Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
March 27 2003 11:28 AM

Straighten Up and Fly Right

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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 Prudie,

I'm hoping you can help! I am in a tough jam. I am a lesbian living with my lifetime partner and a son from a previous relationship. My family is both supportive and understanding, but my partner's mother is very assertive in making our life miserable. Let's call her "Mother." I would be more than willing to cut Mother loose, as dealing with her is very unhealthy, but she lent us a large sum of money in an emergency. I am grateful to this woman because her money kept me and my partner above water, but how can I be grateful to a woman who leaves her daughter in tears or fits of anger after every conversation? The one time my son was at Mother's house, my partner was scolded and told to never bring "that child" over when she was baby-sitting. My name is never to be mentioned, and the mere fact that we live together is enough for Mother to tell her daughter to "get her priorities straight," pun intended. How do I act toward this woman? The way I get treated is ridiculous, but I am indebted to her, literally. 

—Gratefully Disgusted

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Dear Grate,

Things would be less painful if you did not interact with this woman at all. She doesn't like you, she doesn't like your son, and she doesn't like that her daughter is a lesbian. Your partner should, for the time being, abide by her mother's wishes not to mention your name or bring over the little boy. When, however, the loan is paid back, perhaps your partner will choose, with you, to become a Mother-less child. Abuse, in any form, need not be tolerated.

—Prudie, practically

Dear Ma'am,

I am married to a loving, brilliant, and tolerant man. The problem is his mother ... naturally. I am Wiccan, and his mother is a devout Christian. She knows nothing yet of my religion. She is always sending me "stuff" that she thinks we need, e.g., religious pamphlets, messages, etc. I would like it to stop, but I don't want to upset her. How on Earth does one tell a Christian that one isn't? That tends to only encourage them further ... you know, "Let's save the heathen." My husband is neutral on the subject, so it is my situation. She will be spending the next holiday with us, and I am nervous about it. I am not going to church ... which she expects, and I will conduct my own ritual, which she will NOT expect. So, how do I handle this without causing too much of a fuss? 

—Trying To Keep Cool

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Dear Try,

No mainstream column today, is it? First a lesbian, then a witch. And not such a good day for mothers-in-law, either. There are, actually, things you can do to finesse the situation. It shouldn't be so hard to tell someone that your belief system is different from theirs. You might send the m-i-l literature about your religion—sort of a witch's tit for tat. Perhaps you could accompany your husband and his mother to church, just as an onlooker, unless there is a prohibition against it. Or, you could put a spell on her. (Just kidding.) Seriously, you do need to tamp this down and are perhaps making a bigger kerfuffle over it than is necessary. This will surely not be the first time someone has been taken aback by your beliefs.

—Prudie, ecumenically

Dear Prudence,

We cannot seem to get our mail carrier to stop "visiting" us. Several months ago our carrier, "Lynn," was chatting with my husband at the mailbox and she told him she had been looking for her father for the past 35 years. My sweet husband offered to help and wrote down the name and an old address and gave it to me to research. I did a search (which took about three minutes) and found names and numbers of her missing relatives, and they all had a wonderful reunion. Sounds great, right? Wrong! Lynn now stops by everyday to "visit." These visits are never short, and it's almost impossible to get her to leave. Lately, we've not answered the door and tried to make it appear that we're not home (in which case she leaves notes that she will drop in the next day). Not only are we tired of seeing her so much, we have absolutely nothing in common! The harder we try to separate from her, the tighter she clings. How does one gracefully exit a forced friendship without hurting feelings? 

—Hiding at Home

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Dear Hide,

She is grateful; you are busy. What a pity when people have no antennae and little judgment. Your situation brings to mind the old saying, "No good deed goes unpunished." In the kinds of instances where people are just thick, Prudie is in favor of being direct, though as kindly as possible. Because you should not have to hide in your own house from someone delivering the mail, decide whether it should be you or your husband who tells "Lynn" that you are very pleased you were able to help her but that the daily conversations don't work for you. Should she lasso you when you're outside, simply say, "Gotta go!" There is no reason you should be held captive by people with neither brains nor sensitivity.

—Prudie, hurriedly

Dear Prudence,

I met a girl at a New Year's party I really liked. She gave me her phone number, and I called her a couple nights later. She answered the phone and asked if she could call me back in a few minutes, but she didn't call back. The next night I tried again and got her answering machine, on which I left a short, polite message saying that I missed hearing from her the night before and left my number for her to call. She didn't call. OK, so not a huge deal I guess. But this has happened to me so many times. I just don't get it. I'm basically a decent, attractive, intelligent, polite 24-year-old guy. I have an active social life and many friends. "Here's my phone number"; "Call me"; "Hey! I'll call you right back." Then nothing. Is this just the standard blowoff when a girl isn't interested? Do I have a bad "phone voice"?

—Whatever

Dear What,

Never having spoken with you on the phone, Prudie cannot answer the question about your voice, but she does hear the plaint in your query. You are right that the "call you right back" people who never do are not interested in going forward. The wild card, however, is that you have an active social life and many friends, so it can't be that you have an off-putting personality. Perhaps you might ask one of your good friends to level with you and speculate why it might be that women who interest you are not inclined to reciprocate. Just a thought.

—Prudie, investigatively