Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 23 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.

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Dear Prudie,

I have a problem with one of my "friends." To make a long story short, she has lied about multiple things since I became friends with her. The other night she asked my opinion about something, and once I told her she seemed fine. The next day, however, she proceeded to call everyone and repeat the story--only her version was different from what happened.

I sent her a card to let her know that if I'd hurt her feelings I was sorry, but I did not appreciate her telling everyone something untrue. My question is: Should I wait for her to respond or go ahead and call to initiate the conversation?

--Rumors Make Me Crazy in Tacoma

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Dear Rum,

How about a third choice: unloading this "friend" who doesn't seem to know the truth from third base? When you say she has "lied about multiple things," Prudie wonders what possible value she can have to you.

You could, Prudie supposes, continue with this "friend" whose word you have no faith in, but the question remains: Whatever for? Bail out and clear your head.

--Prudie, truthfully

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Dear Prudie,

One of your readers is "Burned Up"  over software billionaire Dave Duffield giving $200 million for homeless dogs and cats. "What about homeless people?" he/she asks.

No offense, but people who care about animals also care about people. (Dave Duffield has several adopted children in his family.) People who really care about people usually care about animals, too. (Mother Teresa cared passionately about animals.) And in my experience, people who complain about people who are helping animals are usually not helping anyone at all!

The fact is that this country is practically swimming in abandoned pets. These innocent creatures are born, bought, and then abandoned--by people. The fact that anyone can be upset at someone using his own private money to do something helpful when there are vapid rich people doing nothing whatever to help anyone is strange, indeed.

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--Michael Mountain,

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

P.S.: No, Dave is not my uncle!

Dear Mic,

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Prudie knew, when she ran the letter from "Burned Up," that animal lovers were a fiercely loyal and vociferous lot, and said so. The points you make are sound and Prudie's view is just, well, Prudie's view. While she does like many of her friends' pets, she also goes to the zoo and sees fur coats pacing around the cages.

Nothing you say is arguable. People just have different priorities. Prudie salutes you for not only caring about a public issue but also doing something about it. For you, Prudie would adapt a famous admonition and tell you to Sharpei diem! Seize the wrinkled dog and do what you think is necessary!

--Prudie, agreeably

Dear Prudie,

First, I would like to say that I really enjoy your column. Not only do you seem to invariably draw interesting and pertinent questions, but also your advice is, more often than not, that which I would want to hear or would give if they asked me. So ... I have a question. How to put this? I am in a committed, monogamous relationship with another woman, whom I plan to marry sometime in the near future. We've been together a little less than three years. My parents have voiced an interest in "getting to know" her parents, and while I am all for it, I sense some reluctance on my partner's side. Recently, my parents asked if I would provide them with my "in-laws' " address, so they could send them a holiday card. (My parents are nominally Christian, hers are Jewish.) I am stalling on handing it over.

What is the proper way to go about this? Should I let the "adults" work this out among themselves, or should I try to mediate? I would appreciate any help you can provide on this issue.

Much thanks in advance,

--Anna Nutt

P.S.: Pearl Bailey said, "What the world really needs is more love and less paperwork."

Dear An,

It is ironic that your letter asks about initiating a correspondence, while your quotation from Ms. Bailey pleads for less paperwork! But to try to be useful, Prudie will offer her thoughts.

Some folks are looser than others about their daughters marrying other women. One assumes your partner's understanding of her parents' outlook comes from knowledge. You might want to wait until she feels the time is right for setting up the in-law connection. In the meantime, compliment your own parents on their wish to promote the larger family circle.

Just as a little something to think about, look on the bright side of not yet having a mother-in-law to deal with. You might be sparing yourself a Dragon--like one of Prudie's mothers-in-law.

--Prudie, sparingly

Hi, Prudie,

I have no idea whom to turn to regarding this problem, and I am not sure if even you would know the answer to this question. I came to America three years ago from Pakistan and started in the 10th grade. Having attended an English middle school (fully English--no other language) I spoke English very fluently, and my composition and comprehension were so good that I won the district essay contest. I have all kinds of friends, both Pakistani and American; I speak Urdu with my Pakistani friends and family, and English with others, and I can safely say that I speak more English than my native tongue.

This is where the problem arises. I have been here for almost three years, and I still haven't developed that American accent. In fact, I am still speaking like I did when I stepped off the plane. I know a couple of Arabs and Hispanics who did not speak a word of English when they came here but learned English with an "American" accent within a year.

I've tried everything--even talking to myself in a closed room, and even watching Sesame Street!!!! Nothing works. Please help, because now that I am in college it is very frustrating when people ask me whether I'm an international student, or their first question is "Where are you from?"

An American accent, in my view, is the key to my success!

--Extreme Privacy, Please

Dear Ex,

Calm yourself. Your use of a second language is sterling. The key to your success is what you say, not the accent with which you say it.

Prudie cannot be alone in finding accents charming--and, in fact, wishes she had one (other than Midwestern). Don't spend another minute worrying about this. In time, you will undoubtedly sound more "American." And the "Where are you from?" question is a good opening gambit, not a put-down. Wear your different background with pride.

--Prudie, speaking plainly