Dear Prudence

Ex-Wives and White Elephants

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Dear Prudence,

A few months ago I decided to send my ex-husband a book I’d read, simply because I thought it would interest him. In an e-mail to him at work, regarding another issue, I mentioned that I’d mailed said book. A few hours after sending the e-mail, I got an e-mail from his wife (!) saying, “For the love of God, [insert name here] would you stop sending my husband gifts?”

Though her reaction would indicate that I send her husband weekly tributes, such is not the case. And I don’t consider a used book to even be a gift. I’ve always felt I should maintain a friendly relationship with my ex, for the sake of our son. I also, up until this incident, thought very highly of his wife. At the time of this incident, my ex had no comment nor did he respond to my question of “What gives?” More recently, when pressed, he said that his wife is “funny” about my treating them like normal people. Was what I did so wrong?

—Maddened in Lafayette, La.

Dear Mad,

Hmmm, many ex-wives throw the book at their former spouses, whereas you merely sent one. And, no, you didn’t do anything wrong if you’ve reported the episode accurately. (Some ex-wives drum up excuses to be in contact for the sole purpose of annoying the new wife.) Your successor is obviously thin-skinned where you are concerned—not all that unusual if the new wife is insecure or jealous of any residual affection for the first wife.

The e-mail she sent you seems rather intrusive, if not ball-busting, but forewarned is forearmed. When you need to communicate with your child’s father, call him on the telephone—at the office—and ix-nay on the e-mail. It sounds as though he has his hands full. Too bad this is the way it is, but this is the way it is.

—Prudie, knowingly

Dear Prudie,

It has happened twice recently that co-workers invited to our house for dinner came bearing gifts for our two little girls (1 and 3). In both cases it turned out that the “gifts” were well-worn toys my colleagues’ older children no longer play with. I said nothing, so as not to spoil the evening, but I do not appreciate other people unloading their junk disguised as gifts on us. Am I being unreasonable? Our kids did play with the stuff, and I admit I wouldn’t have objected if the toys had been new. It’s just that I feel an invitation is not an excuse to clear out your attic. Should I say something the next time?

—Dumped On

Dear Dump,

Yes, what you should say the next time is, “Thank you.” While Prudie can understand your feelings, you seem to be putting these actions in an unduly harsh light. Try to think “hand-me-downs,” something particularly appropriate with children’s clothes and toys. Prudie is not sure the dinner guests were even trying to pawn these things off as new. Granted, they might have finessed the situation by saying that their own children had enjoyed these toys … but they didn’t, so work on being less annoyed. Prudie would bet anything they weren’t trying to clear out their attics so much as trying to entertain your children with things they felt would be new to them. Give your guests the benefit of the doubt as to motive, and if you really do not wish your children to have secondhand toys, the next time this happens dispose of them, discreetly, when the evening is over.

—Prudie, levelheadedly


I foolishly began an affair about two months ago. I thought my marriage was at its end and decided I had nothing to lose. But now, my wife has stopped her offending ways and is making me happy. How do I end the affair? My girlfriend doesn’t know I’m married. Should I tell my wife?

—Need an Answer in Virginia

Dear Need,

Prudie will go easy on scolding you that married guys who cat around are skunks … forgive the double animal metaphor. To answer your question, which is what Prudie is here for, do the following: Don’t tell your wife; ditch the girlfriend; consider yourself lucky if your indiscretion does not come to light; and go and sin no more. As for ending the affair, tell the girlfriend you’ve repaired a long-standing relationship … and cross your fingers she doesn’t have your home phone number.

—Prudie, pragmatically

Dear Prudence,

About five months ago I met the woman of my dreams and fell for her right away. She had just broken up with her boyfriend of three years. We saw each other frequently, but she didn’t want things to progress beyond a friendship. I was bummed out, but I know you can’t make someone love you. My problem is: Last week was my birthday and I asked her for one kiss. She gave me an unequivocal NO. Now I feel like a total schmuck, and I think of her as one cold-hearted woman. (Background: Neither of us is seeing anyone else; I’m a good-looking guy; and chances are she has kissed 100-200 other guys in her life.) So my question is, would you have kissed me in that situation?

—Luckless Schmuck

Dear Luck,

Prudie hates to say this, so close to your birthday and all, but the chemistry doesn’t seem to be there with you and your dream girl. And you wouldn’t want a mercy-kiss, would you? As for what Prudie would have done in that situation … she will take a page from that now famous Turkish guy who was all over the Net: I kiss you.


—Prudie, consolingly