Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at Washingtonpost.com.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
May 26 2009 2:58 PM

The Gift They Keep on Giving

Prudie counsels a woman whose loutish brother-in-law passed off her present as his own—and other advice seekers.

(Continued from Page 3)

How would the original poster feel if her own teengage child is the customer? Does the situation change then?

If we want to be treated equally by society and under the law, we need to be held to an equal level of responsibility. A drug dealer is either a danger to society whether she's in a back alley, in an apartment, or in a doctor's office—or is not a danger at all, and we should decriminalize dealing and start taxing it to pay for addicts' treatment.

Emily Yoffe: I'm with you on decriminalization. And if the unfortunate woman's daughter got involved with drugs, I'm sure she'd wish she lived in a world where her daughter could seek help without the fear of ending up being prosecuted. I still say don't blow the whistle.

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Cambridge, Mass.: My father just died a few months ago, and getting asked how he's doing has happened to me a couple of times, too, by people who knew (at one point in time) that he'd died. My hairdresser, for instance. To be honest, I thought it was kind of funny, though I didn't laugh. I chalked it up to his having many clients whom it's hard to keep track of. At least he ASKED (see my earlier letter).

Emily Yoffe: Yes, it's embarrassing for all concerned—but you're right to give credit for people who are trying to say the right thing.

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Re: You'll be the first to know: Although I do applaud this line, which has been offered by many advice columnists, it has grown to be problematic. When I use this with nosy family members, they know exactly what I am doing and press for further details. (One even admitted to reading a lot of advice columns, and she knows what this really means.) Perhaps this line has been overused and we need something new?

Emily Yoffe: That's why the line is good, because it carries the message, "This is the conversation-ending thing you say to people who are asking nosy questions." The next thing to say is, "I don't want to talk about it, thanks."

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Chicago: Dear Prudence,

I was the one who wrote in last week about my spouse's atrocious handwriting and our thank-you cards. Unfortunately, you got it backwards—it's my wife who has the horrible handwriting —not me. (I print in block capitals when I hand-write notes, and have since high school, exactly because my cursive handwriting is so poor.) My wife's handwriting is so bad that we routinely have letters returned to us by the USPS that were addressed by her because her writing on the envelope is illegible.

I did find it interesting that you jumped to your conclusion, however: "You got HIM to write thank yous ..."

Emily Yoffe: Mea sexism culpa! Okay, say you appreciate she's carrying her thank you note load, but suggest, since the notes tend to come back to you, that she type them.

Have a great week, everyone. Talk to you next Monday.

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