Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 17 2006 7:16 AM

It Takes a Thief

I'm afraid my boss may be embezzling from our company.

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Dear Prudence,
I work for a small company as part of the very small accounting department. A few months ago, I accidentally uncovered evidence of my immediate boss (with whom I am friendly) embezzling what I first thought were small sums of company money. I was stunned at what I saw but thought maybe he'd obtained permission to take out loans. I guess I was hoping this. I never felt comfortable casually bringing up what I found, so I didn't do anything. Yesterday, I saw evidence of repeated and ever-increasing theft and don't really know what to do. The easy answer is to turn him in, but I would be the direct beneficiary of him being fired if I were given his job. Also, this is a small town, and the situation would ruin all job prospects for him here. I've discussed this with my father and he thinks I should stay out of it. I also have always had an aversion to ratting people out. Yet, if this ever comes out, the owner of the company will know that I at least had suspicions but never told him. What do I do?

—Losing Sleep

Dear Losing,
What if he is guilty and you don't report him? What if he's not and you do? (And what kind of accountant keeps his mouth shut in the face of possible financial crimes?) I brought your dilemma to an employment attorney, Christopher E. Ezold, who practices in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. He points out that you would be violating your duties to the company by seeing possibly fraudulent activities and saying nothing. On the other hand, you could be liable for defamation if this guy hasn't done anything wrong and you accuse him of embezzling. Ezold suggested you bring the questionable transactions to the attention of the owner. Say they raised some concerns with you and you wanted to make sure they were appropriate. I'll add that you should stop worrying about being a rat or ruining this man's job prospects. If he's an embezzler, his job prospects deserve to be ruined.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
I have been together with my wife for five years, two of those married. No kids. I'm 38 and she's six years older. We love each other and spend most of our time together (we both work from home), support each other and feel we are a great team. The only thing that's a bit strange is that we don't have sex. We kiss and cuddle and touch but hardly ever get ourselves to perform the act. It has been a slow fade-out over the last three years, but I would say neither of us miss it too much. A friend I told about this thinks there is something deeply wrong and that we should see a therapist right away. Now I'm worried.

—Feeling A-OK

Dear A,
It sounds like you and your wife are the couple in the "Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder" T-shirts. It's hard to advise people who are happy that there's something wrong, but you are obviously concerned enough about this turn of nonevents to call it "strange" and bring it up with a friend. Ask yourself this question: Would you be content to imagine yourself celebrating your 20th anniversary with a toast to "Two wonderful decades of celibacy"? Having a sexless marriage, and at such a young age, is a drastic loss of intimacy, and I don't care how good at cuddling you are. This also might leave your marriage vulnerable to destruction the first time one of you comes across someone who reminds you of the power of sexual attraction. If you haven't had sex with each other for years, it may seem less awkward to try it with someone new than reintroduce it to your marriage. A physical as well as mental checkup might help you both revive this part of your lives. Another thing that might help is if one of you finds somewhere else to work, even for part of the week. Maybe you'll look at each other with more excitement if you're not looking at each other all the time.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My father is 80 and was widowed eight months ago. He was very dependent on my mother, both practically and emotionally. My problem is that he is turning to me for support that I find hard to give. From as far back as I can remember until well into my 20s, I was terrified of him. He used to yell at me all the time, often out of the blue. Nothing I did pleased him, ever. In those years, I wanted mainly to avoid his attention. Nowadays (I'm 51), I can put that history aside for an afternoon every so often, but I can't forgive. He seems to want to chat with me on the phone several times a week, just to have someone to talk to. My father seems to have no idea that I harbor these feelings and consider him a wretched parent. He's got my brother (whom he abused much less) and his wife living nearby and they take a lot of the pressure off me, but he still wants me to be his friend. How can I steer clear of this without hurting his feelings?

—Middle-Aged Son

Dear Middle,
It's not easy figuring out what you owe an elderly parent who gave you a miserable childhood. In general, it's difficult to have sympathy for rotten parents. I'm not talking about flawed people who make mistakes but tried to do their best. I'm talking about those parents who, like your father, use their children as convenient emotional or physical punching bags. Your observation that he probably has no idea what kind of parent he was often seems to go along with this syndrome. You sound like you have a remarkably sane perspective on your father. You're right, as awful as he was, for the sake of your own mental health—for your psyche—you don't want to get even now that he's the vulnerable one. It's also not worth it to explain your antipathy—he just won't get it. But it is too much to ask for you to fill the emotional hole that has opened in his life. Since you can stand to have a civil conversation with him occasionally, why not say, "Dad, during the week I'm so overwhelmed with work and other obligations that's it hard for me to talk to you then. Let's try to talk regularly on Sunday."

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
Recently, a close friend told me that she and her partner (also a woman) are planning to have a child. This announcement was not a complete surprise, since we had discussed the possibility before. They have selected a sperm donor from an online registry. I told her that I was glad they had made this decision and that I thought they would be wonderful parents. Since the insemination had not yet occurred and there is no pregnancy, I thought this response was sufficient. Evidently, it was not. I have since been informed that I am not supportive enough and also that I am not "excited" enough for them. Times have changed since I was pregnant 24 years ago. Intimate details of advanced gynecological procedures are discussed over dinner. The earliest sonograms are passed around the office. Am I just hopelessly out-of-date in believing that the time to celebrate begins when there is a confirmed and viable pregnancy?

—Medieval Lady-in-Waiting

Dear Medieval,
Should you have said, "I'm sure 467-B has very superior sperm"? I constantly hear from people who don't know how to keep nosy friends and co-workers from delving into intimate affairs. But you're being punished apparently for not initiating a discussion of motility. It's also likely your friend is looking for evidence that she is not being treated the same as a heterosexual would be—but surely if you knew a heterosexual couple using a sperm donor, you would behave with exactly the same reticence. I don't know any couple embarked on trying to have children, by whatever means, who want monthly inquiries as to whether anything has developed or discussions about how lucky their nonexistent offspring will be to have them for parents. Stay medieval and keep your excitement for when there is actual good news to celebrate.

—Prudie