Dear Prudence

Hot Links, Cold Heart? 

Please send your questions for publication to

Dear Prudence,

I have been dating a wonderful man for a year and a half. We have discussed marriage, and I feel he is the person I want to spend my life with. My last serious relationship blew up when the man, whom I trusted, turned out to have been cheating on me for some time. Because of this experience with mistrust, I am ashamed to admit that I resorted to looking through my new love’s things when he’s not at home (we do not live together). I found pornographic magazines and pornographic Web sites in his registry. I tried opening the subject with him, in a non-accusatory way, and his response was that he is not a “consumer” of pornography. Also, I asked him if he still chats with other women online, because I know that he met several of his ex-girlfriends this way. He has repeatedly told me no, but evidence on his computer shows otherwise.

What I would like to know is: Are men who frequently use pornography for recreation unhealthy in any way? Is this type of behavior likely to lead to future infidelities? I’d like your opinion before I invest any more of myself in this relationship.


Dear Con,

Certainly this is an unsavory aspect of your friend’s activities, and the line can be somewhat fuzzy between erotica and pornography. What makes sense for you to do is to talk to him directly about the subject so you can find out what Net sex means to him. Is it an addiction? Is it a replacement for sex with you? Is it an outlet for fantasies? Does he prefer it to actual contact, and if so, why? Also important is whether he’s chatting (and/or masturbating) with a specific person. Then, you need to figure out what all this information means to you. If he denies things you know to be true, your decision will be made for you.

—Prudie, supportively

Dear Prudence,

I work in a five-person legislative office. The receptionist takes pains to know as little as possible. She frequently directs my calls to the wrong people, takes wrong numbers, etc. Worse, in addition to her professional failings, there is simply nothing I like about her. I resent her ignorance, her Avon sales pitches are tiring, she sings off key and uses baby talk. Her religious proselytizing is offensive, and her frequent interruptions disturb my work. I’ve tried and tried to be nice—or at least be civil—but I just can’t keep up the facade. I could live with her professional struggles OR our personal differences, but not both. Unfortunately I can’t fire her, and there’s no office door I can close to keep her at bay. Besides taking Prozac and fantasizing about getting a new job at Burger King, what can I do to cope? Eight hours can be a V-E-R-Y long time.

—Annoyed and Weary Beyond Belief

Dear Ann,

Prudie is wondering however did this girl get the job. Do you think she has pictures of the boss with animals? Which brings us to the crux of the matter: Where is the boss? Surely you are not alone in your discomfort with this baby-talking, inept, Avon-pitching religious nut. Granted, yours is a small office, but if you all band together and tell whomever is in charge that a replacement is needed, you will surely win the battle. If you are in a civil service situation, get her transferred. If that doesn’t work, Prudie will have hers with fries.

—Prudie, determinedly


I was asked to be a bridesmaid by one of my friends who was planning to get married this summer, but just a week ago the groom-to-be called it off. The couple are still together, but they don’t think they are ready for marriage just yet. This shouldn’t be a problem, but I already went to be fitted (at the urging of the bride) and paid for the dress (as requested by the shop). So … my question is: Is it reasonable to ask either the groom or the bride to reimburse for the expense of this dress, or will I have to eat this one? Thanks.

—Stuck With Taffeta

Dear Stuck,

Look at it this way: The poor couple who called it off have real emotional issues to deal with, and you have … a dress. To use your phraseology, you will have to eat it, barring a spontaneous and generous offer from the not-happening bridal couple to pay. Granted, these dresses are not usually ones we would pick for cocktail wear, however Prudie suggests you go in for a little retail therapy: Have a dressmaker play with it to make it to your liking, buy terrific shoes … then maybe a matching bag. Calling off a wedding is, in its way, traumatic. Getting stuck with a dress is not.

—Prudie, sympathetically

Dear Prudence,

I work with the public and I’ve encountered a situation that I’m not sure how to handle. On a number of occasions, while chatting with a client, he/she has felt free to mention my size and “encourage” me to lose weight. I happen to think I’m a very sexy Size 16, and I feel my weight is my concern and no one else’s.

My first reaction is to politely say that my doctor takes very good care of my health and then move the conversation along to another topic, but some people are tenacious and continue to insist that I’d be quite beautiful if only I’d lose a few pounds. Since I work in sales (and on commission) this puts me in the precarious position of having to defend myself … yet I must do so carefully lest I alienate a potential client. I find the whole situation awkward. Can you give me any advice on how to handle unsolicited advice from total strangers? I’m at the end of my (very frayed) rope.

—Sexy Size 16

Dear Sex,

Aren’t these yentas who “mean well” just a pain in the neck? For simplicity’s sake, when the next clod-client offers you a suggestion about your weight, respond with something like, “You are awfully nice to be concerned, and since you brought it up, I have already lost 40 pounds and have only 15 to go!” That oughta settle their hash … forgive the food metaphor. Prudie promises you the subject will then be closed.

—Prudie, weightlessly