Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 13 2007 7:47 AM

Field of Lost Dreams

Should I tell my father the truth about losing his chance to be a professional athlete?

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Dear Prudence,
I'm a woman in my 40s who comes from a close-knit, honest family, but a recent visit to my aunt and uncle opened a huge can of worms. My father, now in his mid-70s, was quite an athlete in his youth. He was so good at his sport that he was invited to try out for his hometown's professional sports team. He was over the moon and went to the tryout, and gave what he thought was a professional grade-performance. Yet he never heard back from them, and so went to college, married, and had us kids. He continued to play his sport at the amateur level, where he was the star of every team and league he played on, but he was sorely disappointed he never played professionally. My aunt informed me several months ago (while my uncle hung his head in shame) that my grandmother had intercepted the phone call from the sports team offering my dad a contract. My uncle, who was about 8 at the time, was standing by when she told them, "My son doesn't have time to play ball with you boys. He's going to go to college. Please don't call again." She swore my uncle to secrecy. He only told my aunt after my grandmother's death years ago. Now my aunt wants me to tell my father the story, to tell him that his beloved mother lied to him and crushed his dreams. She says that he has a right to know that he really was good enough. I also think she's got an ulterior motive because she passionately hated my grandmother, who opposed her marriage to my uncle. She'd love to make my dad think the worst of his mom, who worked three jobs after my grandfather died to support her sons. And at my father's age, what good could possibly come from knowing he "coulda been a contender"? I want what's best for my father, but I'm honestly not sure what that is.

—Contender's Daughter

Dear Daughter,
To paraphrase another movie, what makes you think he can't handle the truth? He's certainly old enough to have a nuanced view of people. His beloved mother did make great sacrifices to give her sons a better life; she was also a huge meddler who thought she knew better than they how they should live and whom they should love. The original crime here is one person deciding wrongly to keep important information from another. Now that you know, don't make the same decision your grandmother made. No, I don't believe every secret should be spilled. But I err on the side of letting adults know the truth about themselves. It doesn't matter that your aunt's motives aren't pure, because she's right that your father should be told. Yes, it will be bittersweet for your father to look back and recast his life: to know his mother took away his dream, yet to finally discover he actually was good enough to have had the chance to live it. But he's entitled to find out how he really did that day on the ball field so long ago.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudence,
Recently, I started dating a girl who I like very much. She's attractive, smart, funny, interesting, and basically everything I've been looking for. The problem is that she has certain issues related to physical intimacy. They stem from a traumatic experience she had not very long ago, and I can't really blame her for being reticent with men. But the upshot is that we have to take things slow—really slow. I don't expect a woman to jump into bed with me right away, but I think that after four successful dates, we could progress beyond first base. As it is, I feel like we are just short of being platonic friends. Should I wait things out and see if she warms up? Or am I wasting my time? And if I am, is it heartless and cruel (or stupid) to dump a great woman just because she's, umm, old-fashioned?

—Confused

Dear Confused,
I'm confused, too—you say you've had four dates with this woman. Let's assume that because you enjoy her company, you've seen her once a week or possibly more, so you've known her for approximately a month or less. And you're contemplating dumping her because you're not getting any? Even if someone is not recovering from a trauma, it's perfectly reasonable that after only four dates, you're both enjoying the buzz of mounting sexual tension, but not much has happened base-wise. You indicate this woman has the potential to be more than just a short-term sexual partner, so why don't you invest some time in really getting to know her? If your dates have been as successful as you say, she is surely enjoying your company, but also dreading the sexual pressure you're clearly applying. Why not tell her (and yourself) that you know she wants to take things slow, so you're going to back off and let her indicate when she feels ready to be more physically intimate. And if you conclude she's actually not worth the wait, then by not pressuring her to sleep with you, you will have saved her from more emotional trauma.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
The "Asian glow" is an allergic reaction that a majority of Asian people have to alcohol. Sometimes it causes great embarrassment, as you will turn beet red from just a sip of wine. I suffer from this affliction. My question to you is, is it OK to drink at a networking event set up by the school or by the law firm to connect law students with future employers? Should I stay away from a glass of wine whenever I am at a networking event and/or company gatherings?

—Red

Dear Red,
As Cassio said in Othello, "I have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking." If only he'd remained a teetotaler, things would have turned out so much better for everyone. Even if you metabolize alcohol the way a triathlete metabolizes Gatorade, it's generally a good idea when meeting potential bosses, particularly for a young person, to stay away from spirits. Nerves and booze are a lousy combination. You're not trying to impress your future employers with your taste in cabernet and ability to hold your liquor, but with your good judgment and desire to slog through documents 80 hours a week. Stick to ginger ale.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I'm an undergraduate student who's concerned about the behavior of the teaching assistant in one of my classes. "Sue" sucks up to the professor—fawns over her, in fact—and apparently has done so for the past few years. The professor loves her and raves about her all the time, even when she doesn't show up for class or interrupts her in the middle of speaking. When the professor, who I really like, isn't around, Sue becomes very snarky, bad-mouthing the professor and telling us how stupid she thinks she is. She brags about how she's taken (and failed) this class twice, but managed to pass last year because "the chairs were more comfortable." She tells us how to get away with not doing any of the readings or turning in any of the homework, and routinely chats with students about unrelated things during film screenings. Should I say something to the professor? Write her a note? Mention it in the class evaluation at the end of the semester? Talk to Sue? Or should I just get my work done, pass the class, and be glad that Sue is graduating?

—Bothered

Dear Bothered,
The university is supplying you with the perfect forum to inform the professor, and everyone else involved with Sue's education, of the contempt in which she holds her work. Use the evaluation to describe what has gone on. Stick to the facts; you don't want to look as if you're engaging in an ad hominem attack. Just say that your enjoyment of the class was significantly diminished by the unprofessional behavior of the TA, and cite a series of examples. You may have liked the professor, but there's something wrong with her, too, if she is so easily flattered by someone who displays such disdain right to her face.

—Prudie