Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 12 2004 7:27 AM

When To Run and Not Eat

Can you tell your hosts to stuff it when they're contagious?

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Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

Dear Prudence,

I'm still so ticked off at my husband's relatives that I don't know what to say to them when I see them again. We went to my husband's cousin's house for dinner on New Year's Day to see him and his wife and some out-of-town relatives. We arrived at the house to shouts from the out-of-towners of: "Don't kiss us!! We've all got the flu!!" Great. The host or hostess could have called and told us to stay home. Two days later my husband, my daughter, and I spent the entire day throwing up. We had to cancel our plans to go out with friends for dinner and a symphony concert—an evening we'd been looking forward to for months. It gets worse. My husband's cousin is an M.D. and his wife an R.N. They stood in their kitchen after dinner (the rest of the relatives were draped on couches and chairs looking wan) telling us how hard it is to prevent the spread of gastrointestinal illnesses. They said the G-I viruses are the most contagious of any, which is why hospitals and cruise ships are hotbeds of G-I transmission. I'm thoroughly disgusted with them, and I hope that they caught the bug themselves. What should we have done on New Year's Day? Should we have handed over the pies I made for dessert and fled the house as soon as we realized most of the people in it were ill? Should we let them know how unhappy we are that they didn't warn us and tell us to stay home?

—Queasy

Dear Queas,

Prudie might not be the most dispassionate person to ask, having been called the female Howard Hughes for being so germ-phobic and for having her hand sanitizer ever at the ready. Having stated this bias, Prudie thinks that handing over the pies and fleeing would have been the rational choice. There is no need for social niceties when someone's bad judgment puts you in a position of risk. Should the cousin and his wife ever mention that day, you need not feel shy about reporting on the aftermath of their hospitality.

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—Prudie, microbially

Dear Prudence,

I really don't know how to begin. My life has always had its up and downs, and I am only 14. I am very active in sports and love to write and sing. But lately, everything is just, how do I put this, blah, if you know what I mean. I feel tired, not wanting to push myself on the basketball court, and I am starting to get mad easier. My coach told me I need to stop being so hard on myself. My school work is fine, I am getting good grades, but I know I can do better. My friends aren't any help because they are a bunch of druggies who don't care what happens to me. I feel like I am screaming at the top of my lungs in the hallway at school, and no one even says anything or even cares. I feel like crawling into a dark hole and never coming out. Just lying there until someone who cares drags me out. Please, give me some answers, and tell me how I can be "me" again.

—Lost

Dear Lost,

You are depressed, which is what all those weird and hopeless feelings are about. But the good news is that you can be "you" again. Your age or family situation could be part of your feeling alone, and Prudie would hazard a guess that your friends are definitely a problem, but you seem to know that. Please go—like now—to your school counselor or your mom or whomever you feel most comfortable talking to and ask for help. That person should get you to a professional, who will most likely use talk therapy and perhaps medication to help you get back on track. Many other kids have had your experience, and Prudie is sure that help is there if you ask for it. Good luck!

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—Prudie, confidently

Dear Prudence,

I've been seeing a lady I like very much for about three months. After we started dating, she announced that she has a "friend" she goes sailing with. This "friend" found out she was starting to date someone and then said he wanted a chance at her affections as well. They have known each other for 10 months, and none of this ever came up before ... at least that is what I am being told. They are going on a 10-day sailing trip, and she has spent the last three weekends on the boat with her "friend" getting ready for the trip. She is working to get her captain's license, and she needs to spend time on the ocean and the boat to achieve that goal. She tells me she likes me and wants to continue dating, but questions keep running through my head. I would like to hear what you think of this situation.

Thanks,

—Dry-Docked

Dear Dry,

This landlubber thinks the captainette is using one of you to reel in the other—though she cannot say for sure which one. (Odds are it's the guy with the boat.) In any case, neither three months nor 10 months is a terribly long period of time, and this girl does not exactly inspire trust, so Prudie suggests you leave her to paddle her own canoe, as it were.

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—Prudie, nautically

Dear Prudence,

I am 19 years old and have been dating the same guy for two years. (He is a year younger than me.) Everything was going pretty well in our relationship until he started to get jealous of my family. It started out small when my grandparents, a cousin, and her boyfriend came for my graduation, and I wanted to spend some time with them. I asked the b.f. if he would be with us, and he said no, he did not want to get in the way. So he purposely went out of town the weekend of my graduation so he wouldn't have to come. Things got worse when he wanted me to love him and only him. He didn't even want me to care about anyone in my family, so I told him I would try. I can't do it, though, because I love my family. It has now gotten to the point where he is saying things like, "If your parents and me were both going to be executed and you could save one, who would you save?" I can't answer questions like that. Please, I need some help. Should a person have to choose between family and a significant other? Or is there a point where you do have to choose and let the other one go? (By the way, we have had sex, and I think that might be complicating things.)

—Leery

Dear Leer,

Prudie won't throw any fancy diagnostic names at you for what is wrong with this guy, but suffice it to say that there is plenty wrong. That kind of jealousy and possessiveness is not normal, and were you to continue with him, he would be controlling your life with some potentially disastrous consequences. A mentally healthy person does not demand that the beloved choose between him/her and family. For future reference, having sex does not turn someone into a suspicious, possessive maniac who makes up scenarios about executions.

—Prudie, normally