Dis Association

Dis Association

Dis Association

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 19 2000 11:30 PM

Dis Association

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

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Dear Prudie,
My question is, in a way, about manners. The presidential campaign is getting really down and dirty. My guess is that even though people say they want a discussion of the issues, they are always happy to see the insults flying ... sort of "Let's you and him fight." What is your opinion of how both candidates will do in this "other" campaign of dissing each other?

—Tuned in to Politics

Dear Tuned,
Prudie guesses that when Bush comes to shove, he will probably sound more comfortable than when he's trying to elucidate plans and policy. The vice president, alas, will no doubt sound just as schoolmarmish when getting in his licks as when he's disgorging numbers. Prudie commends you on your good citizenship in following the presidential election and hopes, of course, we will not have to witness a down-home mud wrastle for the next several days.

—Prudie, patriotically

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Dear Prudence,
To be honest, I'm not even sure this qualifies as a problem, but it sure feels like one. Back in high school I used to have this friend. To use the scale developed by another chum, he was the kind of friend you call to help you move, but not the kind of friend you call to help you move a body. I felt bad that, with time, we grew apart, but I took it as a natural process. He asked me to be his best man, which struck me as strange, but I said yes. We've spoken less than a half dozen times in the eight years since his wedding. Today I saw something that made me think of him, so I decided to look him up online and see what's happening in his life. Thanks to his unusual last name, I found his Web site very easily. Imagine my surprise at reading his thoughts of toasting his brother's marriage, in which he refers to the toast I gave at his wedding as glib and idiotic. (I was aiming for heartfelt and humorous.) Then I read a list of reasons why he didn't attend our high-school reunion and learned he was avoiding another smug remark from me.

In his defense, there are fewer than 30 people who know that I gave the toast at his wedding, and there may be more than a dozen people in our graduating class with my initials, so it's not as though I'm being slandered in cyberspace. To suddenly see him spewing venom in my direction is a bit disorienting, not to mention that my feelings are hurt. Part of me wants to tell him so, while another, perhaps wiser part tells me to leave it alone ... perhaps writing him a letter, then tearing it up. Any thoughts?

—Wounded Out of the Blue

Dear Wound,
What an interesting situation ... brought to you by the Internet. Write your letter, then tear it up. You would not change his mind by sending it, and why engage with someone who is obviously two-faced? Prudie's guess is that this slam on you has more to do with him than you. You have no way of knowing how his life has turned out, whether he envied you, or if he felt some slight, real or imagined. The best man thing is a bit of a tip-off. Whenever someone is asked to be a best man and can't figure out why, it is usually a sign the guy proffering the honor has no real friends. There is also a chance that you may have the qualities he is bloviating about—though Prudie's instinct is to doubt that. It's too bad you had to get this information, but now forget it. This is not a person who has any bearing on your life.

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—Prudie, philosophically

Dear Prudence,
I have been married for a year, and my new husband refuses to throw away the pictures of his ex during the three years they were dating. She hurt him very badly, and when I asked him to throw them out he told me there are a few good ones of him in there. I, in turn, told him I have a great pair of scissors and would be glad to cut out the good shots of him. I was then told that he's afraid if I saw them I wouldn't be able to handle seeing him and her all hugged up. I really don't have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is I don't want her picture in my house. Do you have any other suggestion other than getting into them myself? I don't want to invade his turf but I WANT HER GONE.

—Newlywed in Need of Help

Dear New,
There must be something about October ... Prudie has gotten more than one letter about this. One woman, in fact, wrote after she'd been married only a few days! Prudie would say to all of you that it's not worth making a magilla out of this. Be "magnanimous" and drop the subject. Stash the exes in the back of the closet, girls, and forget the Kodak moments. This is only a problem if your husbands are taking out these mementos and looking at them. If that happens, drop Prudie another line.

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—Prudie, strategically

Prudence,
Last year my wedding gift to friends was cash, and my parents' gift was a check. A few months later I happened to ask my parents if they'd received a "thank you" for their gift. They had not. Neither of us had, but their check had cleared. Nine months later we both finally received a note of thanks. Now, I have heard that etiquette advisers say a thank you note has one year to arrive. But I, myself, had a huge wedding, took a two-week honeymoon and was able to get my thank-you notes done within a three-week period. I think two to three months is more than enough time for a bride and groom to express their appreciation. After that it almost doesn't seem sincere. What are your thoughts?

—A Little Too Late

Dear A Lit,
You have stumbled onto one of Prudie's hobbyhorses, and she begs to differ with the etiquette mavens. A year, for Pete's sake, to say thank you? No one is that busy ... not you, not Prudie, not the chairman of General Motors. If a human being can be created in nine months, a gift can be acknowledged in fewer than 12. It has been Prudie's experience that this particular bit of social grace (a timely acknowledgment) comes from one's mother ... or doesn't. Extreme delay on the part of the person receiving the gift can also suggest that the present never arrived, which of course gives the donor permission to call and ask. Embarrassing, perhaps, for the laggard, but there you are. Look at it this way: Would a newlywed want to wait a year after the nuptials to receive a gift? The old etiquette says that's OK, too.

—Prudie, promptly