Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
April 17 2003 11:19 AM

Dishing It Out, and Taking It, Too

9_dearprudence_01

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.)

Prudie thought, for fun, she would let you see examples of the two different kinds of letters she gets from readers, letting her know how they think she's doing.

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Dear Prudence,

After reading some of the choice quotes, summaries, and tall tales you are sending out to most people who foolishly ask you for advice, I can come to only one conclusion: You are a femi-Nazi, black-boot wearing, lesbian harpy with a chip on your shoulder the size of Detroit in the winter and the bearer of the most worthless advice I have ever heard being handed out. A dead rat in a field in Des Moines has more important things to say than you do. I bet you yourself have NEVER had a date, let alone anyone interested enough to even ask. If you didn't hate guys so much, perhaps you could possibly one day have one by your side. I feel sorry for all the poor losers who have to write to you to have their little problems "vanquished" by your "wisdom."

—Your Boyfriend (Oh wait, you don't have one of those, do you?)

You are correct about Prudie having no boyfriend. She is quite certain it would not sit well with her present husband. And do send up a flare if that dead rat in Des Moines comes up with anything interesting. You are a very colorful correspondent, and Prudie does not mind in the least that your missive is silly claptrap.

—Prudie, amusedly

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Miss Prudence,

While I am quite sure you get many letters of thanks from longtime readers, I would like to add mine, being a periodic reader. Thank you for being consistent, compassionate, and grounded in reality. Other "Dear …" columns are all too frequently harsh and often self-serving. Or so it seems to me. Your columns are frequently topical as well as honest without being abrasive. Thank you. I am starting to find myself reading your columns on a more regular basis. I suppose one of these days I may well write you with a question of my own.   

—Martin T.

Thank you, kind sir. Write anytime.

—Prudie, appreciatively

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Dear Prudie,

I have been married to my second husband almost five years now, and I often talk to his ex-wife concerning problems with their child. (She insists she cannot talk to my husband without them fighting.) While we discuss problems and solutions for the child, she always ends up going to another subject—which is my husband and how their marriage broke up. It is clear she is not over it or him. I know she is dating, and yet she needs to get over the divorce. (She is the one who filed.) I just need to know how to deal with this and yet keep communication open for my stepchild so that he stays in the forefront, not her. I am uncertain how to handle this. 

—Torn

Dear Tor,

Being direct is really your best option. Tell the ex the little boy is very lucky to have all parents pulling together on his behalf, but it is not comfortable for you to be discussing your husband with her, and you don't think it's good for her, either. You might suggest that since she obviously has not closed that chapter, she ought to consider going to a therapist—which you are not. Give that a shot, and see if the conversations don't improve.

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—Prudie, tactically

Dear Prudence,

I met this guy, and we dated for about four months. He is almost 10 years older than me. After about six months, everything was going OK, and I moved in with him. I stayed with him for about a month, then we got into an argument, so I moved home. We continued to see each other but not as much as we were before. Well, one day on my way to work, I stopped by, without calling first, and lo and behold, he was in his room with the mother of his two kids, and she looked like she had spent the night. I didn't do any drama-queen scene; I just said hello to both of them and walked out without saying anything. That was three months ago, and he has started calling me again. Prudence, I still love the guy. Would I be a fool to go back to him? I know they always say they will never do it again, but I really want to believe him.

—Still Foolish?

Dear Still,

If you care for him, as you say you do, all that can happen if you give him a second chance is that he can disappoint you again. There is a chance that his misstep, and your ringing off, chastened him. Prudie is usually in favor of playing out the string so that however things work out, you will feel secure in your decision and not spend your life guessing about "what if?" And compliments on your cool response to the sleepover company.

—Prudie, fatefully