Step Over the Line

Step Over the Line

Step Over the Line

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 12 2000 11:30 PM

Step Over the Line

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

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Dear Prudence,
I'm engaged to a wonderful man who has great parents, but recently his stepfather kissed me in a way that made me very uncomfortable. I come from a very loving and affectionate family where hugs and kisses are given all the time. But in this particular situation, when the stepfather kissed me his mouth was kind of open and his hand was in the middle of my back so I couldn't pull away, and it lasted too long. Needless to say, being around him now makes me uncomfortable. Am I overreacting? Should I say something? I don't know what to do.

—Confused

Dear Con,
You are not overreacting. The stepfather is a swine. When you are next at the same gathering, take him aside and say something along these lines: "I am going to do you a big favor. I am not going to say anything to anyone about your last try at an entirely inappropriate kiss. Should you decide to try that one again, I shall tell my fiancee, his father, and his mother—your wife." Do not be intimidated by his seniority or his future in-law status. You can also make it a point to stay as far from him as possible at family get-togethers. He has earned it.

—Prudie, sternly

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Dear Prudence,
My husband and I, after a long time of careful thinking and talking, have decided to end our marriage with a no-fault dissolution. We've told our closest friends but haven't told our families yet. How do we go about telling them without being judged and preached to? We are Catholic. Is there any polite way to tell everyone that we are under enough stress already and would appreciate not being referred to counseling with parish priests? (What would a priest know about marriage and relationships, anyway?) We've already been through professional counseling, and there is no hope to save this marriage. Your advice would be greatly appreciated, as we're about to begin the paperwork.

—Ready To Talk

Dear Red,
The polite way to tell people is just what you wrote to Prudie: "We are under enough stress already and would appreciate not being referred to counseling with parish priests, since we've already been through professional counseling and there is no hope to save this marriage." Such a preamble to your kind of news is a strong statement that you are not up for any "discussion." If anyone persists, repeat your statement, or physically remove yourself from the room.

Just as an aside, there are priests who, in a pastoral capacity, do have useful words to offer couples in crisis ... just as a single therapist might. Prudie is not likening a clergyman to a heifer, but the old saw is true: You don't have to be a cow to know what milk is.

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—Prudie, supportively

Dear Prudie,
Mine is only a potential problem, and I don't want to overreact. Our 13-year-old daughter is only interested in her horse. We live on a large enough property to accommodate a smallish stable, and the horse was a birthday gift to her when she was 9. We like the idea that she has learned to care for an animal and has become an expert rider, but everything else is going by the boards. Riding interests her much more than friends, parties, school, anything. We are somewhat worried that she will never have wider interests than mucking out stalls and distributing hay. What should we do, if anything?
—Mom

Dear Mom,
Hang loose. Your daughter is one of those who's obviously to the manure born. Prudie herself, as a girl, took a trot or two. Love of horses is not uncommon with adolescent and preadolescent girls. Most of them outgrow it—though some do not. The ones whose interest never wanes go on to the show circuit, they run stables, or stay connected in some way, and have perfectly satisfying lives. There is no need for you to wean her from her interest, but you may insist that her schoolwork not suffer. Prudie is betting that sooner or later the horse will be replaced by a boy as the focus of interest.

—Prudie, relaxingly

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Dear Prudence,
Living in the Palm Springs area, I see many older women with "new" faces. They dress and act their age (75-90) but appear to be in their 50s from the neck up. It's a scary sight. I don't understand why it's so prevalent these days. What ever happened to aging gracefully and having "character" in one's face? Can't the elderly enjoy their golden years and quit trying to hang on to their youth?

—Cosmetic Surgery Questioner

Dear Cos,
The reason plastic surgery is on the rise is that our culture has spawned an unfortunate emphasis on youth ... and trying to stay youthful looking. The problem is that many women who've been nipped and tucked look rather similar, if not thin-skinned and shiny ... and of course everybody now is wise to tight-as-a-drum faces. The risks are not inconsiderable. If something goes wrong, you're a Picasso, and some mistakes are not fixable. There can also be painful nerve damage. As in any surgical procedure, elective or non-, there are chances of a bad outcome tied to anesthesia and the surgery itself.

Some celebrities (and civilians) are now known as "collagen victims" because of those ridiculous mouths. Women who were going for the bee-stung look, alas, like the whole hive attacked them. The odd thing is that many of these people think they look just terrific. Go figure. The hopeful news is that the tide may be turning. Natural boobs are becoming desirable, looking thin-as-a-rail is being rethought, so perhaps there's a future for growing old with one's original face. Prudie, herself, is part of a group of longtime girlfriends who've made a pact to do nothing to our faces and just see how everything goes to hell.

—Prudie, naturally