Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 26 2002 11:41 AM

Mind Your Own Marriage

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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 have been dating my boyfriend for five years, and we are very happy and still young (in our 20s). We want to make sure we are settled before we take the plunge because neither of us wants to deal with divorce. The problem is that my boyfriend's new stepmother is bombarding us with constant talk about marriage and kids. We attended the wedding of a friend recently, and now she uses that as a "weapon" to get us hitched. She has made it her mission to see us married off and starting a family. We don't feel ready for such a big step yet. How do I get her and her grown kids to leave us alone about it? I am fed up with all the pressure. Thanks for the advice.

—Happily Unwed

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Dear Hap,

Since the stepmother (and a new one, yet) does not know from omertà, here are your options ... and they all relate to who tells her to pipe down about a subject that's none of her business. You and the beloved might ask his father to pass on your wish for silence. If this doesn't work for you, then your beau could explain your wishes. If HE is not comfortable with this, then how about you? There is no need to be shy about putting this wedding-obsessed woman in her place, and a few well-chosen sentences should do the trick. If, for some reason, none of the above approaches works, be in touch with Prudie again, and she will supply you with a few words of a more, uh, direct nature.

—Prudie, singly 

Dear Pru,

Maybe you can help out with this one. I have a younger brother who's prone to borrowing money and not paying it back. I found this out the hard, expensive way. My problem is not the money ... it's the way the rest of my family is acting. I only get to see my brother during holidays, and this is the only chance that I usually get to bring this matter up. The problem is this: My grandmother does not want me to bring this matter up at all because when I do, an argument starts. I always end up being the bad guy because everyone in my family says that the argument is my fault because I brought up the money. Please, what should I do, as New Year's is fast approaching?

—Black Sheep

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Dear Black,

This is multiple choice, so take your pick. 1) Do not mention the debt at these infrequent gatherings of the clan. Write him a letter. Or two ... or three. 2) When the last get-together is almost over, walk with him, out the door, and then "remind" him of his obligation. 3) Prudie recommends that you process your history with the deadbeat brother and then stop being a lending institution. It is perfectly correct to say—to anyone—that you are not in a position to make grants, like a foundation, and because the promised repayment never happens, you must decline his request for a loan.

—Prudie, pragmatically

Dear Prudence,

I am the director of a nonprofit fund-raising organization. Every year we hold a reception during which one of our unpaid workers is given the Volunteer of the Year award. One volunteer, "Suzette," has worked long and hard over many years for our cause. Unfortunately, despite her hard work, few people like Suzette, who thinks of herself as a forthright, tell-it-like-it-is gal but is regarded by others as tactless and sharp-tongued. A number of our other volunteers refuse to work on projects with her. If she were a paid worker, she'd have been let go long ago; unfortunately it's difficult to fire a volunteer. Recently, Suzette has let it be known that it's about time we voted her the Volunteer of the Year. She has a valid point—the award has been given to others whose service is shorter than hers. Simple fairness dictates that Suzette should get it. My fear is that if I name her the winner, no one will come to the reception to see it presented to her, so unpopular is she. It is entirely possible that the only people in the room that evening will be Suzette, the caterers, and me. Although I am not fond of her, I wouldn't like to see her humiliated. Any suggestions? Thank you very much.

—Flummoxed

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Dear Flum,

This may sound harsh, but Prudie has always felt that it's best—and useful—to deal with things as they are. If "Suzette" is as friendless as you say, and she is leaning on you to give her the award, Prudie would encourage you to let the chips fall where they may ... in this case, the chips being the missing co-workers. And if you do not announce in advance who the winner is, perhaps everyone will be there—and then just sit on their hands. Or ... perhaps you can change the policy and make the Volunteer of the Year award a commendation, suitable for framing, delivered in a big envelope.

—Prudie, alternatively

Dear Prudence,

After reading the letter from the woman who is enraged at the fact that her mother-in-law continues to
spell her name incorrectly, I felt the need to respond and perhaps provide a solution. I understand where she is coming from, though I'm not as angry as I am amused. One of my co-workers insists on calling me a different name nearly every time we speak. The name he calls me is actually not that different from my own. For example, if my name was Raquel, he'd probably call me Rachel. Considering the fact that my co-worker and I are both reporters and our names are in the newspaper at least once a day—and we have been working together for a year and a half—I see no reason for him to get my name wrong. My own family members spell my name incorrectly all the time, so I've gotten used to it. At the very least though, they are consistent in their errors. So I decided that from now on, every time he calls me the wrong name, I will call him the wrong name. The plan is that when he finally corrects me, I'll correct him—good-naturedly of course, so that he knows there aren't any hard feelings. People tend to respond better, I find, when you approach them with humor.

—Another Deviated D

Dear An

Prudie likes your style and, of course, agrees with you about humor, both as a weapon and a tool. Also, as the child of a man who called someone Ernie for 15 years—when it was not his name—Prudie has empathy for anyone who can't get a name right. The bottom line to this quirk, most likely, is that if the name "gets in" wrong, it stays wrong.

—Prudie, (not Trudy) nominally