Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 11 2003 11:05 AM

Dearly Not-Yet-Departed

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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,

My father is 72 years old and in good health. He has requested that when he dies, he be cremated or have his body donated to science, whichever is cheaper. He feels that money should be spent on the living, not the dead. The rest of the family agrees with him. He also does not want a memorial service or even an obituary in the newspaper. He would prefer that people not make a big fuss over him. My question is: How do we notify his friends and former co-workers who live out of town? Do we call them, and if so, what do we say? ("Hey, guess who died?") I would hate to wait until they call or come to visit and then have to say that he died six months ago. Should we send out some sort of "death announcements" on the order of birth announcements? I am concerned about this and do not want to wait until the time comes. Please help.

—Feeling Ghoulish

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Dear Feel,

You are wise to plan for this, as is your father, so that raw emotions do not rule when decisions have to be made. While there is no tradition of sending what you refer to as "death announcements," it does make sense in the situation you describe. Friends outside your dad's inner circle would surely appreciate a simply worded note or printed card. You might say, for example: "The family of (name) sadly informs you that he passed away on (date) in (name of city). At his request, there was no service." In addition to commending your father's wish to have things handled the way he wants them, allow Prudie to offer a word of warning: When Prudie's mother died—a woman who also did not wish to have a service—Prudie was quite taken aback by one loony relative who phoned to read her the riot act for there being no funeral! Be prepared for some hidebound people who will let you know that THEY do not approve because that's not the way THEY would do things. Just tune them out, my dear, and know that outsiders challenging you about the last wishes of the deceased are boorish and deserve to be ignored.

—Prudie, instructively

Dear Prudence,

I am an 18-year-old girl who just started college in the fall. I am attending the local junior college close to where I live. I plan to live at home for two years so I can save money for when I transfer to a four-year college.
Lately I've been spending time with a man who works for my dad. He is 13 years my senior, so of course my mom flips out over the fact that I even SPEAK to him. He is divorced with two children, and for the most part, his kids are with him. I really enjoy his company and the fact that we have shared interests, like jogging. My mother has forbidden me to speak to him and threatens to tell my dad if I do. This would mean that he'd lose his job, being that my father is his boss and a little overprotective of his daughter. They treat me like I'm 12. I know that it might be a mistake to be around him, but I wish it could be a mistake I made, not one that I wasn't allowed to make. I want to make my mom happy, but not at the expense of my happiness. Is there any way this can work out?

—Not a Little Girl

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Dear Not,

It depends what you want to work out. If you want this man to lose his job and your parents to really come down on you, by all means insist on making your own mistakes. The smart thing to do would be to wait until you are 20 and living on your own to start making your own mistakes. From where Prudie sits, a girl not long out of high school could choose a more suitable friend—for jogging, of course—than a divorced guy with two kids and 13 years on her. What you are arguing for sounds like the behavioral version of dying your hair green and putting a stud in your lip. Parents can seem like a pain, but sometimes they really are right.

—Prudie, authoritatively

Dear Prudie,

I have been dating my boyfriend for several months. I have known him many years, and we're very compatible. We each have two children.
His are twins are under age 10, and I have two teenagers.Here is my problem: There are little things about the way he has raised his boys that are different from the way I raised my kids at that age. For instance, they don't have a bedtime, so they run around doing what they want. I believe that children need a bedtime for several reasons, one being that it gives adults some quiet time in the evenings after working all day. The other thing that bothers me is that these boys have seen and heard a lot more than my kids … things like scary movies, movies with the "F" word in them, and movies with a lot of sexual content. I feel very uncomfortable with all this and don't know how to talk about these things without sounding like I'm criticizing his parental skills. He's a great father, and I love his kids very much. I am afraid that if I keep this inside, it will ruin our relationship, but if I say something, it will ruin it, too. We are planning to live together next year, and I don't want this to be an issue at that time. Any advice would be most appreciated.

—Style of Raising Kids Is the Issue

Dear Sty,

Well, you would be criticizing his parental skills, my dear, but take heart. As every good cook knows, it's all in the presentation. Of course you would not begin this all-important conversation by referring to his boys as those untamed, holy terrors. You would, instead, have a congenial discussion before you blend the families regarding "house rules," as it were. And because your kids are older, you might say that it's been your experience that even-handed and fair discipline is of incalculable value to children growing up, that things work more smoothly and the kids learn they are not in charge. Rather than say that your beloved has been, uh, lax, say that although you are not the children's mother, you would function as one in the new living arrangement. He may feel relieved, actually, that you're bailing him out. Do get his promise, though, that he will back you up on whatever rules the two of you agree on. Good luck.

—Prudie, methodically

Prudie,

I have a big dilemma about an ex-aunt. Here it is in a nutshell: Basically this woman wants us to like her new hubbie and baby. My family and I do not. (Needless to point out, her first husband was my uncle, now dead.) How do I get the point across that we don't like her new hubbie and she should move on?

Sincerely,

—Damned If I Do

Dear Dam,

Prudie has found that it's ... well, prudent, in situations such as yours, to forgo the getting across of any "points." It is much more graceful, when next an invitation is issued, to simply decline owing to a previous engagement. Repeat as needed.

—Prudie, mechanistically