Dear Prudence

Neighbor Pains

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Dear Prudence,
This past summer, an 11-year-old neighbor boy decided to befriend me. He began to chat with me as I walked my dog. He pestered me for weeks to come across the street and visit my house. I finally relented. My husband and I live alone; our respective children are all grown up now. We are not especially lonesome for childish company, but I lost my own son last year, and it seemed as if our little neighbor was a kind of godsend. Well, it hasn’t worked out that way. I realized from the start that he had some problems—though what kid doesn’t? He turned out to be very aggressive and pushy, constantly asking for treats, shopping trips, and more invitations. Sometimes he appears at my door four or five times a day.
Now I am just avoiding contact, yet he still persists in phoning and trying to visit. My instincts are warning me to pull back though that makes me feel somewhat guilty. What do you think?

—Worried Middle-Aged Lady

Dear Wor,
Your instincts are correct, and there’s no need for feeling guilty. You need to cut off contact with the boy, who is clearly troubled and knows no boundaries. You are in no position to offer therapeutic help. (Prudie is assuming you are not a therapist.) If the youngster persists, tell his parents you need them to instruct him to leave you alone. If that doesn’t work, a professional advised Prudie that the police might have to talk to the family. Unwelcome attentions from a neighbor are no less intrusive because the pest is a minor. Do know that continued attentions to the boy on your part would not speak to the underlying problems, which are beyond a kind neighbor lady to fix.

—Prudie, assuredly

Dear Prudence,

You wrote to “
Uncomfortable Fox” that she should seek a professional’s help to figure out where her urge comes from regarding her desire to have (essentially) anonymous sex. Why is this urge necessarily unhealthy? If you believe that sex is not and cannot be simply a recreational activity, then you should say so. If “Fox” doesn’t share that belief, then your advice is of no use to her. I’m not sure what I believe about this issue, but it certainly seems to me that you would be unlikely to suspect emotional maladjustment if she were seeking the same advice in the context of, say, playing tennis.


Dear Ke,

First of all, playing tennis is not pitching woo. You cannot, from tennis balls, pick up a sexually transmitted disease, a stalker, or feelings of guilt. Prudie agrees that sex can, indeed, be a recreational activity, but it’s supposed to be with people you know. This woman had questions about rounding up strangers. Do remember that she wrote seeking advice, cupcake, so her urges were apparently a problem—to her. The ball’s in your court.

—Prudie, backhandedly

Dear Prudence,

My wife and I are separated and live 1,000 miles apart. I’ve filed for divorce, which, unfortunately, is taking a lot longer than I’d hoped. The marriage has been over, emotionally, for five years. I would like to move on, and morally I feel entitled to do so. But I’m not naive. Some women do not want to become involved with a man who is not yet legally single—no matter what the underlying facts may be. My question is: When I meet someone, how far should I allow the flirtation to progress before revealing my status? “Hi, I’m separated” isn’t exactly a conversation starter. Yet several times I’ve seen the air go out of the balloon of a potential match when I revealed my situation. So when is the right time?



Dear Frus,

Well, you get brownie points for trying to be honest and fair. Prudie knows a man who says, very early on, “Hi, I’m married.” The right time for you to reveal your separated status is when mutual interest is shown and the two of you decide to get better acquainted. With people who are not kids, Prudie calls this next step, “And what did you major in?” In the course of filling each other in on your respective histories, this information will come up. In principle, you are correct that not-yet divorced people aren’t the best bets for romance. This most often applies to the newly separated, however, because that’s the time when people are generally in turmoil and a little bit nuts. Prudie believes that a marriage which has been emotionally over for five years—and where lawyers are hammering out a settlement—should not be the balloon deflater you describe. Prudie predicts that, if presented properly, your situation need not derail a promising romance and a thoughtful woman will be able to weigh the information in a mature way.

—Prudie, singly

Dear Prudie,

This is for the
womanwho had to buy a gift for a relative she doesn’t like. I would recommend a Chia Pet or a Ronco/Popeil product. (Though I must confess I’ve never had the guts to do this.) I think the best solution would just be to grin and bear it or get a gift certificate, and next time make sure you’re out of town. That is what I usually do


Dear M.,

At least a person can do something with a Popeil product … if only spray-paint his bald spot. The Chia Pet, however, is simply ugly and kitschy. ‘Nuff  said.    

—Prudie, playfully