Listen to Dear Prudence give advice on NPR's Day to Day.
I need your advice on how to deal with an uncomfortable situation at work. I am an administrative nurse in a nursing home and share an office with another nurse, whom I will call "Vicki." Vicki is gay and quite open about it. I don't have a problem with that; however, this woman feels the need to share information with me that I have no interest in hearing, regardless of what one's sexual orientation happens to be. She talks about sex frequently. I have a LOT of difficulty setting boundaries and have had similar problems in the past with people sharing really inappropriate information. I guess I don't know how to say, "I would really rather not know that." Well, today, Vicki started talking about body piercing and asked if I wanted to see her nipple ring, and all I could think of was to (very weakly) say, "Um, OK." So, she whipped out her breast for me to see the nipple ring. Is there a polite way to tell this woman that I have no interest in hearing about her sex life or seeing any part of her body that is customarily clothed in the office? If not, then what is the least rude way to get that point across?
—Overwhelmed in the Office
Prudie does not wish to rag on you, but you have been very passive about something that is entirely within your control to put a lid on. And the last time Prudie checked, appropriate office behavior did not include baring one's breast so a co-worker could see someone's, uh, breast jewelry. This woman was not offering you a cup of tea. "Um, OK," is not the correct response when you are thinking, "No!" You really should disabuse yourself of the idea that it's problematic to say what you think or to tell anyone that you do not wish to hear his or her personal details. The kids call it TMI … too much information. Go and do likewise.
My fiance and I—neither of whom have been married before—are planning and paying for our wedding. Because we do not want a big, lavish ceremony (nor can we afford one) and because we have been to too many other ceremonies where the bridal shower, wedding gift, bachelor and bachelorette parties, etc. have amounted to a small fortune, we've decided to make things simple for ourselves and our guests. There will be no attendants or groomsmen, no showers or parties, no multiple-store gift registries. As we're in our late 20s and have lived on our own for several years, we already have enough household items and do not need more. Instead, we are planning to ask our guests to give monetary gifts rather than buying toasters or dishes. We have received some flak from our family about the lack of tradition. I know this is our day, and it is completely up to us how we want to celebrate it, but we would like an objective third party (you!) to give your opinion. Thank you very much.
Tradition is taking it in the neck these days, so don't get too worked up about the flak you're receiving. We are living at a time when a dog has served as "best man," couples tie the knot on Ferris wheels, and more than a few brides have waltzed down the aisle in maternity clothes. For better or for worse, we are making new traditions. To tell you the truth, your thinking is sound about needless presents and multiple parties. But because wedding gifts of cash are associated with the Sopranos, humor might soften the situation, especially since your wedding sounds like it's going to be a warm and informal affair. Perhaps enclose a note with your invitation saying, basically, what you wrote to Prudie. For example:
We're having no showers or parties and such.
We've got all our "stuff," so our needs are not much.
What we could use most (and it's one-size-fits-all)
Is the check of your choice … and no trip to the mall.
I really have no idea what's just happened to me. I was seeing "Josh," and we had discussed a future together—on more than one occasion. The next thing I know, what was a wonderful romantic relationship has blown apart for no reason. Josh told me that he just woke up one day and realized I wasn't "the one." It is now apparent that the one who seems like "the one" is a woman about eight years older than he is who lost her husband a few years ago. She is well-fixed financially, but I cannot believe this matters to Josh. I do not know what to think. What do you think?
—Heartbroken Former Girlfriend
Apparently Josh saw a widow of opportunity. This kind of sudden and inexplicable behavior is always difficult to come to terms with. For some men, a rich widow is irresistible, and perhaps your ex falls into this category. (Maybe he lusted after a Harley or a Hummer or something.) In any case, consider yourself lucky that you did not wind up with a man who wakes up one day and declares—with no amplification, yet—that he has reconsidered. As the song says, you are a sadder but wiser girl. Nevertheless, Prudie knows you will land on your feet, and she wishes you well. And if it's any comfort, Prudie's mother always said of people who married for money, "It's a tough way to make a living."
I am in the middle of a breakup due to the fact that my Mr. doesn't believe fidelity is part of the marriage commitment. Then, a couple of days ago, I read an article in the newspaper that said that divorces are not a bad thing—that the root of the cultural evil in this world is marriage. The author of this article was a woman! What am I supposed to think, as a mid-20s woman—is a marriage with fidelity possible in this day and age? I trust your wisdom—please help!
Prudie certainly agrees that divorces are not a bad thing … but neither does she think one should BEGIN a marriage with that particular escape hatch in mind. As for the root of "cultural evil" being marriage, it is certainly not marriage. Boomboxes, maybe … but not marriage. That the author of the article was a woman only proves that anyone of either gender can be misguided. As for what you are supposed to think, it would be healthy for you to believe that fidelity is, indeed, possible in this day and age. Anyone to whom faithfulness matters would be a quart low to read one opinion in the paper and assent to wedlock with a rounder. Standards, dear, are what you're talking about, and by no means should you abandon yours.