Febreze, Take Me Away!

Febreze, Take Me Away!

Febreze, Take Me Away!

Advice on manners and morals.
Nov. 5 1999 3:30 AM

Febreze, Take Me Away!

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

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Dear Prudie,

Why do advice columnists speak of themselves in the third person? There is an air of Bob Dole-ism about the whole thing. Should I, in polite company, be referring to myself the same way?

--Please sign me,

All Doled Out in Ohio

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Dear All,

There is no protocol mandating the third person for advice columnists. Prudie does so because it feels comfortable, and she has tired of the "I" word. Prudie agrees with you, though, about the Bob Dole thing ... so if you run for office, by all means use the first-person pronoun so that people won't make fun of you. As for polite company (the only kind to be in) follow the above suggestion, and speak as though you were running for office.

--Prudie, third-personally

Dear Prudence,

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My wife and I recently renovated a fabulous condo loft in a historic downtown area. The unit immediately below us has been rented out as a live/work space to a couple with a video business. Here's the thing: They are both heavy smokers and have managed in three months to smell up the rest of the building. Recently the ashtray smell has begun to permeate our apartment--I presume through the wooden floors.

I am a nonsmoker and allergic to cigarette smoke. Entreaties to the apartment's owner have gone nowhere. I am not an intolerant person, having grown up in New York City, where one man's ceiling is another man's floor. I am not an anti-smoking nut either, just as long as I can stay away from it. What can I do? I don't feel it's appropriate to try and dictate someone's behavior in their own apartment, but the smell drives me nuts.

--Smokeless in Savannah

Dear Smoke,

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You do, indeed, have a problem. It sounds as though you have purchased your loft, but the nicotine-addicted couple is renting. And you are correct that you cannot dictate private activities in someone else's home, unless body parts are sailing by your window.

Because you report that the owner is unwilling to support you, you have limited options. Short of selling your fabulous renovated condo, you can stock up on neutral-smelling air freshener or make a plea to the smokers themselves. Prudie, by the way, is sympathetic, because she has marveled that cigar smokers can stink up the outdoors. And just a little P.S., because Prudie senses you are in a New York state of mind: In apartments everywhere in the world, one man's ceiling is another man's floor.

--Prudie, odorously

Prudence,

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In reference to the houseguests breaking the toilet, etc., I am LEFT-handed and therefore left-footed, but I don't think that affects my ability to be honest. Really tired of the LEFT jokes, insults, etc.

--Sue

Oh my, Prudie has found yet another way to be politically incorrect. How's this for making amends? Prudie was not in her RIGHT mind when she wrote that answer. Feel better?

--Prudie, adroitly

Dear Prudie,

In your response to "Hopelessly Confused" several weeks ago, you said that "Sometimes an inexperienced woman--a young one--will be turned off when a guy is too nice." A friend of mine who is about my age, 20, said the same thing recently. She just isn't attracted to nice guys but can't really explain why.

Being a much more eloquent and mature woman yourself, do you think you could explain "Immature Woman Syndrome" to me so that I can understand the many wonderful, but immature young women I know? Or, if you think it would be easier, you could just elope with me so that I wouldn't have to face the thankless but highly entertaining task of dealing with them.

--Happily Confused

Dear Hap,

Prudie thinks you have a darling sense of humor and thanks you for the offer of marriage. As for your question, Prudie did not say all young women are unresponsive to nice guys ... just some. Proof of this is the numerous older women who picked guys who were nice and who are still married! All you need to know about the I.Y.W. syndrome is that a grounded woman--someone you would want--will not be looking for a guy who is trouble or Mr. Bad Behavior. The babes with radar for difficult men have the idea that they can "fix" a guy or tame him. It gives them a feeling of power and danger. Prudie has long felt, however, that women are not reform schools.

You will be fine, my dear, Prudie just knows it.

--Prudie, maturely

Pru,

My sister has three adorable daughters, one aged 8 and twins aged 4. I do not yet have children of my own, so I visit my nieces as often as possible. On occassion, my oldest niece will  spend a weekend with me. My problem is with how my sister treats her girls--she screams, "Shut up!" at them constantly and also hassles the 8-year-old about her weight. (She's a bit chunky, but not obese, for pete's sake.) Our mother certainly never treated us this way, and it makes cringe to think of what these comments might be doing to the girls. Can I say something to her? How?

--mm

Dear m,

It sounds as though your sister is overwhelmed by the responsibilities and obligations of raising young children ... and twins can be a special strain, trust me. You don't say what your relationship is with her, but Prudie suggests you arrange to have coffee and a chat, during which you can tell her that you are aware of her short fuse with her adorable girls, you understand the many demands on her, and that there is help for the situation. Pass on the name of a group for parents like her: It is Parents Anonymous, and it helps stressed out parents who fear they might escalate from yelling to actual physical abuse. There are 2,300 chapters, so chances are good she's near one. Even the knowledge of such a group will reassure her that her problem is by no means unique to her family and that she's definitely not alone.

You might also point out that harping at the older child about her weight is psychologically counterproductive. Suggest that she choose the household food with nutrition in mind so that the 8-year-old cannot dive into a bag of Cheetos. (Overeating children, however, can find ways of filching chocolate, etc., when they're out of the house.) You could also say, more importantly, that some unhappiness may be making the child cling to food. Good luck in your mission to help your nieces--and your sister.

--Prudie, supportively