How can I find out whether my friend really committed suicide?

Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 29 2009 6:48 AM

Murder Among Friends?

My college pal supposedly killed himself, but I suspect foul play.

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Dear Prudie,
After nearly 15 years together and two children, my partner and I were married in California, prior to the passage of Proposition 8. We created a gift registry so our friends and family could provide us with tokens of their esteem and good wishes. During a light political discussion with one of my co-workers, before the election, it became clear she did not support gay marriage and intended to vote yes on Prop 8, because, as she stated, marriage is strictly "one man, one woman." In order to maintain workplace cohesion, I refrained from further discussion. After my marriage, when opening the wedding gifts, I discovered that this same co-worker, who was not invited to the wedding (I did not invite anyone from work), had sent a lovely item from the gift registry! The quandary: What do I do with this gift? Should I return it, write a sarcastic letter of thanks, or take this as a "teaching moment" to enlighten her on her crass hypocrisy?

—Gifted but not Grateful

Dear Gifted,
I'm going to choose "None of the above." You already made the wise decision to let go of the political discussion with her at work, so extend that to this gift. No, it's not your obligation to change the minds of those who voted for Prop 8, but perhaps you have a chance to do so in this case. How much more effective you'll be if you respond to her gracious gesture with one of your own. In the abstract, she opposes gay marriage, yet she was moved to provide a "token of her good wishes" for your gay marriage because she knows you and knows you have a lovely family. That is the kind of opening that shifts people's thinking on social issues. Write her the kind of generous note you would write to anyone. Then, when you see her, instead of being disdainful or didactic, be disarming. Say something like, "Linda, thank you for the beautiful gift. It means a lot to have you celebrate our happiness."

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
The situation with people answering cell phones and texting during movies is getting progressively worse. I've decided it's time to fight back. I generally will comment nicely to people to please turn off the phone. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't, going to management has been a complete waste of time. Of late, I've taken it to a new level. I've responded to serial offenders by tossing peanut M&M's at them. Most of the time, people get the point and also have no idea where the confectionery came from. However, in two cases the offenders did and said something. Both times, I feigned shock and responded with, "Oh, I'm sorry. I can't imagine why it would distract you from your phone call during a movie." In each of the cases, the person has been too embarrassed to do anything and gave up. Have I crossed the line?

—Dial M for M&M,

Dear Dial,
I acknowledge that part of me wishes I'd been at the showing of Gran Torino when you started pelting texters with M&M's. But you know I'm not going to tell you that I find the more effective confectionery for braining your fellow patrons to be Milk Duds. Yes, it is amazing that people will pay for a baby sitter, parking, and movie tickets, then proceed to ruin the show by lighting up their phones to text, "Hey, what's going on? I'm at a movie." But I'm afraid you have to stick with saying in a contained but exasperated way, "All of us have been asked to turn off our phones. Please do everyone the courtesy of turning off yours." Your approach escalates mere rudeness to assault with a peanut projectile. Keep bonking heads with M&M's, and you're going to end up munching not on popcorn, but a knuckle sandwich.

—Prudie

Photograph of Prudie by Teresa Castracane.