Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 26 2002 11:18 AM

Gunning for Graceless Gossips

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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,

I recently ended a relationship with a woman I admired, respected, and befriended—but seemed to lack a certain spark with. Let's call her Lucy. The mother of this lady is a country club acquaintance of the mother of an old, good friend of mine (John). On the day we pulled the plug on the relationship, Lucy confided that early on in our relationship her mother had done an aerobics class with John's mother. As they had coffee after the class, one of the ladies had asked the ex's mother, "Who is Lucy dating these days?" To which her mother answered yours truly. At this point John's mother launched into a diatribe outlining my self-centeredness, tendency to use people, and general bad-eggedness, unceasing until Lucy's mother got up and left the room. (This entire diatribe was overheard by a roomful of my mother's contemporaries.) I do not particularly care what this horrible woman (or her hive mates, for that matter) thinks of me, but I am hopping mad about the fact that a relationship with a woman who I admired, respected, and laughed a lot with may (I stress,
may) have been compromised by the post-aerobic endorphins drifting along in the ice floes of this bitter old WASP's bloodstream. I would like to know if it is appropriate (or would be productive) to approach the old bag about this.

—Scrambling for My Epi-Pen

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Dear Scram,

Approach the old bag and say what? It would be best for you to move past this irritant, say nothing, and forget it. Prudie's suggestion is based on a saying she learned from a different member of the hive: "Never complain, never explain." Because the woman who put the shiv into you was the mother of your "old, good friend," John, you might want to rethink whether, as a friend, he is "old" or "good."  Also, please remember that if you and Lucy were hitting on all cylinders, nothing an outsider could say would have mattered. Prudie could be told that Dr. Pussycat was an ax murderer and the information would be rejected as rubbish. And nice that Lucy's mother left the room.

—Prudie, maturely

Dear Prudence,

About four years ago, my husband and I were introduced to a couple, "Rick and Eloise." Rick had been disabled in a car accident almost 10 years ago, in which no one had been cited. He had explained to us what happened in the car accident and has displayed a great deal of anger toward the other driver involved. My husband told me last night that he was the other driver in the accident. Rick does not recognize him. My husband said that he didn't recognize him, either, until Rick told us about the accident—and there is no chance of mistaken identity. For four years, my husband has heard updates on Rick's physical therapy and listened to discussions about the "other driver." Rick and Eloise are wonderful people. We don't know what to do. Should we tell them? Is it too late?

—Truly Undecided

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Dear Tru,

What are the odds of something like this happening?! For many reasons, Prudie advises fessing up. What this will accomplish, for you and your husband, is an honest friendship, with no awful secret to drag around ... provided the other couple feels able to continue. From Rick's point of view, it could be cathartic in that he will finally know who the other driver was. And it may possibly be useful in helping him diffuse his anger because his years-long fury will be counterweighted by the fact that "the driver" has actually been a good friend for four years. Be prepared, however, for some intense conversations, as well as the possibility that Rick's rage will prove more powerful than your husband's admission. Good luck to all of you.

—Prudie, confessionally

Dear Prudence,

I'm an American guy in my mid-30s living in China dating two very young girls. (They are legal, but barely.) These two girls are best friends and, in fact, picked me up together. They now come over to my apartment together, I take them out to dinner, and we go places as a threesome. They mostly drive the relationship. For example, I wouldn't have had the guts to start kissing one girl in front of the other if they hadn't started it first. I m not stupid enough to think that money and the fact that I take them out and buy them clothes isn't part of the equation. On the other hand, I do believe that they really like me, and I know I really like them. If they were only about money, they could do quite well with some of the other expats they've met through me, but they haven't tried. Both claim to be relative innocents, and I believe them—although the way things are going, that won't last long. Sounds like heaven, right? What could someone like me possibly want advice on? Well, what do you do when you are in a situation like this and you find out that you really care about these two girls? How do you move forward with two women at once? Should I decide that I'm
in loco parentis and break up with both of them? Or should I smile, lie back, and say, "Thank you, God"?

—In Hog Heaven, I Think

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Dear In,

The girls may or may not be loco, but you sound a long way from parentis. This situation is dynamite waiting to explode (assuming you are not trying out for a creative writing class). And as a general rule, well-integrated people do not move forward with two girls at once. Prudie asked an old China hand for his take on this. He pointed out that Chinese people almost never even kiss in public and that if you found this frolicsome duo in, say, one of the joints on the east side of Beijing, they are likely working girls, as it were ... or at least working girl wannabees. There are said to be quite a lot of joint ventures in the People's Republic these days, so perhaps these girls have formed one to exploit your wallet's resources.

—Prudie, realistically

Dear Prudence,

My parents just celebrated their 25th anniversary this year. As long as I can remember, there have been squabbles at home. In retrospect, some of them do seem more heated than what would be considered "normal," but like every couple, they've had good times and bad. Recently after a few weeks apart, having to do with relocation for the whole family, my father said he wants a divorce. He said that he had time to think about the whole situation, and "this is his decision." I am an adult and am not writing to you because I don't want "Mommy and Daddy to get divorced," but from an adult perspective, they are not having any problems that couldn't be solved with the help of a neutral third party, i.e., a counselor. The relocation mentioned above will alleviate many previous problems as well as create a fresh start for them. How can I make my father understand that solutions to the situation can be found and divorce is not among them?

—Woe Is My Parents, Not Woe Is Me

Dear Wo,

First, a child—even a grown-up one—never knows exactly what the issues are with his parents. Second, you don't get a vote. Granted, it's worth suggesting a marriage counselor/mediator if you think they haven't thought of it, but Prudie rather doubts this is the case. And lastly, my friend, denials to the contrary, you really don't want Mommy and Daddy to get divorced. But "blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." You clearly have a loving heart, and Prudie hopes you will be all right with your parents' decision.

—Prudie, gently