Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 15 2005 6:17 AM

The Party's Over

What to do when your guests just won't leave.

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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 Prudence,
The other evening my partner and I had a couple over for a BBQ after work. They are friends of friends and new to the city. They arrived appropriately at 7:30 p.m. ... However, it got to be after midnight and they were still here! Our days start early (5 a.m.), so by 11 p.m. I could hardly keep my eyes open. We casually started cleaning up, putting things away, but there was no indication that our guests were leaving anytime soon. Frankly, my partner and I just sort of stopped participating in the conversation. By 12:30 a.m. our guests claimed they should "get out of our hair" and head home. Were they waiting for breakfast? What would have been the polite way to ask dinner guests to leave? Five hours seems like a long time for a casual BBQ, even if my partner and I are charming hosts. (Joke.)

—Ready for Bed

Dear Read,
You know what they say: No sense, no feeling. When in a pickle like the one you describe, it is perfectly acceptable to announce you are early risers and the evening is, regrettably, over. It is one of Prudie's tenets that clods not be permitted to hold people hostage in any type of situation. If people don't know when to go home they need to be told.

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—Prudie, proactively

Dear Prudence,
I'm sure, like most women, I sometimes feel I need to parent my husband. He is an intelligent man who started from an entry-level position in college to management, where he will celebrate 20 years this winter. He is an excellent husband and father. He worked two jobs to help put me through school. There are moments, though, when I feel our 4-year-old has better comprehension skills. Some things are little, like not rinsing dirty dishes or letting the garbage overflow; those I can overlook. Some things are more important. He has ruined many pieces of clothing (usually mine) by attempting to do laundry without sorting the colors, then gets upset when I bring it to his attention. His defense is that he is only trying to help. But this morning he fished his old toothbrush out of the garbage rather than ask me which new one was his. He said he didn't want to wake me. Prudie, I buy the same color every time! I do not understand how this seemingly intelligent executive can sometimes be an idiot savant. He is begging me to have a second child. After this latest incident, I am genuinely concerned. I do not want to be a single mother of three.

—Kissing a Garbage Mouth

Dear Kiss,
Would you be offended if Prudie said she smiled while reading your letter? Some men are just not on the domestic wavelength. Yours does seem very considerate of you otherwise. The missteps sound as though he is just not thinking about common-sense things, or perhaps he's a space shot if it's something he's not fully engaged with. Here's a mechanistic solution so you won't have to be annoyed anymore. By all means tell him he is relieved of laundry duty. Buy toothbrushes that have different configurations. (Maybe he's colorblind?) Because he wants to pitch in, "assign" him chores and then spell out how you'd like them done. And don't let the toothbrush episode stand in the way of a second child. Good luck managing your loving idiot savant. Prudie knows you can do it.

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—Prudie, organizationally

Dear Prudence,
I can't believe I am writing you about this, but I am at my wit's end and suspect that you, given your infinite objectivity and panache, will be able to help me figure this out. To give some context, I am a late-20s professional and graduate student with a fairly pleasant disposition. I have a large tattoo running from the top of my shoulder down to my elbow. It is quite elaborate and colorful, yet tasteful, but given its size, it tends to show unless I am wearing long sleeves. The problem is that daily, no, make that hourly, I have people commenting on it, pulling up my sleeve (often without my permission) to get a good look at it, and nearly always asking me how much it cost. Well, Prudie, it wasn't cheap. But neither is any luxury item, so why is it okay for strangers to ask me this invasive question and then consider me rude when I decline to answer? I would never ask how much an engagement ring or a new car cost, no matter how much I admired it or how curious I was. What's the polite response? I don't think that long sleeves for the rest of my life is a viable option. I'd like to add that while I took into account the idea of having something permanently on my body, I had no idea that doing so would invite so many people to harass me every day.

—Tattooed and Bothered

Dear Tat,
Objectivity and panache aside, if a stranger approached Prudie and pulled up her sleeve, she would most likely call a cop. Anyone who would do this is trespassing, as it were, on your person. At that point, you are not obliged to say anything except, "Please take your hands off me." (This would, obviously, vitiate the need to answer any questions about cost.) Surely, however, you had some inkling that an approximately foot-long tableau of permanently inked hearts, snakes, skulls, flowers, pirates, sayings, or whatever you have would attract some attention. As an aside, Prudie had never thought of a tattoo as being in a class with a new car, so thank you for this addition to the category of luxury items.

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—Prudie, pictorially

Dear Prudie,
Since Bad News Bears is being redone and rereleased, I was talking with some co-workers about the original. I talked about the ending and one of them was disappointed that I gave it away. I figured since it was released 30 years ago it was fair game. However, we're all pretty young (early 20s) and there is a fair chance that someone our age hasn't yet seen the movie. What is the proper etiquette for situations such as these?

—Cineaste in Trouble

Dear Cin,
Being of sound mind and strong opinions, Prudie doesn't often consult experts, but friends are another matter. Roger Ebert, perhaps the name most associated with the word "movies," had this to say about your question: "That movie has been available for the entire lifetime of the person who had it 'spoiled.' At some point, doesn't the statute of limitations run out? If you really want to be polite, you can ask first before revealing an ending, but I think once a movie's on home video and DVD, the game is over. On Ebert & Roeper we carefully did not reveal that a new movie involved human cloning—only to discover that the ads, trailers, and interviews with the stars all revealed it." As for Prudie, she believes that the agenda-driven critics who revealed the ending of the relatively new movie Million Dollar Baby were way out of line. As the old saying has it, "Timing is everything."

—Prudie, cinematically