Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

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Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 12 2004 8:42 AM

Till Death Do Us a Favor

How to cope when it turns out your deceased lover was a liar.


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Dear Prudence,

My sister was married for more than 25 years to her high-school sweetheart; then she found out he was involved with another woman, and he left her and quickly remarried. Sis was devastated. It took about two years for her to pull herself together and move on. Finally she met and began dating a man we can call "Perry." He proposed and even bought an engagement ring. The relationship raised some red flags with me due to long business trips and frequent time away. Suddenly he passed away, and my sister found out when she called his office and was abruptly told he had died while on the job. After a bit of fact-finding, I learned that he was married, not widowed as he told her. My sister is full of anger and grief and cannot find a way to obtain closure. She also has many of his personal items at her home as he was a regular visitor there, often staying for entire weeks and weekends and some holidays. What can she do? How can I help her? Please advise.


Dear Stun,

One thing Prudie would advise is that your sister not return any of the gentleman's "personal items" to the widow. The intention would be to punish the deceased, but the actual victim would be the widow, who of course had nothing to do with this awful mess. "Closure," that odd catchall word, is difficult to achieve when the person you want to rail against is dead. What would help your sister is if you could encourage her to confront the anger, sense of loss, and disappointment with a therapist. The whole bizarre situation was simply rotten luck. The very best one could say about this drama is that the man must have loved her. He just didn't have time to organize the details, shall we say?


—Prudie, restoratively

Dear Prudie,

While on maternity leave for the first time, I made the mistake of inviting a friend, "Dolly," from the office (come to think of it, she invited herself) to my baby's first birthday party and introducing her to my sister. They hit it off immediately and began hanging out (without me). Later I returned to work and resumed lunching and gossiping with Dolly. I was Dolly's only female friend at work and would often defend her, though other women regarded her with suspicion. When I had another baby and went on leave again, I found out from my sister that Dolly had been having an affair with our much older married boss, "Roy," and that he was divorcing his wife and moving in with Dolly. Meanwhile, Dolly was telling me lies and half-truths, making it sound as though they were in the very early stages of dating, when, in fact, they had been an item for months and he had already moved into her apartment. My sister and her fiance and Dolly and her sugar daddy have been a foursome on endless expensive double dates. Roy picks up the checks for dinner, drinks, and even weekends in fancy hotels out of town. Now my sister's wedding is approaching, and she wants to have Dolly and me as bridesmaids. I feel insulted at the thought of sharing this honor with such a treacherous little tart. Should I decline?

—Disrespected Sister

Dear Dis,

Bridesmaids are chosen for their affinity to the bride, not each other. While attendants at weddings have a few symbolic duties, acting as the morality police is not one of them. While you may regard "Dolly" as a husband-stealing hussy, the management of her love life has nothing to do with you … the "treachery," alas, having been directed at "Roy's" wife. (Were ethical purity a requisite for standing up at weddings, my dear, chances are that many a bride and groom would be up there by themselves.) Prudie deduces, from reading between the lines, that what is actually elevating your dudgeon to high is the fact that Dolly has established her own friendship with your sister (without you). Try to remember that this is your sister's wedding, not a referendum on home-wreckers.


—Prudie, customarily

Dear Prudence,

I have a problem that grows more difficult every day. My wife and I have been married for 25 years, and we dated five years before that. I am 65, and she is 50. She has had two affairs while we were married. One was a one-night stand, and the other was longer term—until she got caught. We have both done a good job of putting that behind us and accepting our own shares of responsibility. Her common courtesy, however, seems to be getting worse and worse. She has announced that she sees no reason to say common things like "hello" when she comes home, "goodbye" when she leaves, "good night," "good morning," "thank you," or "please."  She proclaimed, after all these years, that these are not necessary and she sees no need for them. Do you have any words of wisdom?


Jack D.

Dear Jack,

It is hard to know if your wife is conserving words because of a personality change occasioned by something physiological or if she's simply become a crank. Whether or not she's purposely trying to annoy you is hard to figure. Is there any conversation that is normal between you? For starters, make a concerted effort to ignore her odd rationing of all the verbal cues you are used to. (Well, that most of us are used to.) You might learn something about what's going on if you stop making a big deal about her newfound disdain for the everyday courtesies. Her effort to become a linguistic minimalist could signal hostility, eccentricity, or perhaps the need to see a neurologist. Good luck.


—Prudie, talkatively


This is about your reply to the question a while ago about whether the Playboy playmates are touched-up. I'm a studio manager, and I oversee Photoshop retouching for commercial images—magazines and advertising. Are the bunnies a little touched-up? A lot touched-up. Typical retouching changes (I don't work for Playboy, so can't speak specifically to them) include eye-color changes, skin changes, and the actual shape of the body is changed. (Legs are extended, hips thinned out.) Hair is changed, lighting ... anything and everything is altered. If there is anything in a shot that is less than 100 percent perfect, it's altered or removed. I often tell my friends to never compare themselves to the women in magazines. I can point out where flaws and blemishes have been removed as well as body alterations made. That woman's husband is seriously deluding himself. I always enjoy your column. Thanks!


Dear S.,

Well, thank you! And Prudie says that for every woman who's ever felt she didn't measure up (or down) to the cupcakes in the magazines. Prudie considers your letter to be a kind of public service announcement. The funny thing is, though, that men who love women often don't see the imperfections or don't care that they're there … cupid's Photoshop, if you will.

—Prudie, appreciatively