Jabbering From the John

Jabbering From the John

Jabbering From the John

Advice on manners and morals.
July 29 1999 3:26 AM

Jabbering From the John

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

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Dear Prudence,

Your recent column about handicapped restroom stall etiquette emboldens me to ask perhaps a rude question. Is it bad manners for a guest to excuse himself from the dinner table, go to the small bathroom off the dining room, and attempt to participate in the conversation? Our friend Jacob does just that. Do you think he should wander upstairs, and if not, at least be silent?

--Just Wondering

Dear Just,

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Prudie, too, hates to miss a minute of good dinner party talk, but your friend Jacob goes too far. Hollering from the loo is not acceptable. When you issue the next invitation, tell him you'd like it if he would take a timeout from the badinage when he needs to leave the table. Tell him it's a little idiosyncrasy of yours that you think people conversing at the table should ... be at the table.

--Prudie, conversationally

Dear Prudence,

My matron of honor is unexpectedly moving away. She is a good friend, and I will be sorry to see her leave. Now I need to ask another person to be in the wedding, which is two months away. The person I want to ask is actually my best friend, and she lives in another state. She already knows that I had asked someone else to stand up for me, so my question is: How do I now ask her to be my matron of honor? She is really the person I wanted anyway--she just lives far away.

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Help!

--A.G.

Dear A.,

There are a few loose ends to your problem. First, is the reigning matron of honor moving to Bangladesh? People travel to weddings all the time. Your best friend/replacement matron of honor, herself, lives out of state. It is not immediately obvious why she wouldn't have been asked in the first place ... being your best friend.

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If, however, traveling back for the festivities is for some reason impossible for the current M. of H., Prudie suggests you garland the truth with sentiment when you ask your best friend. Simply tell her she was your first choice, but you were trying to spare her the expense ... her living "far away," etc., and you would be thrilled if she were able to stand up for you. If she is a real friend and can spare the time and money, she will understand and accept. If not, Prudie recommends you figure out your third choice. Perhaps someone local.

--Prudie, matrimonially

Dear Prudence,

At a small gathering with out-of-town friends in the Shenandoah recently, the discussion turned to politics. I don't wish to be specific, but a prominent national figure was compared to the "Antichrist." I am reluctant to identify the target specifically, because I allow for honest differences of opinion. My disclaimer notwithstanding, does one have to be a Christian to comment on the Antichrist comparison? One part of me says the allusion is nonreligious, having to do with an assessment of evil ... fair game for anyone. Yet another voice whispers that I should shy away from discussing the hagiography (or whatever) of a different faith. Please let me know how Prudence would have reacted.

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--From God's Country, W.V.,CAK

Dear From,

The historical Jesus is such a part of ancient and modern thought that reference to him has little to do with whether one is a believer or not. That particular phrase has become part of the language. (Prudie, in fact, refers to her starter husband that way.) As for the whispering voice that's telling you one should shy away from discussing faiths to which one does not belong, tell it that there is even a college course dealing with this subject. It is called Comparative Religion. In an ecumenical spirit, Prudie wanted to answer you in Islamic pentameter, but she is fluent only in limericks.

--Prudie, permissively

Dear Prudence,

I have seen many people drive haphazardly through parking lots. I have even seen one or two flip me the bird because I happened to obey the law, even stopping at the stop signs, which annoyingly slows them down. Believe me, it takes great willpower to not chase after them and shake them until their teeth rattle. Yes, you have people who take handicapped spots when they have no right to be parking there, but even worse are these crazies who think that parking lots are just enclosed highways.

My grandmother was in a serious accident in a parking lot several years ago because of one of these crazies. He slammed into her, then had the nerve to get out of his car, lie down on the ground, and say he had whiplash. He blamed her! She had to go to court as a defendant (!) all because he was trying to get out of the lot first by speeding around her. The point is that some young jerk almost killed her in a parking lot because he didn't want to wait. How do we deal with these impatient, asinine, automotive airheads?

--Aggravated

Dear Ag,

Calm yourself. This is one of those irritants that is very difficult to redress. Our whole society, not just drivers, has become increasingly impatient and always in a hurry. Road rage is one byproduct of the behavior you are concerned about. Defensive driving is probably the most constructive thing you can do. Whenever you see a person driving erratically, reduce your own speed and try to get out of the way. If you think someone is breaking a law, take down the license plate number and call the police. It would be nice if all parking lots would put in those bumps to make slower speeds mandatory, but that is not going to happen. Alas, vehicular rodeos are here to stay, so just count to 10. Well, maybe 12.

--Prudie, pragmatically

Dear Prudie,

After many discussions among my friends, we still have not come to any conclusion about whether we would live with someone before we married them. Do you think that living with someone before marriage gives the marriage a more stable foundation on which to build, or is cohabitation better left until after marriage? We were considering the divorce rate these days and whether this is a significant variable in the increase, or has society changed its values?

--Yours sincerely,

Mellie

Dear Mel,

Your question is a kind of hybrid of "To be or not to be" and "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" There are so many variables that Prudie would not consider offering a rule or an opinion. This is one of those decisions that two people must make based on their values, circumstances, upbringing, and beliefs. Living together without benefit of clergy can be destructive, instructive, useful, a mess, or a blessing. How's that for waffling?

--Prudie, unknowingly