Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 23 1999 3:30 AM

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Dear Prudence:

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About a month ago, my father informed us--by e-mail!--that he was planning to divorce my mother and had contacted a lawyer. Now he tells us he's coming home for Christmas. At the same time, my mother invited a friend of hers for Christmas dinner because the woman recently discovered her husband's 6-year-long affair and has no one to share the holiday with.

The problem is my mother hasn't told her friend about my father wanting a divorce. Although we all plan to be civilized about it, if my father makes some offhand comment about the situation, it will be awkward to say the least. My sister and I feel our mother should discreetly tell her friend what's going on, but my mother is very proud and prefers to pretend that everything is fine, especially since she's the one who encouraged her friend to dump her husband. Mom's afraid that her friend will encourage her to go along with the divorce--which she doesn't want to do. Should my sister and I quietly tell Mom's friend what's up? Or should we ask our dad to stay away from the topic of the divorce during dinner? We don't know what to do that won't make the problem worse. Christmas dinner is shaping up to be a nightmare. Help!

Can it get any more awkward than this?

Dear Can:

Probably ... but you have a day or two to make your moves. Since the woman guest is your mother's friend, and your mother wishes to keep her marital situation under wraps (strangely, Prudie thinks) you should not be the one to spill the beans. And since your father wants to come to Christmas dinner (strangely, Prudie thinks) the mechanistic thing to do to salvage the night is to quietly tell your dad that your mom hasn't broken the news to her friend ... so could he please pretend things are "normal." Take heart that yours will be just one of countless such dinners around the country where the family dynamics are, shall we say, unusual.

--Prudie, delicately

Prudence:

As a young woman with serious curves on a trim frame, I, myself, have had to deal with the issue of my gazongas and my pretty face in a professional manner. I wear non-push-up bras with thin padding, often marketed as "T-shirt bras," and I only wear tight-fitting sweaters if they are black, long-sleeved, and matte. Tailored shirts work well, too. I find that having Katharine Hepburn as my style icon for work clothes is an ideal solution, even though I've got a Marilyn Monroe body. The difficult part for your perplexed young man who wrote will be requesting, in a tactful fashion, that his girlfriend dress modestly. I recommend the Katharine Hepburn metaphor as a gentle and flattering way to make this request.

Best wishes,

--E.C.

Dear E.:

You are nice to weigh in as a Prudie. The young man will probably have to be a little more explicit than just mentioning the Great Kate's name, however, because her style of dressing is most associated with slax and turtlenecks. Also, the wonderful Ms. Hepburn was never known for remarkable gazongas. Prudie guesses it's the Hepburn aura you're going for, since, unlike you, there was no Marilyn Monroe body underneath all those tailored clothes. Just as an aside, Prudie cannot quite understand your wearing the "T-shirt bra" with its thin padding. Wouldn't padding--even thin--be gilding the lilies?

--Prudie, titularly

Prudence:

Three little addenda to your advice to Junior Exec.

1) If he wishes to continue to advance his career, he might want to refer to his well-endowed partner as a "woman," not a "girl." If, however, she is under 18, then he has a completely different problem.

2) He might want to establish the difference between "plain" and "major pair of hooters." The opposite of "plain" is actually "beautiful," and the opposite of "major hooters" is "flat as a pancake."

3) What exactly is the problem he wants advice for? Is he actually suggesting that having a bazoomba fetish might hamper his career? Wake up and smell the coffee, Junior. This is America!

Nitpicker, Emmaus, PA.

Dear Nit:

Hmmm. Bazoomba fetish. Prudie thanks you for the new word ... and for letting the young man have it with both barrels. Prudie, for some reason, only used one.

--Prudie, mammiferously

Dear Prudence:

Thanks for all the great advice. Here is my problem: My mom calls me every few days for a chat, and she is in the habit of eating while talking on the phone. She is invariably crunching an apple or snacking on beef jerky every time I talk to her. It's disgusting! I actually try to avoid her calls so that I won't have to listen to those noises. I think this is so rude and inconsiderate of her, but I don't know what to do about it. I have even tried doing it back to her, but she didn't get the hint. Her grazing into the receiver is making me nuts. What should I do?

--S.E.

Dear S.:

Instead of chomping on beef jerky yourself, hoping the mother of all grazers will get the hint, why not opt for a more direct approach? Simply say, "Mother, you know I love you, but the noise of your eating while talking on the phone distracts me from what you're saying." You might suggest that she separate the activities of eating and phoning. If you feel she wouldn't respond well to your request, then avoid her calls when you can, and when you can't, hold the phone far away from your ear. Of course you won't know what she's saying, but life is choices, my dear.

Prudie has the reverse situation by the way. When talking to her mother, if she's in the kitchen it always seems like a good time to do whatever dishes are in the sink. This invariably elicits from Prudie's mother: "Are you running water?" Until explicitly asked to desist, Prudie will continue. This is all by way of saying that people do what they're in the habit of doing, unless specifically asked to cut it out.

--Prudie, habitually

Dear Prudence:

Do you know about the latest craze in parking spots? They are "pregnant lady" or "families with children" spots at malls and grocery stores. My contention is that these are no different in theory than a "whites only" parking spot, though of course, in practice, racial discrimination beats reproductive discrimination hands down. The contention of the pregnant member of the office staff is that I'm a bastard.

Should I take the gentlemanly way out and quit parking in the spaces reserved for the breeders or continue my lonesome fight?

--Sid

Dear Sid:

Prudie has not heard of these new preferential parking spots. It would seem prudent (to use the adjective named for your adviser) to forgo your "lonesome fight" in the name of peace and quiet. Hang on, though. The way reproductive developments are going, it shouldn't be too long before you can look a policeman in the eye and say, "Sir, I am entitled to this space. Though I do not show yet, I am due in the spring."

--Prudie, futuristically

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