Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

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Advice on manners and morals.
April 24 2003 11:09 AM

Climbing the Corporate Ladder, Horizontally


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Dear Prudence,

One of my co-workers is sleeping with the boss. This would not bother me if I didn't have to pick up the slack from the work she does not do. She is constantly coming to work two hours late and leaving two hours early. She also takes very long lunches. We are on salary, so she is being paid for the time that she is absent. I am stuck doing the work she is unable to do and often have to stay late to finish my work as a result. Should I say something to either my boss or my associate, and if so, how do I approach the subject? Thank you!

—Frustrated at the Job


Dear Frus,

Indeed you do need to bring up the problem, though with luck the person to whom you take your distress is not the person with whom the shirker is shacked up. One might infer from your letter that this woman is working a two-hour day. It is not your responsibility to do someone else's work in addition to your own. When you do report your situation to whomever, don't mention the romantic component, just the overload factor due to the woman's hours. A point worth mentioning is that you were not hired and are not being paid to do your job and someone else's. Prudie predicts things will get straightened around.

—Prudie, correctively

Dear Prudie,

I'm sure you have gotten lots of e-mails about mothers-in-law, but I don't know how many are like my m-i-l to be. I am engaged to a wonderful man who is of another culture. Being the youngest of eight, his parents are the same age as my grandparents. His mother, we feel, is getting a bit senile, and she has gotten into the habit of asking women (young women) who are a little bit chubby if they "have a baby in there." This is very embarrassing. I have been a victim of this question, as has a friend of mine who did have a baby several months ago but hasn't yet lost her "baby" fat. Both of his parents, who are thin, continually fuss at my fiance and me about our weight, providing solutions such as drinking apple cider vinegar and eating fruit all day. As I am hypoglycemic, this is not possible, nor do I want to live on a diet of vinegar. I have lost 50 pounds in the past year and a half and was feeling better about myself. We have explained this to them several times, but they seem to forget! I would like to ask her/them to quit asking my not-so-slender friends if they have a baby in there. Our wedding is in the fall, and I have an aunt who is 300 pounds, and I worry about his mother asking her if she has a baby in there. As far as I'm concerned, neither limited English nor being of another culture is an excuse for such blatant rudeness.



Dear Chub,

Being of another culture or speaking limited English is no excuse, but being on your way to gaga is. If your future m-i-l is, as you say, becoming a bit senile, you will not be able to alter this behavior, nor would she be able to remember your "suggestions." As for your large aunt, it would serve your purpose to warn her in advance about the impairment and to share with her the standard question about "the baby in there." It is too bad that you have to make the rounds warning everyone who is not a sylph that your m-i-l has this "quirk," but there is no one who will not understand. It is certainly better to be forewarned.

—Prudie, weightily

Dear Pru,

Let me start by saying that I have a sister who had lived with my parents and me for 20 years until her children grew up. She never dated or went anywhere. She dedicated her time to her children. Now she's met someone, and of course we are happy for her, BUT ... she moved in with the man and took her teenage children with her. My sister totally changed! She defended the new man in her life instead of her children. My niece moved out and came back to live with her grandparents. My nephew about five months later was sitting watching TV in his room when this jerk (boyfriend) came in and started beating him. My sister, instead of defending her child, called me to go pick him up to take him to the emergency room. I hated that man that day and still do today. My nephew went through so much pain and hurt because his mother did not defend him. She stayed with the boyfriend in the house. What is wrong with her? Now my nephew lives with me and his grandparents. As for me, I am not married and have no children; these kids are my children. What I want to know is: How do I help my sister understand what she did wrong when at one time her children meant the world to her? My sister and her son no longer speak.

—Broken Heart


Dear Broke,

Your sister's behavior is quite disgraceful. Alas, what is driving the situation is that she was, and is, so hungry for a romantic partner that she is willing to "overlook" this terrible man's actions and override the maternal instinct she used to have. There is nothing you can do to set her straight, so stop trying. Your best contribution would be to help your niece and nephew understand that there is nothing wrong with them, but their mother has made a terribly wrong turn. And bless you and their grandparents for being there for them.

—Prudie, mercifully

Dear Prudence,

I was recently married, and as a wedding gift, my new brother-in-law offered to take photos for us. I was told, by the brother-in-law as well as other family members, that he had professional equipment and had done many weddings. He showed up with one regular 35 mm camera and some film he purchased at a discount store on his way to the wedding. (He told me this.) I asked about having them developed, and he said, "Oh, just take them where you usually have your film developed." I'm sure you can see where this is heading. My photos are awful, and there's not a way in the world to retake them, save having another wedding, which I'm giving serious thought to. They're so poorly done that I have just one shot of myself and the groom; we do, however, have a moment-by-moment record of us being deluged with rice. I have no photos of the ceremony or even me and my father walking down the aisle. There are, however, pictures of empty pews and people milling around in the background. I'm sure you can tell at this point I'm at my wits' end—friends and family keep asking to see pictures, but Prudie, I'm embarrassed to show them to anyone. Do you have any advice as to how I can salvage my photos—I mean, my snapshots—and if I will ever be able to resist the urge to choke this man during family get-togethers?

—Photo-Shy Bride

Dear Pho,

If misery loves company, you are not alone when it comes to having wedding pictures loused up. Prudie hopes you are not seriously considering redoing the wedding, except for, perhaps, you, your husband, and your dad dressing up and having a portrait photographer take a few formal pictures. That the brother-in-law foisted himself on you, claiming much experience, no less, is unfortunate. The damage, however, is done, and with time perhaps you will develop a sense of perspective, if not humor, about the mishap. The full coverage of your Uncle Ben's moment might provide at least one good memory. Because Prudie has extensive experience along these lines, she can tell you that people seldom look at wedding albums after they've seen them a few times. As karmic encouragement, she will also tell you that for her best marriage there are NO pictures, for her second-best there was only one, and the husbands she could have lived without both came with elaborate photographic evidence.

—Prudie, memorably