Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 3 2005 8:43 AM

On a Mission From God

When proselytizing gets too aggressive.

9_dearprudence_01

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,

For the last three months my husband and I have been attending a church we both like. Recently we requested (via a "guest form") to receive information about possibly becoming members. Since then, we have had several church members visit our home to talk with us and answer our questions. All of this has been wonderful, but there has been a problem. One member has taken the role of "meet and greet" to another level. He comes to our house, unannounced, quite frequently, even if we have other visitors. He admitted to us he rides by our home to see if there are any vehicles in our driveway (he thought this was funny for some reason), and on Sundays, he waits for us at the sanctuary doors to see if we attend so he can sit with us during service. He lets us know when he has "not seen us for a week" and is constantly asking us when we will join the church. My husband and I both feel he is doing this all on his own and it is not something the church advises its members to do. This is a wonderful church. It will be a wonderful foundation of faith for our son and will enrich our own faith. This overzealous member is about 30 years our senior (we are both in our early 30s) and has been a member of this church for many years. I've been taught to respect elders, so how do I politely but firmly tell him we don't appreciate being "checked up on" and to back off? His behavior is driving us away, not making us feel welcome.

—Feeling Hassled

Dear Feel,

Your situation reminds Prudie of an old truism: When you're born dumb, you're dumb forever. This person clearly has no judgment and is, in fact, working against the interests of his church. Because you like this place of worship, Prudie will not suggest that you find another one, simply to get away from this demented salesman. Do, however, go to the minister and tell him to restrain this man or tell this man, directly, that his "attentions" are not having the desired effect. Tell him to knock it off because you are uncomfortable with his version of stalking for Jesus.

—Prudie, resolutely

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Dear Prudie,

Our book club has been meeting for 10 years, and the general atmosphere has always been one of mutual sharing and respect. Recently a new member was asked to join the group. It turns out that our newest member adores the sound of his own voice and pontificates endlessly, taking us far off course in the discussion, not to mention the fact that none of us can get a word in edgewise. Because we are all Canadians, and therefore painfully polite, he mistakes our bemused muteness for rapt attention. Also, because of the inherent democracy of the group, there is no clear leader who should deal with this problem. His insensitivity to the group dynamic is pulling the group apart. People are quitting rather than spending an afternoon listening to him drone. Our solutions so far seem impracticable—involving, as they do, genteel murder plots and reconvening secretly without him present. Can you offer any more sensible ideas?

—Bored and Baffled Bibliophiles

Dear Bore,

Your nationwide trait of mannerliness will do nothing for the situation at hand. If you are all fantasizing about Murder on the Orient Express, you are but a short step away from playing Clue and still being stuck with The World's Greatest Authority. Because the windbag is breaking apart the club, Prudie believes it falls to the person who brought him in to say that it's become necessary to revoke the invitation, with regret, because his learned presence has changed the nature of everything. "Reconvening" as a new club, by the way, is not out of the question. Think of it as "reconstituted." And then close the membership.

—Prudie, collegially

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Dear Prudie,

Here goes. My husband and I have been married for three and a half years. Just before we met, his mother found out that his father cheated on her while they were married. (He'd passed away two years before.) Since then, all we have heard is how sorry men are, what a sorry S.O.B. HE was, and that he probably slept with everyone in the entire state. She has never worked through these issues, and we hear about it at least once a week. Here is the problem: A friend she works with has introduced her to someone. We are thrilled that she is interested in dating, but this man is married. He also lives on the other side of the country. He has told her that he is trying to get divorced. He said that he has to "ease" his wife into the idea of a divorce. They met about three weeks ago for five to 10 minutes and have talked on the phone for hours every night since. She is head-over-heals in love, and they are even talking marriage. I am having a big problem with this. He is coming to visit her next week, and she has made it known that they intend to sleep together. Since he is planning to get divorced and they are talking marriage, she thinks that it is OK. I am of very strong religious faith, and I think this is adultery. She wants the entire family to get together to meet this man when he is here. I have made it known that I do not intend to meet him and condone this affair. Am I wrong for not meeting him? My husband thinks one dinner is OK, but I feel very strongly on this subject.

—Standing by My Morals

Dear Stand,

Interesting, isn't it, that your m-i-l is doing unto some other lady what was done to her? (She is also staking a lot on a 10-minute meeting and some phone calls.) As for the dinner, you are entirely correct to skip the meet-and-greet. Your view of the situation is not only a moral/religious one, but principled, as well. Prudie agrees with you.

—Prudie, supportively

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Dear Prudence,

I'm hopeful you can help me. My grandmother gave me a beautiful, large diamond ring. I had it appraised for insurance purposes, so I do know the current value of it, which is substantial. I wear it everyday for sentimental reasons, as my grandmother and I are extremely close. Because it is larger than the normal diamond you see daily, it's an attention-grabber. I am constantly being told how beautiful it is, and I am always thankful for those comments. I do not, however, know how to reply when someone comes right out and asks me what it is worth. I feel this is none of their business. I try to say, "It's priceless," as it really is to me, but they'll come back with, "No, really, what's it worth?" Is it just me thinking questions surrounding the value of my ring are wrong? I've flat-out refused to disclose the amount, only to get shocked looks like I am the nervy one when it should be the other way around. Prudie, what do I say to questions like this without upsetting people?

—Diamond Girl

Dear Di,

Forget about upsetting people. Just because a question is asked doesn't mean it deserves an answer. When the next clod repeats the question, just repeat the answer! "It's priceless" is the perfect retort, by the way. Should someone go further than this, Prudie hopes you will say that where you come from, people do not ask the price of other people's possessions, nor do they tell.

—Prudie, flabbergastedly