Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Nov. 18 2004 7:30 AM

Losing Our Religion

How do we politely tell people to buzz off about what church we're joining?

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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,

You may have already addressed this problem, but I haven't seen the answer. My husband and I are currently living in a state that's part of the Bible Belt. We were both raised with traditional religious beliefs and were married in a church but have since stopped going to church services and have no desire to become involved with any organized religion. We recently moved from a large metropolitan area to a somewhat smaller town and have encountered a new problem. When we meet new people, after the usual introductions, they ask if we have a "church home" yet, as if this is the logical next question you ask someone you've just met. We don't want to seem rude, but we feel that our religious beliefs are no one else's business, especially perfect strangers. We were both raised with the belief that it's rude to talk about money, politics, and religion in polite conversation. We realize times have changed and subjects that were once taboo are now debated constantly. The problem is that we've seen, firsthand, friendships ending because of differences in political and religious beliefs. Do you have any suggestions as to how we can answer these clods when they ask the inevitable question?

—Sincerely,

"Church Homeless"

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Dear Church,

If you wish to be evasive, you could say, "We've not chosen yet." This, however, could very likely lead to a Sunday invitation. A direct answer would likely send them fleeing ... à la, "We do not consider religion a subject for social conversation." Unfortunately the region you are in complicates your life, so perhaps you will have to search around for like-minded friends for whom religion is not topic A and to whom you do not seem like heathens.

—Prudie, impiously

Dear Prudence,

I'm at my lowest these days. My husband and I have not had sex for almost 15 years due to his serious illness. Because he can't have sex, he has also shut down emotionally—no hugs, cuddling, kissing, etc. I've tried to talk to him about it, but he shuts down even more. He refuses to talk to our family doctor, although I've discussed it with the doctor. He is in his early 60s, and I am in my early 50s and still in good physical condition and OK in the looks department. We had a recent house guest, his nephew, who is 20 years younger than me. He came on to me, and before I knew what was happening, we were in the sack. The attraction was incredible, on both sides, but I'm mortified that I allowed it to happen. The nephew told me he was attracted to me more than 10 years ago but kept his distance out of respect. We are both upset about what happened, but I'm afraid that I'll be tempted again. The good thing is that he lives halfway across the country, so it's not likely. We have a son who is the nephew's age, and they are really good friends. I can only imagine the damage to the family should this get out. The nephew is really apologetic but not sorry. I feel so idiotic! How could this have happened? What do I do now, if anything? (Other than staying the heck away from him!!!)

—Confused and Upset

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Dear Con,

How this happened is not hard to figure out. You've experienced a drought for 15 years, a younger man made you feel desirable, and bingo. His telling your son of the incident is not likely to happen, and there is no need to feel like an idiot. It was a mistake. What you do now is nothing except forgive yourself. End of story.

—Prudie, remedially

Dear Prudence,

My brother is a great guy. He's handsome, young, single, responsible, and courteous. He makes a good living and has his pick of women. My parents raised him to be respectful of all women, and he is protective of me and my mother. He has his own place, and I still live at home, so whenever he's out of town, he lets me stay at his apartment so I can have some time away from our parents. He's well-read and enjoys outdoor sports. Like I said, he's an all-around great guy. However, when I go online at his house, there is TONS of porn on the computer. Not just Playboy stuff but the hard-core stuff that guys in raincoats watch in the back of half-empty movie theaters. I'm disgusted by it, and I don't understand why my brother looks at it all the time. I think he's addicted because on his "favorite Web sites" list he has about 50 porn sites. They keep popping up as I try to read the news or check my e-mail or do anything else online. Do you think I should address it with him, or is it completely normal for most men to continuously surf porn sites?

—Concerned Sis

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Dear Con,

Who knows what "normal" is, anyway? Fifty sites, though, would indicate quite a bit more than a casual interest. To be sure, you are in a bind. If you bring up the porn, your bro will think his kindness in letting you use his place was repaid with duplicity. If you say nothing, you will no doubt wonder if you missed a chance to offer beneficial mental health information. Perhaps a compromise solution would be to mention the subject to him in a totally non-accusatory way, making clear that you didn't go searching around on his computer but that he might want to look into his "interest" with a professional because you fear it may be an addiction. If he declines, let the matter drop.

—Prudie, delicately

Dear Prudence,

This situation may seem a bit All My Children-esque, but I really need outside advice. Here is the story. A few months ago, I met this really wonderful man through an online dating service. So far, he's been everything I could possibly want. We share the same interests, enjoy the same types of movies, sports, outdoor activities—everything that can make two people compatible. The problem is that he lives in another country and refuses to visit me here. I have done everything I can to verify his identity, including hiring a private investigator, yet still I am unsure why he will not visit me. We talk daily online and on the phone. He has asked me numerous times to visit him and even to consider moving to his country for marriage. The visit won't be much of a problem for me since I plan on working on my master's degree in Europe next year anyway, but his refusal to visit me before I go to Europe is making me wonder if maybe the private investigator missed something. How do you suggest I go about asking him why he refuses to visit me without making it seem confrontational?

—Stymied

Dear Sty,

Prudie is unclear as to why you are so set on this man coming to visit you before you visit him. If you are desperately curious as to the reason for his unwillingness to travel, ask him in an offhand manner. He may tell you it's a financial consideration, he's a fearful flyer, he can't leave his cats ... there could be any number of reasons. If you're in constant touch the way you say you are and he has issued invitations to visit, PLUS mentioned marriage, PLUS an investigator has found nothing weird, you should give up the requirement that he visit you first. Bon voyage.

—Prudie, accommodatingly