Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 29 2002 10:54 AM

Men Don't Leave

9_dearprudence_01

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.)

Prudie

Twenty-three years ago, while still in college, I had a brief affair with a writer and editor who was about to get married. A year and a half ago he wrote to me, charmingly, and after a four-hour lunch and countless incredibly well-written e-mails, I learned that he'd become extremely successful in his field and was still married, but enmeshed in a lifeless, sexless (her choice), grindingly unhappy relationship. A passionate and exquisitely sensual affair ensued. I adored him and also found, flatteringly, that I had become a thinly disguised character in his first novel. (Even the name was similar, and the anatomical details were impressive in their accuracy.) Many discussions of love, of leaving, and hours in respective therapists' offices later (mute the sobbing violins in the background, please), he is still married. I, on the other hand, am no longer. Do you think it is really possible for a man to have an intense affair for a year and a half without his wife finding out? Is it possible that a wife might know and choose to keep it to herself as a form of punishment to the husband? Is it possible that a man could be so passive that he could unconsciously hope that the two women in his life might somehow come known to each other, causing fireworks so intense that he would end up being freed of his involvement with both of them?

—Just Curious

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Dear Just,

Woo woo woo! Prudie thinks you should write a novel. Here are some plot points based on the questions you raise. It is, indeed, possible for an intense affair to take place without the wife finding out. It is also possible for a wife to know and keep it to herself—sometimes as a punishment, sometimes as a way to keep her life going as Mrs. X. Your last query, about creating fireworks and then being rid of both women, seems a little unlikely, but surely it has happened. There is no end, kiddo, to the ways people can orchestrate their lives.

—Prudie, novelistically

Dear Prudie,

I've been dating a fantastic guy for over a year, but there is one thing about him I cannot stand: He is continually late. Not 10 or 20 minutes, but half an hour to two to three hours. Sometimes he is fairly punctual, but the late episodes devastate me. I feel like it says a lot about the way he views our relationship. He was raised in a family that treats set times as suggestions ... and their motto seems to be, "We'll get there when we get there," so I understand why it might be bred in the bone. I feel that this is a huge respect issue. You don't just leave someone you love waiting and worrying without calling. How do I deal with this insanely tardy guy?

—Annoyed

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Dear Ann,

Lateness is an interesting issue. It can denote insecurity, selfishness, thoughtlessness—or it can simply be a bid to get the upper hand. Some tardiness, however, is acceptable. For example, physicians and surgeons, like Prudie's own Dr. Pussycat, can be held up in the operating room or treatment room actually doing something important. In your situation, however, you must determine if this chap's relationship to time is a deal-breaker. If you can straighten him up, fine. But you must decide if his tardiness is not fixable whether or not it would leave you perpetually angry and ruin the relationship. For starters, give him the gift of a wristwatch, along with a gentle talk about how much it would mean to you if he kept track of the big hand and the little hand. See how things go. You will know what to do because, pardon the expression, time will tell.

—Prudie, punctually

Dear Prudence,

I am a 25-year-old aspiring actress. I am very creative and feel comfortable changing my looks (i.e., hair) frequently. Usually I sport a rather large afro puff that is, if I do say so myself, quite becoming. I don't desire to change my hair permanently, so when I want a new look, I will usually throw on a wig or attach a few hair pieces for my desired effect. The problem: Even if I wear my afro puff on Monday and come in with a wig down to my waist on Tuesday, some nut always inevitably asks, "Is that your real hair?" (And if they don't ask, they spend our entire conversation staring at my hairline to see if they can figure it out.) Furthermore, those who are not very familiar with African-American hair processes will solicit an in-depth, detailed explanation as to how I got my hair to "do that." I am really tiring of these situations. I don't want to be mean, but I want to make it clear that my hair is my business!

—Diva in Despair

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Dear Div,

Prudie does not mean to diss your wigs and hairpieces, but it's this way, girlfriend: Your hair is everybody's business when it changes daily. Some might even think you are inviting the attention by never looking the same way twice. The office is not the best place to continually look like different people. (That's what evenings are for.) Prudie thinks you would do better, since you're an actress, to sport your various "looks" at auditions.

—Prudie, consistently

Dear Prudence,

I am at a crossroads in my relationship/friendship with a young man I met about two months ago. Everything was going wonderfully. We talked in depth about life, our personal experiences, etc. Talked on the phone from midnight till the sky turned blue. He called me daily several times just to check in. I am obviously writing because his behavior has drastically changed. We have not been intimate with one another, so sex too early in the relationship wasn't the ruining factor. We saw a future together—or so I thought. Anyway, things have changed. Dates either get canceled, or I get stood up. No more late night convos or daily check-ins. I voiced my opinions about his actions, suggesting that he didn't appear to be serious or ready for what I wanted. He reassured me that he saw everything as I did and convinced me he would begin to "show me" and not just tell me how he feels. We made plans to see one another the next day. He never called, never showed. I know he isn't dead because I phoned to see if he was all right ... and he was. So what could be going on? Where has the love gone?

—Clueless in New York City

Dear Clue,

You are not without clues, my dear, you are just choosing to ignore them. Broken dates, being stood up, empty reassurances are all a wimp's way of telling you it's over ... without actually being able to tell you. The reasons for this kind of behavior are often unknown. Fear, however, is usually a good guess ... fear of getting in too deep, fear of hurting your feelings—but wanting to call it a day, nonetheless. In any case, what is more important than knowing where love has gone is acknowledging that it has gone somewhere and then behaving accordingly. "Accordingly," in this case, would be behaving with dignity and acceptance.

—Prudie, supportively