Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 14 2005 9:57 AM

Disappearing Act

When friendships die.

9_dearprudence_01

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Dear Prudie,
Love your advice, so here's my issue. When my wife and I were young and struggling several years ago, we were very close with another couple who were in the same financial/professional shape we were, but better off in terms of where they lived. Subsequently, my career took off, enabling us to move to a nice town, have kids, and allow my wife to give up her successful job. Our friends have also moved and had children but haven't done as well professionally or financially. Despite my wife and I being the same people we always were, and having them over a number of times, it hasn't been reciprocated since our move. Complicating the situation is that we asked them to be our first son's godparents several years ago, but come his past few birthdays, there has been silence on their end. The question is this: Is it worth making one last attempt to contact or confront "friends" who are so threatened or jealous of us?

—M.R.

Dear M.,
Your dilemma calls to mind the old saw, "Actions speak louder than words." You've entertained them, they've not reciprocated. The unspoken message is that they feel they don't measure up, and "talking it out" will not change how they feel. It is unfortunate when these things happen, but there you are. Alas, such a situation is not all that uncommon. Just let things ride; it will be easier on everyone. You and your wife have become a difficult connection for them, and you have nothing to gain by pursuing them. At least you understand the dynamic, so there are no mysteries about what happened to the relationship. Try to remember the good times and just say RIP to something that used to be good, but is no longer.

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—Prudie, acceptingly

Dear Prudence,
I have been invited on a family vacation with three other couples, two with children and one without. One family's children range in age from 4 to 12, and the other has high-school and college-age girls. Of the four couples, I am the only one who is in a long-term relationship, but not married. We are all in our 40s. The other couples have stated that if I come with my significant other, we would have to sleep in separate rooms because it is inappropriate for us to share a room with impressionable children around. I was surprised by this and declined the invitation because while I respect other people's moral views, I didn't think it was appropriate for us to have to hide our relationship. They said they didn't find anything wrong with us sleeping together on principle; it has to do with the values they want to set for their young children. I feel that they are making a moral judgment about our relationship and being hypocritical by asking us to sleep separately, since they have had sex outside of marriage. I think if any of the children had a question about us, their parents should be open and honest with them; to hide our relationship seems dishonest and merely avoids an issue that should be openly discussed if and when it is brought up. How would you handle the situation?

—Baffled

Dear Baff,
Prudie would have made the decision you did. You are in your 40s, after all. It is likely that the high-school and college-age kids wouldn't have given it a thought, given what's going on today with their own peers. As for the younger ones, they likely wouldn't have noticed or cared ... or if they had, a short explanation would have made it a non-issue. One has to respect the parents' wishes, however, which is what you did. Prudie agrees with you that it would have been phony—and expensive—to go along with the charade of two rooms just so the kids would not ask questions ... or require answers.

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—Prudie, honestly

Dear Prudence,
At least once a week, I have someone tell me, "You look just like -----." The "blank" is filled in with an actor, musician, their sister's real estate agent, etc. Aside from the fact that I couldn't possibly look like all the people I am compared to, it has gotten to be somewhat annoying. Today one young lady in our business networking group compared me to someone on a TV show, then turned to her neighbor to share this thought. That person got someone's attention across the room to spread the news, and so on. Since I don't think people are being intentionally rude when they do this, I don't want to snap back my real thought, which is, "Why the heck should I care who you think I look like?" I wish there were a polite way to say that I'm not interested and to gently deflect the conversation into another direction. Can you offer any advice?

—Exasperated by Comparisons

Dear Ex,
Whoops! This is something Prudie does, herself, never having thought about its being unwelcome. Perhaps these comparisons are a social tic; people just automatically saying what they're thinking, imagining it to be a compliment. As to what you can do, a wan smile is your best bet for closing down that line of conversation. Now that you mention it, it is reasonable that it gets old hearing that you look like X. Come to think of it, whenever Prudie has done this, the person most often says, "Yes, I've heard that." But thank you. Prudie's not gonna do it anymore. Wouldn't be prudent.

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—Prudie, appreciatively

Dear Prudence,
I have a friend who has the bad habit of overusing the word "no." Even when she's agreeing with you, she often responds with a "no"—as in, someone will say, "Nice day, isn't it?" and she will respond, "Oh, no, no, no. Wait till Saturday; it's supposed to be gorgeous!" She does this inadvertently, but I walk away from every chat feeling like I've been defending myself in an argument. For example, today she was expecting a much anticipated birthday check in the mail. I joked with her, "Be sure to get home from your errands in time to grab that check!" She replied, "Oh, no, no, no ... my mail doesn't come until late afternoon." I walk away from our conversations feeling beaten up because I've been told "no" so many times! How can I break her of this negative habit?

—No No No to More Nos

Dear No,
Ay-yay-yay with Miss No No No. Did this girl come from Walla Walla or Bora Bora? (Kidding.) Her conversational tic, granted, is quite peculiar and does seem to carry a hint of correcting, if not contradicting, the speaker. But getting her to undo this habit would be next to impossible. It would be like trying to get someone to stop weaving "you know" or "um" into their sentences, because it is pattern speech. Try to come to terms with the quaint trio of "no"s that this woman has become habituated to. If she's a nice person, this is a small enough irritation to overlook. You might even make it a private joke to anticipate her sentence openers.

—Prudie, positively