Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 26 2005 7:17 AM

Bound and Troubled?

Help! My daughter's boyfriend carries handcuffs.

9_dearprudence_01

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Dear Prudie,
My daughter was home for spring break and her somewhat older boyfriend came to visit for the first time. After he left, I found two pair of handcuffs next to where his luggage had been in the living room—obviously left behind. This man is not a policeman. While he seemed to treat my daughter well, I'm not sure what to do with these items, and the incident has left me with rather unpleasant feelings toward him. Do I send him a note thanking him for the interesting hostess gift? He is British, but I don't think their customs are that different. Do I mail them with a note: "I believe you left these behind?" Do I throw them out? I'm somewhat at a loss here. What would Prudie do?

—Nervous Mom

Dear Nerv,
A Brit, huh? Prudie is certain he was lovely, British, and tall. (A little in-joke for Prudie's regular readers.) But back to the handcuffs. The most unlikely possibility is that he escaped from a member of the United States Marshals Service on his way to the penitentiary. (OK, Prudie obviously watches Lost.) As to what you do, you do not thank him for the interesting hostess gift; you may throw them out if you wish. The best thing to do is ask your daughter if perhaps her houseguest left his handcuffs behind? If she says no, then throw them out. Prudie hopes she will laugh, feel embarrassed, and say they were just a joke. Handcuffed sex does not necessarily mean S&M. Calm yourself, my dear, until you come across a whip.

—Prudie, acceptingly

Dear Prudence,
Help! How do I get rid of an ex-husband? My ex, after a few years being divorced, still can't get it through his head that I don't want him in my life anymore. He calls me at work and at home. He tells me he misses me, wants to be friends, forgives me, and is willing to take me back. We dated for three years before our three-year marriage. He was good to me and my children, fun to be with, and helped around the house. He smoked cigarettes and drank a little (I thought). After marriage, however, we no longer went out "because a married woman belonged at home and not in the clubs." He did not want my children or their friends around. He accused me of having sex with my daughter's boyfriend if the boyfriend arrived before she got home from work or school. He became angry when I would not put his name on the title to my home. He used to smoke on the patio before marriage; afterward he started smoking all over the house and making cigarette burns in nice pieces of furniture, the carpet, countertops, and the sofa. Only by the grace of God did the house not catch fire. He became abusive and got drunk every night. When he decided he wanted sex and could not perform, of course it was my fault, not the six 32-ounce cans of beer and the one-third bottle of hard liquor that he drank every day. He did work, however, and missed very few days that I was aware of. (Guess he was a high-functioning drunk.)

—What Part of "No" Don't You Understand—the "N" or the "O"?

Dear What,
How sad that Jekyll and Hyde reeled you in with his party behavior and then reverted to type in no time flat. Prudie agrees that when you unload this kind of man he should stay gone. Your best bet would be to tell him, by letter or phone, that you got a divorce for a reason and you wish no further contact with him. None. If he can't abide by this, inform him that you will be forced to obtain a restraining order. His past abusive behavior and current harassment would qualify him. Good luck.

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—Prudie, resolutely

Dear Prudie,
I moved from Hong Kong to Canada in 1997. Even though I have been here for more than eight years, there are still occasions when I feel clueless about North American culture and etiquette—especially when people treat me in a rude way that I had not expected. I recently had lunch at a restaurant with my boyfriend. After the waitress brought my boyfriend his pasta, we noticed he didn't have a fork. The waitress was standing by the counter, facing me, and was not doing any work at that moment, so I slightly raised my hand to try to get her attention. When she saw me, she waved back at me—the way she would if she ran into an acquaintance in the street—and gave me a big smile—the kind people fake when it's obvious they're actually ticked off. She then went to deal with another customer and went into the kitchen. My boyfriend decided to just take a fork from a nearby table. Five minutes later, the waitress came to check on us. We told her we took a fork and hoped that was OK. She replied, "That was easy to do, wasn't it?" It seemed to me she didn't think we should have bothered her with our needs. After that I noticed a difference in her attitude toward my boyfriend and me—she would look my boyfriend in the eye and smile as he talked to her but seemed rather cold and looked away when I tried to say something to her. Was I being rude for raising my hand to her?

—Y.H.

Dear Y,
Sometimes bad waitresses happen to good people. This girl clearly doesn't like waitressing, and if her boss had heard her make the snide crack about your boyfriend getting his own fork, she probably would have been reprimanded, or canned. The probable explanation for her belated cordiality to your boyfriend is that she no doubt realized she should warm up the situation as tip time grew nigh. Her continued frostiness to you was just more of her acting out. What went on in that restaurant has nothing to do with North American culture and etiquette, and raising your hand was just fine.

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—Prudie, knowingly

Dear Prudence,
I ask you this on behalf of my co-workers and myself. There is a man in our office who never fails to get on our nerves. He always calls me and the other women "young lady." I've told him, jokingly, that this brings back bad memories of when I was a child being reprimanded. I, of course, do not have bad memories of my childhood, but the comment always bothers me. He stopped for maybe a week, but now has resumed with the "young lady" business. Is there a way I can tell him to stop calling us that without coming off as a snob?

—Not So "Young Lady" Anymore

Dear Not,
There is kind of a stern air to "young lady"... unless this man is really a geezer. Prudie suspects this is a habit with him by now. Humor might be the best way to go. Tell your co-"young ladies" that each of them should say, when so addressed, "Oh, do call me ------. It's so much more informal." He may take the hint—and he may not. There is nothing snobbish about wishing to be called by your name, by the way. You may, however, depending on his level of awareness, remain young ladies forever.

—Prudie, youthfully