Advice on manners and morals.
March 13 1999 3:30 AM

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

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My Dear,

How could anyone with all mental faculties intact believe that Tinky Winky is gay? Good God, anyone can see that "his" purse does not match "his" outfit.

--Joanna

Dear Jo,

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Prudie knows that purple homosexuals everywhere thank you for your vote of confidence in their style sense. And isn't the power of television characters wonderful? Murphy Brown was a loose and thoughtless woman, thereby being a rotten role model, and now Tinky Winky is sending secret messages.

--Prudie, conspirationally

Dear Prudence,

I read with interest the letter from "Call Me a Crank." I am a Young Entrepreneur and have had the sometimes unnerving task of interviewing ... a skill that is learned. Until it is perfected we young'uns rely on business magazines and books as to how to interview. In fact, I have used both the "Tell me about yourself" and "Why do you want to work here?" lines verbatim because I was following the experts' advice about what makes a good interview.

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What the gentleman may have perceived as amateurish and obnoxious could have been a combination of nervousness and inexperience. Here was an obviously experienced man coming into this young upstart's company, probably extremely well-dressed and with credentials earned before the CEO was even born. It is quite humbling for me to have people with much more experience than I call and ask to be considered for a position.

I am sorry that the writer didn't get a call back, but there still could be an opportunity there. He could call back and offer to be a mentor. This would give both parties a chance to learn about each other. Better yet, start a business as a professional mentor in his area of expertise: charging a monthly retainer for the privilege of calling him to ask questions whenever they wish. He has so much experience and, as shown by the last interview, there are a lot of us out there who could benefit from it.

--Future Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Canada

Dear Fu,

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Thank you for being a Prudie and offering a positive suggestion to our Crank. It will no doubt lift his spirits to hear from one of the young'uns who is respectful of his age and experience.

The generation gap, as you illustrate, has different ways of being bridged.

--Prudie, appreciatively

Madame,

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In a recent column a person wrote wondering how to respond to the "how are you question." Might I offer a suggestion from Maine?

"I'm all right as long as you don't ask for details."

As an alternative, "Middling."

Yours,

--RWH

Dear R.,

Prudie likes humorous responses to standard questions. A Texan she knew used to reply to "How are you?" with, "Damn near perfect." As Prudie has said before, the "how are you" gambit is really a greeting, not a question.

--Prudie, responsively

Dear Ms. Prudence,

I am a high-school senior who has met with fantastic failure when attempting to interact with women. It's not that they necessarily dislike me, nor I them, it's just that everything feels so uncomfortable. Prom is coming up, and I am currently wondering whether or not to ask anyone. Everyone around me is telling me I HAVE to go, but it just seems like an uncomfortable hell. Yet if I don't go, I fear I will regret it for the rest of my life. Any suggestions?

Sincerely,

--Apprehensive (Slate reader since age 16)

Dear Ap,

To be 18 and experience difficulties "interacting with women" means that emotionally and developmentally you are still working things out. Everyone does not hop into the boy-girl thing with ease and comfort. What supposedly comes naturally can take awhile to arrive.

That everything feels uncomfortable may mean that you're more than normally shy and insecure. Or it could mean that you're more than normally shy and insecure. Time will reveal what is comfortable. As for the prom, there is no need to push yourself into something you would be just as happy skipping. Plus, it sounds as if you have no one in mind.

You are 18, Prudie is not. Trust her that if you decide to do an end run around prom night you will not, decades from now, be bemoaning that fact.

--Prudie, promisingly

Dear Prudence,

I work with a guy I've tried to befriend. In fact, I even introduced him to the woman he's going to marry. The problem is that he does things like inviting me to lunch, then--when I'm trapped in his car--says he needs to run errands first. He even returned one of those grip-squeeze things I'd given him because he wore a hole in it, and it was spilling the stuff inside. Is he just a jerk? And if so, how do I continue my friendship with his fiancee, whom I still like?

--Split Loyalty in San Rafael, Calif.

Dear Split,

Prudie is never sure what the word "jerk" means. This chap, however, sounds like a clod, and certainly someone deficient in the social graces and good sense departments. If you choose to continue with him, you might try to fluff up his social skills by example. An instance might be if he tries the lunch/errands stunt again, simply request that he do his chores without you because your intention was to have lunch. If he is a super boor and tries to override you, request that he stop the car and let you out.

Your friend, his fiancee, may be a lost cause as a continuing friendship if you call it a day with Mr. Clunk. Them's the breaks, kiddo.

--Prudie, realistically