Dear Prudence

Heirloom, or Hand-Me-Down From the Dead?

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Hi Prudence,

My wonderful fiance decided to pop the question using his deceased mother’s wedding ring. He thinks it’s endearing and the start of a family tradition, and “we’ll just get it sized to fit you.” Well, frankly, it’s mortifying to me to wear a dead woman’s ring. Maybe I sound like a witch because I don’t get the whole family bonding thing through jewelry being passed from one dead relative to another. However, his mom and my mom died at the same age—young—and it means a great deal to him, but I’m the one who’s gonna have to wear the thing. 


Dear Hel,

Prudie’s going to try to have a crash course/mind-changing/deprogramming session with you right here. It would be good, instead of thinking of your beloved’s gift as “a dead woman’s ring,” if you could regard it as an heirloom signifying a loving welcome into his family. Very fancy auction houses and jewelry stores deal in estate jewelry. These baubles are not regarded as hand-me-downs from dead people. Extreme amounts of money have been spent on jewelry that belonged to Marie Antoinette, for example, and if anybody qualifies as dead, it is she. (Even Prudie has family jewels … from different families, to be sure, but such are the benefits of having had more than one husband.) Generation-to-generation jewelry is an established tradition, with nothing ghoulish about it, so do try and override your morbid ideas about the engagement ring from your wonderful fiance.

—Prudie, traditionally

Dear Prudence,

I am involved with a man who has lived with me for over two years. We have both been divorced once, so this is not my first time around the block. He is funny, honest, church-going, loves my grandkids, is good to his family, likes mine, and is a great lover. So? When he first moved in he was in the process of divorcing, so he said he had a lot of bills, back pay, pay problems, etc., so I did not ask for any money. I just thought that he would eventually get on his feet and start paying his share. To date he refuses to pay. His answer is that it would cheapen the relationship and that I have a lot more that he does, and someday when he is a millionaire these things will be meaningless. I am starting to think that he is using me, and my friends say the same thing. I fear I am being petty but don’t know what to do. Can you give me some straight answers?


Feeling Exploited

Dear Feel,

Now you have piqued Prudie’s curiosity. Just how is this man making his way to millionaire status? As for “cheapening the relationship” by chipping in, well, that is so much nonsense. He is, quite simply, very happy being kept. What you need to decide is this: Can you pay all the bills, without resentment, in return for having a funny, honest, church-going, good family man and great lover around? As Prudie has often said, life is choices.

—Prudie, selectively

Dear Prudence,

Last weekend I went to visit some friends at a college a few hours away from my own. I had a lot of fun, but on Saturday night I drank a little too much and ended up spending the night with a guy I know from my hometown. When I got back to my school, I found out that he dated one of my sorority sisters for a year and a half, and even worse, she found out about it and told all our sorority sisters. I feel awful and don’t know what to do or say. Any advice?


Dear Oop,

Well, your sorority sister didn’t “find out about it” by happenstance. The rat told her. So, first, we scratch him off the list. (And when next you see Sir Galahad, do shower him with indifference.) Second, we will remember very clearly the connection between drinking too much and becoming horizontally accessible. As for your sorority sisters (ah, sisterhood), Prudie has a hunch you are not the only one in the house to whom this has happened, but we will not get into the department of pots and kettles. There is something to be said for learning a lesson, and nothing need be said about some of the lessons learned.

—Prudie, forwardly

Dear Prudence,

I work at a technical support site as a technician. My mother works there, as well, as a team manager. Everyone here goes by first name, so there’s no “Mrs.” or “Mr.” I feel awkward saying “Mom” when speaking to other co-workers about her. Yet I feel awkward calling her by her first name. What is the proper etiquette for addressing my mother and speaking of her to my co-workers?


Dear Tech,

Because you’re in the workplace, why don’t you call your mother “Mom” when addressing her and “Elaine” when speaking of her to others? (Prudie just made up a name for your mom and is in no way suggesting you rename her Elaine.) The reason for this is that using her name is more familiar to your co-workers who are not, of course, in the habit of thinking of her as “Mom.” Settled? Good.

—Prudie, nominally