Mother Knows Best?

Mother Knows Best?

Mother Knows Best?

Advice on manners and morals.
July 5 2001 11:30 PM

Mother Knows Best?

Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click hereto sign up.Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com.

Advertisement

Dear Prudie,
I am a 19-year-old university student and apparently a tease ... or so says my mother. I had serious boyfriends in high school and have always had lots of great (nonsexual) relationships with guys—and it is the nonsexual relationships where my mother feels I am being unfair. A lot of times my male friends want more than friendship, and I am really not interested, but I am also unwilling to give up the relationship. In addition to that, the ones who want relationships seem to be willing to do things for me (drive me back to school—a four-hour trip—treat me to meals and outings, etc.) I don't think it is a big deal to accept. These guys are (almost) grown-ups, and they know how I feel about them. It is their choice if they want to continue to express their affection materially. My mother doesn't see this, and although we don't have big arguments about it, she does make me feel guilty in a way that only mothers can. Am I wrong here?

—M.

Dear M,
If it weren't so counterintuitive, Prudie would think your mother was telling you to warm up your friendships with the opposite sex as a "thank-you" for the nice things they do for you. Either that, or she doesn't believe in platonic friendships. From the information you supplied, it doesn't sound like you are working the room just to get a free ride or a dinner. Prudie agrees with you that a suitor is free to leave or stick around when the object of his affections makes it plain there will be no romance. (And, sometimes, the guys who hang in do start to seem desirable.) On a fundamental level, many women have a kind of mental microchip that steers them into using their femininity to elicit help or attention, and it is almost unconscious. Regrettably, Prudie detects some subtle competitive aspect to your mother's complaints. Perhaps you could reduce the flow of information about who is doing what for you.

—Prudie, pragmatically

Advertisement

Dear Prudence,
A young woman friend of mine is planning the "wedding of the century" and has requested that guests wear formal attire. My date, who is my steady boyfriend, insists that since he would not be attending the wedding if I hadn't invited him, I should pay for his tuxedo rental. Is this true? Or is he the stingy tightwad I've always suspected him to be?

—Sincerely,
Fit To Be Bow-Tied

Dear Fit,
Alas, Prudie must confirm your suspicions. His response is ungenerous and most unattractive. Unless you want to have a Dutch-treat life, tell this guy that you have a really good idea about how he can avoid the cost of a tuxedo rental: Stay home. Then begin the search for his replacement.

—Prudie, generously

Advertisement

Hi, I am a lesbian. Is that such a big deal? Why is it that every time I befriend someone at my job and come out to them, they talk behind my back and have no interest in a friendship? As a gay person, you get to know people, then you chose when and if you are interested in telling them about your partner and your sexual orientation because you want to be honest. I am not a dishonest person, but I don't feel the need to have "lesbian" on my forehead when I meet someone. It is only one part of who I am. Yet I've heard people say time and again that I am dishonest for ever saying I had a boyfriend when in fact I have a girlfriend as my partner. I have dealt with people teasing me, making remarks about my sexual orientation in front of others, hetero guys who get excited at the thought and talk to me as though I were a porno actress and who want to watch, hetero women who decide I am a child molester or simply an abomination by religious standards. I am a friendly person, and people genuinely like me. However, it is difficult to get to know people without talking about your relationship. I can't deal with their lack of understanding, and mainly I can't deal with the lack of validation.

—Ms. S.

Dear Ms,
You are either unlucky enough to work in a hostile workplace ... or you are contributing to your own problems. You mention, briefly, having told co-workers of a boyfriend, but you also state that you wish to be honest. And that's not the only mixed message in your letter. Perhaps there's a way you can clear the air by explaining to those who've heard about "the boyfriend" how anxiety drove you to create a nonexistent relationship with a man. This would enlighten those you work with about the problems they create by failing to understand the difficulties of gay life. One complication for you is that you can't just choose whom to tell. You're either up front about it, or silent. Prudie would suggest you lose the ambivalence about your sexuality, declare your major, and trust that—in time—even the bigots will regard you simply as the person you are.

—Prudie, hopefully

Advertisement

Prudie,
What is the proper thing to tell someone you've had no contact with in years (and don't want to) who gets in touch with you and all but invites himself to your house? I don't want to be unkind, but neither do I plan to be maneuvered into something I would not find at all comfortable.

—J.S.

Dear J,
Your situation is rather common. This type of thing is not dissimilar to a relational one-way mirror: Person A sees the reality, person B does not. When the self-invited acquaintance from your past tries to strike up an unwelcome reattachment, simply say it might be fun to rehash old times, but you are extraordinarily busy, and because of work/travel/triplets—whatever—you barely have time for your life. If the person is so clueless as to persist, then you'll have to say, flat out, that you regret their lack of sensitivity but you are trying, civilly, to decline.

—Prudie, strongly