Dear Prudence

The Old Man and the Sleaze

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Dear Prudence,
Recently my sister and I have come to strongly suspect that our stepmother is having an affair with a neighbor of hers and our father. She is very young, 36, and our father is 76. We do understand that perhaps there is a lack of passion in their relationship, but we do still feel that she is taking everyone for a ride. She seems to dislike my sister and me, and she is very good at manipulating my father. (I could list a few instances in which she threatened to leave him in order to get her way.) Our dilemma is, of course, do well tell him and risk being the messenger who gets shot, or do we keep it to ourselves so he can remain ignorant/blissful while we go crazy? Please, Prudence, we need some sound advice.


Dear Trub,
Alas, the cliché is true: There’s no fool like an old fool. Sometimes rich, elderly people know, deep down, it’s their moolah that is the attraction … and they don’t care. In other cases, the person being manipulated is impaired and is clearly being taken advantage of. Prudie understands your acute distress at seeing your father manipulated by someone exploiting his weakness. Even though the situation is booby-trapped in terms of your relationship with your dad, Prudie urges you to broach the subject rather than ignore it. If he closes you down, you will know that, as a loving pair of siblings, you have gone on record and voiced your concerns. However it plays out … whether he is appreciative of your looking out for him and salvaging his dignity, or tells you to take a hike, you will know you did not stand by silently while this sad episode becomes your dad’s last chapter. As a matter of conscience Prudie encourages you not to sweep the situation under the rug in the name of “peace and harmony.” A pretty good rule in life is that whatever is the hardest thing to do is probably the right thing to do.

—Prudie, empathetically

I have been dating the guy I am with for almost two years. After moving in together I found out that he is a HUGE pervert and looks at porno on the Web ALL the time. He lies about it when I confront him. He also ordered a pornographic movie one time, and I caught him with that. I don’t know what his problem is. We have an active sex life, and everything seems to be fine … except this. Other people tell me that men are just like that, and always will be, no matter what you do. I can’t handle it and am considering leaving him over it. I don’t know if I should get out now or maybe try counseling to see if that helps me deal with it, since “every man does it.”


Dear K.,
Well, every man doesn’t do it, but, alas, yours does. While one person’s porn site is another one’s social life, the issue, here, is how you feel about it. Online sex addiction is on the rise and increasingly a bone of contention between romantic partners. It has been shown by research that lying about online sexcapades is common, so we know this subject is a minefield. People do not lie about neutral or positive activities. At one conference on the subject, therapy was strongly recommended—and the participants agreed that it was of great importance that the cybersurfers be honest with their partners about what they’re looking at. If it’s a secret, it’s a problem. Get professional guidance, either together or alone. If your boyfriend’s habits do not change and/or continue to disturb you, then you need to call it a day. There are plenty of guys out there for whom the real thing is better than the mock.

—Prudie, supportively

Dear Prudence,
Our neighbors were letting their dogs bark for very long periods of time, usually from 10 p.m. to midnight, and from 4 a.m. into the daytime. We moved here a while ago, and after several months of this we asked them to please do something about their dogs. They quieted things down for several months, but now the hounds are at it again—for hours at a time, either keeping us awake or waking us up. These same neighbors play loud music, as well. They had a nighttime basketball game going several days in a row, with of course much yelling and screaming. I called and asked them to quiet things down so we could sleep. The husband said he would “quiet the boys down.” Things did quiet down, but the next day the wife called me to say I was rude and it wasn’t a very “West Coast” thing to do. She said we were nitpicking and that she was embarrassed to tell visiting family members to stop their game. I am upset that these neighbors ignore common courtesies.

—Sleepy Lisa

Dear Sleep,
You are phoning the wrong people. The situations you describe are called “disturbing the peace,” and the local police have the authority to tamp things down. Then of course it will be all out war between you and the cloddish next-door neighbors, but you are entitled to a night’s sleep without barking, ballgames, or blaring music. As for this babe laying on you that you’re not being very “West Coast,” she has grievously misunderstood the term “laid back.” Prudie spent many years in West Los Angeles, and the thoughtless behavior you describe has nothing to do with the California culture.

—Prudie, knowledgeably

I am currently in a relationship with a wonderful man. He is the best thing to happen to me in years, and I love him to pieces. There is one small problem that I have no idea how to approach because I don’t want to hurt his feelings. The problem? He has the worst taste in clothes I’ve seen in years! It’s so bad that I once got a headache when I saw his outfit. Going out in public with him is uncomfortable because his clothes are sometimes loud, garish, or out of style. Sometimes he surprises me and looks normal and sedate, so I know he can do better. I am conservative and classic in my own dress, and I guess my motto is less is better. Please give me some hints as to how to open this subject with him.


Dear Frus,
Over the years, Prudie has seen your beloved’s sartorial brothers at various events. They would be the guys whose jackets prompt one to wonder, “Who shot the couch?” Because you say he sometimes looks as you would like, reinforce those choices of outfits with praise—much as you would housebreak a dog. When he shows up wearing something loud that makes you blink, use that occasion to suggest that a gorgeous hunk such as himself needs a woman’s opinion regarding his wardrobe—then suggest you go shopping together. And whenever there’s an occasion that calls for a gift, select a shirt or a tie or a sport coat that you think he would look good in. Some people just have rotten taste, but as a quality, it registers as being not very important.

—Prudie, nattily