Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 3 1999 3:00 AM

Sibling Rivalry

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

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Dear Prudence,

A recent inquiry regarding replacing the designated maid of honor has prompted me to seek your assistance. I asked my younger sister, age 20, to be my MOH. But she is making the planning of my wedding a nightmare. I had thought it would be a kind gesture if I asked her to pick out the dresses for the bridesmaids. We visited three bridal salons, and she made a veritable scene in each one. She was unspeakably ugly to both my mother and me, as well as the staff (swearing, sarcasm, and just plain rudeness). I was deeply embarrassed, and she apparently doesn't understand that this is not going to be "her day."

I asked her to help address envelopes and other little things that need doing, and she refused: "Not in the mood." The icing on the cake is that when she asked if the MOH is supposed to make a toast at the reception and I said it was traditional, she flat-out refused. Both my mother and I have tried speaking with her, but that just unleashed foul behavior. I am sick of her antics and fed up with her. I realize that asking her to relinquish the "title" may jeopardize our relationship, but I don't understand her behavior at all.

--T.H.

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Dear T.,

Prudie does. The little sister is competitive with you, and there's a chance she wishes the bride and bridesmaid roles were reversed. Acting out in stores and "foul behavior" are indicative of emotional problems, deep hostility, and no self-control. By all means withdraw the "title," and tell her you do not wish to burden her with MOH chores, nor do you wish to have your dream day spoiled. There is not a reason in the world that you should have to tolerate this pill of a sister. In fact, suggest that she not attend the wedding. You need not be the victim of her neuroses.

As for "jeopardizing the relationship," with all due respect, it sounds as if it's already on life support. Just because she is your sister doesn't mean she gets to behave less well than a friend. Sometimes a relative is just an annoying person courtesy of DNA (or, if you're religious, a punishment from God).

--Prudie, proactively

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Dear Prudie,

My question also concerns speaking from the toilet, but this time in an office setting, in a bathroom with many stalls. If you think you recognize the feet of the user in the stall next door and you have a question or a comment, should you start talking?

--Wondering, too

Dear Won,

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If this is a same-sex bathroom, not an Ally McBeal unisex setup, Prudie would say it's OK. (She is not exactly sure why, though.) Do begin, however, by verifying it's the person you think it is so that you are not having a conversation with the wrong pair of shoes. You might also want to edit your conversation for whoever else might be listening. This would entail, Prudie guesses, checking for more shoes.

--Prudie, loquaciously

Dear Prudence,

I thought your response to the letter from Jim S. about telemarketers was wonderfully done. Would you run for president? Better yet, would you spearhead a tasteful anti-telemarketing crusade? I am thinking of an Internet movement. Can you imagine thousands of people answering telemarketers by singing one line of "Alice's Restaurant" and then hanging up?

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--D.C.

Dear D.,

Prudie cannot run for president because she is having such fun working at Slate. She is, also, alas, out of the crusade business. Your idea, however, about singing and hanging up is now being read by tons of people, so telemarketers beware.

--Prudie, melodically

Dear Prudence,

Thanks for all your good advice. Here's my problem: I broke off a relationship with a delightful man who lives two houses up the street. We were together for nearly four years. I'm starting my own business and just don't want to be in a committed relationship right now--but I would like for us to be friends. He is having a great deal of trouble letting go of the more physical aspects of our past and spends a lot of time begging for "just one more time." How can I make it clear to him that breaking up means losing that physical connection? He's prone to pouting, and it's driving me nuts.

--Thanks,

TOO MUCH LOVE IN VT.

Dear TOO,

Prudie is going to give you the exact language. This is what you say: "The last time was the last time." And if you have broken up, how is it that you are subject to the pouting? By the way, it seems quite clear that your current neighbor/former beau is not looking to be "friends."

--Prudie, definitely

Prudence,

When taking my seat in a crowded movie theater, do I say, "Excuse me" to those already seated before, while, or after I step on their feet?

--R. Smith

Dear R.,

Prudie always says it before.