Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 30 1999 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 Prudie,

Larry is an exceedingly good friend, and when he comes to my city on business it's understood that I am delighted to take him out on the town, put him up in my guest room, etc. Ditto for when I'm in his city. As we're both computer geeks, when we happen to be going to the same trade show or conference, night life plans and party invites for me automatically include Larry--and vice versa.

Enter The Problem in the form of Moe, a common acquaintance of Larry's and mine who sometimes attends the same conferences. Moe simply invites himself along to everything Larry and I do for the whole week. If he gets wind of our plans, he'll turn up to meet us. If he hasn't overheard anything, he'll simply tag along with one of us all day until lunch or dinner or whatever. We have attempted to gently give Moe the message that he's not welcome unless invited, but it just bounces off Moe's tact-proof armor.

Prudie, HELP. Moe's not a jerk, he's just clueless, and Larry and I are agreed that we'd just like the freakin' option of him not joining us. We'd like to achieve this without actually being forced to tell him to **** off, but we're nearing our rope's end.

Advertisement

--Shemp in Seattle

Dear Shemp,

Prudie deplores the density of your cyberclod friend and sees no reason for you and Larry to have to be stealth geeks. Since you've tried tact, you must now be direct with this judgment-free fellow. Simply tell him you hate like hell to hurt his feelings, but you and Larry use these gatherings to catch up, and a third party simply changes the dynamic. (It is, alas, poor manners to ever tell anyone to **** off.)

You must be benevolent despots, lest you find yourself manipulated by someone with the hide of a rhinoceros. Gird your loins, make your statement, and brook no further discussion ... roger and out.

Advertisement

--Prudie, determinedly

Dear Prudence,

We are often invited to parties and dinners at some really splendid homes owned by wealthy acquaintances and clients of both my husband and me. Should we invite these young wealthies back to our comparatively humble, small home? They know we are not in their league financially, but we feel a little sheepish inviting them to view our worn upholstery and carpets. We wonder if they, too, would feel uncomfortable with our differences made so plainly apparent.

Should we just muster our courage and invite them over, or should we invite them for dinner/drinks at a restaurant? Would this seem impersonal and contrived?

Advertisement

--Stuck in the Middle Class, Toronto

Dear Stuck,

It has been Prudie's experience that, when invited to a simple home, she has often been impressed. The hosts in such a situation usually are genuine, confident, and wise people: genuine because they are who they are, confident because they know where the real values lie, and wise because they understand that putting on the dog is pointless. People of quality do not choose friends on the basis of their possessions.

Restaurant entertaining is becoming fashionable, however, and Prudie would recommend that for you if that choice would not come from shame, and if you would have a better evening yourselves.

Advertisement

--Prudie, entertainingly

Dear Prudie,

I am a young woman who has made the unfortunate mistake of falling in love with my friend. I say "unfortunate" because he happens to be gay. We both graduated together with the same major: art history. I have admired his intelligence and sensitivity for a long time. If it was not for him, I am sure I wouldn't have done nearly as well in my studies. But I did not expect to become romantically involved! He has asked me to go to Europe with him, and I do not know what to do about it. If I tell him how I really feel, I fear he will want to end everything. And yet, the longer I am with him the worse it gets and the harder it becomes to hide my true feelings. Should I go to Europe? I would rather be with him than nothing at all. Thank you.

--Confused

Dear Con,

Ah yes, the old story of a woman falling for one of nature's bachelors. If it's any consolation to you, this occurrence is not all that rare. In fact, Prudie cast her eye in that direction while in college (when ice covered the earth). It is a truism that, straight or gay, certain people are going to have electricity for certain other people.

Occasionally, a homosexual person will experiment in the other arena. Prudie can think of two show business examples (one British and dead, the other American and living). Both these gay men gave a romantic whirl to their leading ladies, though the relationships were short-lived. As a general rule, sexuality is hard-wired and that's that.

Prudie feels it important to point out that when you write you are "romantically involved," it is only you experiencing the romance or the involvement. Prudie believes in the interest of your mental health that you confess your feelings, thereby relieving yourself of the stress and pain of a fantasy love affair. When you 'fess up (and your friend may already have figured things out), you might ask if there is any reciprocal inclination. If not, your cards will be on the table and together you can decide if the friendship continues, platonically, or if it seems best to put things on ice. You need a resolution, and better sooner than later.

--Prudie, resolutely

Dear Prudence,

This guy I met--but never dated--at work left for the West Coast about five months ago. When he was preparing to leave, I wrote him a letter explaining my unease about his departure, because I felt we had somehow missed our chance at what could have been a real relationship. I wrote it in the summer, and I still have it. (Never mailed it.) Without my explaining how or why I feel the "loss" more now than ever. Can you tell me whether I should mail the letter? I'll spare you the more complicated question of the mystical power of love.

--xxxooo-nyc

Dear xxx,

Interesting that you wrote the letter but kept it. Now that almost half a year has past, Prudie suggests a compromise. Send the object of your affections a letter--but a different one, a new one. Write to say that you've become aware of missing his presence and wonder how things are going on the left coast. If he answers, and if the answer is at all responsive, keep the correspondence going. If things start to look promising, Prudie suggests you find it suddenly necessary to visit your favorite aunt/college roommate/former dog trainer, anybody in the city wherein the correspondent resides.

--Prudie, plottingly