Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 16 2004 9:06 AM

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That ...

What not to say when you meet someone gay.

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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.)

Prudie,

Could you please tell your straight readers that when they meet an attractive gay person of the opposite sex that it is never a compliment to say, "What a waste." What does this comment mean anyway—that because the person is sexually off limits they lead no sort of life of their own? Or is it some offhand attempt to compliment the gay person's looks? I don't get it. I have often been tempted to respond with, "Let me assure you that nothing I have is being wasted; it's all being put to very good use." Thanks, Prudie.

—Out in Atlanta

Dear Out,

Prudie believes you are misinterpreting the remark. Rather than implying that the gay person has "no sort of life of their own," Prudie finds it to mean, "You are GORGEOUS." (And it's the straight person's loss that you bat for the other team.) It is meant both as a compliment and a lighthearted statement. As you may have divined, Prudie has made this comment, herself, and always to a big smile in response.

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—Prudie, flatteringly

Dear Prudence,

After almost 20 years and three kids, I decided I could no longer handle my overly controlling and insanely jealous husband. In the early years, there was always talk of moving out of the small town he grew up in to establish a life in a larger town. After years of his job-hopping, and my constant support no matter what his decision was, he finally landed a good job in this small town, and my hopes of one day moving to a larger metropolis where I might find a rewarding career were dashed. Three months after our divorce was final, he remarried to a co-worker and is now trying to prevent me from moving by turning the kids against me. We have joint custody (the kids stay one week with him and one week with me), and he's convinced the kids (two teenagers and an 8-year-old) that they should not move away 200 miles with me no matter what. Now I feel stuck. Do I stay here to be with my children, who are my reason for living, even though I am miserable with my low-paying, going-nowhere job, or do I pack the bags and tell the kids I love them, but I can't go on living like this? I am torn. What kind of mother would abandon her children, and on the other hand, what kind of a mother would I be if am broke and miserable every moment?

—Torn

Dear Torn,

Here are some possibilities to pursue. One, go back to court to get permission, for economic reasons, to move with the children. Two hundred miles is not across the country. Something else you might consider is redoing the one week/one week arrangement so that they can go to school in the place of their choice and spend the summer with the other parent. All this is predicated, of course, on your actually getting the job you think you can get; that will be your strength in court—that, and that the 8-year-old should be with you. You should also get a mediator so that the bad-mouthing will stop. The kids are innocent in all this and can make up their own minds about how they feel.

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—Prudie, constructively

Dear Prudence,

My wife and I have been married for almost 30 years. (We're in our early 50s.) We have two teenage children. We haven't had sex in more than 11 years. (This really isn't a new situation; there have been other instances of no sex for several years previously.) I don't know how to talk to her about this. Over the years, there were/are good excuses why she wasn't interested—illness, tiredness, menopause, stress, etc. I have tried to be understanding, realizing that I can't force her to make love. It just hurts that she would rather watch TV than be with me. She says she loves me, but there's no passion—no kissing, no hugging, let alone sex. She won't let me touch her when we're in bed. She seems to think there's nothing wrong with our relationship. I can't understand how she can say she loves me when there is this big void in our lives. I don't know what to do. I really think our marriage is over, but I can't leave because it would destroy the kids. (Part of me doesn't want to bring it up with her—if I don't, there's always the possibility things will get better. If I bring it up, she might say "forget it"—then the door is closed.) Is this what they mean by "for better or for worse ... ?"

—Aching for a Kiss

Dear Ache,

Your situation is not what is meant by "for better or for worse." That means ill health, rotten luck, lean times, etc. It does not mean a wife having a headache for 11 years. Prudie thinks you are mistaken in a two major areas: a) People in a dead marriage do kids no favor by hanging on, and b) your "not bringing it up" because things might get better—as if by magic—does not fly. Tell your wife of three decades that the two of you can pick a couples' counselor or a pair of lawyers. This is probably not what you expected to hear, but that is Prudie's considered opinion.

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—Prudie, realistically

Dear Prudence,

Most of your columns seem to treat morals in some weighty form, so I apologize if this inquiry is "manners lite," but I need help. I am engaged to a wonderful man, a perfect partner in all respects that matter. Unfortunately, he is not well-versed in table manners. We make a point to eat our meals together at the table, but as time goes on, I enjoy this "togetherness" less. He takes very big bites (which often topple off the fork), slurps, smacks his lips, belches, and regularly talks with a mouth full of food. I have never considered myself a stickler about these things, and my own manners aren't impeccable, but this is driving me mad. I have delicately suggested that I want to try to improve my own habits, in the hope that he would internalize the idea and think about his, but to no avail. I hate the thought of confronting him and making him feel bad about this. But even when we're out at a restaurant—although he's a bit better—the bad habits remain. He actually ordered our meals with a mouth full of bread the other night, and I was quite embarrassed. How can I tactfully handle this without hurting him? Thanks a bunch.

—Decorum Maven

Dear Dec,

You cannot NOT discuss it, so now it becomes a question of how. Even if you have to lay it on with a trowel, stress how marvelous he is, how you love to be with him, yadda, yadda, yadda, BUT ... tell him to be a really gracious person, acceptable anywhere, one must observe the basics of eating properly. If you point out the areas in which he needs to be mindful in a helpful, supportive way, with no feeling of attack, Prudie thinks you can make progress. Also perhaps agree on a signal for when he's reverted to doing something gross. The fact that he shapes up a little in restaurants means he's vaguely aware of his shortcomings.

—Prudie, appetizingly