Advice on manners and morals.
May 9 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,

It's been said that the five words men fear most are: "Honey, we need to talk." Well, my wife is the one who refuses to talk. Instead of leaving normal notes, such as "Please take out the garbage" or "Don't forget to pick up milk on the way home," she leaves me long (four page) handwritten letters about concern for each other's feelings, sharing chores, etc. When I ask her if it wouldn't be easier to sit down and talk things out, she says, "Why? I've already put it in writing."

I feel as though I've married Cyrano de Bergerac. How can I get her simply to start talking?

--I-Strain

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Dear I,

Prudie will pass up the chance to point out what would be seen by some as your good fortune. A more common question might surely be "How can I get her to stop talking?"

But to address the problem at hand: Your wife, for whatever reason, is committed to an epistolary marriage. Perhaps she's a frustrated writer, unable to get published? Perhaps she feels you tune her out? If you've really made an effort to hash this out, your options are to: 1) grab pen and paper yourself; 2) seek couples' counseling; or 3) reconsider the importance to you of the written vs. the spoken word.

--Prudie, vocally

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Dear Prudie,

Is it proper for attendants to wear black at a wedding?

--Pedlar

Dear Ped,

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A cynic might say it is an appropriate color, considering the occasion. Fashion, however, has made black dresses for bridesmaids all the vogue. It could be that people just got sick of seeing those dresses the color of Pepto-Bismol.

Black is also slenderizing, so perhaps the heavier bridesmaids lobby made itself heard.

--Prudie, colorfully

Dear Prudence,

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Despite my frequent requests, my neighbors' friends continually pull up in front of my house at all hours and blast their car horns rather than park, get out, and ring the bell of the person they've come to pick up. This happens as late as midnight.

When I politely ask the drivers to stop this, they use profanity, ignore me, or threaten violence. My neighbors say they'll speak to their friends about this behavior, but if they have done so it hasn't worked. Getting the police to respond has been useless and seems petty anyway.

Many times these horns have awakened me from sleep. I have used up my patience. What can I do?

--Horny in L.A.

Dear Horn,

Have you tried earplugs? Prudie is not being facetious. Having done a turn in Los Angeles herself, she knows the men in blue are not going to come for people blowing horns, since they ignored her calls regarding people blowing leaves.

And since you are getting nowhere with the drivers or the neighbors, mental health would seem to dictate that you handle the situation with the best self-protection available. Think like a 12-stepper: Accept that which you cannot change and have the wisdom to know what those things are. Or think like a Zen master: There is no solution. Seek it lovingly.

--Prudie, philosophically

Dear Prudence,

My friend is 35 and is now carrying the child of the man she has been with for about a year. They don't live together, they rarely go out on dates, and when they see each other it normally means one spending the night at the other's place. There are times when they don't hear from each other for several days. There is nothing here that resembles commitment. The father still has not decided what his role is going to be, if any.

In short, he's being a real jerk and it makes me damned angry to see my friend suffering and stressing out because of this caveman, given her delicate condition. What should I do?

--Concerned Friend in NYC

Dear Con,

Mind your own business. No offense. Prudie believes that third parties in domestic affairs such as you describe are like, well, third wheels. If it will calm you any, it sounds as if this pair is practicing emotional S&M.

Prudie thinks there's a slim chance that you are your own friend, if you get my drift. If this is the case, you should 1) tell Mr. Future Dad what is expected and, if it is not forthcoming, 2) wipe the slate clean and begin to make the best life you can as a single mom.

--Prudie, pamperingly