Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
June 16 2005 7:19 AM

Two Guys and a Girl

Should I go for Mr. Safety, or wait for Mr. Married?

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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,
I met a guy about four months ago and we hit it off wonderfully. I like everything about him (so far) except for the fact that he is still married. Separated, for sure (I checked with mutual friends), but I consider that still married and not available and told him when he's free we could pursue a relationship. No guarantees that either of us would be available then, considering the length of time divorce takes in California (at least six months) and that divorce papers were just recently filed. (Again I checked; it's public info!) We do not see each other but do e-mail now and then, mostly just saying, "Hi, I'm thinking of you" kind of things. In the meantime, I have met another guy who is great, definitely single, and is crazy about me. And I should be crazy about him, except he's not guy No. 1. I know that if I had never met guy No. 1, I would be more interested and excited about guy No. 2. Since I won't compromise on the separated/married thing, do I wait five months and see what happens when, or even if, guy No. 1 is free? Or do I get him out of my head, somehow, and give guy No. 2 a fighting chance? I know this sounds so darn high school, but we are all mid- to late 40s.

—Bakersfield, Calif.

Dear Bake,
Prudie admires your scruples and suggests you make a "fate bet." Because you wisely choose not to dally with a guy who could be married for quite a while—for whatever reason—why don't you proceed with No. 2 as if there were no No. 1? See where things go. If he is not your heart's desire when/if No. 1 sheds the Mrs., you will have given yourself every advantage in making up your mind. This has nothing to do with the "bird in the hand" thing ... it is merely a rational way to play out your situation. And who knows? It is entirely possible that a Mr. Perfect No. 3 could wander into the picture. Good luck.

—Prudie, alternatively  

Dear Prudence,
How does one encourage safe sex without promoting promiscuity? I have a younger sister in her late teens who I suspect is sexually active. I have come to the conclusion that the only person in our immediate family she is going to get straight facts from is me. From experience, I know that any such talk from my parents would be of the Bible-thumping variety and extremely judgmental. How do I convey a message of safe sexual practices without coming across as first, a busybody, and second, encouraging what some might term a "liberal sexual agenda"?

—Older Brother  

Dear Old,
Given that your parents would not be a fount of purely disinterested medical information, you are exactly the right one to have a talk with your sister about the birds and bees ... who, unfortunately, these days, bring with them many sexually transmitted diseases. Correct information can in no way be construed as "encouraging" sex. It is neither liberal nor conservative to wish to avoid AIDS, herpes, genital warts, numerous other venereal diseases ... or an unwanted baby. Because you have a hunch your younger sister is already sexually active, you would be doing her a great favor by allowing her to be comprehensively informed.

—Prudie, proactively 

Dear Prudie,
My best friend (I will call her Anna) and I are 39. We have been through absolutely everything together, from our unfaithful husbands, subsequent divorces, my second divorce, and my pregnancies. Anna, after many disastrous relationships (mostly because she displayed her desperation to get married and have a baby), has married a man our age who is equally desperate to have a baby. Three days ago she found out that her eggs are too old and she will be unable to conceive but is eligible for IVF with a donor egg. Anna was previously on anti-depressants but no longer is, as she was trying to get pregnant. She has spent three days locked up in her house, calling in sick to work, and not communicating with her husband. When we "talk," I simply listen and keep asking what her husband feels about what she is saying, because this is a crucial time for them as a couple. I love her so much and can see and hear the pain, but I cannot empathize as I had my two children in the last six years and feel happy even though their father traded me in for his second "fling." I need some resources or canned answers to gently show her that she is fortunate enough to be able to carry a baby if she chooses (a few of our other friends can't) and that her husband would accept adoption—though Anna hasn't decided about adoption. She isn't getting any younger. Her 40th birthday is next week, and I fear her depression will peak on that day. Help!

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—Stuck in a Cluster of Infertile Friends

Dear Stuck,
Prudie has a hunch that you, as a close friend, feel her disappointment, sadness, and anxiety, while you as a "citizen of the world" understand that there are many unwanted babies who could use good parents, and that one's own genes aren't a guarantee of perfection. As a rule, most women who cannot conceive get over the narcissistic injury and go on to make good decisions. Infertility technology is a major growth industry for a reason. All you can do is keep trying to get your friend to include her husband and agree on a solution; also remind her of the possibilities. If she absolutely wants the experience of pregnancy, she could use another woman's eggs (fertilized by her husband) implanted in her womb. And do remember that there is only so much a girlfriend can do.

—Prudie, encouragingly     

Ms. Prudence,
I have a very trying situation. I've relocated my family, two young children and a baby, to the great state of New York. I wanted to try living near my family for a change, having lived near my wife's family out West for over a decade. The problem is that the New York I remember is no longer, and I have changed, too. I do not enjoy it here as an adult at all. Winter's too long, summer too hot, and there are too many people. And money doesn't go as far here as I had imagined. I tried this experiment, and now, almost one year later, I'm ready to leave. How do I do this? My sisters and mom are going to be devastated if I move. Do I tell them I'm unhappy before I move, or do I just spring it on them when the decision has been made? I have my own little family to think about, and I'm outta here—but I wonder how do I minimize the damage?

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—Miserable in the Empire State

Dear Mis,
Don't beat yourself up. You gave it a try. As to when to tell your New York family, Prudie does not think it would be a good idea to wait until the moving van pulls up. Start laying the groundwork by mentioning the things you thought would be different and some of the difficulties you're having. Stress that you very much wanted to experience living with both families (yours and your wife's), but that it is better for your family to return to the West. As for New York no longer being what it once was, who or what, my dear, is?

—Prudie, experimentally   

Addendum from Prudie:
Two letters that appeared in last week's Prudie drew so much mail, Prudie is printing a representative letter about each one.

1) In reference to the woman making squirrel noises, as well as other animal sounds: It seems entirely possible that she might have Tourette's syndrome.

2) In reference to the letter about the woman who has a disagreement with her husband about her son responding to adults using "ma'am" and "sir": The woman says she and her husband were raised in southern Louisiana. It should be noted that Gov. Mike Foster signed a bill in August of 1999 stating that all school-age children address school officials with "ma'am" and "sir." Whether the husband likes it or not, the child is going to have to start saying "sir" as soon as he starts school.