Dear Prudence

Dysfunctional Dole

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Dear Prudence,

This is a political concern, not personal. Each time I see the erectile dysfunction ad with Bob Dole, I cringe. What happened to his statesmanlike demeanor? Is it entirely a coincidence that we have a president who can get it up (for each and every one who asks), instead of a president who can’t? Do we need to know about Bob’s penile trouble in order to go forward? Must we be a party to all his witherings? Surely someone agrees with me.


Dear Rice,

Prudie guesses Mrs. Dole and her campaign aides agree with you. And Prudie is reminded of the old vaudeville joke about an older gentleman who tells a friend that he finds sex at his age terrific. Especially the one in the winter.

–Prudie, neutrally

Dear Prudie,

Your advice to the woman pondering breast implants seemed fair and balanced. How rare. I thought, however, I might take the opportunity to chime in and mention that I have got wind of the existence of an herb, indigenous to Thailand, which reportedly stimulates the actual growth of existing breasts. I’ve heard only scattered reports about it, and those mostly relating to the Thai government’s efforts to quell its export. Your readers who are currently considering artificial augmentation (which as a man I find repugnant) may just want to wait a while. I’m sure a fistful of American money will have the Thai people throwing seeds over the border in no time.


Dear Am,

After an inquiry regarding Bob Dole’s … well, anyway, your letter is most interesting. Prudie has heard nothing of the Thai herb. It is hard to imagine, though, why any government would embargo such a product, unless the plastic surgeons’ lobby has already got to them. Prudie hopes your information is correct–if only so some health food company can market a product called Gingko Bilbooba.

–Prudie, naturally

Dear Prudence,

I grew up being taught that people should not make loud noises when eating in public. I am quite bothered by co-workers who eat loudly at their desks, which are very near to mine. (It is common practice in our office to eat at one’s desk, since there’s no nice place to eat on the premises.) One person in particular always comes over to talk while loudly snacking on potato chips and other items. Trouble is, I can’t think of any remotely acceptable way to convey my unhappiness with this behavior. I’d be very grateful if you could.

–J.W. in Massachusetts

Dear J.,

You are correct that you cannot come right out and say, “It is gauche to come over and serenade me with your potato chips, so please go away.” Here are a few options that are not confrontational. You might have something to read during lunch, sort of a de facto “Do Not Disturb” sign. You could hook up to Walkman earphones. You might inform everyone that you are meditating, or simply say you’d love to visit during a coffee break, but lunch is when you’ve decided to catch up on your checkbook/Italian lessons/letter to Mom/fill in the blank. Prudie sees no reason to be held prisoner to a potato chip. As for the sounds from other desks, use earplugs or the above-mentioned Walkman to drown out the sounds of celery.

–Prudie, tactfully

Dear Prudence,

My wife and I are gearing up for our daughter’s third birthday party. We had a blowout (45 people) for her first, a pretty large to-do for her second (35 people), and have decided that this party will be for 3-year-olds and close relatives only, thank you. Many of our friends are relieved, I think, not to have to give up a summer Sunday afternoon. But, of course, there are those who expect to be invited, and I don’t know how to break it to them that they are not welcome. To make things worse, they have already told me about the ridiculously expensive gifts they have purchased for our irresistible little birthday girl. I am looking for a delicate way to get the gifts but stand firm on the invitations.

–Not Entirely Unselfishly,


Dear Dad,

Prudie will try not to be too judgmental about your delicacy, though your wish to grab the gifts with no party attached leaves something to be desired. In addition to looking askance at your rather material approach, Prudie has long disapproved of elaborate birthday parties for tykes … going back years ago to a celebration for a 1-year-old child, where the parents engaged a chimp and a trainer, and the animal bit the birthday girl. But back to your deal: Since people have already mentioned their gifts and their plans to launch your darling into year No. 3, you may be stuck for one more over-the-top party. Prudie suggests, therefore, that you say on the invitations, “Shirley Ann’s Last Birthday Party With Grown-ups.” The inference will be clear that next year, when the child is 4, she will have her own circle of friends from … well, somewhere. If you are absolutely not up to having dozens of chums this year, tell them that it’s just playmates from now on–and be prepared to forgo some loot.

–Prudie, directly

Dear Prudence,

My daughter recently graduated from high school after a successful year of captaining the winning softball team. During the softball season my husband and I got to know many of the team parents and were particularly taken with the extended family of a ninth-grader, a new player on the team. At the end of the school year, I called to invite this family, their young daughter, and her older brother–also a graduating senior–to our house for a cookout with the softball coaches before our daughter left for summer study abroad. I did not intend this party to be a graduation or a bon voyage party for our daughter. We were quite taken aback when various members of this other family brought gifts and graduation cards for our daughter … including cash totaling about $200! We had prepared no graduation gift for their son, whom my husband and I do not know well. My daughter expressed gratitude and is writing thank-you notes and plans to bring the family a gift from France. I wonder if I should have done things differently–perhaps whipped up a card and cash between serving courses? Should we send a gift as the son prepares to go to college? Should I have anticipated the interpretation of my invitation as a gift solicitation, given the timing? Or should I just relax and consider their gifts a generous expression of their appreciation for my daughter’s leadership and mentoring of the younger player throughout the year?


Dear Jule,

Prudie votes for “relax.” Your motives were pure and a good time was had by all. It may be a personal bias, but Prudie has long wished the tit for tat principle would fall by the wayside. The giving of gifts simply to even things up is just another version of “You look lovely”/”So do you.” Your daughter’s present from France will be very meaningful, and the timing will be perfect.

–Prudie, genuinely

Dear Prudie,

You missed something important about the problem of “Slurred Off in Melbourne, Australia.” Vague or unintelligible phone messages, with a clear reply number, are now a tool of telemarketers. Some of them do this just to get the victim to call an expensive toll number. Many refer to correcting a credit problem, which is fictitious.

Of course, Slurred Off could have had a simple garbled message, I suppose. How boring.

–Jim S.

Dear Jim,

What an interesting take you have offered. Because Prudie harbors hostility toward intrusive telemarketers, she is most happy to pass the word. And she does not want one letter from the offending telephone pests arguing with her. She knows it’s a tough way to make a living, but unsolicited pitches are just junk mail delivered by a human voice.

–Prudie, feistily