Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 3 2002 11:22 AM

Were They Registered for Therapy?

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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 was recently a bridesmaid at a very elaborate (read: expensive) wedding. Apparently the bridal couple had a number of problems, not the least of which resulted in them being met at the airport upon returning from the honeymoon by both sets of parents demanding that each return to their respective homes. The bride is in rehab—and the groom is filing for annulment. The marriage lasted less than two weeks. Here's the question. I (and the bride's mother) have encouraged her to return the wedding gifts, some of which were quite expensive. The bride says she "earned" them. My mom's '70s copy of the
Vogue Book of Etiquette says nothing about this situation.

—Glad I Hadn't Purchased Her Gift Yet

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Dear Glad,

You have no dog in this fight, as it were—not having purchased a gift—but here's Prudie's thinking on the matter. Classical etiquette (alas, being jettisoned, right and left) says when you're married, you're married; ergo, the bride has "earned" the gifts. It would be graceful for the briefly tenured bride to return things, but she could make a case for not doing so. Emily Post said that, in such a situation, you feel so bad for such a couple that you want them to keep the gifts. Imagine how you would feel if you walked down the aisle, returned home in two weeks to a posse of irate parents, went into rehab ... etc. In other words, some pricey loot is, for the donors, an unfortunate expenditure, and for the bride, cold comfort.

—Prudie, philosophically

Dear Prudence,

My stepbrother and his wife are newly married and have an 18-month-old daughter. His wife does not work. She stays home to take care of their daughter and has begun entering her in baby pageants. Not just one, but one or two every weekend—sometimes in their city, sometimes in neighboring cities. Every time the baby is in a new pageant, I get bombarded with e-mails filled with photos. This irritates me for two reasons: 1) My in-box is constantly filled with these huge files; 2) I don't agree with the whole baby pageant thing at all. I think it is horrible to do that to a child who is still too young to decide whether it is something she wants to do. My stepsister-in-law just assumes that everyone will be so thrilled to see these pictures, but in reality, it makes me sick to see her all dressed up like a tiny prostitute. How do I tell her that I don't want to see any more pictures, ever?

—Revolted

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Dear Rev,

It is indeed sad that the woman you write about is helping the baby to have this kind of "fun." To tart up a toddler for a competition, yet, is misguided at best. For a first try at saving the day, not to mention the baby, perhaps a heart-to-heart with your stepbrother, educating him about the situation, might prove useful. (Prudie does not want any mail about how these cattle calls for kids teach them poise.) As for the photos, tell the stage mother that because the enterprise makes you uncomfortable, you would prefer not to be sent the pictures. She will likely not give a rat's patootie what you think, but you will at least stop receiving the pictures.

—Prudie, photogenically

Dear Prudence,

I have been with my husband, just short of an idiot, for four and a half years. We have been married for not quite a year and a half. Out of the blue, he came to me and said he needed to find himself. He was not sure about marriage, etc. I asked him to leave. Now he calls all the time saying how much he loves me and that he is coming back ... eventually. He says he can't guarantee that there will be no one else while we are apart. At this time should I hand him a flashlight to assist in his "search," or divorce papers? 

—Maybe a Wife

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Dear May,

This guy's some salesman. He certainly knows how to make it attractive for you to wait, doesn't he? Alas, many of the people who leave a marriage to "find themselves" seldom know where to look ... though somehow it turns out to be in a singles' bar. Tell Mr. Restless to stretch his "eventually" into "forever," and invite him to sample as many somebody elses as he has time for because you and your lawyer are deep-sixing the marriage. Best of luck to you, and Prudie feels that whatever your next move is, it will be an improvement.

—Prudie, singly

Dear Prudence,

I am dating a single father who not only spends a lot of time with his daughter, but also "fathering" his ex-wife. I understand his priority will always be his daughter, and I am willing to accept that, but when it comes to taking care of the emotional needs of the ex-wife, I become angry and feel neglected. We can only squeeze in dates once everyone else is taken care of first. I think the situation is becoming too crowded. What do you think?

—Sincerely,

P. O.'d

Dear P.,

Two's company, three's a crowd, and the needy ex-wife is a deal-breaker. You are not going to loosen this man's bond to his former wife, so cut to the chase and tell him adios. You might suggest, if you're feeling charitable, that he and the ex see a couples' counselor because they seem to be, consciously or not, a couple.

Prudie, clarifyingly