The Naked Truth

The Naked Truth

The Naked Truth

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 31 1999 3:30 AM

The Naked Truth

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

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Dear Prudence,

My 15-year-old son and I have always been very close. We've been a source of strength for each other ever since my husband died eight years ago. However, a recent humiliating experience now threatens that close bond. One weekend, while I believed my son was away with his best friend, I was trying on some swimsuits for an upcoming vacation. I was checking them out in the mirror, and I like to think that, at 45, I look pretty damn good.

While naked, I went to get something from the kitchen, and who did I see but my son standing there! His weekend had been cut short, and he had let himself into our apartment. With my hands full, I couldn't even cover myself up. Fortunately, he ran from the room right away, but not before seeing me in all my naked glory. Since then he's hardly spoken to me. He doesn't even look at me when he comes home from school. I want to talk to him about this, but what could I say?

--Thalia

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Dear Thal,

You say that even his mother has one of these and two of those. You weren't vamping him, after all, and both of you made a swift effort to end the scene. He wasn't even supposed to be there, which you might point out to him. The fact that your household has been just the two of you since he was 7 years old may mean that he's had to wrestle with his Oedipal feelings that his little-boy wish for his father to be removed was granted. You might also ask him why he thinks there's been a change in your relationship. Try to bring up the uncomfortable encounter, and tell him he is making much too much of it. With luck, the very act of discussing it will defuse the situation.

--Prudie, rationally

Dear Prudence,

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I'm a 20-year-old college student living in a major city, and a few months ago I moved into an apartment building mostly occupied by adults. Recently I asked a neighbor how I could keep my plants alive when I went home for three weeks. I didn't want to give anyone a key to my apartment, but wanted to know if there was another way. She told me that she would water them and, in fact, already had a key that the previous resident had given her!

The neighbor is friendly and seems trustworthy. She asked for a contact number for me, in case something happened in the building--like a water leak--so I feel that she has good intentions. The problem is that I don't want any neighbors having a key to my apartment. I also do not wish to offend her by asking for the key back.

Should I let the matter slide; should I ask the manager to change the locks; or should I ask for the key back?

--Thanks,

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Looking for the Key to Keeping Safe (Sorry for the bad pun.)

Dear Look,

As for wanting someone to water your plants without using a key to get in, your only hope is to engage one of those building climbers to crawl in from the outside--but then that person would still be inside your apartment. If you are dead set against anyone gaining access in your absence, you might ask someone if he or she would be willing to let you move your plants to their apartment for the three weeks.

As for the neighbor having your key given to her by the old tenant, the woman should have coughed it up the minute you moved in. If you decide she is a neighbor you would like to have your key, that's one thing, but if you decide she is not the one--or that no one is--by all means ask for it back. Tell her it's nothing personal, but the setup made by the previous tenant is now moot, and you've made other arrangements. There is no reason for you to feel shy about this. It is your apartment and your key.

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--Prudie, securely

Dear Prudie,

As a writer, I feel for "Bruised and Confused." As a simple matter of course, as soon as a manuscript is completed, its author should formally register it with The Gummint. The copyright to anything she writes is hers the moment she writes it, paperwork or no, but registering it gives added benefits--including a vast escalation of penalties if someone swipes her work. If she sent her one and only one copy of her novel to what amounts to a total stranger, her best course of action would be to go out and treat herself to a fabulous lunch. Then she should go home, stand in front of the biggest mirror in her house, and say to herself: "I promise never to tell my hairdresser to make me look like a picture I've torn out of People magazine. I promise never to buy a secondhand car from a friend or family member. I promise never, ever, under any circumstances to allow there to be one and only one copy of my manuscript on the planet."

 --Creative in Cambridge

Dear Create,

Your suggestions for a fabulous lunch plus copyright tips were soothing and useful. You are absolutely right, by the way, about finding hairdos in People magazine. Prudie did that once and looked like a very old 12-year-old.

--Prudie, nostalgically

Dear Prudence,

Since I have just recently started reading your advice column, I am not completely sure what your views are on sexual orientation. Since that is a large part of this question, I will ask you to disregard this question if you consider homosexuality immoral, wrong, Satan's work, etc., etc. I've heard it all. However, if you are a rational person with an open mind, please read on.

I am a 20-year-old homosexual who is engaged to my lover, Chris. We have been engaged for four months. The union is planned for next year. Because of our engagement, we both wear very nice diamond rings. At work, I am often pestered for details about "the woman." I really see no need to come out at work, as it could well alter my career for the worse. What should I say to these nosey people who ask for details?

--David in Akron, Ohio

Dear Dave,

You are lucky that the beloved has a gender-neutral name! Just say to the next busybody who asks, "I am engaged to a fine person named Chris, and I make it a practice to keep my work and my personal life separate. I know you will respect my wishes."

As for Prudie's views on sexual orientation, she believes everyone ought to have one ... a sexual orientation, that is. At some point she hopes that you might feel free to live in the open with no expectation of career-damaging consequences or disapproval. As for Satan, Prudie does not believe he exists. Well, maybe he did show up once--at her first wedding--as the groom.

--Prudie, liberally

Dear Prudence,

You answered a letter of mine several months ago regarding my little sister, my designated maid of honor, being a nightmare to deal with. She has since apologized profusely (my mom showed her the letter) and has sought psychological help to deal with her misplaced anger. In a world as cynical as it is impersonal, I wanted to thank you for your help. You've really made a difference in my life, and I thought that you ought to know that the work you do has value.

Best wishes for the New Year!

 --Tamara

Dear Tam,

Prudie thanks you and thinks your letter is a wonderful way to close out the old year and welcome the new. She wishes for her readers solutions, resolutions, and every now and then moments of joy.

--Prudie, millennially