Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 27 2001 3:48 PM

Where's the Trust?

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

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Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend is a flirt, big time! Whenever we go out, he is hitting on every waitress, telling them how cute they are. He notices every pretty woman on the street and tells me how he would love to (bleep) them. He exchanges naked pictures over the Internet with some other gals. He has an ex-girlfriend who sends him her nude pictures, and he flirts with her in e-mails. He does not hide any of that and tells me that it's all normal and that all of that benefits me because he brings "it all back to me." He tells me that he loves me, and other than that we don't have problems in our relationship. We are approaching the stage of commitment (marriage), but I am very apprehensive about committing to him because I'm not sure I can deal with his habits long-term. They bother me, make me feel insecure, and I don't trust that he will not have "real" sex with someone if the situation allowed for it. At the same time—he is the only person I've had such great connection with, and I enjoy his company very much. What should I do? Should I break it off and find someone more "normal"? Or should I try to put it in his head somehow that I am not comfortable with the situation? I am aware that I cannot change him.

—Need To Decide

Dear Need,

Prudie's guess is that you've already "put it in his head" that you're not comfortable with the situation. He, on the other hand, has told you that you are the lucky beneficiary of his flirting, trafficking in naked pictures, hitting on waitresses, and articulating his sexual wish list regarding pretty women on the street. You are quite right that you cannot change him because, as you may have read here before, women are not reform schools. What you can do, however, is get the new year off to a good start and inform Mr. Tacky you've decided that such a flirtatious, sexy, and uninhibited guy should get back into circulation—and then put him there.

—Prudie, decidedly

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Dear Prudence,

My fiance has a problem. He lies. A lot. He claims to do this because he is afraid of what people (and I) will think of him. They aren't little lies. A molehill becomes a mountain, so to speak. He has several (at least five) times promised to stop lying and tell me the truth and only the truth, but every time I find out something else he's lied about. I don't have a problem with anything about him except his lying. Unfortunately, I can't trust him now. He is absolutely perfect, except for this. Is this the product of a bad childhood, and what should I do?

—Need a Polygraph

Dear Need,

Prudie thinks your assessment that he is "absolutely perfect," except for not being able to believe a word he says is like saying, "It's a beautiful day out, if you don't count the sleet and hail." You have a very big fly in your ointment, my dear. What is going on with this chap is a pathology, hence the designation, "pathological liar." You can't pin this trait on a rotten childhood, and Prudie is afraid there's not much that you can do, except to decide whether you can or can't live with a guy who has an arm's length relationship with the truth. What he can do, if he's willing, is get into therapy about this issue ... but there's no guarantee that even a professional can get him on the straight and narrow.

—Prudie, truthfully

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Dear Prudence

Please don't laugh, but my problem concerns the length of my hair. I'm in my mid-40s and have been mostly happily married for 20 years. Between working 30 hours a week, caring for a family (I have two teen-age sons, one of whom has learning disabilities that require a lot of extra attention be directed to his schoolwork), maintaining an old house, and looking after aging parents, life is quite busy. I try to be well-groomed, but clean, well-cut hair and a dab of lipstick are about the extent of my beauty regimen. In recent years I've worn my hair cut well above shoulder length and occasionally even shorter. The problem is that every once in awhile, my husband announces that he thinks I don't look attractive with short hair and that he wishes I wore my hair longer. Today he informed me that 95 percent of women wear their hair long, so why couldn't I do the same? His attitude really hurts my feelings. Who wants to hear that her husband doesn't think she's attractive?! I wear my hair as long as it is now as a concession to his adolescent obsession. Do I hit him over the head with the blow-dryer and tell him he's going to have to be content with my inner beauty, or should I make this concession to marital contentment and wear my hair longer (even if it bugs the hell out of me)?

—Flowing Tresses or Not?

Dear Flow,

Don't some of these guys make you want to scream? Tell your husband, the statistician, that his 95 percent business is hokum, but even if those numbers were correct, they would have very little to do with your life of work, housework, homework, and aging parents. It would be nice, Prudie supposes, if you could please him in the long hair department, but it doesn't sound like it works with your life. Perhaps a little humor might help. Get an inexpensive wig, and wear it in the bedroom. That ought to cheer him up.

—Prudie, pragmatically

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Dear Prudence,

I am 27 years old, live in Manhattan, and was looking forward to living a sophisticated adult life of dinner parties and sumptuous conversation. But it seems as though every time my acquaintances are seated around a table, the conversation degenerates quickly into what was heard in the bathroom at work or how large the nanny's breasts are. Why does this happen? Is this normal? And how can I stop it? I am not very good at "directing conversation." I did once try steering the conversation by saying, "Oh, let's not talk about this at dinner; who do you think will win the election?" But since they are mostly older than me and since I'm a shy person, it didn't really work. Do you think people are just stressed out from work all the time and don't want to think when they talk? Should I just stay home from now on?

Thanks,

—Jessica

Dear Jess,

Don't stay home—go out and get new friends. Prudie assures you that tales from the bathroom and the size of the nanny's breasts are not the standard fare of dinner conversation—in New York or anywhere else. There is no need for you to settle for palaver from people who don't wish to think when they talk.

—Prudie, upwardly