Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 10 2003 7:41 AM

Yakety-Yak, Do Talk Back

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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 am a 28-year-old single professional woman. I'm not one for long-range plans, but my life as an adult is coming together nicely. I have my own apartment in a city I love, a stable, well-paying job downtown, lots of friends and social engagements, and a cat I am crazy about. I have never been very maternal and have no desire to have children at this point in my life. The problem is my mother. She keeps nagging me about whether I'm ever going to have kids. I don't know how to shut her up. She's getting increasingly less subtle and has even indicated that she just wants me to say "yes" to the question of whether I will have children someday, even if it's not true. How do I respond? I want to tell her to give it up, that I will never reproduce (even though I haven't ruled out the possibility completely yet). How do I tell her the truth without breaking her heart?

—Always an Aunt, Never a Mom

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Dear Al,

Depending on how much of a people-pleaser you are, you could respond in one of a few ways. The first would be to just say "yes" since the grandmother wannabe has implied that even an insincere affirmative would make her feel better. Another option is to bite the bullet and tell her everyone gets one life to live (unless you're in Shirley MacLaine's camp) and therefore gets to make his or her own choices about what to do with that life. Prudie acknowledges that mothers have a special place in a woman's psyche, but she also believes that anyone who poses the question, "So where's the baby?" is a yenta … even if it's your mother asking. Your life cannot be subordinate to her wishes for you, so you might consider telling her that motherhood, like marriage, is not for everyone, and you just don't feel the urge yet to have a little one. If you really can't stand it another minute, simply tell Mama that if you wanted to hear the patter of little feet, you would put shoes on the cat.

—Prudie, definitively

Dear Prudence,

I have a cute little dog who seems to turn heads wherever I go. I chose the dog based on the breed's temperament and ease of ownership. I love my dog and enjoy taking her out on her daily walks. However, I can't seem to walk more than a couple steps without someone stopping me to ask what type of dog she is and trying to start a conversation with me. I live in a densely populated area, so it's not feasible for me to walk her where no people are around. While I'm knowledgeable about the breed and don't mind talking about my dog sometimes, I'm not always in the mood (nor do I have the time) to discuss my dog with strangers. Is there a polite way of ignoring people or telling them I'm not interested in discussing my dog with them?

—Dawg-Gone Cute

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Dear Dawg,

Often, in the world of dog people, there is a clublike feeling whereby many owners enjoy talking with others in the "club." (Don't faint, but there are people who advise those looking for dates to get a dog and walk it.) Because Fifi is an attention-getter but you often don't wish to receive that attention, there a few dodges open to you. You could 1) point to your ear and gesture that you have a hearing deficiency; 2) 
say in another language, if you can manage it, "I don't speak English"; or 3) say the name of the dog's breed and announce you are already late for an appointment as you advance down the block.

—Prudie, speedily

Dear Prudence,

I am engaged to a great man. We have a trusting, communicative, fun relationship. My uneasiness lies in the issue of his ex-girlfriend, "Sara." My significant other would like to remain friends with Sara, which is fine with me. However, I feel as though Sara is having a hard time convincing herself that it is truly over between them. She e-mails him and tries to call him every week. I understand that she is having some difficulties in her life and feels as though she can confide in and rely on him, but a line has to be drawn somewhere.
 We are both graduate students, and money is tight. Sara often offers to help pay for my fiance's tuition, fly into town to take him shopping for clothes, fly him out to the city where she lives and take him to the NBA finals, etc. She is quite a bit older and makes a good living. It is nice that Sara is willing to help out if my fiance needs it, but should he accept the things she offers? My fiance will be spending the next year before we get married working on his Ph.D. in an area near her residence. From e-mails I've seen and phone calls I've heard, she is really excited for him to be out there, where they can "spend a lot more time together." I know my man has explained the situation to her, and I trust him to be faithful to me. Yet I feel as though he needs to be firmer with Sara, setting some limits if her behavior is inappropriate. Any advice for the situation?

—Seeking Help

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Dear Seek,

Prudie doesn't think it's so nice of "Sara" to offer to spend lavishly on your fiance and thinks it would be worse if your young man accepted any of the goodies. He would then be getting very close to gigolo territory. She is not trying to be the Bank of America out of the goodness of her heart; she is trying to bribe him back into a relationship. This, of course, would mean throwing you overboard. In a perfect world, your doctoral-candidate fiance would know that he cannot "be friends" with this woman. If he doesn't see it your way and lobbies for the "friendship," Prudie suspects your engagement will be called off.

—Prudie, definitely

Dear Prudence,

I know it's summer, but I've been thinking this over for months. Spring break brought hundreds of students to the Venice beaches. The "in thing" now is tattoos on both sexes—upper-arm biceps and barbed wire above the elbow, mostly on males. Girls go for a hieroglyphic item just above the bikini bottoms on the back. These young people would not be eligible for government positions where concealed identity is a must.

—Concerned Senior

Dear Con,

OK, so the tattooed kids can't work for the government. Prudie does not regard this as a problem … except for maybe the tattooed kids. It is nice, however, that there are concerned seniors who are willing to monitor girls' bikini bottoms, along with young men's biceps and elbows. Prudie imagines that the next spring break cannot come fast enough to suit you.

—Prudie, expectantly