Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
March 4 2004 8:42 AM

Mabel, Mabel, If You're Able

Keep your comments on my kids' table manners to yourself.

9_dearprudence_01

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 Prudie,

As the mother of five children, I've run into a problem when I go to nice restaurants (not fast-food places). The moment my husband and I and our brood step up to the hostess stand, diners in the area glare at us, and I've heard people say things like, "So much for a quiet lunch." My kids range in age from 15 down to 2 years old. When my oldest child was a toddler, I decided that I wanted her to learn the right way to behave in a restaurant, and, of course, the only way to teach that, once the basic manners were covered at home, was to go to a restaurant. For the most part it's worked well, and all the kids are very polite to the wait staff. Yet we still get the glares and grouchy comments from childless diners. What can I tell people who come up and tell me that I should be feeding my kids at home and not in the restaurant?

—Teaching Table Manners

Dear Teach,

People come up to you and say this? Prudie has THOUGHT it sometimes when a kid is yowling, but saying something is way out of bounds. For people who deliver such an opening salvo, an appropriate response would be: "What a rude and unkind thing to say. Perhaps you should join a club where they don't allow children." Then turn away and hope the lamebrain has learned something.

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—Prudie, irreproachably

Dear Prudence,

I'm 14, and I have a major issue with my mother. I was depressed once, and I'm happy again. I used to cut myself, and my mother found out by reading my journal (which I thought was private, but apparently not). Now she thinks like everything will make me want to kill myself. She took away most of my CDs, and she put me on restriction for a month. I got off restriction a short time ago, and today I asked her if I could have a CD that my friend had let me borrow. She asked me questions like "How much swearing is there?" None. "How much 'I'm gonna kill myself, I hate my parents, let's shoot all the cops' stuff is there?" None. But there is one song on there that is metaphorical, about a man losing the one he loves and wanting to join them in death so he can continue loving them. Contrary to popular belief, it is not hinting suicide. Right off the bat, she said no. I don't know if I can stand her anymore. What should I do? I obviously can't just say "screw you" and go buy it anyway, but I really don't see why she's being this way. Please help.

—Thank You so Much,

Tired of This

Dear Tired,

Having been a teenager (when ice covered the earth) and now a mother, Prudie can tell you your mother is "being this way" because she is remembering your previous troubles. She is also jumping to conclusions. (Just as an aside, you must have a musically cool mom because the majority of adults can't understand the words on most of the CDs that kids like.) Due to the specifics of the situation, ask your mom to make an appointment for the two of you with a family therapist who could act as a mediator. Prudie believes that a professional might very well support your position, allay your mother's fears, and encourage her to lighten up and not treat you as though you were still depressed and a possible danger to yourself. You sound quite together to Prudie. Good luck.

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—Prudie, mediationally

Dear Prudence,

My sister just informed me that she intends to marry this doctor she's been seeing for less than six months. Being a doctor, you can guess he is quite financially secure. But that is about all he has going for him. He is many years older than she, and although age isn't everything (she is in her mid-30s, and he is 20-plus years her senior), I feel this will cause a strain on their relationship eventually. Plus, he seems a bit pompous and throws his money and connections around. Also, my husband can't stand him, which is a big problem because I do a lot with my sister. She started seeing this man right after her divorce, so the whole family sees him as a "rebound guy." I have tried to talk to her about it, as have our parents and our other sister, but she only snaps at all of us. My friends have told me to try harder to get through to her before it is too late. (The wedding is set for June.) Should I continue to express my concerns, and should I tell her my husband does not like her fiance so she will know why we're avoiding them? One more thing: She wants my sister and me to be in the wedding, but we haven't answered her. Do you think if we tell her no (which we want to do), she will finally get it?

Thanks,

—Concerned Sis

Dear Con,

It's a good bet your sister has already "gotten it" (and chosen to reject it). Proof of this is that you say she's snapped at all of you. Apparently your sister is not bothered by what you are bothered by. Your dilemma calls to mind an old saying you might want to contemplate: "There's no accounting for taste," said the woman when told her son was wanted by the police. The family may see him as "rebound guy," your husband may find him revolting, but a mid-30s divorced woman is gonna do what she's gonna do. As for being in the wedding, if all you and your other sister have against the prospective bride is her choice of a groom, be in the wedding. If you have forecast the future correctly, she will have enough trouble without her family making a show of their displeasure.

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—Prudie, stoically

Dear Prudence,

I am having a bit of a problem with my ... I'm not sure what to call him exactly. We have been dating for two years. A few months ago he asked me to marry him, but things weren't going well then. I was confused about why he asked me, and when I asked him, all he said was, "I don't know." It kind of bothered me. After about two months, things weren't going well at all, so I called it off one day during a huge fight. I don't know why I did it. I wasn't thinking. It was stupid of me. In December we celebrated our two-year anniversary. He put so much time and effort in to making it special (just like he did the night he proposed). But then 10 days later, he starts talking to this girl he knows in Canada. They hadn't talked in a year, and I was bothered by the fact that she was back, but I told him I would trust him until he gave me a reason not to. And he ended up giving me more than one. Now I really don't know whether to end it or not. Please help me.

—Hurt and Confused

Dear Hurt,

You two seem to be on a seesaw that totters between inertia and uncertainty. At the very least, the ambivalence on both sides should not be ignored. It would be foolhardy to go ahead and marry when your fella does not know why he proposed and you called it off for reasons unknown. (And don't forget the girl in Canada.) Prudie does not mean to beat a dead horse, but if a relationship is not in good shape before marriage, odds are a million to one that everything will not be ducky after the rice is thrown.

—Prudie, historically