Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 20 2007 7:44 AM

Full Disclosure

I keep finding nude photos of a neighbor. How should I handle it?

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Dear Prudie,
About six months ago, I was walking my dog in the neighborhood when I noticed a picture of a naked woman on the ground. It was a neighbor. A few months after that, another neighbor told me that his 12-year-old son had just found lying around on the street another picture of this woman in the buff. A few days ago, I found yet another picture. She is a married woman with two young daughters. I see her husband frequently on the commuter train to work. I have lots of questions: Why are these pictures finding their way to the streets of our neighborhood? Who is taking the pictures? Does her husband know? I don't mind seeing the occasional picture of a naked woman, but I don't want my daughters to find pictures blowing around. What should I do?

—Blowing in the Wind

Dear Blowing,
If you discover the answers to your questions, please let me know. Since nothing on the photos says, "For a good time, call Cheryl," we can assume these aren't business flyers. Perhaps her husband gets an extremely kinky thrill by sitting on the train across from his neighbors, knowing they know how hot his wife is. Possibly someone else knows how hot she is, and a spurned lover is papering the neighborhood. But I'm afraid this is likely to end up as one of suburbia's enduring mysteries. I think, however, that the woman on display has the right to know what's floating around the neighborhood (if she doesn't already). Stick a photo in an envelope and mail it to her anonymously with a note saying that a litterbug has been leaving these around.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence Video: Christmas Overkill

Dear Prudence, 
I am newly married to my husband, and am also a new mom to a wonderful baby boy whom I love more than anything in the world. Things are good, except for one problem: My husband has two other children from a previous marriage, a teenage boy and a young girl. I really don't have any feelings for them and am actually resentful toward them. My husband doesn't know this. I've tolerated them in the past, and I'm able to act and stay civil because I want my husband to be happy. However, I have a very hard time even hearing their names. I dread every Christmas and summer, because that's when my husband has them. The rest of the year, they're with their mother, thank God! This feeling started when I got pregnant. Is it because of my maternal feelings toward my own child, or is it hormonal, or is it just personal? I look at my child and am glad that he's nothing like them, and I will do anything to make him not like them. In a way, they've served as a guide to what you don't want in a child. What can I do? I love my husband and my son, but hate the other two.

—Dreading Christmas

Dear Dreading,
And good tidings of the season to you, too. The next time they visit, you could say, "Darling Hansel and Gretel, I'm going to take you for a long drive into the forest and drop you off with a lovely woman who lives in a house made of gingerbread." Let me note that when you assert that you don't want your son to be like his sister and brother, their only offense seems to be that they exist. If your goal for motherhood is to turn your precious baby into the opposite of his siblings, then get back in touch in 15 years or so and tell me how that strategy worked out. I often wonder about the spouses in cases like this. Has your husband not picked up on the fact that your heart is a festering sore? Surely his children have; it's very hard for one person to hide that she dreads the sight of another. The one hopeful note I see is that this awfulness started with your pregnancy. Perhaps you are suffering from a hormonally based derangement. See your obstetrician right away, explain what's been going on, and ask for advice and a referral. Maybe with the proper treatment, you won't be the inspiration for a new fairy tale.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudence,
A cousin I'm not very close to held a destination wedding in the Caribbean just before Thanksgiving. My husband and I weren't able to go, though we did attend her engagement party and give them a gift. Now her in-laws are throwing them a cocktail party. This event is just over three hours away and I have to work early the next morning. I sent an RSVP to the mother-in-law explaining that I couldn't come, and then sent a short e-mail to my cousin telling her personally that we'd regret not being able to be there but hoped she would have a wonderful time. The next day, I got a snippy e-mail from my cousin stating, "I'm really disappointed you're not coming. I guess wedding etiquette has changed a lot." She went on to say that they had hoped their families would be able to "come together" for their celebration, but so far that had not been the case. I'm wondering what, if any, wedding etiquette I truly violated here. Do guests no longer have the right to RSVP "No"?

—Out of Touch With Etiquette

Dear Out,
I know in some societies, the bloody sheet is waved after the wedding, and the family has a party. But for the rest of us, it's assumed that we can pretty much retire from celebrating the marriage of friends or relatives once they actually get married. Your cousin may have been miffed that you couldn't attend her Caribbean wedding. Couples have to understand that if they're asking people to spend many hours and thousands of dollars to essentially accompany them on their honeymoon, some guests will prefer to use their vacation days having a holiday of their own choosing. That the groom's family wants to throw a cocktail party to celebrate this new marriage is fine, and it's sure to be a lovely (gift-free, I hope) event. What's not fine is the expectation that a guest will take time off from work in order to make the six-hour round trip required to attend. As for wedding etiquette changing, there certainly has been a change if the bride feels entitled to send snippy notes to people who wish them the best, but have to get on with their own lives.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I'm an openly gay student in my early 20s, currently working for my master's degree in theater, which requires long hours at school and being in an emotionally intimate atmosphere with my peers and professors. Early in the quarter, I quickly became friends with another male student; he's talented, funny, sensitive, and quite handsome, qualities that of course sparked an attraction. He's also married with children. Normally, whenever I see a ring on the finger or observe clear indications of heterosexuality, I turn the other way and accept that it just wasn't meant to be. However, this friend is very much into showing physical affection and openly professing his "love" for me (he often serenades me, and a day doesn't go by without him either pinching, poking, or pulling me aside in a flirtatious manner). I've tried to stop these interactions by approaching him more professionally and not acknowledging his playful advances, but since we spend the majority of our day together, it's practically impossible to get away from it. I'm afraid that if I say something, I'll end up being the one who made our friendship awkward. Am I being too dramatic, or is he a closet case?

—Afraid of Ambiguity

Dear Afraid,
He pinches you, he tells you he loves you, he serenades you (you're not working on Cyrano together, are you?), and you're worried about making this relationship awkward? It doesn't matter if your colleague is trying to figure out his sexuality, he's a married man with children, and therefore off limits. Especially since you are attracted to him, you have to be clear that you will not be drawn into his melodrama. Stop being so subtle, and tell your friend that you are uncomfortable with his declarations and attempts at physical intimacy. Explain that while you appreciate his friendship, from now on, you need it to be conducted in a more professionally appropriate manner.

—Prudie

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