Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 4 2006 7:08 AM

Caveman Dynamics

My daughter's friend is a domineering bully. What can we do to stop it?

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Dear Prudie,
Over the past year, an intolerable dynamic has developed between my 4-year-old daughter and her best friend, a 4-year-old boy. During any play situation, the boy takes a demanding, controlling attitude toward my daughter, telling her she can only play with certain things in certain ways, and constantly criticizes whatever she might be doing at the moment. This has leaked into their preschool situation, where my daughter seems to have developed a dependency on the boy and has had difficulty building other friendships. My wife has tried to limit contact, but it has now reached the point where she wants to cut off any outside playtime with the friend. The problem is that we are close friends with the parents (our older boys went through preschool together and remain friends), and you know how people are about their own kids. The mother has been relatively unresponsive to my wife's complaints about the boy's behavior in the past. The question is, how can we deliver this news to this couple without completely killing our friendship?

—Fuming

Dear Fuming,
Unless your daughter and their son have a standing date, you don't need to do much of anything except stop making plans for these two. You've already brought up the problem with the boy's parents, and nothing's happened (in their defense, it's no easier to get a 4-year-old to change his relationship dynamic than it is a 40-year-old). If the boy's mother tries to get them together, just say your daughter is busy, or that she's in a phase where she's more interested in playing with other girls—then set up some of those girl get-togethers. Definitely have a talk with the teacher to make sure she is separating your daughter and the boy when necessary and guiding your girl toward playing with other children. Then plan an evening out—adults only—with your friends, and talk about something besides the emotional dramas of 4-year-olds.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My husband and I are in our late 20s, and we got married last June. One week after the wedding, he was diagnosed with cancer. Many surgeries and radiation treatments later, when his treatment was nearing a finish, I was also diagnosed with cancer. I also had surgery and radiation, which brings us to today. With our many hospital stays, I am extremely embarrassed to admit that, almost a year later, thank-you notes have not yet been sent. Most of our friends and family know of our ordeal, but some do not. My question is, when we write the thank-you notes, should we acknowledge the length of time that has passed since our wedding, or we do write them as if nothing happened? I want people to know we did not intentionally or lazily overlook this, but I don't want the thank-you notes to be about our cancers!

—Apologetic and Don't Know What To Do

Dear Apologetic,
I hope you both are feeling well and have excellent prognoses. If there ever was a situation in which people would give a bride and groom a pass on thank-you notes, this is it. But now that you want to write them and feel up to doing so, you should give people an update on how you're doing. Friends and family haven't been stewing about the notes, but have been worried about you two. As for the people who haven't heard—if they were close enough to be invited to the wedding, they are close enough to be told. You can thank people for their gift, then say something like, "It certainly has been a tumultuous year—to find ourselves going from being newlyweds, to each being diagnosed and treated for cancer. We are grateful to be doing better now. And looking at [insert gift here] reminds us of our wonderful wedding day, how glad we were to have you there, and how much we look forward to enjoying our life together."

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend and I have been together for just about two months. He is kind, generous, caring, thoughtful, successful, a fabulous lover ... everything I could want in a man! However, I'm having a bit of an issue with his appearance—specifically, his back. The hair, the pimples—I'm close to repulsed when I see it! I don't want to hurt this man and this is not something to end this relationship over, but I don't know what to do!

—Feeling Superficial and Shallow

Dear Feeling,
This sounds like a version of King Kong in which Kong doesn't fall off the Empire State Building, but actually gets to settle down with his beloved, and the first thing she wants to do is take the guy in for laser pelt removal. It's a little early in your relationship to be asking for a cosmetic overhaul. And doesn't "fabulous lover" (among all his other sterling qualities) help overcome your feelings about his follicles? You need to be better established as a couple and know his level of sensitivity about himself before you give him a gift certificate to the dermatologist. If the relationship continues, you will get a feel for the best way to broach the subject, be it blunt, apologetic, or joking. In the meantime, concentrate on the view of his anterior, not posterior, and be happy you can run your fingers through the hair (on the head) of such a paragon.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
I went with my husband to pick up a check from a customer who was past due on a payment. The woman in accounting told him it was really hard for her to get the money approved—$10,000—and that she was having a bad day. He asked her what would make it a good day, and she responded that a peach rose would make her day. He got the check and we left. On the way home he made a detour to a flower shop. I thought, "How sweet, he's going to get me a flower because it's my birthday tomorrow." He came out with a dozen peach-colored roses and one long-stemmed red rose. He said he got the peach roses for the gal at the business and the red rose was for me, "Because I love you." I asked why he would buy a business associate roses, and didn't he think she would take it the wrong way. He said, no, she was married with kids. He was doing it because she got us the past-due money and she'd said she was having a bad day. It was a business move. I told him that any time a woman gets roses from a male, that sends a romantic signal. He said red roses are for love, these were peach. I had surgery last week and had several bad days. I feel that he was being more than a business client by being sympathetic to another woman's needs. Prudie, say I'm overly jealous!

—One Rose With Thorns

Dear Rose,
Sometimes I feel sorry for the blundering but well-meaning Y-chromosome beings who walk among us. If your husband was trying to launch a romantic encounter with this woman, he wouldn't have taken you on the detour to witness his clever gambit. He was not overcome with desire for her, but with gratitude that she enabled him to cover his bills. I'm sure he thought a dozen roses was a small investment in order to have Ms. Accounts Payable forever on his side. And I believe he believed he was making a beautiful gesture by buying you a single, perfect rose. As it played out, his thought process was dopey (a dozen roses when you came out of the hospital would have been really smart), but it was also innocent. I'll say it: You're being overly jealous. And even though he should have gotten you roses after your surgery, and even though he was oblivious to how the peach-rose bouquet would go over with you, if you tell him you feel you did overreact, he will be as grateful as if he got another check for $10,000.

—Prudie