Dear Prudence

Not Hot for a Teacher

How can I get my principal to leave me alone?

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Dear Prudie,

I am a 13-year-old girl going to middle school, and I am in the eighth grade. My principal seems to really enjoy annoying me and just can’t seem to understand that it’s time to back off. He tries to trip me everyday while I’m walking through the lunch line; he punches me in the arm (really only a nudge, but it’s still annoying and constant) and rattles my tray around at lunch. This happens every single day. This really seems to only happen at lunch, and I haven’t seen him pick on anyone else like he picks on me. He has been doing this for the entire year so far (we started school in late August), and he started it toward the end of my seventh-grade year. I’m really not sure how to get him to stop, and my parents don’t seem to be helping much. (But it’s not that they don’t care.) I’m not comfortable talking to the school counselor in this kind of situation, and I know talking to the superintendent isn’t much of an option. I’ve tried ignoring him, but it just doesn’t work. He’s like the Energizer Bunny. He just keeps going and going and going. If you have any suggestions on how to help me with this problem, I’d really love to hear them.

—Finally Had Enough

Dear Fine,

First of all, principals are not there to annoy students, and they are certainly not there to punch and trip them. This creep sounds like a case of arrested development with an unhealthy attraction to adolescents and no understanding of boundaries. Someone who would carry on like this is in the wrong line of work. Prudie does not wish to rattle you, but what you describe sounds as though, in the language of your peers, he “likes” you. You must insist your parents get vocal about this craziness. Tell them it is crucial that they either confront your principal or go to the superintendent. Merely reporting his unseemly attentions will end the matter—unless he is nuts, in which case he will be fired. Come to think of it, he may be fired, anyway.

—Prudie, supportively

Dear Prudence,

I was the middle child. My older brother and younger sister have failed miserably in life, to say the least. Of the three of us, I’m the only one to graduate high school, never be arrested, not end up in rehab, not have a child before marriage, or currently have warrants out for my arrest. Both of my parents were psychologically abusive. My mother outright told me she didn’t love me and thought of me as a mistake. And my father, well, long story short, he is in Germany hiding from the IRS, and we haven’t talked since I found his child porn collection. Feeling a lack of family in my life, I’ve recently tried establishing relationships with my grandparents. None of them understood why I won’t talk to my parents or siblings. It became so frustrating that I finally told them of the abuse I suffered as a child. Now none of them will talk to me. I don’t know if they think I lied, that their “precious” children could never do such a thing or what. Every time I call, they quickly get off the phone. My Christmas cards never get answered. My birthdays are forgotten. They maintain relationships with both my brother and sister. Excuse my selfishness, but this just doesn’t seem fair!!! I’ve tried so hard in life. The only family I have is my wonderful husband. I’d like a family, if only for once in my life.

—”Black Sheep”

Dear Black,

Prudie does not concur with your signature. Instead, she would hope you might consider yourself “Heroic and Lucky.” You have somehow managed to climb out of the damaging debris of your family situation, so why would you want to clamber back in? Prudie well understands the longing for family, but if ever there was a case for considering friends your family, yours is it. The part about your grandparents excluding you while taking the side of the offenders simply means that they are most probably the ones who “created” your familial situation, and believing you would disturb their denial mechanism. Why not adopt your wonderful husband’s family as your own, along with people you love? Some sessions with a family therapist would surely improve your understanding of the situation. You are not a black sheep, at all, my dear; you are the lucky (and determined) lamb who made it to safety.

—Prudie, applaudingly

Dear Prudence,

This is a depressingly long story, so I’ll sum it up as neatly as possible. My roommate and dear friend “Marie” is dating a man who is 10 years her senior. She is 19. They have been together for just over two years. He has borrowed more than $2,500 from her just in the past year, without any indications of if or when it will be returned. He also owes a great deal of money to the state for various run-ins with the law. He has at least four children, and (here’s the clincher) two of them are with his wife. Despite the “promise ring” Marie wears on her left hand, this man is already married. All in all, he’s bad news. Even worse, her grades are faltering; she’s ruining her shot at getting a degree from a wonderful university, all because she believes that “he’s the one.” How can I make her realize that she’s the mistress, not the girlfriend, and that this relationship is unhealthy?

—Trying To Help

Dear Try,

He’s the one, all right … the one to derail her education, empty her bank account, and ruin her life. It would seem that a girl mixed up with a guy not yet 30 years old who has debts, a rap sheet, two kids from an ongoing marriage, and two other kids from … somewhere else … is not going to be particularly responsive to her roommate’s warnings. The “promise ring” is a nice touch. The promise of what, one wonders, after what he’s already delivered? A sexually transmitted disease? As for making your roommate realize she’s the mistress, the man’s wife may take care of that detail. You are a good and concerned friend, certainly, but bow out. Anyone this self-destructive, or dumb, is beyond the reach of common sense or good friends.

—Prudie, regretfully

Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend and I are planning to marry next January (a year from now). However, we are not “officially” engaged yet because he’d like to pay off his student loans within the next few months and then start saving for my ring so he can purchase it debt-free. Because of this, he has said that he will not be able to propose to me until this summer. Here is my dilemma: Is it tacky to announce our wedding plans to our families before we are officially engaged? Can we tell them soon so they can start planning the wedding, or do we wait until there’s a ring? Help!

—Ringless Wedding Planner

Dear Ring,

One can be officially engaged without a ring. If you two are planning to be married next January, your beau has, for all intents and purposes, proposed. What he has not done is given you a ring. Some people skip them altogether, deciding that engagement rings are simply advertisements that the woman is out of circulation and the future groom had some spare cash. By all means, tell your families to begin planning the wedding for next January.

—Prudie, essentially