The Balloon Smugglers

The Balloon Smugglers

The Balloon Smugglers

Advice on manners and morals.
May 13 1999 9:27 PM

The Balloon Smugglers

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

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Dear Prudie,

This is an odd question to ask a stranger--but at least you are objective, seeing as how we don't know each other. I am undecided about whether or not to get breast implants. I have convinced myself that they are not dangerous. The issue, now, is the correctness of having such a procedure. I do not mean political correctness; I mean how important should it be for 1) oneself, 2) one's "onlookers," and whatever ethical-philosophical considerations come into play. My boyfriend, by the way, says the decision is mine. (P.S.: I am not particularly flat-chested.)

--To D or Not To D

Dear To,

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This is a first for Prudie, who has never been asked before to decide about someone's chest enhancement.

Only you know the reasons for considering implants. Are you built like a boy? Do you think a pair of remarkable hooters will change your life for the better? Do you think drawing attention to your chest is a good thing? In general, there do not seem to be "ethical-philosophical considerations" attached to breasts. Prudie's personal view is that implants fool very few people (they often do not feel genuine to a companion) and really, what is the point? Prudie wishes she could attribute the phrase to the proper person, but some clever soul named the bearers of implants "the balloon smugglers." That pretty much expresses Prudie's thoughts on the matter.

--Prudie, naturally

Dear Prudence,

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Could it be that Courteous Carol,who so disliked the use of the expression "there you go," has confused that phrase with "off you go?" I'm not sure whether the latter has any currency in America, but here in Australia it is often uttered in a pleasant--and perhaps patronizing tone of voice in instances such as, say, insisting to a reluctant teen-ager that he march off and do his homework. By actually describing the addressee's future act of leaving the presence of the speaker, the "off you go" indicates a request for departure.

I think the reason "there you go" has no such unpleasant connotations is that it describes, in the retail context, the state in which the customer finds him- or herself after successful completion of the purchase. (See also the rather Henry Jamesian "there you are.") In other words, it functions as a polite observation naturally terminating the transaction.

--Yours pedantically,

Amitavo from Sydney

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Dear Am,

Prudie thanks you for your internationalist input on the issue of "there you go." She found it enlightening and thoughtful. Whoever named your part of the world "down under" surely was not referring to the educational level of Prudie's Australian readers.

--Prudie, internationally

Dear Prudence,

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Having just marked Mother's Day, here is my problem. I am married to a lovely man with a charming family. He has no sisters, and I am the only daughter-in-law. For as long as anyone can remember, the men in this family always forgot my mother-in-law's birthday, Mother's Day, etc. Although she clearly loves a fuss, her sons and husband produce not a cake, a card, a flower, or a gift. A year ago, I realized everyone expected me to attend to these details, which I had previously neglected to do. I am happy to celebrate her occasions in a way she would enjoy, but I resent being expected to handle this task for everyone just because I am a woman. Should I put feminist principles aside and do my familial duty because it's the nicer thing to do, or should I leave it to the men to wise up?

--Dutiful Daughter-in-law, Toronto

Dear Duti,

Let's make a list. On the plus side is "a lovely man with a charming family." On the minus side, these male people can't seem to get it together to do anything about occasions. Prudie feels certain feminism wasn't addressing itself to this issue and hopes you will lose the resentment factor. Do the thoughtful thing for your lovely husband and the charming others, because on the Richter Scale of Family Chores, this ranks about .05. You can only reap the appreciation of your male clan members, and who knows? In time you might have trained them by example, without their even knowing it.

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--Prudie, generously

Dear Prudence,

What is the most polite--but effective--way to handle guests who do not know when to leave a party? My brother brought friends of his to a brunch I gave recently. Not only did these friends have too much to drink, but they actually stayed later than my brother. I resorted to time-honored tricks such as washing the dishes, then announcing I had a headache--and yet the guests stayed for another hour! Of course I will never invite these people to my home again, but was there a more direct, yet still polite, way I could have induced them to leave?

--Tired Host

Dear Ti,

You say you will never invite these people again. My dear, you didn't invite them the first time. Prudie recommends, however, for those invited or not, a direct approach once a hint is ignored. (Granted, people who aren't sober can be rather slow on the uptake.) Simply say the festivities are over and you hope they had a good time. If they wore wraps, hand them to them. If the weather is too warm, thank them for coming and walk with them to the door. Do not take no for an answer. The socially inept are not kid-glove candidates.

--Prudie, directly