Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 19 2002 2:16 PM

Welcome to My Party; Now Where's My Gift?

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.)

Pru,

A few years ago, I was sent an announcement-invitation from a former friend about her college graduation. The announcement-invitation said she had registered at a store, I presume for her gift purchases. I was recently invited to a housewarming, and they also registered at a store. Finally, a girl I met at a book-signing event showed me an invitation to a 30th birthday party where the girl had registered. Now, my question/comment is: What is up with all of these people registering for occasions where you aren't really required to bring a gift? All I usually take to a housewarming is a bottle of wine or a plant. What gives?!

—Missed Registration

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Dear Miss,

These materialistic people have confused themselves with brides. Simply ignore their "suggestions." Something has happened, along the way, to loosen accepted etiquette and embolden people. Let's call it feelings of entitlement. A birthday party, a graduation, and a housewarming are all occasions for guests to bring a gift, if they wish and of their own choosing. Do not feel blackmailed into gift-giving.

—Prudie, voluntarily

Dear Prudie,

I'm a 23-year-old college student who's been dating a wonderful guy for three years. We plan to get married but are not officially engaged. My problem is that I feel his (large) family will always come before our marriage. He refuses to live more than 30 minutes away from his family, even though it's been a longtime dream of mine to live on the East Coast. (We're from the Midwest.) I've tried compromise; he won't budge. He has also let me know that he expects us to be visiting with his family just as often as they get together, which is two to three times a month, plus every single holiday. I love his family dearly, but I'd also like for us to have some time for ourselves and for visiting my own family. I know that there are many worse problems than this. I can't decide whether I'm being petty and just need a swift kick in the pants or if we need to rethink our future. Please help!

—Uneasy

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Dear Un,

You are wise to spot potential trouble now before you're knee-deep in discord. While family ties are nice, they are sometimes made from apron strings and can strangle a relationship ... or tie the wife up in knots. What you must decide is if marrying him would be worth all the likely "togetherness" with his (large) family. The good news is that you like them. Also, two to three times a month is only two or three days out of 30 or 31. If he will not alternate holidays with your family, however, that's not a good sign. The East Coast thing is another consideration. You need to weigh whether a future with this man is worth joining his extended family, perhaps to the exclusion of your own, and staying put geographically. Perhaps the biggest consideration, however, is if you wish to be another planet in his family solar system or your own binary star.

—Prudie, familially

Dear Prudence,

A few months ago, my brother-in-law impregnated a very nice young woman he had been dating for a couple of years. My wife told the mother-to-be that she wanted to host a baby shower for her, which I thought was a nice gesture. However, since that time, my cad of a brother-in-law has now seen fit to break up with this poor girl and has indicated that not only has he no intention of staying with her, he has no interest in caring for the child beyond the inevitable court-ordered child support. My wife, who feels terrible about all this, still intends to hold the baby shower. Now, I agree that it will help provide this woman with some of the items she will desperately need (a car seat, etc.), but I wonder if it's appropriate. I'm no baby-shower veteran, but I fear a phalanx of women asking tough questions and learning from the unfortunate victim of my ne'er-do-well in-law. What do you think?

—Worried

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Dear Wor,

The shower should, by all means, take place. It's about the only happy thing Prudie can think of in this young woman's life in the near future. Perhaps your wife could tell the guests who are not close to the guest of honor that the future parents are having some difficulties and it would be best not to bring up anything to do with the father-to-be, with no mention of the fact that he's a skunk.

—Prudie, expectantly

Dear Prudence,

The other day I was going to the gym, and I hit another car as I was parking in the parking garage. I was so frazzled and distracted by other stuff going on that I just freaked and moved my car and continued on to the gym. I was so paranoid that I left the gym about 20 minutes into my workout. I'm now having a huge bout of conscience. I knew the right thing to do, of course, but for whatever reason I just didn't follow through. I don't know what I should do at this point. Part of me feels I should just go to the parking garage and confess my guilt and take my punishment, whatever it is. I don't know if it's too late and I should try doing penance some other way ... or accept that I can't do anything at this point.

—Thanks,

slh

Dear s,

The nagging voice that's hardest to ignore is one's own. You have correctly identified it as "conscience." Garages do not "punish" people, but they might know the name or number of someone who complained that their car was damaged while parked there, so do inquire. They might very well have the person's name on file. If not, learn from this that the trick to not being haunted by one's bad behavior is to do the right thing at the right time. The name for this is "integrity."

—Prudie, instructionally