Death Becomes Her

Death Becomes Her

Death Becomes Her

Advice on manners and morals.
June 15 2000 11:30 PM

Death Becomes Her

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

Advertisement

Dear Prudence,

I was riding the subway to visit some pals in a neighboring borough and a pleasant young man got on two stops after I did. He and I chatted about the weather, the stock market, the Mets. About five minutes into our conversation I noticed a lot of people were looking at him funny. Then I heard muffled chuckles that eventually built up to whooping, bansheelike laughter. When he turned around to find out what was going on, I noticed the problem: His hairpiece had gotten caught in itself and was all askew. I tried to casually tell him the problem, but I too broke up.

Prudence, the look on his face was heartbreaking. And to make things worse, this guy belongs to my gym and I see him often. Every time he sees me a look of pure dread comes over his face and he scampers away. I feel awful. I want to apologize to the guy, but I am afraid that would make him feel worse. Got any ideas?

—Lacking Tact, but Trying

Advertisement

Dear Lack,

As Prudie read your letter, she too laughed out loud, but here's a suggestion to put everyone at ease. Since the episode with the screwed up rug has been tacitly acknowledged, and the guy tries to hide from you because of embarrassment, invite him to sit down for a chat or a cup of coffee. If you make the first move and issue the invitation, he will sense you are a safe place, and then you can have a conversation. Tell him he has a very pleasing personality, and why is he bothering with a rug, anyway? Mention some well-known bald guys: Yul Brynner, Sean Connery, Michael Milkin, Kojak ... anybody you can think of. Then suggest he give the natural look a try, pointing out that many women find balding men sexy. This chap may or may not give up the rug, but at least you will have tried to ameliorate his embarrassment, and the meeting-greeting relationship at the gym will get back to normal.

—Prudie, naturally

Prudie,

Advertisement

This is a delicate family matter, and I don't want to make a mistake. My younger sister, we are both in our 40s, just lost her husband. The thing is that they were talking about divorce, and the marriage hadn't been good for years. While she is not out at clubs five nights a week, she's not acting like the traditional grieving widow. I don't find her behavior outlandish, but anyone with good antennae could figure out she is not overwhelmed with sadness. I'm not sure if I should say something to her.

—Big Sis

Dear Big,

Like what? "Perhaps it would be decorous, darling sister, to pretend you are heartbroken?" Prudie does not go for emotional phoniness ... plus, it's a safe bet their friends knew of the strained relationship. As long as she is not dancing in the streets, Prudie sees nothing wrong with behaving with a certain emotional honesty—that is, not displaying grief that, in fact, is not there. Fate handed your sister a lucky break, and there is no value in pretending otherwise. The situation reminds Prudie of the lovely observation made by Oscar Wilde: "She turned quite blond with grief." Perhaps your sister will soon have a new hair color.

Advertisement

—Prudie, honestly

Dearest Prudence,

I have been engaged to my fiance for about a year now. It was only four months ago that I met his brother, who lived in Norway for the last few years but has now permanently moved back to the States. My "future brother-in-law" is amazing: He is everything I ever dreamed of. He is attractive and intelligent, and we have the same sense of humor. He also enjoys the things I value most in life. It is crazy ... we both feel this strange connection. We have been spending more and more time together without my fiance (his brother), and while we haven't slept together, in my heart I know I have already cheated on my fiance.

I care deeply about the man to whom I am betrothed, but I do think it is possible to love many people in a lifetime. I don't think I ever knew how great a relationship could be until I met his brother. I think I love him. What can I do? The brother is now living in New York City within walking distance from our place. I know in my heart he is the one for me. Please help me, Prudence. I need your advice desperately.

Advertisement

—Caught Between Two Brothers

Dear Caught,

For the purposes of this discussion, these two men could be called "Rock" and "Hard place"—except it might sound like a dirty joke. Nevertheless, caught you are. Let's just call them Brother 1 and Brother 2.

When you say, "It is possible to love many people in a lifetime," you are correct, but it's not supposed to be at the same time, and the people are not supposed to be brothers. You're lucky, in a way, that you are not yet married. You are unlucky, however, in that you may blow that family apart. But here's Prudie's best suggestion: If you believe your feelings are reciprocated by Brother 2, you need to establish this, and then decide, together, whether to break your engagement. It would not be the first time a betrothal had led one or the other of the affianced to meet another family member who really is "the one." It will be enormously hurtful if you do in fact "switch" brothers, but a gentle explanation along with the declaration of not wishing to make a further mess will be useful. Better to figure this out now than later, and trust Prudie, jilted men do recover. Good luck.

Advertisement

—Prudie, decisively

Dear Prudence,

I have fallen in love with a married man who says that he's in love with me. But he claims he doesn't want to get a divorce because he doesn't want his children to grow up in a broken home. We are very passionate about one another, and we see each other as often as we can. I believe he is the love of my life. I don't want to give him up, but I am concerned that I may be wasting my time with him. I admit that it is hard to share him with his other life. I miss him when we are apart, and when we are together he makes me very happy. What should I do?

—Confused

Dear Con,

What is with the Prudie people lately? In a short period of time there have been many too many letters about borrowed husbands. Prudie does not wish to repeat herself like a broken record (or a stuck CD, if you are really young), but you are wasting your time, cupcake. When a man tells you he is not disturbing his marriage "for the sake of the child," that is code for, "I am not getting divorced because I like things the way they are, I am not looking to complicate my life, I do not wish to alter my financial situation, and it's really quite a bit of fun to have you on the side." Prudie notes your euphemistic phrase, "It is hard to share him with his other life." The word "wife" is what you really mean, and Prudie strongly encourages you to take the time you've been bestowing on Romeo and make an effort to find that someone who will devote all his time to you.

—Prudie, repeatedly