Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 17 2003 7:23 AM

Little Lies About the Big House

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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,

We have a co-worker whose husband will be in prison for several years. She seems to be a genuinely nice person. The problem? She does not know that we know that her husband is in prison. We found out by word of mouth but verified it via the Web site for the Department of Corrections. She talks about him regularly as if he were not in prison. On Valentine's Day, she showed off the present he supposedly left in the bathroom for her to see first thing when she got up! The constant lies are making us sick, but should we mind our own business? One co-worker suggested putting the DOC printout in her mailbox.

Thanks,

—Disgusted

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Dear Dis,

What you are calling "constant lies" Prudie views as a woman trying to hold her head up. Why on Earth would you want to add to her burden? Those of us without husbands in the slammer cannot begin to imagine the shame and loneliness of such circumstances. What is the harm if she thinks her co-workers don't know that her husband is incarcerated? It is probably what allows her to get up in the morning and go to work. Prudie thinks the real answer here is not that all of you should mind your own business but that you give some thought to feeling compassion and showing humanity. This would not include putting anything in her mailbox. For shame.

—Prudie, wincingly

Dear Prudence,

Quite a while ago, you printed a letter from "
Sincerely Dismayed" on April 10, 2003, and it's still on my mind. It is actually I who am sincerely dismayed because the writer appeared to be in the legal profession and took great pleasure in throwing about legalese in order to explain an everyday situation. I am a lawyer while I am in the office, which is where I leave my lawyer hat. Nothing bothers me more than to hear lawyers using legal language to intimidate and get their way. (I just heard a lawyer do this in a grocery store; he gave a whole argument about notice and due process just to try to get 20 cents a pound off oranges.) Why is it that members of this profession are so arrogant and seem to have a hard time acting like normal people once they leave the office? I assure you we were not trained to be jerks in law school.

—Seeking To Stop the Lawyer Jokes

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Dear Seek,

People who are officious, or use the language of their profession when it's clearly out of place, are trying to paper over some insecurity and seem important. Prudie has come up against what you're talking about, and her response is always, "Subpoena duces tecum." It's a legal, technical term that never has anything to do with the conversation. The lawyer then does a swift, colloquial translation from the Latin and realizes you've told him, essentially, "Come off it."

—Prudie, reciprocally

Dear Prudence,

Where do I start? I have been divorced for over a year and involved with two wonderful men over the course of that year: one whom I've known for more than 30 years and live with ... the other I met at work and have been seeing regularly for nearly a year. They both know about each other, and the three of us often go out and do things together. I love them both with all my heart. If there were a way that I could combine the two, they would be the perfect man! If either of them were to walk out of my life, there would be a horrible empty space. The problem: The guy that I "see," though divorced, has continued to live with his ex-wife, and lately I've been told from many outside sources (including his family) that he is remarrying his ex-wife. I have asked him about this several times, but he insists that it isn't true and doesn't want anything between us to change. I know in my heart that the rumor is true. I also know myself well enough to know that it doesn't matter to me whether he is married or not. We have talked extensively over the course of our relationship about the living arrangements with his ex, and he said he lets her live there because her disability check helps pay expenses and the kids don't want to see her go. Can you give me any insight as to why a guy would be doing something as intense as remarriage and not be able to tell someone he's had a very strong relationship with about it?

—Curious

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Dear Cur,

Your Jules and Jim arrangement sounds a little jiggy, but to answer your question about why a man would remarry his ex and not fess up: The reason is that he wants to hold onto the "very strong relationship" he is enjoying with you. To recall a catchphrase from some years ago, denial is not just a river in Egypt. This man figures if he says it isn't so, you will believe him. Though perhaps old-fashioned of Prudie, she believes that a man who loves one woman does not marry another one for her disability check. And the fact that "the kids don't want to see her go" apparently carried no weight with him when he divorced this woman the FIRST time. Regarding the broader subject of your romantic life, perhaps you should try to live by the old rule of "one to a customer." And here's a little suggestion for the big picture: Instead of looking for insight as to why your second boyfriend behaves as he does, you would do well to turn your behavioral microscope inward and gain some insight into your behavior.

—Prudie, frowningly

Dear Prudence,

I have been married for four and a half years, and we have a baby boy. I love my husband and am totally committed to our son. Here my dilemma: I work with a single father of two, and he is a wonderful man. I think I am falling in love with him. I feel that special something for him that I no longer feel for my husband. What do you suggest?

Sincerely,

—Way Out of Line?

Dear Way,

Prudie suggests that you concentrate on your love for your husband so that HE becomes the "wonderful man" that you are focusing on. It's a sure bet that if you do not switch that "special something" you are feeling back to your husband, you will be a divorced woman before you can say "infatuation."

—Prudie, prophetically