Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

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Advice on manners and morals.
July 8 2004 9:10 AM

Allow Me To Introduce Myself

And give you some unsolicited parenting advice.


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Dear Prudie,

My wife and I are expecting our first child in October. She plans to continue working after we have our baby, and she is being bombarded by people who make her feel as if she's an unfit mother for wanting to work outside the home. For example, a lady at our church told her she would NEVER let anyone else raise her baby. Others just ask how she could possibly leave her baby with someone else. Many just she give her a condescending look. Most of these comments come from people she does not even know! My advice to her was to look at them and respond that she would NEVER make anyone feel uncomfortable that she hardly knew. How would you recommend that she deal with this? She is nonconfrontational by nature, but someone needs to let these people know how they are making her feel.

—Concerned Husband

Dear Con,

The ladylike response to these clods would probably be something along the lines of, "What a surprising thing to hear from someone I don't know well." A tougher response would be more along the lines of, "I do not recall asking your opinion." Or ... your wife might like to pass on these stats from the U.S. Department of Labor: As of 1998, 76.3 percent of women ages 25-34 worked. Out of women ages 35-44, 77.1 percent worked. (Both sets of figures would cover pretty much everyone able to belt out a baby.) Prudie has long felt that the reflexive, polite demur is not necessary when people are impertinently out of line, either with their advice or their questions.


—Prudie, straightforwardly

Dear Prudie,

I recently attended a bridal shower for a young lady who's engaged to my cousin. I had never met the bride before and was looking forward to meeting her and her family at the shower. When we were all there, the hostess handed out envelopes to all of the guests and asked each person to address the envelope to herself, in order to receive her thank you note. As I had received my invitation in the mail, I could only assume that she already had my address. I was shocked at this rude gesture, which said to me that the bride couldn't be bothered to write a thank you note after I had found the time to attend her event and purchase a gift. Is this a normal event at bridal showers, or am I just being picky?


Dear Won,

Wow, can you say gauche, boys and girls? For non-French-speakers, that translates roughly to: This girl's self-addressed envelopes show that in addition to missing a stamp—for a true s.a.s.e.—she is missing manners, finesse, and a mother who bothered to teach her any social graces. This clumsy and offensive maneuver reminds Prudie of another shower invitation she heard about. The invitees were told to "reply PROMPTLY" to a message machine! And shall we make a bet, now, that the thank-you notes will all be the same? So no, my dear, you are not picky. She is tacky.


—Prudie, wincingly 

Dear Prudie,

I am a high-school senior, and I was recently nominated for a $1,000 scholarship. The two other girls who are nominated are exceptionally stiff competition, and I feel that the only reason that I was put among them was my SAT score, a 1480. I really could use the money, but I fear because of my somewhat-weak extracurricular schedule, I won't stand a chance. I was, however, diagnosed with MS at the end of my sophomore year, after a yearlong process of MRIs, visits to neurosurgeons and pediatric neurologists, and lots and lots of waiting. I feel that in light of this, I really have accomplished some exceptional things (a 4.0 my sophomore and junior years, a congressional internship, etc.). I have never used my illness as an excuse at school, and I am afraid that if I mention my illness, I will look like I am trying to get the sympathy vote, when I am really just trying to express the challenges that I have faced. Do you think that it would be poor form to provide this information? If not, how would you go about it? (By the way, I do have symptoms of the illness that are not readily apparent, and I do not know my interviewers, so I wouldn't be reminding them of the obvious but providing completely new information.)


Dear Un,

You sound like a very accomplished student and a girl with high standards. It strikes Prudie as perfectly justified for you to mention your malady both because it explains your light extracurricular schedule and shows your drive to succeed in the face of obstacles. What you call "new information" is an important part of your present and future reality, so don't feel shy about sharing that information unless you are trying to keep it a secret from everyone. As to how to introduce this aspect of your life, simply say, in your essay or interview, that you would have liked to participate in more activities, but your health intervened. Then make a brief explanation, just as you did in your letter to Prudie. Good luck.


—Prudie, candidly

Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend and I have been dating for over six years. We were living together until about four months ago ... the same time I found out I was pregnant. He had been planning on moving out before we found out I was pregnant. (He needed his own space.) Here's my question: Ever since he moved into the "bachelor pad" with his friends, I seem to be quite the annoyance, maybe because I'm pregnant and can't "party" like the rest of his friends. For the first three weeks after he left, I didn't hear from him. Now, I'm lucky if I get to see him twice a week. The usual excuse is that he's working a lot. I know that being pregnant I am more sensitive to things, but I really need him around right now. Should I write our relationship off as a loss, even though we've been together for so long? I know he's going to be a terrific father, and I don't mean to "bother" him with my presence, but I'm tired of his game. I love him very much, so I keep thinking that this may be the "first-time-Daddy" syndrome. Is this just a phase men go through? He's almost 25. Any help you can give will be appreciated.

—Preggers and Confused

Dear Preg,

Prudie feels like the military representative who comes to the door to report sad news about a loved one overseas, but there is no way around it. This 25-year-old father-to-be, alas, is not showing signs of "'first-time-Daddy' syndrome." What he is showing is an astounding lack of character, selfishness, and irresponsibility. Why you think he'll be a great dad is a mystery because he sure is a lousy father-to-be. Too bad his wanting a bachelor pad and "space" could not have preceded impregnating his longtime girlfriend. His treatment of you at this time pretty well proves this is not a "phase" but a deep deficiency. Party Boy's response, by the way, is not standard operating procedure for men—married or single—who hear there's going to be a new member of the family. Difficult as it will be, tell him it has become clear that he has no interest in you OR a family and then engage an attorney to secure child-support payments. This is a hell of a way to begin motherhood, but to go along with this third-rate behavior now will just louse up your life.

—Prudie, prophetically