Door Jam

Door Jam

Door Jam

Advice on manners and morals.
Nov. 9 2000 11:30 PM

Door Jam

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

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Dear Prudence,
I'm somewhat familiar with the dating scene, and I have a pretty good idea what is proper etiquette, etc. However, I do have one stumbling block: that damn car door. I understand, in the good old days, it was a must to open the car door for your date. Then along came power door locks and political correctness, which now dictates that it's not entirely necessary to do so. Being a gay male I understand that a lot of men prefer not to have the door opened for them, but at the same time, what if I do it and my date is offended? Do I play the gentleman and open the door for my date? (I assume he is capable of closing it.) Or should I just assume a casual stance, press my remote button, and let them do the work?

—Incoming Date

Dear In,
All the power lock does is lock and unlock. The tradition of opening car doors did not have to do with its locked status but was meant to assist the so-called weaker sex ... not unlike holding a door open for a lady to pass through. Given that your dating setup involves two men, try it the first time if you are so inclined, and if the chap tells you it's not necessary ... then, it's not necessary.

—Prudie, situationally

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Dear Ms. Prudence,
My husband and I were both previously married. We each have three children and none together. My problem is my husband played the role of doting stepfather until after we were married. Now the tides have turned. He will not speak my daughter's name and treats my son like some dreaded virus. I have tried to talk to him, and I've suggested we go to a marriage counselor. He doesn't want to do anything and expects me to accept his behavior. I'm at my wits' end and about to call a divorce lawyer. HELP!

—D.

Dear D.,
Go ahead and make the call. Your second husband, alas, has pulled the emotional equivalent of dressing up in a costume and mask to get you to marry him. His post-marital treatment of your children is unacceptable. It is too bad you will have struck out twice, but the brighter side is that you and your children are a tight unit, which is as it should be. Prudie feels certain if you decide to marry again you will do a more thorough due diligence when it comes to how the man really feels about your kids.

—Prudie, motherly

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Dear Prudie,
I read with dismay your advice to a woman who was upset she had not received a "thank you" note for a wedding gift until nine months had passed. You also said people would be upset if they had to wait a year to receive a gift, which the other manners columnists say is OK. Well, I learned the hard way to wait that year before giving a gift and would ask you how you would solve this problem: I am a relatively low-income individual, but I had a few rare posters from the '60s that I bought at a garage sale. A collector had offered me $500 for one of them. Instead, I gave it to the friend as a wedding gift on his wedding day. Three months later they got a divorce, and now I'm out a $500 poster that the temporary wife (whom I neither know well nor like) kept. Now I wait a year before giving the gift. I advise everyone to do the same.

—Suckered in San Francisco

Dear Suck,
If the criterion for giving a wedding gift was a marriage that lasted, the silver and crystal business would be a depressed industry. Would you have felt better if they'd stayed together for 10 years? Twelve? You need to accept your "loss" and move on. Look at it this way: It is called a "wedding present," and we can assume the wedding, itself, was a happy time. If it is your decision to now wait a year before sending a gift, that's fine, but Prudie's practice is to send one out soon after the invitation arrives.

—Prudie, generously

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Dear Prudence,
I have been trying to come up with a response when someone says, "I'm sorry" in a specific situation. For example, let's say I call my downstairs neighbors and politely ask them to turn down their music. They say, "Of course, I will turn it down right away. I'm so sorry for disturbing you." Now I have been trained, both by society at large and by my mother, that the proper response is, "That's OK." Well, it's not OK. If it was, I never would have asked in the first place. I have spent some time trying to come up with an appropriate, polite response, but am unsure what to say. Any suggestions?

—Sincerely,
Not OK

Dear Not,
Stick with "That's OK." There is no other polite response. It is a matter of civility, and to say what you are thinking would be akin to not accepting an apology. Prudie shares your snarky feelings, however, on an allied subject: when people speak the deeply annoying "No problem" to a request. Well of course it's a problem or it wouldn't have been brought up in the first place. We shall both just have to suck it up and be our courteous selves. To do otherwise would be unnecessarily ungracious.

—Prudie, cordially