Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 17 2002 2:46 PM

The Art of Consoling Laid-Off Colleagues

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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Hi Prudence!

A few years ago, several co-workers left our small company and moved cross-country to join a certain large, Texas-based energy firm that has recently and very publicly fallen on troubled times. I have stayed in periodic contact with these people (occasional e-mails and the like) and would really like to know how they are doing, but I'm unsure how to go about inquiring about them, what with all the layoffs and possible criminal investigations. What is the proper etiquette for expressing concern for people who are not my close friends but whom I care about?

—Happy I Stayed

Dear Hap,

Prudie's educated guess is that your former associates are not the ones being investigated for criminality, but are, alas, likely in the laid-off category, so a note from you would most certainly be appreciated. Let's call it a kind of workplace condolence note. Simply say you are thinking of them during what you know must be difficult and trying times, and you'll be hoping, along with them, for an ultimately satisfactory outcome. Just be careful not to wander into any unfortunate sayings, such as, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

—Prudie, consolingly

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Dear Prudence,

I am an attractive woman in her early 40s with three grade-school-age children. My husband is a good dad and a great provider. I try to take care of myself and am well-groomed but overweight. My husband has not slept with me in over a year because of my weight problem. I have tried to lose but to no avail. This situation is making me sad, and that makes me tend to eat more. Is he being shallow, or am I too stubborn? Help!

—D

Dear D,

Your situation is not at all uncommon and always difficult for both parties. There is actually a new coinage for what your spouse is feeling: flabbergasted. That is, being appalled at the weight you've gained. Your situation does not mean that he is shallow or that you are stubborn. The realities here are that he is genuinely turned off by the excess weight—certainly an honest response—and that you've tried to lose weight and feel you can't. The best mechanistic suggestion Prudie can offer is for both of you to agree to make a renewed effort—he to be more sympathetic to your difficulty in slimming down, and you to try a new weight-loss program. (Prudie is assuming you've seen your physician to eliminate any medical reason for weight gain.) Before the world writes in accusing Prudie (again) of being a fat-basher, it doesn't sound as though you are one of those women who's decided Big Is Beautiful, and anybody who doesn't like it can take a flying leap.

—Prudie, practically

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Dear Prudie,

I'm a 21-year-old college student with a bit of a social dilemma. My father died when I was 4, something that, while sad, I have grown up accepting. The problem is that whenever I am getting to know someone and the talk inevitably turns to our families, I always mention my living relatives. Not hearing anything about a father, most people ask ... which I accept as natural. Whenever I mention that he died when I was young, however, people immediately blurt out, "Oh, I'm so sorry!" and then get a pained expression as if they've just found their puppy dead. This has happened my entire life, and I'm often at a loss for words. I usually end up saying, "That's OK," but it always annoys me that suddenly this has become a problem that sometimes derails the conversation. Any advice on how to respond to such exclamations?

—Thanks,

BC

Dear B,

When you and someone new are playing getting-to-know-you, in addition to mentioning your living relatives, say that your father died when you were young and you are at peace with your loss. This will eliminate the queries about a father ... the sad "dead puppy" response ... and will also communicate that this is a long-term reality. Just FYI, it's almost a conversational tic that when people are informed about someone's deceased relative, they usually express shock/sadness/regret. It is almost the "polite" thing to do. Think about it. If someone throws into a conversation, "My father's dead," the next sentence cannot be, "So tell me about your sister who's a flight attendant."

—Prudie, automatically

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Dear Prudence,

I am a single, 22-year-old female who is two months pregnant. I would like to continue my active dating life as long as possible (barring morning sickness). My question is this: Must I disclose to my dates the fact that I am pregnant? I am not showing yet, and my not drinking can easily be explained. I do not feel it is anyone's business, but is this fair to the guys? I am not looking for a husband or father for my child; I just want to have a good time.

—Hot Momma

Dear Hot,

Prudie thinks the saying "girls just wanna have fun" does not apply to pregnant, single women. And let's face it, in a few more months, your announcement will be a moot point. Should you meet someone you find interesting, your condition should certainly be part of the information exchanged when people are getting acquainted. Searches for husbands or fathers are beside the point. And Prudie is not exactly sure how you mean "have a good time."

—Prudie, decisively