Dear Prudence

Meet My, Um, Committed Companion

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Dear Prudie,

I have been living with a man for two years. We are deeply in love and committed to each other. However, we don’t wish to get married … we just want to live together as we have been doing. (He was married two times before, which he regrets; I was married once to please my family and have a baby. If I had it my way, I would only have had the baby.) This man I am living with has given me a ring signifying unconditional love and commitment. Do we refer to each other as life partners or significant others or what? If I say he is my fiance, everyone keeps asking when we are getting married. Could you please help clarify this situation by telling me what is the new millennium terminology for situations like this?! (He is 55, and I am 52.) I doubt that we are “going steady” or boyfriend and girlfriend. I would appreciate an answer ASAP.


In a Quandary

Dear Quan,

Prudie had the same quandary before she recently married. Middle-aged people sound silly talking about “my boyfriend” or “my girlfriend.” “Partner” sounds like you own a business together—or are a same-sex couple. “S.O.” sounds a little stilted. “Lover” sounds French—or too melodramatic. “Companion” may be all right, though this always reminds Prudie of a paid helper for someone who is older who cannot live alone. To say, “this is my friend” works and is seldom misunderstood in the proper context. The thing to remember is that people usually get the drift of the relationship no matter what you’re calling it. And you’re right … we do need new millennium terminology.

—Prudie, nominally

Dear Prudence,

I am friends with an ex, and we talk fairly frequently on the phone and see each other once in a while. He often hints that he still cares for me and if given the chance, he would make things right between us. I’m also a friend of his current girlfriend, and we see each other at least twice a week over lunch or golf. I am fine with this arrangement until I see them together. Then I get extremely jealous and anxious, and subsequently sad, because I begin to question my choices. My friendships with the two of them are ones I would like to keep for a long time, but what would you suggest I do to get over this jealousy? This has been going on for almost two years now.

—Getting Over It

Dear Get,

How interesting; it is hard for Prudie to discern whose friendship you value more—his or hers. The jealousy you speak of can have two sources: a genuine desire for him, or not wanting anyone else to have him. Perhaps a session or two with a psychologist might help you pinpoint exactly what it is that you are feeling. Prudie will tell you this, however: Unless you three are most unusual, if you do patch it up with your ex, forget about golf and lunch with the other lady.

—Prudie, realistically

Dear Prudence,

I recently started to read your column, and you seem to hand out some pretty good advice, so here goes with my “problem.” I’m hoping to start up an advice column in my college newspaper, but a close friend (who is senior editor) brought up some good questions, and I was wondering how you would respond. What do you do when someone writes in about their underage drinking, drug use, and the like, all of which are rather illegal on campus and can easily result in expulsion? Besides referring them to the appropriate resources if they wish to seek help, would I be considered an “accomplice,” should the person get caught, since I knew about it and did nothing? Granted, an anonymous signature would provide for some protection, but still.

—Budding Columnista

Dear Bud,

First, because you want to be a journo, a little tip about precision: You say that underage drinking and drugging are “rather illegal.” That, my dear, is like the old joke about being “a little bit pregnant.” What you refer to is, simply, illegal. And happily for you, advice columnists are not accessories before or after the fact for anything people write in about—unless it’s an outright threat. Should you go ahead with the plans for your column, rest easy that you shall not be dragged off to the hoosegow because “David in Dunster House” overdid it with the Heinekens.

—Prudie, journalistically

Dear Prudence,

What’s the best way to ask people who are talking during a movie to stop? Yesterday my friend and I endured a couple behind us who talked during the entire movie. I wanted to tell the man that he was not Howard Cosell, so stop with the running commentary. What is the right thing to say?


—Silent Movie

Dear Si,

Prudie thinks the thing to say would be, “Sshhhh.” It works every time. What you usually get in return is silence—and a dirty look.

—Prudie, briefly