Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 17 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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Hello Prudence,

I have discovered that a 34-year-old co-worker believes in creationism. With all the evidence pointing toward evolution, how can this person accept it? The co-worker's argument is that scientific evidence is not reliable because scientists usually change their position after new evidence is discovered. I have tried various arguments to convince this person but with no luck. How can I convince him/her otherwise? Thank you.

--Darwin

Dear Dar,

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How can you convince this person? You can't, and you should stop feeling this is your job in life. Some people cannot be moved from some positions, and that's just the way it is. All scientific advance is done in small increments. The evidence for natural selection as the guiding force for the evolution of species has been accrued over the past 100 years and is compelling. Your co-worker does not understand scientific method and may belong to a religious group that has creationism as part of its credo. Prudie suggests you dismiss the inclination to educate your office mate--and please don't open up any discussions about the shape of the earth.

--Prudie, roundly

Hey Prudie,

Are your infrequent updates due to your contract, an inscrutable sense of timing, or a lack of good questions? I suppose the snarky answer would be "all of the above," but my real agenda is to see your Q's and A's more often, so I'll do my part and lob a plea for advice.

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I still have a friendly (like best-friendly, soul mate, love of my life so far) relationship with a woman who is somewhat capricious with her address and my heart. We are no longer "together," but our relationship hasn't really changed except for no sex and that she's dating and I'm supposed to be. I know I should move past her, but no one I've ever met has had this effect on me, nor the rapport. Dating is a pain, and sex with strangers is iffy--not only because of HIV, but also I've been told that hepatitis C (spread in the same ways as HIV) will kill more people in 1999 than HIV.

What's a modern boy to do?

--Frustrated in L.A.

Dear Frus,

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Your poetically stated problem gave Prudie a pang of sadness. What you need, dear friend, is acceptance of the way things have evolved: Your "it" girl stopped reciprocating. If you find the best-friendliness, sans sex, too painful a reminder of loss, you might find it useful to let the relationship move into memory by stopping contact. Prudie is not suggesting you adopt the national deformity of Britain, the stiff upper lip, but that you steep yourself in your regrets and then exit feeling stronger in the broken places.

You are lucky in that now you know what wonderful feels like. Such knowledge bodes well for finding it again ... this is something Prudie can vouch for.

Two little afterthoughts: 1) While Prudie receives beaucoup de letters seeking counsel, she would never discourage anyone from writing to ask advice. After all, what's a Prudie for? 2) You are correct to be wary of sex with strangers (and even people one knows).

--Prudie, solicitously

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Dear Prudence,

My friend since high school--over 30 years ago--has evolved into a very conservative person, unfortunately to the point of bigotry in my view. For example, she is fearful that her 5-year-old will someday date a person of another race, and she defends those who (as she puts it) "want to preserve their traditions." She also continually complains about the services of her maid. What puzzles me about her nattering on is this: She is well aware of my opinions, which are completely opposed to hers--so why is she always gassing on like this? What do you think? Thanks for your time.

--Sick of Listening to This Crap

Dear Sick,

People natter on about subjects, knowing there is disagreement, with a twofold agenda. One is in the hope of changing someone's mind, the other is to needle ... in effect saying, I am right. Prudie speaks from experience, being, herself, the natterer on the subject of our president. Prudie was bombarding a close relative with material critical of Mr. Clinton. That is, Prudie did this until the close relative said the genteel version of "knock it off." There are some subjects about which people are unlikely to be swayed, and the friendly thing to do is agree to disagree.

--Prudie, agreeably

Dear Prudence,

Yours is the first column I read when I get home each Friday and was the single deciding factor when I chose to buy in to Slate. I'm not saying I agree with you 100 percent of the time, because that would be very boring, but we do agree close to 90 percent. Anyway, you're my fave, so I hope this makes up for the rude letter from Ms. Keck. She certainly could have been more polite in writing to you.

--Charlie McDannaldFort Walton Beach, Fla.

Dear Charlie,

You were kind to let Prudie know of your solicitous sentiments. She has, happily, recovered from the jolt registering 6.2 on the hostility scale and understands that into each life a little Keck must fall.

--Prudie, appreciatively