Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 17 2002 10:57 AM

When Your ISP Leads to an ISO

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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 a 25-year-old African-American woman. I have been dating a wonderful guy (let's call him "James") for the last two years. I say wonderful because he is by far the best boyfriend ever. We met in school and have been inseparable ever since. I love him, and I know he loves me. When my last boyfriend cheated on me with an online honey, James was there to offer a shoulder and an ear. With his help, I overcame a lot of hurt and emotional pain. Anyway, I digress. For a long time, I have known the names and passwords of most of James' accounts, including his e-mail. I have checked his mail from time to time only to find nothing. He was the perfect guy, so for a long time I didn't check his mail until recently. I saw that he joined an online dating service, so I checked that site. It said that he was looking for a "discreet sexual encounter" with someone who preferably had her own apartment. This is like my last relationship all over again. Here is this guy who says he loves me, who says that he wants to marry me ... and he's looking for a "sexual encounter." He has showed no signs, positively no signs of disappointment with our relationship. I don't mean to sound like the typical
Jenny Jones guest, but there you are. I know I did wrong by checking his mail. And I can't tell him I checked his mail because he said his ex-girlfriend did the same thing and it ruined their relationship. What should I do? I am stumped because I really don't want to go through what I went through in my last relationship. Please help.

—Nervous and Hurt

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Dear Nerv,

You can't sit on the information you have because it will make you nuts. Prudie suggests you fess up about the e-mail "discovery." To counter his argument that his last girlfriend did this and it ruined the relationship, simply tell him that YOUR last boyfriend did what he did—and it ruined the relationship. If the romance tanks, so be it; better now than later. He may beg your forgiveness and apologize profusely. Then it's your call ... though it's hard to imagine a good excuse for advertising for a horny woman with an apartment. Prudie is a believer in the old bromide that knowledge is power, and when it's your future involved, it doesn't much matter how you got the "knowledge."

—Prudie, directly

Dear Prudence,

I've been seeing a certain guy for the last few weeks. We've been out on a few dates and talk regularly on the phone. There were a few things in his behavior/manners that bothered me a bit (e.g., he's never opened a door for me), but I blamed it on dating jitters or immaturity (he's four years younger) ... until now. We set definite plans to get together this past Sunday, and he failed to show up—without a phone call to say he was canceling. I received a voice mail and a lame e-mail from him today saying: "I am really sorry about not calling you yesterday. I basically misplaced my cell phone late Saturday night. I was out all day Sunday, didn't get home until 10 p.m., and had no way of contacting you. I checked my answering machine during the day, but you didn't leave your number, which was programmed into my cell. I am really sorry and hope I have a chance to make it up to you." I'm sorry, but is that a valid excuse?!  Unless somebody is DEAD, I don't see a valid excuse for behavior like this. My home phone number is listed in the yellow pages. I am taking this as a clear signal he's just not interested. What do you think?

—Looking for a REAL Man

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Dear Look,

Prudie hopes your number is not really in the yellow pages, dear, but to answer your question: It's not the four-year age difference. Prudie's son opened doors for ladies when he was prepubescent. As for this chap's leeengthy excuse about cell phones, Saturday, Sunday, programmed numbers, etc., that was just a long way of saying the dog ate his homework. Prudie would not go so far as to state flat-out that he's not interested ... just that perhaps he had something better to do. Your instinct to now have a perpetual busy signal is one with which Prudie would concur.

—Prudie, affirmingly

Dear Pru,

I have a friend who met her fiance via the Internet. It wasn't through a personal ad; they happened to talk in a chat room ... and after more chatting and e-mails, it moved to phone calls—and eventually they met. After that, they began dating, fell in love, and, five years later, are about to be married. They did not feel comfortable disclosing how they met. Though their close friends know the real story, they are telling everyone else they met through a "mutual friend." Do you think they have to tell people that this mutual friend is AOL?

—Sincerely,

Friend of Internet Success Story

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Dear Friend,

They absolutely do not have to tell people, if they are squeamish about it. Should they want to have some fun, however, they might say the introduction was made by their good friend, Mr. Warner (AOL being a Time Warner company). Or they could just say the matchmaker was some yahoo. (Only kidding.)

—Prudie, playfully

Dear Prudence,

I am constantly surrounded by loud talkers. You know the kind; they are practically shouting when having a conversation with you. It's really starting to interfere with my life—roommates talking loudly on the phone, at work the girl in the office next door. How do I go about confronting them and asking them to quiet it down without sounding completely rude?

—Thanks,

Needing Peace and Quiet

Dear Need,

Lose the idea of "confronting" them. You don't want the high-decibel crowd to become defensive because then they'll never pipe down. What you need to do is broach the subject very gingerly ... it being a delicate matter to tell people they're loud. Prudie knows about this firsthand because, as a youngster, her mother would say, "Modulate your voice." Perhaps you might open the discussion by saying that you have unusually acute hearing, and you'd appreciate it if they made an effort to speak more softly. You might throw in that you're sure they're unaware that they're broadcasting. Should all your tactful efforts fall on, well, deaf ears, the next move is earplugs. Alas, the shouters can be heard even with them in, but everything will be more muted.

—Prudie, auditorially