Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
April 12 2007 7:17 AM

Wedding Arrangements

My family wants me to have an arranged marriage. Should I consider it?

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Dear Prudie,
I am a 30-year-old single woman who has been living in the United States for the past few years. I am considered smart, successful, and attractive and have an interesting and fulfilling life. But my family, who live in India, are worried that I'm still single, and have been trying to arrange my marriage. While I do want to be married, I've had a couple of relationships that didn't work out; I've been very independent and have lived life on my own terms—so I now find it hard to go through the arranged marriage setup. I know my parents will never force me to marry someone I don't like, but the idea of having an arranged marriage seems archaic and almost mortifying. I'd also like to believe that marriages should be based in love and there should be an element of romance involved. My mother thinks that as long as two people have a certain compatibility and mutual respect, love can happen later. What should I do?

—Confused

Dear Confused,
Now that I have a daughter, I've come to see the wisdom of arranged marriages. What's she going to know about picking a mate? Right now, I have a few candidates I'm keeping my eye on—since my daughter is only 11, I have plenty of time to monitor how these boys turn out. You say you would like to find a husband, but haven't been successful at it. I understand your aversion to the idea of an arranged marriage, but as long as everyone understands you will not be pressured to wed the guy, why not see who your parents come up with? Certainly their knowledge of you, the young man, and the qualities two people need to get along has to be as good as the algorithms of Match.com. Yes, there is an archaic quality to the notion of being introduced to someone you are supposed to marry, but that's the ultimate, if unstated, goal of most fix-ups. As for romance versus compatibility—you and your mother are both right. If you meet the man in question and you two fall in love, what a story of romantic destiny! And romance without compatibility and mutual respect—no matter how you two got together—is destined to be a relationship that didn't work out.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I am a 47-year-old divorced man. I have been through three (yes, three) bad to very bad marriages and have become very cautious about talking to, meeting, and dating women. I am not one of those older guys who goes out looking for younger women; as a matter of fact, all the women I have dated in the past are around my age. I have never been attracted to young women, as I find that most do not possess the maturity level that I'm comfortable with. That is, until recently. I met a girl who instantly grabbed my attention. The attraction grows each time that I see her. But she is only in her mid-20s. I am very outgoing and friendly, yet I find myself hesitating and having a difficult time attempting to ask this young woman on a date. In some ways, I feel I'm doing the right thing by not asking, but then feel I may be keeping myself from finally having a good relationship in my life. I don't know if the age difference is something that would bother her or not. My daughter (age 22) encourages me to talk to her, but I still hesitate. What should I do?

—Torn

Dear Torn,
You are what every girl is dreaming of: a middle-aged guy with a miserable track record, a daughter her own age, and apparently no self-insight. Sure, dating women more than two decades younger after multiple marital disasters is standard behavior for billionaires and movie stars, but at least those guys are billionaires or movie stars. It's good that you're hesitating; maybe your gut is telling you this young woman would be appalled by your putting the moves on her. Keep hesitating, and spend some time exploring, with a professional, why your marriages always fall apart—before you embark on yet another debacle. And also find someone else to be your confidante instead of your daughter. She certainly will have her own psychological issues with relationships, having grown up with a father with such chaotic ones.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My husband recently received an e-mail from his sister regarding her son, who is my husband's godchild. She said that our 4-year-old niece just received an Easter card with $50 from her godfather. She also noted that the daughter's godfather sends significant cash or gifts for every holiday. This resulted in our 7-year-old nephew "crying for 20 minutes" and agonizing that my husband doesn't love him because he doesn't send him money. My sister-in-law doesn't "want him to develop a bad attitude toward you, so I thought you should know." My husband is very involved in his nephew's life; he's been to his soccer games, buys stuff from him for all his school fund-raisers, and takes him on special outings. There are many nieces and nephews on his side of the family, and we can't—and won't—just send them cash. We were shocked by the e-mail, and are now furious. I want to ask her if she has explained that one sibling should be happy for another when something good happens to them, some things are more important than money, etc. I think that she needs to teach a valuable lesson instead of shaking us down.

—Cashed Out

Dear Cashed,
It's wonderful that your sister-in-law doesn't want her son to have a bad attitude toward his uncle; however, I don't even know the woman, and I already have a really bad attitude toward her. You have a right to be furious, but the larger issue here is that your beloved little nephew is being raised by a money-grubbing manipulator. It's sickening that she would even tell her 4- and 7-year-olds that one got cash and the other didn't. Yes, sister-in-law deserves to be told off, but someone who would write that initial e-mail would probably just respond with escalation. So, for the sake of the kids, don't accept her provocation and respond with something along the lines of, "We're so happy our niece has such a financially generous godfather. We consider the time we spend with our nephew to be a precious gift to us, and we hope it is to him, too."

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I've been the manager of a very upscale restaurant for over 15 years. A frequent diner of ours (three to four times a week) has a disturbing habit of blowing her nose and leaving her used Kleenex on the table. This happens every time she comes in, whether it's lunch or dinner, dining with two people or eight, summer and winter. Every staff member has commented on this unpleasant habit of hers and a few have even declined to serve her because of it. I do not feel that my servers or bussers should have to remove such items from the table, and that she should put them in her purse or otherwise dispose of them so that none of us has to touch them. After 15 years of observing this practice, I'm running low on patience. The lady is an otherwise cultured, well-behaved, well-dressed, and attractive woman. Short of one of us donning rubber gloves and making a scene, is there some polite way to convey the message that we are repulsed by this habit?

—Blowing My Top

Dear Blowing,
Let's see—you have a lovely customer who has been coming in multiple times a week for 15 years, often bringing many guests, and you would like to inform her that a personal habit of hers is repulsive to you and she's no longer welcome unless she straightens out. That sounds like a business strategy! Do you berate your male customers if they leave wee-wee on the rim of the urinal? I am not defending this woman's habit—it is gross. If the tissues appear early in the meal, instruct your staff to have a paper cocktail napkin with them so they can use it to discreetly wrap up and dispose of them when they clear her plates. Convey to your staff your new attitude that this woman is a valued and valuable customer with one unpleasant habit, and that you will not tolerate rudeness toward her.

—Prudie