Dear Prudence

Muse or Mischief?

Get “Dear Prudence” delivered to your inbox each week; click hereto sign up.Please send your questions for publication to

Dear Prudence,
My wife and I have been married for 20 years. In the last few years, she has emotionally pulled away … a lot. We tried couples’ counseling for a few weeks, but she stopped going, saying she didn’t trust the counselor. I have continued (alone) for almost 20 months now. When our problems started, she had just begun to take music lessons with a professional. She goes to these lessons religiously. She has been taking them for about two and a half years now. We have fought about it because her lesson is in the late evening and she doesn’t get home until 2:30 a.m. or 3 a.m. She says they are just friends, but I have surprised her over there twice, and both times she was smoking pot and once she and her “teacher” were watching computer porn. I asked her for a divorce last September because of this, and she said she would stop. I have given it six months … it hasn’t stopped. Once again it is 2:30 a.m., and she is not home from his house. Am I beating a dead horse? She says she needs the male friendship because when she was young, her father was not around. I don’t think she notices that I am “around.” I have two wonderful kids who love their mom. What do I do?

Thank you,
—Had It

Dear Had,
Ask for joint custody. You sound like a preternaturally understanding man, but your wife has been playing you like a violin, and it’s time for you to get on with your life. Solo. Her “lessons” are an in-your-face affront, and the role you’ve been playing is that of the good schnook. You’ve not been beating a dead horse exactly, but you have been putting up with a lot of bull. This “teacher,” by the way, with the pot and the porn, could give private music lessons a bad name … assuming there really is an instrument, beyond the obvious one.

—Prudie, instructionally

Dear Prudence,
I have been married to my husband for nine years. He is all that I have ever wanted and all that I still want. Confused? We have a lot of friends, and we go out to dinner every now and then with each couple. Last weekend we were out with a couple we’ve known for years and had a great time as usual, but once we got home all I could think of was my friend’s husband. I’m not sure why—we really don’t have that much in common. My problem is that all I can think about is him. Please don’t get me wrong. I love my husband VERY much and would never do anything to hurt our relationship, but I do not know how to handle this feeling I am having for our friend.

—Married With a Crush

Dear Mar,
Think of your friend’s husband as greener grass. Just make sure you stay on your side of the fence. Fantasies come to all of us, so don’t beat yourself up about inconvenient or embarrassing thoughts. Chemistry is an inexplicable thing. Some personalities just call out to one another, often for no apparent reason. The attraction you’re experiencing could be a response to feeling that you’ve settled into a familiar routine. This make-believe excitement offers a little mental diversion. If you begin to consider doing something about it, however, then it’s time to have a talk with yourself, the gist of which would be: Self, I love my husband VERY much and would never do anything to hurt our relationship.

—Prudie, normally

Dear Prudence,
A waiter at a local restaurant has caught my eye. I don’t go to this restaurant very often, but he has always made an effort to be kind and attentive even when he’s not waiting on my table. I recently ended a three-year relationship and am on the market again. I would really like to get to know him better but am unsure as to how to approach him without looking tacky. I also don’t want to bother him while he’s on the job, and I want to take things slowly and do this right. My friend suggested I ask the other waiters about him, but I suspect that his family owns the restaurant, and I don’t want to cause trouble for him. No way am I going to write my phone number on a napkin!

Wishing He’d Serve Me a Date!

Dear Wish,
Prudie kind of likes the napkin idea, actually. All you really need to find out is whether or not he’s single. Prudie is a little foggy about why you think you might cause him trouble by evincing interest, and also why you think it being a family-owned restaurant complicates the situation. In any case, don’t worry about seeming tacky. It is much more graceful for a customer to show interest in a waiter than the other way around. Give it a shot. The napkin, that is. If the relationship goes anywhere, it will make a great story.

Prudie, flirtatiously

Dear Prudie,
I am seeing the greatest guy! He is sweet and bright and such fun to be with that it dismays me to have to say that he has any shortcomings at all, but he doesn’t have good dental hygiene. His teeth have a golden hue to them, and I suspect he never or rarely brushes. What should I do? I have considered mentioning casually that I am making an appointment to get my teeth cleaned and asking if he needs one, too. Would that be too pushy?

—Girlfriend of Golden Teeth

Dear Girl,
It would not be pushy, but it would be odd. Unless things have changed dramatically in the last 24 hours, a joint trip to have your teeth cleaned is not considered a date. Because you say this man is sweet, bright, and fun, it would be worth it to tell him, gently but directly, that he’d feel so much better if he adopted a standard dental regimen—and so would you. Leaving out, for the moment, that his teeth probably look as though he has moss growing from his gums and his breath could serve as a lethal weapon, ignoring one’s dental health poses a real danger down the road—like no teeth.

—Prudie, flossily