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A multiple-choice quiz for Prudie's readers:
1) Prudie was brain-dead for a short period of time.
2) Her computer was in need of a feng shui adjustment.
3) Honesty is overrated.
In the column posted June 15, Prudie ... well, imprudently, made some statements that elicited as much mail as the unfortunate handicapped toilet controversy. Let's just say that a lot of bandwidth was taken up with readers voicing their displeasure, and many made valid points. The first pothole Prudie stepped into was about the young man on the subway whose disarranged toupee brought forth raucous laughter. Prudie not only didn't rebuke the young lady who wrote that it was rude to laugh, but also Prudie admitted to laughing herself. To compound the error, Prudie then suggested the young woman invite the chap for coffee and advise him to ditch the rug.
Right on the heels of these gaffs Prudie commented that a woman in a bad marriage was handed a lucky break by fate when the husband suddenly died. This is the sort of thing that people may think, but ought not say. Prudie apologizes for her momentary insensitivity, and as penance will let you see some snippets of the mail.
As a man who proudly wears a hairpiece, your advice to the lady who saw a man's out-of-place toupee was totally wrong. To laugh at this is cruel. Also, telling her to try and talk him into taking it off and looking bald is utterly none of her business. Why don't you stop wearing makeup? Why do you wear nylons? What is the practical use of jewelry? It all boils down to the fact that it is easy to tell someone what to do when you obviously have no idea what that person is feeling.
To pretend that people of either gender are less concerned with how they're perceived by the opposite sex is fooling yourself. If a situation such as you mention arises, one should lean over to the gentleman in question and whisper that his toupee is not affixed properly. Then, after he has had time to fix the situation, drop the subject completely unless he brings it up.
Inviting the embarrassed guy for a friendly coffee seems a very nice way to restore his confidence, but why on earth would she suggest it's time to go natural—that is, bald?! Choosing to wear a hairpiece is like wearing jewelry or makeup. It's no one's business to steer him away from a hairpiece unless he asks for advice or you are married to him.
I can't believe your comment to the woman who was worried that her sister was not grieving properly over her husband's death. You said for "Big Sis" not to worry, that her sister got a "lucky break," because she and her husband were going to get divorced anyway. To you it would be better if your husband or wife dies so you don't have to go through a divorce? That was a terrible thing to say. The guy died, he didn't move to China. A lot of people read your column ... maybe you should apologize for that remark.
—Sandy in Louisville, Ky.
I felt your response to "Big Sis" was appropriate, yet a wee bit callous. Fate did not "hand her [sister] a lucky break" by her husdand's dying. The implication was that death is a great way to end a marriage without the messiness of divorce. Not to quibble, but I felt your response to "Lacking Tact but Trying" was equally tactless. Whether he chooses to wear a "rug," as you put it, is not the issue. The fact is that the person added to the gentleman's embarrassment. Maybe "Lacking" can take the high road and just speak to the guy while leaving the grooming advice alone—lest you receive another letter that she is being harassed by a toupee-wearing stalker!
—A Faithful Reader