Don't Scratch That Itch!

Don't Scratch That Itch!

Don't Scratch That Itch!

Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 28 2000 3:30 AM

Don't Scratch That Itch!

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

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Prudie,

You semi-blew it with "David in Akron," IMHO. He has two conflicting impulses: to celebrate his love for his partner and to maintain discretion about his orientation. You advise him, in effect, to tell "busybodies" who ask about his "very nice diamond ring" to mind their own business. Such a reply, bordering on rude, will only expose the fact that he has something to conceal.

David has to decide whether he wishes to exhibit his big honking engagement ring or conceal his orientation. I applaud your kindness in seeking to blame inquiring co-workers for his dilemma. If only you'd pointed out that the dilemma is of his own making. And his fear of "career altering" disclosures is a phony. What career? He's 20!

—T.D.

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Dear T.,

You are probably right about wearing the ring and then being unwilling to speak of his happiness. It's a mixed and provocative message. A surprising number of letters arrived on this subject. The following one makes your point and socks it to Pru for another overlooked angle.

Dear Prudence,

Perhaps the homosexual man engaged to Chris should refrain from wearing a ring at work if he doesn't want co-workers to ask about "the woman." It's similar to putting up one of those huge cutout storks in your front yard, attaching balloons to your mailbox, then telling your neighbors to mind their own business when they ask about the bundle of joy. A ring (engagement or wedding) is an announcement in and of itself.

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And I disagree with your advice to the person whose neighbor had a key to his/her apartment . S/he needs to demand that the landlord change the locks immediately. Who's to say this is the only key floating around? The previous occupant could have given a key to anybody. It's possible that there are several previous occupants with keys. I thought landlords had a legal duty to change locks after a tenant moves, but I could be wrong about that.

Better to be safe than sorry.

—Perplexed and Amused

Dear Perp,

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Thanks for your smart thinking about locks and keys. And after all the mail, it just dawned on Prudie that men don't wear engagement rings. Might this be something new in the gay world—or even straight?

—Prudie, engagingly

Dear Prudie,

I have been happily married for 31 years. Last year I went to my high-school reunion and ran into an old flame. We started talking and, to make a long story short, began an affair. He's married too. I really do love him, and I always have, but situations and youth kept us from being together. Now our marital status keeps us apart. If my husband found out about this he would be devastated. I also love him. What I want is to be with both of them. What's wrong with me?

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—Confused in Indy

Dear Con,

You have the seven-year-itch 24 years late. The long story you made short is also an old story. Reunion sparks frequently fly. They're one part fantasy, one part recaptured young love, and one part fatigue from a long marriage. It seemed revealing, and meaningful, that you said you loved both men and that your husband would be devastated if he found out. Prudie suggests you bow out of the affair now, tuck away the memories, and keep them secret. If you choose not to do that, be prepared to discombobulate four lives and take your chances of it working out well or badly. It's your gamble, your choice. What will make you a definite loser--from guilt, if nothing else--would be to try to juggle both relationships.

—Prudie, monogamously

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Dear Prudence,

I am an adult-magazine model (Hustler, etc.) and dancer. I have a wonderful, supportive family; I love what I do and don't feel ashamed of it until I encounter people who are very religious or too young (or too old) to understand. When I meet them, I don't know what to say when they ask me what I do. I'll respond, "Model," but they always inquire, "Where?" or "For what magazine?" So, what can I say when I meet a priest, a 12-year-old child, or someone who is older? Why should I hide something that I like doing?

—Phil

Dear Phil,

Prudie thinks you've answered your own question. You hide something that you like doing because, as you point out, telling priests, 12-year-olds, or the elderly that you pose for pornography is going to make them uncomfortable. For the occasions when you don't want to come clean about your employment, simply say you are a photographer's model for different publications. If pushed by a questioner in the aforementioned no-no category, respond that you are a fashion model. It is not important for these people to know that your particular fashion involves no clothes.

—Prudie, decorously