Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

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Advice on manners and morals.
July 18 2002 12:13 PM

The Birds and Bees and Donated Sperm


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Dear Prudie,

My problem is that my husband and I disagree on whether or not we should tell our young daughter some day that her biological father was a sperm donor. My husband refuses to even talk about it. I am sure he is afraid that she won't feel the same about him once she knows. I feel that it will surely come out one day, and she will resent us for trying to hide this from her. She already is questioning things, as she has brown eyes and my husband and I have blue eyes. Another factor is our son. After being told my husband could never father children, we had a little boy the old-fashioned way, and of course he is blue-eyed, too. We requested of the donor that he have blue eyes, but I guess that was overlooked when the bank chose our donor. What do you advise? I have told my husband that I cannot lie to our daughter if she asks me a direct question and that I will refer her to him.



Dear Flum,

Prudie's instinct is that you needn't tell a young child a sperm donor impregnated you ... the reason being that this situation is not analogous to being adopted, something that should always be revealed. Prudie regards in vitro and sperm bank procedures merely as an aid when conception proves problematic. Prudie's guess is that young kids are not familiar with Mendelian theory or classic genetics, and therefore would not be versed in recessive genes and eye color combinations. (Just by the by, two blue-eyed people producing brown eyes is unusual, but not impossible.) Should the child ask the direct question at an older age, an honest answer would be in order. Short of being cloned like Dolly the sheep, Prudie does not think every little detail of conception need be volunteered.

—Prudie, conceptually

Dear Pru,

I have a bit of a problem and don't know how to handle it. We have a shoe rack in our locker area where those of us who wear sneakers to work put them when we change into "regular" shoes. There are two rows of lockers in the room, and the rack is not in plain view until you are at the other end of the lockers. I stayed late one night to finish up a report and was returning to the locker area when, to my surprise, I came upon a co-worker with one of my sneakers. He was sniffing it! Since the floor is carpeted, it's hard to know if anyone is approaching. I didn't really know what to do, so I went back to my desk for a minute and then returned to the locker area, this time trying to make my presence known by clearing my throat. When I returned, the person wasn't there, but I could tell my sneakers were not in the same place. My problem is: Do I approach this person and let him know what I saw, or do I report it to my superiors? I have worked with this person for some time now and have maintained a very good professional working relationship with him. I would hate to see this person humiliated and possibly fired. So do I approach this person or report it? I could sure use some help.



Dear R.,

Prudie is not an HR person, but her educated guess is that people cannot be fired for sniffing sneakers ... ergo, there's no point in reporting this to your superiors. This little kink seems rather harmless, actually, and Prudie thinks it would be pointless to approach this chap and say, "You should know that I saw you smelling my shoe." The only vaguely proactive thing you can do, should you come upon him another time sniffing anybody's shoe, is not to tiptoe away. There is no reason he should be protected from embarrassment ... and being seen may be "punishment" enough—or at least motivate him to move his hobby to the gym.

—Prudie, casually

Dear Prudence,

God knows I don't get out much, but when I do, I HATE attending parties where everyone is quite visibly "interesting" (you can pick this up through dress or mannerisms), but nobody will tell you who they are. "Hi—I'm Michael." Well, what if it's Michael Dell? I have no idea what he looks like. A few months ago, I was at dinner with a man named Rostum. Suppose this was the exiled crown prince of Afghanistan. My point is someone named "Rostum" is probably going to be interesting, and after much teeth-pulling, this turned out to be the case. (Although he was not the crown prince.) OK, I won't be attending any parties with Michael Dell, or with Michael Kinsley, for that matter. But I would like to know a little bit more about the people I meet. Best-case scenario—if everyone had a little "cookie," or dogtag, or if people would at the very least say, "Hi—I'm Mickey Kaus. I'm a journalist in New York." (Or wherever the heck he is.) That's not self-aggrandizing; it's just helpful. When I was in college, a friend's mother used to invite us to her swank parties, and she would always tell us whom we would be meeting: "That's Cleve—he has a new sculpture going up in Lincoln Center." At the time, I thought it was pretentious. In retrospect, it seems quite practical. My wife says I am an idiot and should shut up about this. What do YOU think?

—Nattering in Newton


Dear Nat,

Prudie guesses you are a member of the Fourth Estate, but she will not hold that against you. Actually, your dilemma is one that she, herself, has pondered. The first-name-only introduction is an attempt to be casual ... to not single oneself out as "special" ... and perhaps meant to acknowledge that, often, people don't really care who you are. To be socially correct, however, both names should be offered. (Though sometimes even a last name will not do the trick. Years ago Prudie was introduced to "Albert Grimaldi" and was totally clueless, till hours later, that this was Monaco's Prince Albert.) As for hints about who is interesting or accomplished, perhaps the best way to find out is to spend a few minutes with people who show no visible signs of "star quality." More than once Prudie has learned, after the fact, that the unprepossessing little brown wren was, in fact, someone of note or accomplishment. (Think Woody Allen, were his face not so famous.) You might consider asking the host who s/he thinks is especially interesting. Your friend's mother, by the way, did what Prudie's mother did in her entertaining days—and now Prudie does: Tell each guest who the others are and what they do. This, of course, can be open to misinterpretation, but so what? And please tell your wife that Prudie disagrees about the idiot business.

—Prudie, socially

Dear Prudie,

I've had a huge crush on a co-worker for a few years. I recently got up the nerve to ask her if she would like to have lunch with me. She accepted, and we agreed on a convenient day the following week. The day of our lunch came, so I stopped by her desk to confirm we were still on. I was quite surprised to see that she was dressed in a way I had never seen her in the almost four years we have worked together. She was also wearing her hair up in a way I had never seen, either. Although she looked absolutely amazing, she was tastefully and appropriately dressed for the office. My question: Is she sending me signals she is interested, and how should I approach the situation? What if she didn't intend to send me any signals?


Dear Won,

Prudie thinks definitely the once-in-four-years outfit and hairdo were meant as signals—unless she was going to the opera that evening, with no chance to go home and change. As to how to proceed ... slowly, but with interest. The situation will reveal itself, my dear.

—Prudie, hopefully