Little Class of Horrors

Little Class of Horrors

Little Class of Horrors

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 26 2000 11:30 PM

Little Class of Horrors

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

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Prudie,
Regarding the letter you got about the neighbor's barking dog, they should do what we did. We found out the phone number of the nitwit neighbor (city directories have this), then when we knew she had gone to work, called her house, and loaded her answering machine with calls that were nothing but barking. She moved very soon thereafter.

—Worked for Us

Dear Worked,
What a snarky and inventive guerrilla tactic. Prudie loved it! And how great that it worked.

—Prudie, approvingly

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Dear Prudence,
Here's a rather odd situation, and I wonder if I'm overreacting. Upon delivering my 4-year-old to day care this morning, I noticed (wedged between the hamster cage and the play dough station) a REAL human skull and a REAL human thighbone. Upon closer examination it was evident that these were not lab specimens because they were actually dirty. Upon questioning the teacher, she confirmed that indeed they were dug up—a child's parent was a doctor and these were from his "private collection," and that yes, he had "dug them up" himself. The kind doctor had brought them in for "show and tell" and then had left them for the kids (4-year-olds) to play with. I was horrified. I can think of a number of medical, health, ethical, legal, and religious reasons why it's not a good idea to have 4-year-olds playing with human remains. I telephoned the director of the school and she, frankly, couldn't understand my concerns. Only after I called the police and the medical examiner's office did she reluctantly take them out of the kids' classroom. Am I the ONLY one who thinks that these are inappropriate toys? Please advise.

—Horrified

Dear Hor,
Prudie believes your letter about human bones as play toys for toddlers may be a first in the annals of the advice biz. No. 1, the teacher is, pardon the expression, a numbskull, and so is the school director. No. 2, doctors do not "dig up" carcasses as part of their medical duties. One wonders if the father/doctor who provided the human remains is either a grave robber, or nuts. Actually, the only way Prudie can imagine access to a "private collection" of dirty bones is if this guy lives on an archeological site. From the sound of the situation, Prudie would recommend, if at all possible, that you take your kid outta' there and find another day-care facility before the loony dad arrives with road kill.

—Prudie, huffily

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Dear Prudence,
I feel that you might be able to give me some clear-cut advice on a problem that so far has baffled many of my friends and myself. A very good friend of ours (most of us have known her for almost 10 years) is living with a young man who is frequently verbally abusive to her guests and (more tellingly) to her. There have been times when she has had to fully support him because he has gotten fired for his behavior at work. During these times he expended no effort around the house. At one point, he did enter counseling and was somewhat better, but he decided to stop going and went off the medications that had been prescribed. Recently nine of us spent a very tense time in her living room while he screamed at her in the kitchen. Nobody knew what to do—it was impossible to ignore, but we couldn't think of how we could avoid escalating the situation. Our dilemma is this: We don't want to give the impression that we approve of his behavior by ignoring it, but we also don't want to abandon our friend. Any suggestions on what we can do next time?

—Shell Shocked in Virginia

Dear Shell,
Is your friend in a fugue state? The only reasons Prudie can think of for putting up with this lout are that the woman is a masochist; desperate for male company; fearing no one else will ever give her the time of day; or she is atoning for unspeakable crimes that only she knows about. A "committee" needs to go to her and say you fear for her future, and you can no longer be in his company. To abandon her would be to say nothing  ... to help and encourage someone to have a healthier life is an act of friendship. It sounds as though your friend could use some counseling, herself. She needs to find out why she is willing to stay with an abusive, unemployed boyfriend who hollers and ignores his meds.

—Prudie, assuredly

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Dear Prudie,
I have a big problem. My mother remarried about two years ago, and now my life and my siblings' lives are in total chaos. My stepfather calls us names all the time. I work and go to college full time, so I am not home a lot. When I am gone, he snoops through my things, goes through my bills, and nitpicks about the smallest things. I accidentally left a shirt on my bed, and when I came home I was screamed at. He called me stupid, lazy, and fat, and he went into my coat pocket and took my car keys and hid them. I couldn't go to my college classes for a week and a half, causing me to fall behind. I tried to have my mom reason with him, but she is a coward and won't say boo to him. My younger sister gets his wrath also. She broke a dish while putting the dishes away, and he called her brain-dead. He also makes fun of her because she has braces and glasses. This abuse is taking a toll on her self-esteem, which is down to nothing. My brother gets it the worst. He was "the man of the family" for a long time. My stepdad told him that he was the man of the house now, and if he didn't like it, they could "step outside and settle it." He also gives my brother demeaning chores as punishment. My stepfather has grabbed him by the shirt and told him to go outside and wait for him to fight. My brother has five inches and about 45 pounds on him and would hurt him, so he will not fight. Please give me some advice. I really need it.

—Frazzled Kid

Dear Fraz,
Boy, whoever said, "Life isn't fair" was right on the money. Prudie's heart goes out to you, but sympathy is not what you need, so here are some suggestions. You have established that your mother is useless in this drama, and later on you will either pity her or hate her. This poor excuse for a man is one of those unhinged and cowardly drill sergeants without an army. Thought it sounds drastic, if your mother will not unload this destructive man, you have to find a way for all the sibs to get out of that house. Whether it's with friends or loving relatives, you must make arrangements to live elsewhere until everyone is out of school. If nothing along these lines seems possible, contact your local department of social services and they will help. Even foster care would most likely be preferable to the snake pit you're living in.

—Prudie, protectively