is like telling the tides to stay still.

--Prudie, disdainfully