Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 9 2006 7:20 AM

Kiss of Dread

What can I do about a wonderful man who just can't kiss?

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Dear Readers,

As Slate's Human Guinea Pig, for which, among other adventures, I reigned (briefly) as Mrs. Washington, D.C., and attempted to teach my beagle to dance, I have learned important life lessons. I will now put the knowledge from these and many other experiences to good use—to give you counsel as I take over the "Dear Prudence" column. I welcome all your questions about love, family, friends, work, people who chew with their mouths open, and the rest of life's predicaments. I look forward to hearing from you.

—Emily Yoffe

Dear Prudence,

After several years of searching for Mr. Right, I have met someone who holds great promise for a long-term relationship. He is a soft-spoken man who treats me with great respect. He's been a widower for many years, raising hischildren alone and doing a marvelous job. He's a hard worker, honest, and seems very smitten with me. We have a great deal in common including our profession, which has been a real challenge for me since I have a nontraditional job in agriculture. The problem is, he's an awful kisser, something I find pretty important when it comes to intimacy. How do you tell someone that the way they kiss is a real turnoff and not hurt their feelings? It's not like we're kids, we're in our 50s.

—Puckered Up

Dear Puckered,

Rabid dog? Sword tongue? Mouse pecks?OK, I'm feeling a little sick, and so will you every time you begin to get intimate if you don't solve this problem. One difficulty, to paraphrase Garrison Keillor, is that everyone thinks they are an above-average kisser. You need to be gentle but direct. Try something like, "I'm crazy about you, and I would love it if when we kissed you were less assertive" or "more assertive" as the case may be. Then offer a demonstration. Good luck teaching your old mad dog a new trick.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,

I been involved with a lady for two months. We have much in common, and in many ways it's a very satisfying relationship. Recently she dropped a bomb. In the middle of conversation she announced that she was going to kill herself when she was 75. Did not want to go through the usual body/mind deterioration. She made this choice at 18, after watching Harold and Maude. I watched the movie but could see little that would cause one to make such a brutal decision and stick with it. She's 51 now. We are on a month's sabbatical from the relationship. I'm just coming out of deep mourning and feel it's my role now to try to convince her of the wrongness of her decision. I've decided it's the most selfish, arrogant act imaginable. She wants family and friends there to cheer, "What a wonderful life. What a glorious death." Out of love, I must try to dissuade her from this wasteful end. Any advice? Why did she have to tell me this late?

—Resolute love

Dear Resolute,

You say you are on a one-month sabbatical after dating only two months. You need to extend this break through the year 2030 so you can be sure not to be there for her bon voyage party. But do tell her she could buy herself five more years if she watches Harold and Maude again—Maude doesn't do herself in until she's turning 80. The danger is your friend might also rent that other Ruth Gordon classic, Rosemary's Baby, and decide she wants to carry Satan's spawn. In either case, you'll be well rid of her.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,

My father is a horrible man. He was physically abusive to my mother and mentally abusive to me all through my childhood. He beat my mother fairly regularly. He kept me under lock and key until I left home. It wasn't until I left for college several years ago, that I realized how unhealthy my upbringing was. After a year of depression, I sought counseling and felt much better about things. Since that time, I kept my relationship with my father to a minimum. This past summer, my father contacted me, saying he no longer wants to have any part in my life. He had very little part in it anyway. We live in different states, seeing each other once a year or so for dinner. I was a bit hurt at first, but quickly came to realize this was just another one of his ways of trying to coerce me back into his mental control. I let him know that was fine with me. I have felt very relieved since this happened. I no longer worry about what he thinks of me. My problem has been the inquiries of others, particularly my husband's family. When I explain to them I have no relationship with my father, I am often told, "Oh, that's not right." I have no intention of seeking a reconciliation. I would like to know what I can say to let them know I am not anti-family for not wanting a relationship with an abusive jerk.

—Not Anti-Family

Dear Not,

Don't your in-laws know about your painful childhood? If you don't wish to go into details, explain that you and your father are estranged, and this is a mutual decision that's best for both of you. When the subject comes up with others, shrug it off by saying you and your father are neither geographically or emotionally close. Beyond that, it's none of their business. But be aware that it is very difficult to say goodbye forever to a parent, even (or maybe especially) a terrible one. If you never see or speak to your father again, you may still find at various milestones in your life—the birth of your children, for example—that he exerts a psychological pull you need to explore further.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,

I am engaged and we are in the process of planning our wedding. There is a huge debate over what is OK to put in the invitations and what is not. My fiance and I have been living together for a little over a year and we aren't planning on registering because we already have so much. So, monetary gifts would be great for us! Now, how do you put this in your invitation? A few suggestions have come up but we don't want to seem rude or crass. Please help!

—Stressing Bride-to-Be

Dear Stressing,

The function of a wedding invitation is to tell people when and where they can join you for your joyous event. It is not a prospectus for soliciting funds. (Would the fine print say that there will be no reimbursement in case the merger fails?) Traditionally, wedding gifts are to help the couple set up their new household together. Since you've already done that, informing everyone, especially in print, "We've got plenty of stuff, just send cash," cannot be disguised to keep it from sounding rude and crass. Your one acceptable avenue toward swelling your bank account is that some etiquette mavens say it is OK to have family members and close friends put out the word that checks would be most appreciated.

—Prudie