A Cheap Mate

A Cheap Mate

A Cheap Mate

Advice on manners and morals.
June 8 2000 11:30 PM

A Cheap Mate

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

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Dearest Prudie,

You are my last hope for marital bliss. Before I married, I assumed that my husband and I would share money equally. Unfortunately, he has a different notion of equality than I. His income far exceeds mine, by a factor of 3-to-1. What is a (literally) poor liberal arts grad to do? If we each put an equal amount toward common living expenses, that eats up a much larger percentage of my income. Is it fair to ask a wife to maintain a living standard far beneath her husband's? Should I have stayed within my income bracket when searching for a life partner? Why is no one talking about this type of marriage penalty?

—Texas Newlywed

Dear Tex,

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This is hard to track. Do you two live together? If you do, how can you have a standard of living below your husband's? (Does he put the good stuff on his side of the fridge?) Prudie agrees with you, though, that marriage should be one for all and all for one, but not everyone sees it this way. It is a given in the advice business that the two main problems in marriage are sex and money.

Your spouse sounds ungenerous at best, so perhaps some third-party mediating might be useful. It probably won't make the guy more generous, but it might at least make it clearer to him that you feel like less than a full partner. Prudie is wondering what the rest of relationship is like with Mr. Chintzy, but of course she wishes you the best.

—Prudie, fairly

Dear Prudence,

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My wife and I had a bit of a windfall. She asked if she could redo our house, and I said sure. The problem is not that she is overspending (repeat: windfall) but that her taste seems to have morphed into something quite, well, splashy. She's selected bold prints, many colors, and ultramodern design. I have always felt the home was the wife's domain, but I'm not sure whether to voice my true opinion or not. Basically, I guess if it makes her happy, it's fine.

—Unsure of How To Proceed

Dear Un,

The redo does sound a bit Disney, but Prudie applauds your attitude. Is there a decorator involved who is perhaps leading the little woman down a rather, uh, avant-garde path? What you might do is ask your wife if she would like your input about design decisions. If she is up for this, you might try to tone things down. If she wants the plans to remain as they are, then Prudie suggests you ask if you may choose the furnishings for your den. Then pick what you like, and, well ... spend most of your time in there, and pat yourself on the back for showing kindness and generosity. Your last remark, "if it makes her happy, it's fine," tells Prudie that you can tolerate the noisy decor.

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—Prudie, designingly

Dear Prudence,

My fiance and I are getting married this August, we both have been married before, and by combining our two households we really don't need anything. So this is what we are wondering: Since we are requesting "No gifts," would it be considered tacky to ask our guests to bring a favorite dish for the reception?

—Nervous Bride

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Dear Nerve,

Prudie can already hear the background chorus of "No, no, you are wrong!" but she is going to say yes to your idea. Reading between the lines, it sounds as though the event is informal and the budget somewhat modest. Because it is a second marriage and you are requesting no gifts, Prudie thinks it would be fun and in keeping with the tone you want to have sort of a potluck wedding celebration. If someone is offended that they will not be served a catered meal, they can certainly decline the invitation. You know your friends, and if you think the idea will fly, so does Prudie. And mazel-ton to you both—which means, of course, tons of luck.

—Prudie, matrimonially

Prudie,

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This is going way back, but I remember some letters about shoplifters (and shopeaters) in the grocery store. What do you suggest I do about teen-age gang members sneaking into the movie theater through the exit doors? This has happened two weekends in a row. No theater personnel were in the vicinity either time. What is my responsibility? It would be potentially dangerous to confront these creeps, but I do have a responsibility to my children to show them we do not turn a blind eye to theft. My wife agrees with that, but points out that the gang members watching movies aren't out causing trouble. What do I do next time I see gang members doing this?

—Looking for the Moral High Ground in Houston

Dear Look,

It is Prudie's understanding that the doors you speak of most often open from the inside—for just this reason. Do these kids have crowbars? You are right, by the way, not to play policeman yourself. But the next time you witness this, go to an usher or the theater manager, and alert that person to what is happening; then it becomes the theater management's decision about what to do. You wife is incorrect, by the way. If these kids are gang members, a few hours watching a flick is not going to clean up the crime or vandalism rate.

—Prudie,  honestly