Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 3 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,

Long ago I read, in the Tiffany Manners for Teenagers book, that a gentleman should never wipe up anything he accidentally spills in a lady's lap. This suggests to me that our president IS a perfect gentleman, but should this point of etiquette always be followed in cases of possibly impeachable offenses?

--Thoughtfully,

Susan Easton

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Dear Thought,

Prudie believes the Tiffany Manners people would be pleased to update their book to keep up with developments ... however, Prudie suspects that impeachable offenses would be applicable to so few teens that the lap etiquette will remain unchanged.

You were nice to call the president "a perfect gentleman." Prudie is betting that's the only compliment he's received on his manners since, oh, January.

--Prudie, primly

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Dear Prudie,

If only Monica had had the sense to write her Aunt Prudie, perhaps none of this might have happened!

How'd you like to be in the powder room with them when she and Linda Tripp bump into each other next time?

--M.F. in Boston

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Dear M.,

You are too kind about Prudie's persuasive abilities. Perhaps you will be cheered to know that most people don't seek advice before they enter an affair, only after. In Monica's case, though, it is tempting to think, "What if?" Prudie thinks: What if the president weren't so keen on pizza?

In any case, something Prudie doesn't want to think about is the powder room scene you fantasize. It would no doubt make the roller derby look demure.

--Prudie, modestly

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DearPrudence,

I'm often asked to contribute to various (and numerous) causes. However, I am currently limiting my donations to a select few organizations. Despite the tax benefits that are available from deducting such contributions, I am ambivalent about giving. The reasons are: 1) I do not want to wind up on donor lists and be badgered for more donations. I want to give whenever and wherever I choose. 2) I do not want to be put on mailing lists that are shared among other charitable groups. This only compounds the first problem.

I've tried to think of ways to contribute anonymously, but can't think of a good way. Can you?

Thank you in advance. Wanting to stay

--Anonymous, Anywhere, USA

Dear Anon,

With a check to the charity of your choice can go a note asking that your name not be shared or put on a list and that any donor list show your gift as having come from "Anonymous." You can make these requests a condition of your continued support. If you want to remain really unknown, your bank can issue a draft, akin to a cashier's check, or you can arrange a money order.

--Prudie, charitably

Dear Prudence,

Why does everyone keep insisting this whole Clinton mess is a "sex thing"? It isn't a sex thing. It's a "lying thing," and we need to take it seriously. A leader needs credibility, and people need to be able to trust his judgment. Clinton has lost that. Instead, every decision out of the White House will now be viewed by the world with a Wag the Dog cynicism. Do we really want to be the laughingstock of the world? Let's get him out so we can maintain what little credibility America has left.

--Truthful in Torrance

Dear Truth,

Prudie would not disagree with you and finds Mr. Clinton is only an embarrassment on days ending in "Y."

--Prudie, sympathetically

Dear Prudence,

In the good old days, when folks retired after 30 years in the same office, it was usually a moderately festive occasion. A going away gift and cards would be presented, and people would say nice things.

Today it seems that people are often hustled out of the office in the dead of night, and we learn of their departure by accident. Of course many employers have legitimate concerns about security and trade secrets and the like. And perhaps there is a human resources professional somewhere who says that cutting the cord quickly is best.

But the question remains: Should a group organize and bid adieu to someone who has suddenly disappeared?

--Your Advice, Please

Dear Your,

What with "downsizing" as commonplace as it is, the country would be engaged in one continuous "retirement" party if everyone did as you suggest. Good-hearted of you, though, to want to organize a proper farewell. If a special friend has been found redundant, as the Brits say, by all means take that person to lunch and include other interested mourners, I mean, co-workers.

--Prudie, festively