Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 7 2006 6:15 AM

Ew, Gross!

Our teenage daughter caught us having sex. Is she traumatized for life?

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Dear Prudie,
Our 15-year-old daughter walked into our bedroom the other evening while we were having sex. She wasn't being nosy; she was just in a bit of a panic about a homework project due the next day. It was late, all the lights were out, but it was light enough for her to clearly see what was going on. Our daughter got quite an eye- and earful. We stopped immediately, of course, and my wife and daughter exchanged a few words about the project before our daughter left the room in a hurry. Since then, our daughter has acted as if nothing happened. Should we, as well? Or should my wife broach the subject with her? Our daughter does not date yet, but she is not innocent about the facts of life.

—Embarrassed Around My Daughter

Dear Embarrassed,
First of all, although you've been married for a long time and have a teenager underfoot, you still have sex—congratulations! Yes, this discovery probably made your daughter queasy, but the encouraging message she can file away for her future is that parents can still be hot for each other. I also admire your wife's sang-froid in being able to hop up, put on her robe, and discuss the causes of the Civil War. Even though your daughter probably doesn't want to talk about any of this, to reduce the tension, your wife should bring it up with her. As lightly as possible, she can say that while what happened the other night was embarrassing, well, it's just part of life. (Let's assume during this "conversation" your daughter stares at the ground, and then changes the subject to the causes of the Civil War.) Your daughter probably doesn't need to be told that in the future, if the door is shut, knock first. As for your embarrassment, think of it this way, Dad—throughout human history, it was standard for the parents to steam up the igloo or stoke the fire in the wigwam right in front of the kids.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
After last evening's latest installment of my dating reality show, I'm quite ready to go write manuscripts in a monastery. The woman in question and I met through an online dating site. We spent the last week connecting quite nicely via phone and e-mail. When she got off the train, she was looking around for me. I could tell that the minute she turned and saw me, it was over. As we sat down to dinner, she apologized and said, "I'm sorry. We can't go on. You are the best guy I've met, but ..." To paraphrase her, I have intellect, emotion, and love to give. However, I don't have it in the physical-attraction department. I'm short (so was she), but she said she always dated football-player types, even though she added that they've always been wrong for her. So, she decided to do the "George Costanza opposite" with me, but it didn't work. I thanked her for her honesty, enjoyed a strained dinner, and got her back on the train to go home. I'm 42 years old, and have lost my patience with hearing how nice I am, that I'm loved like a brother, will make someone very happy someday, and so forth. Despite the above, I am quite happy with who I am and am not willing to change (nor can I) who I am, which is, well, a nice guy. So, is it true? Do nice guys finish last?

—End of the Rope Approaching Fast

Dear End,
If only I could run a dating service for the self-described "nice, bright, presentable, successful" people who write to me out of frustration with the fact that they seem to give off some pheromonal signal to the opposite sex that says, "Run!" Jerks come in both genders, and a woman who's not gracious and open-minded enough to get through dinner before she announces there will not be a second date is one. It was certainly a disheartening evening, but your investment in this relationship was minimal, and most blind dates don't work out. But the bigger question is, how is it that at 42, you go from one disappointment to another? Sure, many young women prefer the hunky bad boy to the lumpy nice one—but by their 40s, single women are desperate for a decent man. Your date recognized you had "love to give"—but perhaps you plunge into the love-to-give phase before you've gotten to the exchanging-middle-names phase. Or could it be that while you resemble actor Jason Alexander, you're in search of Gwyneth Paltrow? If you've told all your friends you're looking for romance and they've been no help, try a hobby that will lead you to where the women are—cooking classes, yoga retreats, volunteering at an animal shelter. Strike up a conversation with a woman there who's not your usual type—maybe she's a really nice gal who's been told so many times she's loved like a sister that she's just about reached the end of her rope.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
I have been with my boyfriend for about four years, and we've talked about getting married in a couple of years. However, I have one dilemma—his family. They're all really nice people and I appreciate their tendency to be themselves and act comfortable around each other. However, I come from a family/culture that is big on being polite and formal, and therefore am not used to all the sex talk (even as jokes) and other super-informal discussions, especially at events like holiday dinners. In addition, I can be a bit shy around people who make me uncomfortable. It doesn't help that they know this about me and constantly bring it up and joke about my properness/shyness. My boyfriend and I do actually share a lot of common goals and dreams, and we're able to have tons of fun when hanging out alone. Is our relationship doomed, since we come from such different backgrounds? I am so frustrated about facing the same problem every time we go to one of his family gatherings.

—Family Issues

Dear Family,
Someone like you is red meat for a family like mine—I mean, your boyfriend's. Knowing they have a victim among them who blushes when the dinner-table discussion turns to hemorrhoids will only provoke them to ask your opinion about swollen rectal veins. (I come from the kind of family in which, over dinner, an uncle asked a redheaded boyfriend of mine if he had red pubic hair. The boyfriend was clever enough to point a thumb at me and say, "Ask her.") As far as their effect on your relationship with your boyfriend—why should they matter that much? How often do you get together with this clan of heathens? Since you have some appreciation for their looseness, think of them as crude entertainment. Over time you will naturally feel more comfortable in their presence, and will become less of a target (or if his family is really like mine, you'll remain a target forever). One good way to prepare yourself for the next gathering is to see the Borat movie. Then remember, they are all Borats, and the best thing for you to do is respond with unflappable amusement.

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—Prudie

Prudence,
My roommate and friend is a nursery-school teacher and is constantly exposed to every germ and bug that goes around. She has brought home three viruses since the school year began just two months ago, and she's passed on every single illness to me. I have asthma, so a three-day cold for her can turn into a two-week ordeal for me. She isn't doing this on purpose—obviously, she doesn't want to get sick either—but at the same time, I can't help feeling resentful that she keeps making me ill. Short of breaking my lease, is there anything I can do to keep myself healthy? And how do I handle my anger when she comes home with yet another cold?

—Sniffly

Dear Sniff,
You could apply to the CDC to turn your apartment into a Biosafety Level 4 containment site against the germ warfare waged by the drippy-nosed set. No one likes being sick, but your resentment and anger are kind of ridiculous. Certainly you can have a talk with your roommate about her classroom hygiene. Make sure your roommate is washing her hands frequently and having her pupils do the same. Because of your vulnerability, get a flu shot and talk to your doctor about other vaccinations that might help you stay well. It's inevitable that a new nursery school teacher is going to be a human petri dish. So, since you're miserable, and since we're heading into viruses' favorite time of year, it sounds like the best way to preserve your friendship is to go your separate ways.

—Prudie