Advice on manners and morals.
March 20 1999 3:30 AM

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com.

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Dear Prudence,

I'm wondering if I am nuts. I am considering marrying again. (If you're thinking second marriage, keep going.) I am no kid--52--and think my steady is the perfect partner. He wishes to tie the knot, while I am on the fence. What say you?

--Blushing Bride ... Maybe

Dear Blush,

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Well, at 52 you do not need to marry in order to have a family. (Please don't anyone write me about petrie dishes.) And Socrates did die from an overdose of wedlock.

On the other hand, Prudie, herself, was never a bridesmaid but always a bride. It all boils down to what feels right for the two people involved. Do not let the heroic numbers stand in your way. And if you do choose to walk down the aisle one more time, Prudie wishes you mazel ton, which of course is tons of luck.

--Prudie, matrimonially

Dear Prudence,

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I just wanted to ask a quick question. I went wedding ring shopping with my fiancee today. We have lived together for six years, and we really love each other. The whole time, her parents have never said anything about me. And they refuse to pay for the wedding, as they do not approve of me. Apparently, I am a bad person (read: not a Jewish doctor). It's a real strain on our relationship to have her parents and grandparents letting her know that they think I am unworthy.

I'm in graduate school and have always treated her well. We split the rent right now, but when I get my degree I intend to pay for rent and let her handle the money. Her parents want me to quit school and "get a job." I wrote them and told them that the job I can get with a B.A. is likely to pay only half as much as the job I can get with a Masters, but they don't seem to care.

This is all very distressing. They have now cut off all financial aid to her and refuse to pay for her wedding unless we have it at their house. (I'd rather wed in hell, and so would she.) Her parents did, however, have a $15,000 wedding for her sister, and then bought them a $400,000 house after they got married. Now they are claiming they have no money and can't afford a wedding.

Would it be considered rude to shoot her parents?

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--Bummed Out in San Francisco

Dear Bum,

Though Prudie has the fondest feelings for Jewish doctors, she has a hunch you are a fine young man, your little firearms joke notwithstanding. Because you state that you and your beloved are in agreement, the sad but best thing to do is deep-six the relationship with her parents. They sound controlling and manipulative and demonstrably unfriendly.

Prudie recommends that you end the discussion about a parent-sponsored wedding and do something simple and meaningful ... and inexpensive. Purse strings can be strangling, so make your own way and revel in the freedom.

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--Prudie, independently

Dear Prudence,

I write regarding your response to "Gifted and Grateful" who did not want to complain about the misdated baby blanket. What is it with people who always complain about gifts? The flowers are wilted, the can is dented, the blouse has no sleeves, or my personal favorite, told to me when I sent special bagels and varied cream cheeses, "I prefer margarine."

Is something else going on? I like my friend Sue's advice: Say you love it, then hide it in the closet. Anyway, keep up your wonderful work.

Sign me,

--Tired of Being the Complaint Department in Conn.

Dear Ti,

Feel better now? Prudie is always here for people who need to vent. As for something possibly underlying seemingly trivial complaints, there need not necessarily be a repressed anything. Some people are just graceless.

Prudie hopes, by the way, that the recipient of the bagels and cream cheese is not also a friend of Sue's, because the cream cheese in the closet would be a disaster.

--Prudie, olfactorally

Dear Prudence,

I have noticed a recent rambling of rhetoric regarding "personal responsibility." Missing from all the talk is exactly what personal responsibility is, and what it means to "accept personal responsibility."

It seems to me that, as of late, one can hide from fallout by stating, early on, "I accept personal responsibility." Period.

Does personal responsibility mean I am responsible for myself and thus immune from criticism? I am afraid that if I go on I will become more befuddled.

Sign me,

--Personally Responsible in Phoenix

Dear Pers,

Personal responsibility in some cultures means falling on your sword, either by resigning or ... by falling on your sword. Prudie agrees with you that some people these days announce that they are "responsible," then expect the subject to be closed. This is a little like rapping oneself on the knuckles and then continuing on with business as usual. Like much behavior-babble, certain phrases and concepts have become empty of meaning.

You clearly are inclined to evaluate things philosophically, an approach for which Prudie has admiration.

--Prudie, responsibly