Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

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Advice on manners and morals.
July 7 2005 6:47 AM

Who's Your Daddy?

How to handle questionable paternity.


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Dear Prudence,
I recently began a committed relationship with a man who has been a good friend for a long time. The problem is that he may have a baby on the way. He had a short-lived fling (before me), and the woman ended up pregnant. Since they were not in a committed relationship, he is unsure if it is his. My boyfriend is working very hard to appease her since she has on more than one occasion threatened to move back here with the child. My problem is that she is overly demanding, and he is overly facilitating. She expects him to be at her beck and call. I understand that if this child is his, he will be tied to her for the next 18 years. I realize this is something I will have to deal with and, for the most part, bite my tongue about. I want to express my concerns about things, such as him flying to another state with her to introduce the baby to her family, but I am not sure how to approach it. I have no children of my own, but I do believe that his going to meet her family is a bit much. He has attempted to make it clear to her that he in no way wants a relationship, but she seems to be holding out hope. What is the best way for me to approach this subject with him? I am distraught over the situation.

—Needing Guidance

Dear Need,
The first step is to suggest that there be a DNA test establishing paternity. It is possible that your fella may not be the father. Should it be established that he is, then guidelines need to be instituted. Because he's said he wants no relationship, he should stick to that and meet his obligations: namely, support for the child. Prudie actually knows a couple in this position. All the people involved live in the same town, which somewhat modifies things, but the wise woman who was in the picture when the "mistake" was made finally married the man, and her husband meeting his obligations is the price she was willing to pay—or put up with, or whatever. There is certainly no need for any trip à trois to "introduce" anybody to anybody. Chances are that once this woman understands that your guy plans to limit contact to a check in the mail (which is his right) she will go along with the program. Good luck.

—Prudie, unwaveringly    

Dear Prudence,
Is there an appropriate gift or greeting to offer an amicably divorced spouse, for either what would've been the wedding anniversary or the anniversary of the divorce becoming final? While there is no chance of reconciliation at all, my ex-wife and I do get a long very well and have remained friends. Is there some formal expression of etiquette that is appropriate here?

—Happily Divorced Dad

Dear Hap,
What a nice change of pace your letter is. Although there is no formal etiquette on the subject, let us revert to Prudie's rule regarding indecision: You can never go wrong doing the kind or friendly thing. By all means, send her flowers on the anniversary of your choosing, along with a note saying that you value her friendship and are so pleased that it endures. Prudie's former husband sent a massive bouquet with a warm note on the day the divorce was granted, which, of course, made a huge hit.


—Prudie, sentimentally      

Dear Prudence,
I recently had surgery on a very private part of my body that is generally not discussed—specifically, in the spot "where the sun don't shine." Fixing this painful problem is more common than any of us might imagine, but no one mentions it because of its embarrassing location. Because the recovery has caused me to miss three weeks of work, I couldn't keep it totally secret. However, the only people who know the true nature of the procedure are my immediate family, close friends, and my boss. The story I gave to others was somewhat vague and identified only as "minor surgery." You wouldn't believe the persistent inquiries that my family and I have received from otherwise polite, well-meaning people who practically insist on knowing all the details; they want to know who my surgeon was and the exact type of procedure performed. These nosy types include people at work and at church, even the minister. (Frankly, they are becoming a bigger pain in the butt than my original malady.) I'll be returning to work and to church soon, and I need a way of responding to the inquiries that is not rude, because these folks are well-meaning, just dense. I want to respond in a way that makes it clear that the subject is not open to discussion. Help!

—Not Sitting Pretty

Dear Not,
The situation you speak of is indelicate, not shameful … though Prudie understands your reticence to report on the operation that dare not speak its name. The best way to circumnavigate the questions is with a pithy version of the truth. If you say, "The surgery was done by a rear admiral," Prudie is pretty certain this information will be all that they need to hear. And you will have said everything while having said nothing.


—Prudie, painfully                   

Dear Prudie,
I never thought I would be writing to you, but I'm confounded. In a nutshell, my mother died, and I did not attend the funeral. The reasons? First, my mother and I did not get along. I'm a lesbian; she was a fundamentalist Christian. For almost 14 years we didn't speak, and her side of the family disowned me. In the past seven years, though, we had a cordial relationship, mainly because of my attempts to find common ground with her and the rest of the family. Second is my extreme dislike of funerals. I went to my grandfather's and spent three hours listening to a minister thump his Bible and preach about the repenting of our sins because that's what my grandfather spent his life trying to do. Add to this the morbid fascination people have with viewing a corpse and I'm done for. Third, I don't view death as a bad thing, just a transition to another state of being and a whole new adventure. (For the record, I'm not having a funeral when I die.) And last, my partner was scheduled for surgery the same day as the funeral. My family is now quite upset with me, and even my 20-year-old daughter isn't talking to me. I have been disowned again. Part of me says, "Fine, be that way," and the other part of me is really hurt and angry that people will not respect my decisions about my own life. Should I have gone just because she was my mother?

—Hurt and Confused

Dear Hurt,
Given the circumstances you outline, as well as your beliefs, Prudie concurs with the decision you made. You chose someone who was dear to you—and living—over someone who was no longer here. Or at least your partner's surgery tipped the balance. Your absence, however, did make a statement, and a public one, about your ambivalence toward your mother. The important thing is for you to be comfortable with your decision. Tune out the people who disapprove and try to get comfortable with what is best for you.

—Prudie, individually