Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

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Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 4 2005 6:42 AM

For Adults Only

When "no kids" means "no kids."


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Dear Prudence,
I seriously dislike kids. I don't have many friends (by choice) because even though I tell friends that I don't like kids, they still include their kids in my life. For example, last time I had a BBQ at home, I said "no kids"on the invitation. But some people did bring their kids. Children make me nervous in my house. I am not rude when I tell people that I don't like kids. I explain the reasons (I suffer from an anxiety disorder and take daily prescribed meds), and I let them know that I don't want kids included in my activities, etc. People are fine with this, they do not get offended ... but later on they forget. I think a few kids are cute, well-mannered, well-behaved, etc., but I still don't want them in my house or my activities. How do I tell people, so they will not forget, that I don't want children in my life? I would like to keep certain friends, but sadly, I wind up terminating these friendships due to the kid problem.


Dear Ade,
Oh, my, you really are channeling W.C. Fields, aren't you? He famously loathed children, in case you're from a generation too young to have heard of him. You don't say how old you are, but Prudie is guessing appreciably under 50, because your friends—or would-be friends—seem to have young kids. It must be hard to live life trying to avoid youngsters. You are certainly entitled to your prejudice, but it has to be limiting for you. To be practical about it, when you give—or attend—a party you could confirm, by phone, that the festivities are for adults only. Prudie would suggest that you perhaps move to a retirement community, but you would still be exposed to grandchildren. As you must know better than anyone, it is difficult to control the world around you. Maybe consider cultivating people who are childless, or ... you might give some thought to conquering this phobia with professional help.


—Prudie, evasively

Dear Prudie,
Your advice is always so fantastic that I wonder what you will make of this one. Four years ago my cousin (we'll call her Joan) and I had a major falling out. Now my husband of two years and I are on rocky terms. We both participated in a friend's wedding this past weekend, and this friend, knowing of the situation, extended invitations to each of us separately, with "and guest." Because I thought it would be tacky to bring a "date" to a wedding that my husband would also attend, I went alone. My husband, however, invited Joan! He said that he thought she would enjoy the party because she knew many of the people there. While I am ticked off at him for ignoring the issue with me and the Judas cousin, I am furious with her for actually accepting the invitation at all. My question is this: Should I say something to Joan when we next meet?

—PO'd and Confused in N.J.

Dear P.,
There is nothing you could say, my dear, that would not give the wretched cousin great satisfaction. Your husband invited her for a reason, and a not very nice one, at that. He is a rat, and bringing that particular date was an inside jab. Continue taking the high road; it is a great vantage point from which to look down on people.


—Prudie, loftily

Dear Prudence,
Why do people think it's OK to give nicknames to or otherwise rib persons of short stature? I would never dream of going up to an overweight person and saying, "Hey fatso, how's it going?" or a bald person saying, "Ouch! That reflection off your head is blinding me!" Yet invariably complete strangers call me names—Shorty, Small Fry, Little Girl, etc. Maybe I should point out that I'm 4 feet 11 inches, the same height and build as Shakira and Lil' Kim. This wrecked my self esteem as a teenager and led me to some bad choices in life, but over the years I have learned to accept my small size and now the comments are just an annoyance. It would be the height of bad taste to suggest to a stranger that maybe he should not have fries with that burger, would it not? I'm constantly flabbergasted at people's rudeness and wanted Prudie to remind people that maybe we should work on ourselves instead of picking on others.

—Strawberry Shortcake

Dear Straw,
Prudie understands why you are annoyed at the nicknames having to do with your height. She also thinks that joshing about stature is probably considered to be more benign than, say, pointing out avoirdupois. What is likely behind strangers deciding to give you a nickname is that they don't realize they are offending you, and may, in fact, be trying to be friendly. By all means respond with your Shakira and Lil' Kim answer, which will certainly let them know that you're not crazy about the reference to your height (and that you're also a music fan). With luck, in time you will stop feeling sensitive about being short. Prudie, who is a hair over 5 feet tall, is, in her head, a 6-foot showgirl.

—Prudie, attitudinally

Dear Prudence,
Am I being prickly, or do I have a valid complaint? It drives me absolutely batty when I thank a waiter, sales clerk, or other paid service person and the response is "no problem." I paid you to bring me my meal or find those shoes in my size, and the fact that it was or wasn't a problem is of no interest to me. A few times I've actually responded that "I don't really care if it was a problem or not," which I know was wrong, but I was aflame with ire and it just came out. As for myself, whenever I am thanked, I always respond with, "You're welcome," "I'm happy to help," or "My pleasure." Is it too much to ask that others do the same?

—David M.

Dear Dave,
You have come to the right place. Prudie, herself, is a bit of a churl about that "No problem" business. It has, unfortunately, crept into the language and does not seem about to be displaced. Some phrases take hold and then go on to lose all meaning. Another regrettable example is the phrase "soul mate" which has become the supposed ultimate accolade to a spouse, fiancee, what have you. "No problem" is meant to be polite. That is, people who say it are not trying to be annoying, they are just linguistic sheep. In a hotel once, the music from a neighboring room was way too loud, and Prudie called the desk to ask them to please inform the offender. The answer of course was, "No problem." When there were no results, and Prudie called back to repeat the request, again there was the mindless "No problem." With exactly your feeling of "aaarrrgh," Prudie's response was, "Apparently you are mistaken, because it is proving to be a problem."

—Prudie, outspokenly