Advice on manners and morals.
April 3 1999 3:30 AM

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

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Dear Prudence,

With the Oscars newly behind us, a question begs for resolution. It's common knowledge that many big box office stars often borrow glittery gems for special occasions from the likes of Harry Winston, etc. At the Golden Globe Awards, in pixel-perfect color viewed from Barcaloungers around the world, we all gasped in horror when Miss Redgrave (the one now embroiled in an almost Kentuckian divorce drama) lost an earring. There, in front of the breathless masses, it fell from her ear while she, being the consummate professional, continued without even seeming to notice. One might have assumed that as soon as the camera panned elsewhere, she scooped up the errant earring. However, for the rest of the event she was photographed with only one earring.

My question is this: Did she find the earring? Was it borrowed or her own? Ah, for the good old days when there was no doubt that Liz's diamonds were her own.

Teleficially yours,

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--S.D.

P.S.: Now that Slate is free once again, do I have to return my groovy umbrella?

Dear S.,

What an amusing "problem" to offer Prudie ... who of course has no idea whether Ms. Redgrave's errant earring was 1) retrieved or 2) borrowed. Just to free associate, Prudie, herself, loves jewelry and is known to intimates as Sparkle Plenty. Alas, no jewelers have ever offered to lend her any baubles.

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--Prudie, sparklingly

P.S.: Consider the groovy umbrella a keepsake from the Messrs. Gates and Kinsley.

Dear Prudence,

To return to the "How are you?" discussion, my favorite response is "I'm told I'm great!" Gets a laugh every time.

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--f.f.f.

Dear f.,

Tres charmante, and risqué, aussi.

--Prudie, responsively

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Dear Prue,

I have an old friend whom I dearly love who was my roomie in college. We talk on the phone often and try to get together regularly--shopping, dinner, etc.

The only problem is when she and her husband invite me over to their apartment. It's filthy and disgusting! Cats crawl all over you, and the noxious fumes of the litter box are enough to make you lose your appetite--or worse. The kitchen sink is filled with dishes that have been there for days on end. From having lived with her before, I always knew she was a clutter-bug but not unsanitary. I invite them over to my place as often as possible, but I can only refuse going to theirs so much before their feelings get hurt. How can I handle this?

--Nauseously Yours

Dear Nause,

No one should be burdened by having to hold his nose when paying a social call. Prudie offers you two ways to proceed. If you are feeling faint of heart about leveling with your chum, simply refuse to convene at the house that the cats have taken over. Prudie would hope, however, that you would take a more direct approach, which might actually be doing a kindness. Since you and this longtime pal have a history of warmth and friendship, why not tell her the conditions in her home are way beyond the "clutter-bug" stage, and you are worried about her health.

Prudie has always felt there is something a little nutty about people who are able to ignore an extreme mess and the sensibilities of others. In the spirit of constructive advice, a word from you might focus her attention and remedy the situation. If not, simply state that you can no longer be a visitor to her home.

--Prudie, hopefully

Dear Prudence,

I am about to launch a campaign for public office. I would appreciate advice on how best to share details of my life with voters. I grew up poor. My mother (from another country) had an eighth-grade education and raised three children on her own. As a result of poverty we were homeless a few times, and the kids spent some time in foster care. Today we are all doing well. I have been able to achieve the American Dream--a great postgraduate education, a good job, civic achievement, and a wonderful family. I think this is an inspiring story of what is right with America. My problem is that I want to avoid seeming as though I want people to feel sorry for me because of the deprivations of my youth. At the same time, I do want some credit for being able to overcome some serious challenges. How do you think I should handle this information?

--Democrat With a Dilemma

Dear Dem,

Prudie thinks you should relay this information in your campaign speeches and literature just as you have in your letter. Your remark about your personal history illustrating what is right with America is the perfect approach. You would only elicit sympathy if the deck stacked against you had caused you to fold your hand.

Everybody loves a success story, and triumph over adversity is always uplifting. Prudie wishes you victory and, with luck, an opponent who prepped at St. Paul's before going on to Harvard.

--Prudie, strategically

Dear Prudie,

I am constantly fighting the battle of the bulge. Everyone in my family is overweight. I, however, am determined to lose weight and keep it off. The keeping it off is the problem. When I eat at home I can control what's going on. When in a restaurant, I can somewhat control things. When at dinner parties, however, I am totally at the mercy of the menu.

Do you have any ideas for people in my situation? I know we must be legion.

--Fighting Being a Butterball

Dear Fight,

Short of bringing your own dinner in a paper bag (only acceptable for Carol Channing and people with severe food restrictions), Prudie suggests you incorporate the following two ploys: Do not finish everything you are served, and push the unconsumed portion around on your plate.

Prudie is becoming aware of more and more people having a bite or two of desert, for example, and then eating no more. And she is sympathetic to your plight. For some reason, even hostesses who themselves try to eat nutritiously feel that dinner party fare requires a feast, where everything on the plate is essentially a butter sculpture.

--Prudie, sparingly