Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 21 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.

Advertisement

Dear Prudence,

As we all know, wine in restaurants is frequently outrageously overpriced. The alternative is to bring your own and expect to pay corkage. I have noted, however, that even corkage charges are rising to an unacceptable level. Aside from this, the charge is included in the bottom line bill. My question is: What might be considered an appropriate tip on the total, given that the corkage charge is for service as well?

Appreciate your comments.

--Jack in Piedmont, Calif.

Advertisement

Dear Jack,

Some people who dine out often and are wine drinkers tell Prudie that when feeling expansive, they let the grand total determine the tip. (And sometimes the total can be quite grand.) Other times, when overtaken by the enough is enough gremlin, they compute the gratuity based on the food, adding a modest increment to acknowledge that wine was served. As anyone who can read a wine list knows, a bottle of wine can be très pricey, and the same effort is exerted pouring from a $14 bottle of wine as from one that costs $90.

--Prudie, penuriously

Dear Prudence,

Advertisement

How about all the showers at offices these days? My husband says they have two or three each week at his place of business (woman pregnant, just gave birth, going to be engaged, married, found a lover, etc.) and he has to chip in $10 for every "celebration." If he were someone who was an assistant, with an ailing mother to support, well, it would be impossible. Luckily, he is highly placed, but I mean, how does one gracefully NOT contribute?

--Dummy

Dear Dum,

Prudie is in your husband's corner. The institutionalized begging of which you speak is annoying and also can make hash of a budget. Perhaps people who work in group settings where some hand is always out can start a reverse trend: Limit forced-march giving to $2. If this is not feasible, then after the umpteenth verbal invoice, the hit-upee can just say: "Sorry, I am tapped out. My office present allowance is all gone." He or she may be called cheap, but they will not be called on again.

Advertisement

--Prudie, strategically

Dear Prudence,

I am a Korean woman in your country six years. Forgive my bad English if it occurs. I have been fortunate to start a business that is going well. I studied English in Korea, so I manage with customers. After being here a year, on a visit to Korea a man I knew, younger than me, pursued me with ardor and convinced me to marry him. Mr. Koh stayed in Korea for many months. It was hard to ever get him on the phone.

He said that if I would finance his martial arts studio, he would move to America to be with me. I did, and he moved here with his three teen-age children, who are wilder than my two. There was not too much married activity, if you can know what I mean. Then he returned alone to Korea, saying his business couldn't do as well here as there. He left his children with me, and he uses one of my credit cards.

Advertisement

I have no idea about what he plans, but I have the awful feeling that he may have used me for a green card and for a way to keep his children in America. I am afraid to tell him I want to divorce, because husbands are not easy to find. There is a chance that he is better than I think. What do you think?

--ANK in Western Mass.

Dear AN,

Prudie thinks your use of the subjunctive--he "may" be using you--is a hybrid emotion of wishful thinking and denial. Cancel that credit card and arrange to return his children to him as soon as possible. You do not need three wild teen-agers and a sponging younger husband in absentia just so you can say you are married.

File for divorce and let the Kohs fall where they may ... I mean the chips. This man sees you as a financial underwriter and baby-sitting service. Prudie can think of nothing worse.

--Prudie, clearheadedly

Dear Prudence,

I've read with interest your comments (and others' responses) on the use and abuse of Viagra. As a user of the previous wonder drug of the moment, Prozac, I am uneasy. I suppose my unease is based on how quickly public discourse has switched from the medical benefits of Viagra to stories of otherwise healthy people going to incredible lengths to get something they don't medically need. It allows Those of Us Who Would Never Do Such a Thing to wring our hands and complain while feeling superior--conveniently ignoring actual discussion about messy subjects such as impotence or depression and our society's feelings toward these conditions and those who have them.

Viagra and Prozac could have been used as a starting point to discuss why impotence and depression are underdiagnosed and undertreated. Instead, with Prozac, we got stories about the specter of perpetually peppy sales reps and (erroneous) reports that it causes people to go on murderous rampages--almost as titillating as Viagra abusers' perpetual erections. Ten years after the introduction of Prozac, depression still labors under public misconceptions about its prevalence and treatment.

Viagra and Prozac are used to treat real medical conditions. The abuse potential is a worthy subject for public discourse but does nothing for the individual sufferer who would benefit from taking the drugs.

--Sign me, No Ersatz Murderous Rampages, Just No Longer Depressed

Dear No,

Prudie hopes the public prints are not becoming All Viagra, All The Time, but with that said, let her thank you for a heartfelt and thoughtful letter from someone for whom medication has proved a boon.

--Prudie, pharmacologically