Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

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Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 9 2004 8:47 AM

Nutty Neighbors

What to do when someone nearby is feeding stray animals.


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Dear Prudence,

My upstairs neighbor in my fourplex apartment has started feeding a squirrel peanuts. I am not necessarily opposed to squirrels and, in fact, am sympathetic to the well-being of animals. I am also a vegetarian and attempt to relocate spiders rather than squashing them flat. However, I also have a dog whose fondest dream is to eat a squirrel. Without restraint, she would enjoy squirrel tartare on our front lawn regularly. The squirrel in question, made fat and friendly by a diet of peanuts, has started approaching me inquisitively when I walk my dog. Let me repeat this: While I have a squirrel-lusting dog straining at the leash, this squirrel hops toward me and acts as though I'm going to feed her. (She's a she. I checked.) Thus, I've done what any responsible dog owner would do: I've started either throwing water at the squirrel when I see her or running toward her menacingly and barking. (Yes, I realize the potential for humiliation is high.) A couple times the peanut-feeding neighbor has observed me doing this and given disapproving glances or muffled mutterings. Even though I explain myself (the squirrel-hungry dog, my desire for the squirrel's continued well-being, etc.), she doesn't seem to register what I'm saying and continues with the peanut-feeding. What do I do?

—Driven Squirrelly

Dear Driv,

You sound like a good person because, to Prudie, a squirrel is just a rat with good PR. But try this. Have a powwow, a squirrel summit, if you will, with the neighbor lady. Explain to her that not only is she raising the squirrel's fat intake, she is emboldening it to beg for food when, in fact, the animal should be hunting for and hiding its own nuts, as nature intended. Then clarify for her the conflicting interests of your dog and her squirrel. If you cannot convince her to end the handouts, then you'll have to continue throwing water and barking.


—Prudie, defensibly

Dear Prudence,

My wife and I recently came back from a trip where we stayed with my best friend and his family. He was a college roommate and the best man at our wedding 20 years ago. The visit went great, and we enjoyed catching up. A week after we got home, my wife told me she had to get something off her chest and preceded to tell me how "Joel" had made an awkward pass at her that included some groping. She told him to back off, and he made no further attempts. She was furious but didn't want to tell me and damage our friendship. She was so upset that she finally went to a therapist, who advised her to let me know. I was stunned and very hurt. It's been two months now, and I have not contacted him. My wife has softened and says if she can forgive him, I should, too. She also believes most men are capable of doing that sort of thing and that my standards might be too high. She doesn't want me to talk to him about it and wants me to pretend it never happened. I need to emphasize that he has been a very close friend who has helped us through difficult times and has always been there for me in the past. Am I wrong to feel that I was the one who was betrayed and not my wife? If she is willing to let it go, shouldn't I be able to?


Forgive and Forget?

Dear For,

Oh, those best men. Just so you might better understand what happened, underlying your dear friend's lapse is the likelihood that he had a yen for your wife from the beginning. For the record, the pass was, indeed, a betrayal of your friendship, but Prudie's inclination is to say that we're all grown-ups here. Because your wife has forgiven him, you should adopt her attitude. She, after all, was the aggrieved party. He didn't persist, so your history together should count for something and not be scrapped for one ill-considered blunder. If your wife had said, "That's the end of him," that would be a different story. Therefore Prudie suggests you do forgive, though she is quite sure you will not forget.


—Prudie, perceptively

Dear Prudence,

I am a tour director at a historic museum, and I regard every tour as an entertaining and interactive experience. How can I handle situations where people answer cell phone calls in the middle of the tour? This problem has only surfaced recently but with such frequency that I don't know how to cope. One woman received three calls from her daughter, whom she told she was on a tour, and I heard every detail of her daughter's roommate troubles. If I ask people at the start of the tour to turn their cell phones off, I risk irritating them, and frankly we need the tour money. If I continue the tour and talk over their conversation, they just talk louder! I've tried stopping the tour in the hopes that a group of people standing around staring at the cell phone user would shame him or her, but some people are just unembarrassable. Will people ever learn cell etiquette, and what can I do in the meantime?

—Not a Docile Docent

Dear Not,

Ah, yes, the problem of the cell phonies. In your particular situation, do what they do at many public venues these days: Make an announcement that cell phones and pagers are to be turned off or to vibrate. Prudie very much doubts that when people hear your announcement, they would quit the tour. In your introductory remarks, you might try to be light about it and say that in historical times messages came by horseback, so if anyone in the group should receive a message via horse messenger, you will happily interrupt the tour. As for hoping to embarrass people, never count on that, my dear. It is Prudie's belief that many people have an ancestral rhinoceros in their background so that nothing registers.


—Prudie, noiselessly

Dear Prudence,

I'm a 39-year-old happily married woman with a great big, stupid, inappropriate schoolgirl crush on a single guy who works for my company. He's not exactly a co-worker, as we work in different buildings, but we meet once a week or so for coffee. We discuss work, hobbies, books and movies, and the topics never stray to anything unseemly. He considers me a friend and seems to enjoy my company, and I'm happy to have someone interesting to talk to at work. The problem is that, while I also enjoy his company, I get all the symptoms of a crush around him: My IQ drops 30 points, my hands shake, my heart races, and I blush. I feel like I'm 12 years old again, and it's extremely disconcerting. I'm thinking about declining further invitations until I can just get over this crush already. I'm reluctant to drop him with no explanation—but I'm afraid giving him the real explanation would be a social disaster. And if I don't decline his invitations, it's only a matter of time before he notices I'm full-on goofy for him, which would be awkward, to say the least. Help!


Dear Flush,

Get a grip, girlfriend. If you can't control the shaking hands and racing heart, then you may have to stop the coffee dates. Try to program yourself to think of this man as JUST an interesting friend from work, and the visits could become more normalized. Crushes, like fantasies, are not "bad," but you, as an adult, can control your behavior.

—Prudie, maturely