Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at

Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at

Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Aug. 24 2009 3:03 PM

R U Listening 2 Me?

Prudie counsels anyone who's ever been ignored by rude texters—and other advice seekers.

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Is being passive-aggressive really effective? What if the person says "Cool, thanks" or something like that? Why play games? Unless the person is clueless, they will realize you're not happy, but will likely not appreciate the passive-aggressiveness or sarcasm, don't you agree? They may feel annoyed instead of sheepish like they're supposed to.

That or just buy a cell-phone jammer.

Emily Yoffe: This is about having dinner with texters. I don't think that remark is passive-aggressive. It's recognizing the situation, explaining why you can't continue conversing with someone who is texting, and giving them an opportunity to stop. If the person says, "Cool thanks," you can eat your meal, talk to other people at the table, and vow to never break bread with the texter again. Saying instead, "You're really rude and I'm not going to talk to you if you don't stop!" is not going to make you seem like a better social partner than Twitter.


Re: Texting: I was at a business lunch where one of the people kept checking e-mails/texting and not paying attention to an important discussion. I was sitting next to him. When he went to reach for the blackberry, I grabbed his wrist and whispered in his ear, with a smile on my face, "If you pick that F-ing thing up one more time, I'm gonna smash the sh-t out of it." Since I'm a female and don't normally use that kind of salty language, I believe the guy was so stunned it never happened again that day or in any other meetings (lunch or otherwise) since.

Emily Yoffe: Yes, the Carmela Soprano approach can work, but while you got the guy to stop, you also left him feeling forever squeamish about you. I think it would have been much better to pull him aside after the meeting and explain that having someone at the table who is paying no attention to what's going on is distracting to everyone else. You could also discuss with the boss (who probably sits at meetings texting) issuing a policy on the use of phone during meetings and lunches.


Washington, D.C.: RE: Ruined trip. Prudence, your advice to "Boston" about how to keep from wringing her husband's neck was, as usual, spot on.

However, I can't for the life of me figure out why you took her to task so harshly. What possible excuse could the husband have for not securing a hotel reservation, or at least telling his wife that he hadn't done so? Sounds to me like he never wanted to go on the trip and chose to punish her for "making" him.


Even if the wife is controlling, as you seem to imply, he still screwed up big-time.

Emily Yoffe: I didn't mean to be taking her to task harshly. Spending your vacation in a Motel 6 just off the Beltway is punishment enough. I'm just asking if this is a one-time bad screw up or a pattern. If the former, the damage has been done and holding a grudge only makes the vacation miserable. If the latter and there's an underlying screwed up dynamic in the marriage, then that needs to be addressed after the vacation.


For Boston: I can certainly understand your frustration with the situation, but perhaps it will help if you recognize that both of you had a part in the missed reservation.

Planning for vacation is often more fun—and easier—if you do it as a pair, even if you only get 30 minutes here and there to touch base. You might each come away from the discussion with "assigned tasks," but by discussing it together it's easier to set expectations that you both agree on. It also can generate some excitement. Further, it sets the stage for easy reconnection on what you discussed without making it look like you're checking up on the other person. "I was able to track down X, but I didn't want to finalize it until I was sure we had Y settled." (Or a million other versions of that.)

At this point, focusing on what is going right with the vacation and creating an adventurous spirit that "we're in this together" for the rest may help.

Emily Yoffe: Excellent point about working together on getting away. I used to be our family travel agent, but got sick of it and off-loaded the hotel reservations to my husband this summer. He hated it, but after nights of searching, he showed me the places he had zeroed in on. He then booked two fantastic hotels in England, and my daughter and I toasted his excellent work.


Washington, D.C.: I have had a running debate with a friend of mine about the propriety of taking reading material into the public restroom at work. I have taken the position that no reading material should be taken into the restroom. His point is that he can take things to read as long as they are his, and not the general office newspaper. I've heard other say you can bring in reading material as long as you leave it in the restroom (or throw it away in the restroom). Who's right?

Emily Yoffe: Our literacy rate would plummet if people stopped reading in the bathroom! Manufacturers of bathroom magazine racks would go out of business! Magazines themselves might stop publishing! This key here is subtlety. It's best not to ask people if they have a copy of War and Peace you could borrow because you're heading to the head and expect to be in there a long time. Alternately, noticing that someone has the newspaper under his arm and is going to the men's room is just one of those things you pretend you don't notice. So drop the monitoring of your co-workers bathroom habits.