Dear Prudence

Mashing Booth?

Please send your questions for publication to

Dear Prudie,

Mine is not your usual mother-in-law problem. I love the one I have, but she dresses in a very attention-getting way. She is almost always overdressed, and in ways that make people blink. (I’m talking chiffon at a morning bar mitzvah.) My husband (her son) just laughs and says it’s not important. I am warring with myself about saying something to her, so that maybe the number of raised eyebrows about her wardrobe will be diminished.

—Loving Daughter-in-Law

Dear Love,

Prudie is sympathetic to the wish that your beloved mother-in-law would fit more into what you consider the norm, but her style is set and by now everyone who knows her is used to it. She either has no taste or chooses to “stand out” in this manner. In the scheme of things, her clothes are not important. Prudie bets you wouldn’t trade your lovely m-i-l for a meddlesome witch in Chanel, so try to put things in perspective. The Aussies, by the way, have a great expression for being overdressed. They call it looking “flashy as a rat with a gold tooth.” So next time you see spandex and sequins on your dear in-law at the supermarket, think of this colorful saying and smile to yourself.

—Prudie, tolerantly

Dearest Prudie,

I’m in the seventh grade, approaching my first season of spring school carnivals, and have a delicate question for you: What is proper kissing-booth etiquette? A girl who I have a crush on is slated to work in my school’s booth. Is it proper to use this opportunity to get to know her? Would it be proper to expect more than a quick peck in exchange for my ticket? Please let me know. Thanks.

—Joey B.

Dear Joe,

Uh, what more did you have in mind besides “a quick peck”? Prudie hopes nothing. This is a public booth, after all … and you are, perhaps, 12? As for kissing-booth etiquette, Prudie would suggest (it having been quite a while since she was in seventh grade) that a relatively quick brushing of your lips on hers is what’s called for. After all, you don’t know this person well, and you certainly don’t want her—like Darva Conger—to feel that you’ve overstepped the bounds of propriety with a too-familiar kiss. As for getting to know her better, you might spend a little extra time at her booth, and if she is friendly to you, buy another ticket.

—Prudie, sportively


I really love your column and advice (and sign-offs) but “Noise Averse” sounds like s/he is having panic attacks. I am a medical person. Since this noise pollution is unavoidable, s/he should see a psychiatrist and probably get medication.

—Sympathetic Sal

Dear Symp,

Thank you for checking in and being a Prudie. There were many letters on this subject. The following was certainly interesting.

Dear Prudence,

Upon reading the question from Noise Averse, I wondered if perhaps this person’s response was not emotional but physical. It is entirely possible that the loud bass music is in tune with this person’s natural frequency, thus causing his or her insides to vibrate uncomfortably. This is, in fact, the basis for a non-lethal weapon being tested by the U.S. military. The symptoms described in Noise Averse’s letter sound very much like the results of tests done by the military, but less severe. It’s just a thought, but it might be relevant. Take care.


Dear E. and All Who Wrote,

What Prudie imagined to be just discomfort from too loud music/noise may or may not be psychological or physiological responses. The idea that the military is working on human tuning forks seems a bit Rod Serling, but one never knows, does one?

—Prudie, pensively

Dear Prudie,

This is not my problem, but it may be America’s. Do you think it has any importance that George W. Bush has trouble expressing himself? Some of his statements are downright hilarious, but the job of a U.S. president is not to provide entertainment. Have you given this any thought?

—Articulate in Texas

Dear Art,

Well yes, Prudie has noted Dubya’s howlers. She also thinks Yale has much to answer for regarding the language abilities of both père et fils. While it is nowhere suggested we should select the American president from an elocution class, it is of some concern that the Republican nominee can sound like a dumbbell. Jacob Weisberg, in fact, has a Slate feature called “Bushisms of the Week.” Prudie’s favorite is probably this one: “There is madmen in the world, and there are terror.” It is possible that the Texas governor is terrified of public speaking, hence the bloopers. (And please, no mail about Prudie’s Democratic sympathies being in evidence. Someone in Bush’s own campaign has dubbed him “The English Patient.”)

—Prudie, grammatically