Advice on manners and morals.
March 6 1999 3:30 AM

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

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Dear Prudence,

I cannot agree with your advice to the young immigrant from Pakistan ("Extreme Privacy, Please"). Henry Kissinger came to this country when he was 16. Time hasn't done a lot for his accent--though, admittedly, there are rumors that he cultivates his slow, lumbering delivery.

But what if the young man had crooked teeth? Would you advise him to skip orthodontia, telling him "appearances mean nothing ... those who make judgments based on looks and speech are superficial Neanderthals?" That's a high-minded philosophy, but I'm afraid it may hinder you in real life.

What if this person wants to study law? Telling people that "time will solve all problems" is a bankrupt idea. My advice to this person is to seek help from a speech pathologist. Actors and entertainers often do this. Richard Burton wasn't born speaking the king's English. As the English say, "Accent is everything."

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--Accent on Success

Dear Ax,

Though no Brit has ever said to Prudie, "Accent is everything," she accepts your other arguments. She cannot resist pointing out, however, that Mr. Kissinger has done OK for a guy who sounds like he is growling in a German movie.

The points you make are more useful than Prudie's earlier oh-just-ignore-it approach. Prudie culpa, Prudie culpa.

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In this particular case, let's just say when the original advice was given the wheel was spinning, but the hamster had gone.

--Prudie, correctively

Dear Prudence,

For the next few months I must use the laundry room in the basement of the building where I'm house-sitting. There is one thing that I have never figured out about laundry room etiquette; perhaps you can clear things up. When a washer or dryer finishes and the owner doesn't show up within a few minutes to collect the clothes, what am I supposed to do if I am waiting for the machine? Leave it and hope they remember to retrieve it, or remove the contents and place them on top of the machine or a table?

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I ask because my practice has always been to allow about five minutes grace, then remove it. That always seemed fair to me, and I wouldn't expect more of others. However, a few times the owners have arrived while I'm emptying the machine, and they have been apoplectic! Most people either remove their laundry right away or leave it for hours. Please help.

--Tired of Waiting, Toronto

Dear Ti,

Prudie finds your five-minute grace period generous. Putting forgotten laundry--wet or dry--on the machine or a table is perfectly acceptable in a communal situation.

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The next time you encounter an apoplectic latecomer, just say, "Lucky you! I don't do this for everybody." And smile.

--Prudie, disarmingly

Dear Prudence,

In a recent column, "Rumors Make Me Crazy in Tacoma" asked for advice about a friend who lies. Your answer made sense, but I have a curve ball to throw you in a variation on the same theme: My sister, whom I love very much, is prone to lying. She constantly embellishes her stories and everyday conversation with nonsensical, made-up whimsy that she expects people to take at face value. When I occasionally confront her with what I know to be the truth, she gets defensive and abusive in tone.

I am sure this behavior carries over to her other relationships, as I have discussed this problem with other members of my family who share my concern. What must I say to not only get her to stop lying but also to see the damage she is causing in her own life?

--Concerned Brother, S.

Dear Con,

Having occasionally confronted your "whimsical" sister with the true version of events, and apparently getting nowhere, Prudie suggests you have a tough conversation outlining the potential damage dishonesty can create in relationships with those having less "whimsy."

Let's be blunt. If your sis is a congenital liar, words of warning will have little effect, and you cannot save her from herself. You don't mention anyone's age, but if you fail to interest her in therapeutic help, perhaps your sib could try screenwriting.

--Prudie, honestly

Dear Prudence,

I am very interested in a man who is involved with several organizations that I fear keep people out due to sex, race, etc. He is quite wonderful, but it is impossible to reconcile this with the exclusive club business. Who is having the problem here? He really is so kind and good to me.

--Scared in NYC

Dear Scare,

You are having the problem, my dear. He is having no difficulty at all being both a loving partner and a practitioner of prejudice. You must weigh your democratic values against the romantic and the personal. If you can envision a future with a man who supports bigotry without it nagging at your principles, then by all means choose the personal over the political.

If, however, you see this cloud becoming blacker over time, then follow Prudie's dictum of "See no evil, Hear no evil, Date no evil."

--Prudie, democratically

Dear Prudence,

Have you seen those travel trousers with the zippers at thigh level? Two quick zips and you're wearing a pair of shorts. Great idea! But there's a problem: I wear only white socks with shorts and only non-white socks with trousers. Do I have to give up my custom? What's the answer?

--Confused in Quito, Ecuador

Dear Con,

Reversible socks.

--Prudie, pragmatically