Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 24 2007 6:45 AM

Leave It at Beaver

What should I do about a racy photo circulating among my son's friends?

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Dear Prudence,
There is a photo circulating among my teenage son's friends that they believe shows me "pulling a Britney," as the young people would say. In fact, I am wearing a short skirt with black panties. I must admit, there is no way to tell from the picture whether it is black cloth between my legs or the, er, natural upholstery. Nobody has mentioned the picture to me directly, but one overhears things. I did bring it up with my son, but he was definitely not interested in talking about it. Should I try to clear things up with his friends or leave them with the impression that their buddy's mom is somewhat of a wild woman? One thing is for sure—my mother was right about keeping my legs crossed.

—Keeping Them Crossed Now

Dear Keeping,
How do you propose to clear things up? Invite your son's friends over, show the video to "Stacy's Mom," and then tell them that while you do have it going on, that's not actually your pubic hair they're looking at in the crotch shot? When you tried to initiate this conversation with your son, he did an impression of someone in a persistent vegetative state. Let the poor boy finish out his teenage years without having to change his name and move to another state, and just drop the whole thing. And, yes, your mother was so right.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
Several months ago my boyfriend proposed to me. While I was ecstatic, I couldn't help but be disappointed with his choice of a ring. It also didn't fit, and I thought we could just exchange it for one I liked and that fit. But just the suggestion of this made him very upset. When he pressed and discovered that I didn't really like the ring, he was near devastated! I love my fiance immensely and truly do want to marry him, I just don't like my ring. I'm a visual-arts student, and we like to say that bad design kills, but I decided to just shut up about it. Then we were at a friend's wedding, where two other friends of ours got engaged, and when I looked at both their rings, I couldn't help but feel this awful jealousy. On the drive home, somehow the discussion turned to this, and it came out that I still didn't like my ring. My fiance was devastated all over again. He said he had hoped that by that point I would have grown to like it and asked me to try. I have tried, and I still don't like it. It's a big deal to him that people enjoy things he does for them. What do I do now? I can't lie about it!

—Unsure and Confused.

Dear Unsure,
A ring should be a symbol of your commitment to each other, but in your case, the ring has taken on much more symbolic freight. It stands for his desire to please and quivering sensitivity, and for your dislike of bad taste and difficulty in letting things go. (You know the discussion didn't "somehow" turn to your dislike of your ring—you brought it up.) You two are now at an emotional impasse over what should have been a little thing, but little things can metastasize. I know of one marriage that collapsed on the honeymoon because the couple got in a power struggle over who would be responsible for the one room key they were issued. Sure, it would have been great if you could have loved the flawed ring, but he amply knows you don't. You having to tiptoe around because things become a test of his emotional stability will surely be a continuing theme of your marriage unless you two learn to deal with this. You should be able to speak kindly but directly, and he should be able to take it. Say to him, "I love you, I love that I'm going to marry you, and I love that you spent so much time choosing a ring for me. But you know how picky I am about design, and I would like us to go together and find a ring we're both happy with." If this causes him to take to his bed, you must decide whether you can just live with the darn ring, or whether you two have a bigger problem to work out before he slips a hideous wedding band on your finger.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
I am six months pregnant with my first child and am extremely concerned about the effects of secondhand smoke on a newborn, because my mother is a lifelong smoker. We both live in the same town, and she's excited to have a grandchild close to her that she'll be able to spend lots of time with. I know my mom would at least make the effort to go outside and smoke when her grandchild is with her. However, I'm very worried about the toxins in her clothes and on her skin from smoking. I'm worried about my child spending time at her house, because she does smoke inside when nobody else is around. I know a conversation about her smoking will make her defensive and upset, but I have to protect my child the best that I can. My husband tells me to just let the issue go because the supposed dangers are not worth the argument, since she'll go outside to smoke, but Internet research seems to suggest differently.

—Concerned About Secondhand Smoke

Dear Concerned,
After looking at some reputable Internet sites on the dangers of secondhand smoke on clothing, it appears that while it's certainly better for a baby not to be exposed to irritants that can cling to clothes or carpets, there seems to be little significant health risk—but for your peace of mind, bring this issue up with your obstetrician and eventually your pediatrician. Obviously your mother should not smoke while around the baby (or you), but there's not much more you can do than gently ask her to keep the cigarettes outside when she visits. Maybe when she's out there, you could persuade her to wear a sweater (or a velvet smoking jacket!) you keep on your porch to reduce the smell of smoke she tracks back in on her clothes. Anyone picking up a newborn should have clean hands, so as long as she washes hers, don't worry about toxins on her skin. Get her to agree that when the baby is at her place, she will keep the smoke outside. Ultimately, you can drive yourself crazy seeing everything as a potential threat to your offspring. (Sun causes melanoma! Grass is full of pesticides! People are bags of germs!) Stop thinking of your mother as a smokestack of poison, and start thinking of the benefits she will bring to your baby, and you, when she lovingly takes your little one off your hands.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My ex and I divorced nearly 10 years ago; we have two children and share custody. We have both since remarried, and our relationship is very friendly. Now that our children are older and busy, family time is harder to find, so we've decided to share beach week this year. He and his wife will take the first three days along with our two children and his stepdaughter. My husband and I will take the last four days. All the kids (his stepdaughter also) will stay for the entire week. He will pay for three days, and I will pay for four. If it were only our children going, that would be fine with me, but his stepdaughter will also be there, so I feel that he and his wife should pay for his stepdaughter's portion of the vacation. I prorated the costs, having him pay for one of our children's time at the house, me paying for one of our children's time, and he and his wife paying for his stepdaughter's time. I also included a proration schedule for the adults so that he pays only for three days for himself and his wife, with me paying the remaining four days for me and my husband. He thinks I'm nitpicking and we should not worry about the kids. Well, that's nice for his stepdaughter to get a free four-day beach vacation! How would you break down the pricing for this vacation?

—Wanting Fairness

Dear Wanting,
How would I break down the pricing? I'm having a breakdown just thinking about your spreadsheet. What do you say to the stepdaughter at breakfast? "Caitlin, please, you've taken all the cream cheese the prorating allows." Your ex is right, you are being ridiculously nitpicky (could this have been an issue in your marriage?). Be glad everyone gets along, make sure they all wash off their feet before coming into the house, and leave the proration schedules for the office.

—Prudie