Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

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Advice on manners and morals.
Nov. 20 2003 11:01 AM

No, It's Not All About You

When your children have no couth.


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Dear Prudence,

My son, who belongs to the "Me" generation (30-ish) and is in school completing his master's degree, recently corrected a mutual friend who was pleased and proud that her two oldest girls had completed beauty college and were employed. He told her, "That isn't college; it's trade school." I pointed out to him that Lincoln didn't attend a prestigious university to become an attorney, and Florence Nightingale didn't go to medical school. His answer was that he's a grown man with his own ideas. I guess this means I don't need to feel I went wrong somewhere raising someone who has become such a cruel and callous snob? Or is it somehow my fault, as Freud would suggest?

—Ashamed and Confused

Dear Ash,

Forgive me, madam, but your son is an insecure, officious twit who is also a couple quarts low in the compassion department ... and he got that way all by himself. The confirmation of this is that you understood right away that he was making a belittling remark. Furthermore, when you mentioned it to him, his answer was to tell you he was a "grown man." Grown, maybe, but with a twisted center. Anybody who needs to correct someone about beauty college not being a real college has a navy bean for a heart and a kindness quotient of zip. Life will whip him into shape, my dear, as his reputation precedes him.


—Prudie, frowningly


I just got in a huge fight with my husband about a topic that is emotionally loaded. My question: Is homosexuality a learned trait, or is it in a person's genes? I feel that whether a person is homo- or heterosexual is something they feel inside, not something taught or learned. My husband feels that it all depends on the parents and what they taught their children. He feels being gay is NOT right and the parents are to blame for the child's incorrect upbringing. He feels that God did not intend for his children to have homosexual relations, but I feel that God did not intend for his children to steal, lie, kill, or be unfaithful—but it happens. He says if a son of his were gay, he would "kick his butt until he knew better." What do I do to help him get past his prejudiced feelings?


Dear Broad,

You might try putting a fence around the neighborhood so your spouse doesn't fall off the flat earth. If homosexuality could be learned, my dear, a veritable army of women recovering from griefburger mates would surely sign up for the course. (Prudie loves Maureen Dowd's wonderful word for troublesome, disappointing men.) And why in the world would a parent steer a child to homosexuality anyway? It is most often a harder life, growing up, than straight kids have. You have read it here before, and you will read it here again: Homosexuality is hard-wired. It is an instinctual thing, much the same as having a sweet tooth (or not) or natural musical ability. Regarding the "incorrect upbringing" issue, do you think parents train children to be murderers and rapists? The late Charles Bronson, by the way, a he-man for the ages, was dressed as a girl until he was past the age of 3. As for what you can do to enlighten your live-in bigot, the answer is probably nothing. People who believe what your husband believes are dismissive of science, statistics, clinical data, and logic. In simple language, sexual preference is gonna be what it's gonna be. And for the record, the homophobes who voice your husband's declaration about how they would deal with a gay child are contemptible. That stance, to be frank, is what is unnatural.


—Prudie, genetically

Dear Prudence,

I'm in a bit of a dilemma and hope you can give me some advice. My best friend is a 20-year-old male. By all accounts he is attractive, bright, caring, and sweet—an all-around great guy. Recently he started dating a new girl. This normally wouldn't be a problem, but she's only 15. I've expressed my distress to him many times, but he is unconcerned. I don't want to see him ruin his life and do possible jail time over some little girl in a push-up bra. Could you possibly give me a suggestion about what to say to convey my concern in a way that will make him actually stop and think about the risks he's taking?


Concerned Friend

Dear Con,

The first thing that comes to mind is a simple, two-word phrase: jail bait. The reality, though, is that he has undoubtedly thought of this possibility and dismissed it—either because he thinks he won't get caught or more likely, he doesn't care. (You know ... the push-up bra and all that.) The most a friend can do in such a situation is to make plain one's concern about possible consequences, which in this case could be multiple. Try to bear in mind that some people need to make the mistake in order to learn the lesson. Just as an aside, first-rate people do not dally with minors.


—Prudie, rationally


About six months ago, my brother-in-law (my husband's brother) left his wife for another woman. They have yet to officially file for divorce but have been living separately with joint care of their two children. My problem is with my sister-in-law, who, in the past, I have been very close to. She has begun dating and has gotten quite serious about one man in particular. While I realize her husband is doing it, too, in my personal opinion, neither one should be having a sexual relationship with someone other than their spouse until they are actually divorced. Our friendship has been wounded since this relationship began, and I'm afraid it may now have received a fatal blow. She just told my husband she has just had an abortion. I am very pro-life, and in the past, she has claimed to be also. I have been trying to come to terms with all of this and remind myself that it is not my life, but I don't know how to remain friends with her when, in my mind, all I see is her extramarital affair, carelessness in getting pregnant, and then an abortion out of convenience. Am I overreacting to her irresponsibility?


Dear N,

The state of affairs you describe is without doubt unfortunate for everyone, but you least of all. Though certainly entitled to think this woman's actions irresponsible and objectionable, you do not, as they say, have a dog in this fight. If your relationship has, indeed, suffered "a fatal blow," so be it. Everyone has one life to live (unless you're Shirley MacLaine), and a good rule to follow is to live your own life and let others do likewise. If you find you cannot continue to be her friend because of what you deem unpardonable actions, that is your privilege. Life is choices.

—Prudie, judiciously