Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 7 2002 12:30 PM

Secrets or Lies?

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Dear Prudence,

My best girlfriend for almost two decades recently lied to me, not once but three times, all about the same question. She and her boyfriend went to Mexico, and before she left, I asked her point-blank if they were going to get married. Her reply was "no." After she got back, they flew to Las Vegas rather suddenly. Before she left, I asked her again, "Are you getting married?" Her reply was "no" for the second time. When they got back, she called to tell me what a great time they had. I asked her again if they got married. She replied, again, "no." We went to dinner about two weeks later and had a lovely dinner and conversation. On the way home she said, "Here, I have something for you to see." Imagine my surprise when I opened a wedding album full of photos from Mexico. They went to Vegas because the marriage in Mexico was not valid in the United States, so they got "remarried." She explained they did not want anyone to know about it. I can respect that, but after such a long friendship she should know that if she tells me something it does not go anywhere. My feelings are very hurt over the lies she has told me. What is your opinion?


Dear Flab,

Prudie's opinion is that you have a rather limited understanding of the words "friendship" and "lies." The key sentence in your letter is this: "She explained they did not want anyone to know about it." You would fit into the category of "anyone." Withholding information you wish to keep private, my dear, is not "lying." There can be many reasons for your friend wanting things this way. One is that they may not have wanted to make a big deal out of it—perhaps it's a remarriage situation where they've been a de facto couple for quite a while, and the actual ceremony is just something between them. It is funny that you should send Prudie this question now because she has done exactly what your friend did. Several weeks ago Prudie and the man known to her friends as Dr. Pussycat were married in their living room, with just the rabbi and his wife present. There has been no mention of it—until now.

—Prudie, matrimonially

Dear Prudence,

Yesterday a friend from high school called to say she and a fellow college student would be in the area in just a couple of days. I suggested that we meet for dinner, which she agreed to. We discussed where to meet, and then she said, "Well, what about staying the night?" I mumbled something about my boyfriend having to work the next morning, reconfirmed our dinner plans, and said I had to go get my laundry. My question is, how should I have responded to her request? The last time she was in town, I let her and a mutual friend stay over, and it was very uncomfortable. My apartment is small, and I don't know her all that well since we haven't really kept in touch. Also, I have never met the other person who will be with her, and I really think two days is not enough notice for overnight guests. Any ideas on what to say next time? 

—Sign Me,

Not a Hotel

Dear Not,

Prudie hopes the self-invited, not-all-that-close friend didn't succeed in guilting you into being her B & B. In situations like this, you can either do what's right for you—or become a hostage to other people's wishes. A good response to the situation you write about is, "We are not set up for that." There is no need, by the way, to set such a person straight about why you cannot function as a hotel. Prudie hopes, though, it's enough for YOU to know that she was out of line because of the scant notice, the casualness of your friendship, the guest she also wanted to foist on you, and your small apartment.

—Prudie, negatively

Dear Prudie,

I have been in a committed relationship with a woman I love very much for several months. Everything was going great until I picked up a notebook from her bedside table and looked inside it. In it she had very recently written a letter, one that I imagine she never intended to send. It was to her ex-boyfriend, a man she dated for five years in her first real relationship. I was shocked, and of course crushed, to read of her continuing feelings for him, her frequent thoughts of him, and that I would never replace him in her heart. I was especially shocked as this relationship had been over for close to three years, and she was the one who ended it. I keep a journal myself, so I know that journals are places where people work out all kinds of personal things that are not meant to be shared and not meant to be taken as infallible gospel or out of context. Nonetheless, I read it, and it has been weighing heavily on me. Our relationship has not changed, and she is as loving as ever, but I feel terribly insecure. Since I obtained this information by invading her privacy, I feel like I have no right to confront her with it. Please advise.

—Your Box Opener,


Dear Pan,

Granted, people are not supposed to snoop in private diaries, but you did, and what you've learned you can't unlearn. Now your best hope is to be direct—about everything. Tell her you read the unsent letter. Tell her you need clarification about obviously unresolved feelings. Tell her—for her sake as well as yours—she needs to deal with how she feels about the man who's gone and the one who's present. Then listen ... and you will know how to proceed.

—Prudie, forwardly

Dear Prudence,

I read these letters where one partner says, oh, we don't have sex, we haven't had sex, we may not be having sex, etc. I think some of these are so far-fetched (the guy who marries the girl and then says it's OK that she
NEVER WANTS TO HAVE SEX comes to mind) that they are hoaxes. I mean, fake stupid letters just to be funny, you know? I think they are beneath you to even respond to on Slate's Web site. Sure, some people may have serious problems that make them not want to engage in sex. But what's the excuse for the partners? No, I really think they're fakes. 

—Faithful Reader

Dear Faith,

My dear, you've obviously never been on the receiving end of advice column mail. Prudie could certainly be fooled a time or two, but the number of people who write about not getting any (or not giving any) would twirl your turban. The partners on the receiving end—figuratively, obviously, in some cases—have multiple reasons for not bailing. Two would be 1) hope and 2) love.

—Prudie, experientially



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