Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

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Advice on manners and morals.
April 28 2005 7:17 AM

A Match Made in Heaven?

When a loved one's mate has a shady past.


Dear Prudence,
My wife's mother was widowed about seven years ago. She recently decided to give dating another try. In November, she met a man at a Christian singles event. By Christmas, she was planning to marry him almost immediately. We pleaded that she take some time to get to know him. She agreed to wait until spring to marry. We've finally met this man and have significant concerns. He is evasive about his past, telling stories (about service in Vietnam, etc.) that we strongly suspect are false. All he is immediately forthcoming with is that he is a recovering alcoholic and that the Holy Spirit told him to devote his life to working with the less fortunate. He has three children from a previous marriage but has no contact with them; he even confused their names and ages when we asked him about them. He has suffered a significant head injury in the past, and we believe this has caused his emotional problems. He has no income other than disability, and my wife's mother has significant savings. They are planning to buy or build a home soon, and she would be paying for that entirely. We are alarmed, but my wife and her brothers don't know how to approach her. She knows we disapprove, but she believes it is because we think she is "replacing" her late husband with this man and that we are not ready for that. We want her to be happy, but we are afraid this man is unstable or a con artist. Is there anything we can do?

—Concerned in California

Dear Con,
All you can do is be direct. Your wife, her brothers, and you have to articulate your concerns and your reasons. Point out what you think the man's underlying motives might be and that there's something off about being confused about the names and ages of children ... estranged or not. Mention that you worry about a guy who is evasive about his past but will fess up to AA and the Holy Spirit. Go on record and hope for the best. You might suggest, if she insists on getting married, that the house be in her name and that she have a prenup. If she won't at least do that, she is beyond helping because she is beyond hearing. Good luck.


—Prudie, apprehensively                              

Dear Prudence,
My husband is serving a two-year prison sentence for simple assault resulting from a bar fight in which he was physically attacked by two women. They struck first, leaving bloody gouges and deep bite marks on him, yet they were never charged because they are women—it was automatically assumed that he initiated the fight. Do you think it's fair for society to have this double standard—shouldn't women be held accountable for their actions, too? I'm having a hard time dealing with this, as I now have an infant daughter with no daddy to hold her. And after his case was all wrapped up, one of the women got arrested for assaulting a police officer, so it's clear she has an anger and violence problem. What can I possibly tell my daughter about this situation?

—Under Lock and Key

Dear Und,
Let us just finesse the question about your husband's presence in the kind of establishment where two presumably drunk women would attack him. Prudie hates to take issue with your theory that women are never charged because they are women, but she does. As you point out, one of the women in the unfortunate dust-up in the bar was, herself, arrested at a later date. And you might pause a minute to wonder who is going into all those women's prisons. Because your child is now an infant, no explanation will be necessary for a 2-year-old, which is how old she'll be when her ol' man gets out of the slammer.


—Prudie, analytically          

Dear Prudence,

My story is probably not unusual. I have become smitten with a client. I am in my early 50s, although most people mistake me for much younger. Three years ago I began working with a client 14 years my junior. I thought he was the most beautiful man I'd ever seen. However, I was diligent in trying to keep the professional boundary. His work involved a lot of contact over a long period of time, and I began to appreciate his sincerity and honesty. Eventually I had to call him with some very bad news about the death of another person involved in our work. I broke down crying while telling him, promising him that I would cry if he died, too. His girlfriend at the time had moved away. He began calling me daily on one pretext or another, and I started teasing him about "missing me," to which he readily admitted. People would ask me if we were boyfriend and girlfriend because they said we both "beamed" when we were together. I am terrible at knowing how or when to take the step to move a relationship toward more intimacy. The girlfriend moved back after a year, and I hear it is serious. I can't help wondering if things would be different if I had been clearer about my feelings. Especially given the age difference, and the fact that he had to rely on me for professional advice, I don't think he would have gone any further. I am torn. Part of me says to tell him how I feel. All I have to lose is a client. The other part says he's made a commitment to someone, let him be. This is all complicated, and I fear looking like a fool.

—Pining Away


Dear Pine,
Prudie would go for it. Call him and ask if he, like you, was dancing around an unspoken attraction. Given that the two of you are close, it seems unlikely to me that you would lose him as a client—no matter what his answer. If in fact there was electricity he does not wish to act on, all you have done is paid him a compliment.

—Prudie, fatefully                                    

Dear Prudence,
A co-worker of mine wears her shoes to work, then removes them when she comes in. We work in the cultural district of our city, so our office isn't a typical office, it's a converted house. She walks around the office, downstairs to make coffee, upstairs to deliver mail, even to the bathroom barefoot! Not only is this completely unsanitary, it's also appalling! Our office policy on dress is very laid back, but this is too far. How do we go about addressing this issue?


Dear J., 
No offense, but do you live in California? Prudie remembers from living there that it was the land of the barefoot contessa, and many retail businesses hung the sign, "No shirt, no shoes, no service." And perhaps because your office is a converted house this woman has expanded the meaning of "Make yourself at home." You and the others need to tell her that shoes are part of the work outfit. If there is resistance, ask her this: If she walks around in her slip at home, would she do so at work?

—Prudie, shoddily