Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 19 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,

I work in an office of some 20 people. While I have cordial but hardly warm relations with several co-workers, the only person I genuinely like is a woman who was hired about eight months ago. We have become quite friendly, verging on affectionate. I sense a mutual attraction (and I know she is available). We're both in our mid-30s. Since I both like her and find her desirable, I am considering pursuing a relationship. However, my track record isn't great: The last two lasted six and eight months, respectively (though I have remained friends with both women). If this current attraction were to blossom into a relationship, I could foresee some happy and soul-supportive times--but not permanence. By the way, since she exited a long-term relationship just before she joined our company, I suspect she's not interested in permanence either.

So, do you think it's worth going into an office relationship that probably won't last? We don't work closely together but, then again, I wouldn't want to hurt or alienate the only person in my office whom I really like. And how much disclosure about my track record do you think I should reveal?

--Wondering in New York

Dear Won,

Since we only live once until further notice, Prudie thinks it would be a shame to pass up a promising romantic opportunity simply because it may not turn out to be perfect--or permanent. You are wonderfully thoughtful about looking ahead, but try not to plan things that are, after all, emotional and evolutionary. It is Prudie's guess that if you tell the young woman in question of your interest, as well as of your concerns, her response will be the guide you are seeking. As for revealing your strikeout record, that kind of information always gets out during the course of what Prudie refers to as the "what did you major in?" discussions.

Your remark that "it probably won't last suggests faulty reasoning. You are pessimistically assuming that because no one has interested you on a permanent basis so far, no one will.

For some reason, Prudie feels hunchy about your situation and thinks this romantic friendship has possibilities. You can't not try to find out. And do keep us all posted.

--Prudie, encouragingly

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