Help! Neighborhood Dads Get Drunk While Our Kids Trick-or-Treat.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 31 2011 3:05 PM

Halloween Hangover

Dear Prudence advises a dad whose buddies hit the bottle too hard on the trick-or-treat trail—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.

(Continued from Page 1)

Q. Morning Sickness: Being in the early stages of my pregnancy, I have the joys of morning sickness. I've become hypersensitive to the smell of deodorant or mild sweating or most types of food. Being at work it's difficult to avoid this and I usually have to take a large step back and breathe through my mouth when I smell something that makes me sick. I try to keep a straight face, but I know I physically look unwell. Last week I couldn't bear the smell of my manager, who'd just eaten curry for lunch. I felt incredibly nauseous and inched as far away from him as possible, trying to subtly cover my nose. He didn't say anything directly to me but was understandably offended. I feel bad for this, but the reaction comes out involuntarily. Is there something I can say to avoid hurting people's feelings when I can't stand their smell?

A: I wish science would investigate the phenomenon of pregnant women having beagle-like sniffing abilities. When I was pregnant my husband used to come home from work and be amazed when I would say, "Please don't use that Italian dressing anymore at lunch, the oregano is making me sick." However, turning green, holding your nose, and staggering away from your colleagues is bound to create some bad feelings. This problem should pass in a few weeks, but for now maybe it would help if you had in your hand at all times a cup of peppermint tea. That would block some of the more obnoxious odors. If things are bad enough, you also might consider telling your manager that you'd like to keep this private for now, but you're pregnant so you hope he understands if you feel a little under the weather for the next few weeks.

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Q. Vacation After Divorce: I was married for 18 years to the father of my children until 10 months ago, and we are taking them to Costa Rica next month (not as odd as it sounds, we are good friends). My dilemma is that he informed me today that he might be looking for female companionship at night during our stay here. Our sons are 14 and 16 and will obviously know what's going on when he departs our mountain home to drive to the city. I am at a loss whether to laugh it off (he is 53, a handsome firefighter, and somehow thinks a free meal will buy him undying love) or to let him find out the hard way that prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, and let his ego get buried in the process. Advice?

A: Any traveling companions, even former spouses, need some ground rules for getting along. Since you're vacationing with your kids, it's incumbent upon him to behave as a father, not a Mr. August on the Hottest Firefighters calendar. That said, I don't think it's necessarily clear that if Dad says he's going into town to look around for an evening that means he's hiring a lady of the night. However, before you go, tell him that what he does in his free time is his decision, but you're concerned if he goes off every night, that will make the boys uncomfortable. Then, if he sets off, just shrug and say, "Adios."

Q. Cheating in Exams: I do part time tutoring to earn some cash. The students I tutor are generally only a couple of years younger than me. I've formed friendships with some of them and maintain contact even after I've stopped tutoring them. One girl I get along well with has confided in me that she cheated in her exams. She ended up winning a major prize at her school and is using the exam results to apply for college. The thing is, she's naturally a gifted girl. Her academic record is largely excellent, but this time around she had some family problems and decided to take the easy route rather than risking failure. She feels bad about it and has assured me she won't be cheating again as it's not worth the guilt. But I'm wondering if I should tell the school. I don't want to ruin her entire academic history, but I feel guilty knowing she cheated. What should I do in this situation?

A: If you were still tutoring her, I would say you should report her to her parents and end your professional relationship. It's good you made clear how objectionable you found her behavior, and that it's abhorrent that she got a leg up in this way. However, I'm inclined to not take it further than that in this case. Your blowing the whistle would, as you know, be very damaging to this girl. You don't mention what the family problems are, but sometimes teenagers under a lot of pressure act out in self-destructive ways. That said, I know readers will make a compelling case that someone was robbed of an academic prize because of her behavior, and I won't disagree. I'm just feeling you don't have to come forward in this case. Readers?

Q. Should She Pay Me Back?: A couple of weeks ago, I gave some money to a Facebook appeal for a friend who was in a car accident and needed money to pay for her repairs. It turns out a lot of information was left out: mainly, that insurance covered the costs but she spent the repair check from the insurance company on a brand new iPhone and other stuff instead of the repairs. I gave the money thinking it was going to the repairs, because that it how it was pitched, and didn't know about her spendthrift ways. I didn't give more than I could afford to lose, but should she a) pay me back since it was under false pretenses, or b) should I ask for it back?

A: I hope you don't also wire money to strangers who send you emails that begin, "My darling dear one, I have had some financial troubles lately." This experience with your friend has actually been invaluable. Now you know to be wary of mass appeals for money, even from people you know. You're friends with someone who expects her friends to underwrite the financial knocks that life brings, and then goes and puts the proceeds toward goods she's really been eyeing. Write off the money, and perhaps the friendship, too.

Q. Stingy Trick-or-Treater: We get a lot of trick-or-treaters at our house that I know are not local to our area. I see parents drop them off in cars to trick-or-treat in our neighborhood. Since I know all the kids in our neighborhood, I know which ones are local and which ones are not. I don't mind buying candy for our neighbors, but kids from miles away, that I'll never see again? It makes me a bit sour. What makes me even more sour is that if I give all these kids treats, I have to buy (literally) four times the amount of candy that I would give the local kids. In the past, I have bought the amount of candy that I thought was reasonable and when it ran out, it ran out, and if any of the neighbors' kids missed out, oh well. But it made me feel bad. Tonight, I'm thinking of just giving the kids I know candy and turning the other kids away. Thoughts?

A: I think you must really want to have your house covered with toilet paper and eggs tomorrow. I'm also impressed with your ability to know exactly who's behind the Transformer mask. Since I've moved to a neighborhood with very dark streets I've been sad at how few kids ring the bell. My old neighborhood used to attract kids from all over the city and I loved it. Have enough candy to drop a Tootsie roll into everyone's bag, and stop being a grouch.

Q. Cheating Kid: I'm a parent of high school kids who I don't believe cheat and who have taken some unfair lumps academically. Even so, I say if the kid confided in you, don't tell the school. Kids make mistakes (in cars, sex, drugs, and school) and it sounds like she realizes it. Anyone who would have been in second place for such a prize is undoubtedly getting into a perfectly fine school themselves. It's too bad there's so much stress around high school accomplishments when we all forget them very quickly once adults. The consequences to reporting this girl would be devastating.

A: I'm with you. She knows she was wrong and the fact that she confided means she is wrestling with her mistake. Reporting her would result in a punishment that would be devastating and I think not more helpful than the guilt she's feeling.

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