Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 31 2002 11:13 AM

Wake Up and Smell the Infidelity

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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.)

Dear Prudence,

I am one of those women who is intuition-impaired. I would like your opinion on an ongoing situation which has left me completely confused. My male friend and I are both married to other people. I was single when I met him, and we have forged a strong friendship over the past 10 years. Annually, for the last six years, we take what can be best described as a "retreat," where we meet each other in a city located halfway between our hometowns and spend the weekend together. We usually share one hotel room and alternate who gets the bed and who gets the couch. Needless to say, neither of our better halves is aware of this annual trip. My husband is aware of my friendship, but I am a nonentity as far as my pal's wife is concerned. Until now, our relationship has remained completely platonic, considering the circumstances. I have always been deeply attracted to my friend, at times to the point of distraction. I have no idea whether he is attracted to me. We have a trip coming up soon, and, frankly, I don't know what to expect because I feel the tenor of our relationship has changed from friendship to flirting in the last year. In your opinion, will this platonic trend continue? Is there a chance that he finds me desirable? Your insight would be greatly appreciated.

—Befuddled in Boston

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Dear Be,

Thank you for the compliment, but one doesn't have to be Prudie or insightful to figure out what's happening here. The platonic deal is edging toward flirting because your "better halves" are perhaps a third less scintillating than when you began this routine six years ago. Married women who take "retreats" with male friends, unbeknownst to their husbands, are more than "intuition-impaired." They are tone-deaf, if not brain-dead, about the possibilities for disaster. If this man doesn't soon find you desirable, he will certainly find you either in the bed or on the couch—especially since you are "deeply attracted" to him. Unless you want to blow up both marriages or become guilt-ridden because of your annual "retreats," you need to call a halt to this (so far) sexless, same-time-next-year scenario.

—Prudie, sternly

Dear Prudence,

I am having a problem with my sister-in-law's so-called morals. She is a 23-year-old strict Catholic who goes to church every Sunday and occasionally sings. Here is the problem. She is in a relationship that just started about a month ago. They are hitting it off great. However, after their first date, she told him that she doesn't believe in sex until marriage. This is where it gets annoying. She has had sex with at least five guys, not to mention that she used to be a total wild child (drugs, alcohol, etc.). Also, she will do EVERYTHING else but actual "love-making." I ask her why she just won't have sex, and she says that she thinks it's wrong. I told her that if she is doing everything else, then what is the difference? I think she is being a total hypocrite. What do you think?

—Annoyed

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Dear Ann,

Prudie thinks there are too many people in this new romance, and the superfluous one is you. It is not your business if your sister-in-law chooses to revirginize herself, nor should it concern you if she is trying to prove that one can lock the barn door after the horse is already out. Prudie thinks that perhaps worse than her hypocrisy is her big mouth. Your s-i-l is obviously talking way too much about personal things. Perhaps if you two found other things to discuss, you would feel less "annoyed" and she would not have her "morals" on trial with you as the judge.

—Prudie, discreetly

Dear Prudie,

Can two people have a good and long-lasting relationship if one of them doesn't like the other's friends? My boyfriend and I have been together for two years. We love each other and enjoy each other's company. However, I don't like his friends. I used to think they just happened not to be the kind of people who would interest me, but lately I have realized that no matter how hard I try, I will never like them. They are the sort of people who, if you mention that you like the Backstreet Boys, will exclaim, "Oh no, 'N Sync is really the best boy band." They are also not very intelligent, and once one of them mimicked me while I was trying to tell a story. Sometimes I wonder how my sweet, funny boyfriend could be friends with such unappetizing people, but they've been friends for years. Some of them have been friends with my boyfriend since elementary school. I've told him that I refuse to be with his friends anymore, and he's OK with that, but I'm worried about the implications for our relationship. Does it mean anything if I can't stand the people he likes?

—Worried

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Dear Wor,

Well, yes. It means you have very different taste in the kinds of people you enjoy being with. There is something, however, about longtime friends—from elementary school, yet—that gives them special status. The good news is that your boyfriend has excused you from spending time with these people. The real test for your relationship is this: Do the friends you've made together suit both of you? Are there any friends you both like? A couple with totally different criteria for selecting friends does not have the best chance for a smooth future.

—Prudie, compatibly

Dear Prudie,

I work in a professional office with four other women. Every Monday morning there is a meeting that takes place in the conference room of our office. Representatives from different departments attend this meeting, including one woman who consistently overdoes it on the perfume. She wears it so heavily that once she has entered our office, we are all assaulted by her fragrance. At times we can actually "taste" it as we try to sip our coffee or have a morning snack. One or more of us inevitably winds up with a headache by the time she leaves. And once she has left, her perfume lingers in our office for the remainder of the morning. She is a very nice lady with a sensitive personality, and none of us wants to hurt her feelings, BUT we all agree that if it were one of us, we would want to be told. Is there ever a nice way to tell someone that their scent is offensive? Thinking that if there was such a way, we thought that you would know how to pull it off. 

—Aromatically Overwhelmed

Dear Aro,

You have come to the right place because Prudie has been on both sides of this situation. As a rule, too much cologne, perfume, eau de whatever, or strong air freshener in cars makes Prudie want to retch. It literally makes you sick when someone overdoes it with the smell-goods. That said, a mere two weeks ago, Dr. Pussycat mentioned that Prudie's perfume was raaather strong. For whatever reason, Prudie could not smell a thing. So ... designate the sweetest woman in the office to take this woman aside and make the following points. "Everybody loves you, you have great taste and style, we hope you won't misunderstand our intentions, however ... we know you're not aware of it, but you are wearing enough perfume to have given some people headaches. We knew you'd want to be told because it has been scientifically proven that the wearer of scent does not receive its full wallop." (Prudie is the scientist here.) Shall we bet that after the heart-to-heart, this woman's perfume will not linger in the room an hour after she's left?

—Prudie, freshly