Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
June 17 2004 10:10 AM

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Girl

How to live with a relative in dire need of anger therapy.

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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 Prudie,

My sister has a serious anger management problem. This is not just my opinion. She demonstrates it regularly by screaming at her kids, her husband, my parents, my other sister, and me (when I am in town). When she is not yelling, she is making snide remarks or being negative in some way. The sad thing is, my family was volatile growing up (my dad especially), and my sister is just repeating the pattern. Fortunately, I have chosen to live a different way. I moved away from my family, married a wonderful, even-tempered man, and have learned to deal with conflict in a much more peaceful and constructive way. The problem is this: The last time my husband and I were visiting my family, my sister had one of her "episodes," with of out–of-control screaming and yelling. While it was status quo for my family, my husband had never seen anyone behave that way in his life. He wants nothing to do with her at all now; he honestly never wants to see her again. His biggest concern is that she is a police officer who carries a gun at all times, and he quite frankly doesn't feel safe around her. I don't want that kind of volatility in my life any more than he does, but she is family, and it's not that easy for me to just write her off forever. (I also don't think she would ever flip out enough to actually use her gun, but maybe I am giving her too much credit.) I would love nothing more than to sit her down, tell her I love her, tell her I'm concerned about her, tell her I hope she gets some help, and then tell her where my boundaries are. Unfortunately, I think she'll get defensive and wig out before I can even say half of that. How do you rationally deal with an irrational person?

—Love My Sister, Not the Anger

Dear Love,

Alas, you deal with an irrational person rationally, even if it feels—and is received—as though you're explaining a lunar eclipse to your dog. Prudie thinks that what you'd like to say to your sib is just right. And you might add that your husband is going to forgo family gatherings until the short-fuse sister shows some improvement. As for the gun at a family gathering, that doesn't sound justifiable, even for an off-duty police officer.

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—Prudie, adaptively

Dear Prudie,

I turned 40 and had the midlife crisis thing. Mine was actually constructive, and I lost a lot of weight, got in shape, colored the creeping gray, and voila! I look damn good if I do say so myself. In my youth I tended toward the matronly, hippy look (the two are really not far removed from each other), and now, can you blame me if I want to flaunt it? This is the thing: I look 40. My heart wants to dress like a 20-year-old, but my head knows I'll look foolish if I do ... or rather I'll look like a 40-year-old trying to look 20. Do I keep the new bod under wraps? Can I maintain some dignity and show a little skin? Am I too late?

—Young at Heart (and a Few Other Body Parts As Well)

Dear Young,

It's never too late to flaunt it, cupcake. The trick is to do it with taste and, well ... prudence. There is a way to show some skin without looking like you shop in the teen department or have just escaped from the line at Radio City. No need to dress like a mummy, certainly, so just choose things that are flattering. There are even designer duds for "women of a certain age" where all kinds of body parts are bare. Go backless, show a shoulder, reveal a little cleavage. Knock yourself out, and have a great time.

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—Prudie, fashionably

Hi,

I'm a fairly young man, madly in love with my girlfriend, but her dad decided three months ago that we shouldn't see each other. I lied a lot in the past but have changed my ways. I'm 20 and have done a lot of growing up within the past few months. I feel worse than awful for hurting her in the past, and now that we've been apart for this long period, it seems she's drifting away. We finally got down to the facts, and the bottom line is that she still doesn't trust me. How do I get that love and trust back that we once had together? I need advice on how to get the best results sooner rather than later. I am seriously madly in love with my girlfriend and have always been faithful, I just lied about things. I will never lie to her again, and if you don't believe that, it's true. So I'm begging you, please, to give some advice. Please help.

—Seriously in a Hole

Dear Ser,

Prudie believes it is possible for people to change or to correct serious flaws and failings, but usually just deciding to do so is not sufficient to get the job done. Particularly with lying, which has an underlying reason and becomes habitual, one would need to do some introspective thinking about the underlying cause (no pun intended), preferably with a trained professional who could guide the process. Losing someone important to you is certainly an incentive to straighten up, but as we all know, habits are hard to break. Your best bet to persuade your girlfriend (and her father) that you are deserving of another chance to earn her trust would be to make it known that you are seeking help, that this girl means the world to you, and you respectfully request a trial period and another chance.

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—Prudie, honestly

Dear Prudence,

I remember an old letter in your column about novel things to do with wedding bands when the relationship is over. I have a related question. My wife of 18 years and I separated last month. I have worn my wedding band every day since we were married. When do I take it off? Even though I moved out (at her request), I don't feel right taking it off, but I am not sure I should continue to wear the thing. It is not a big deal now, but in a few months I expect to start dating, and then what do I do with the ring? Is there an etiquette for this sort of thing?

—Inqui—ring—ly

Dear Inq,

Prudie thinks, in this case, that timing is the key consideration. Remove the ring about an hour before you go to pick up your first date. Some men wear their rings until the divorce is final, but this does not create good karma for a woman who, for all intents and purposes, feels she is dating an eligible man. As to what to do with the ring, putting it in a drawer is fine, unless one of those "novel things to do" catches your fancy. And if you're at all introspective, you have probably figured out that you feel loss and sadness that the marriage ended. Good luck.

—Prudie, realistically