A Novel Predicament

A Novel Predicament

A Novel Predicament

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 10 1999 3:30 AM

A Novel Predicament

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com.

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Dear Prudence,

An old and trusted friend, "Jane," who lives in Los Angeles and works in television suggested I send her the manuscript of a novel I wrote because she had a friend who knows an agent who was looking for works by women about women. I sent the manuscript and waited for a response. Jane reported to me that her friend loved the book. Months passed without further information. This week, Jane told me that the woman she gave my book to turns out to be a psycho, and she doubts whether this woman even had an agent in mind when she requested my manuscript. She apparently had a crush on Jane, who says she has since cut off all contact with her.

My problem is that I want my manuscript back, and while Jane apologized profusely for the way things went, she refuses to retrieve it for me, saying that the woman would misconstrue this as an overture. I hesitate to contact the woman myself, because I don't want to get in the middle of a weird situation. I also get the impression that Jane thinks that her being upset supersedes any responsibility she has for getting my book back.

--Bruised and Confused in the Big Apple

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Dear Bruise,

Guess what? You've been had. Ditto for Jane. As for getting your manuscript back, it's pretty clear that Jane isn't going to ask, and you don't want to, so let's try Prudie's standby: a lawyer letter. Surely you have a friend who is an attorney who would write a formal letter to Psycho With a Crush requesting the return of the manuscript. That way, Psycho WAC will not have any information about how to reach you, merely the address of a law firm. Even nut cases (usually) pay attention to letters from lawyers. This is your best shot. Whether you choose to continue your friendship with Jane or not is another issue, but Prudie wonders why you would let your one and only copy of a manuscript out of your hands. Let's hope this experience has advanced your education from Psycho to Kinko.

--Prudie, hopefully

Dear Pru,

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This is kind of a different problem from what I've seen in your column, but here goes: I am not yet 30 and continue to move up in my rather buttoned-up company, where most of the male executives are married to, shall we say, plain women. The girl I am seeing now, like the one before her, has--and this isn't politically correct--a major pair of hooters. You might say this is my "type." She is very well spoken, has a good job, and is not a bimbo by any stretch of the imagination. She just has these ... well, anyway, they're attention-getting. What is the best way to deal with this?

--Junior Exec

Dear Junior,

You and your breasted American girlfriend--to be politically correct--need not feel there is anything wrong with her centerfold figure. Prudie would suggest, however, since you are on your way up the corporate ladder in a "buttoned-up industry" that your ladyfriend not dress them up so that undue attention is directed their way. Conservative clothing at business-related functions ought to put you both at ease.

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--Prudie, modestly

Prudie,

When a person, in the process of seeking your advice, reveals rather personal foibles, should you not be alerted to the probability that such a person is quite apt to be a whacko, weirdo, misfit, or plain loser? Then again, such a person could be a bright Yale student who is demonstrably adept at putting on advice columnists. I guess my question really is: How can you tell whether a letter is sincere or fraudulent?

--R.E.L., Shelbume, Vt.

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Dear R.E.,

You can't tell, though some things have the ring of truth, and others don't. Let's call it instinct. Prudie feels sure you would agree that whackos, weirdoes, misfits, or losers have need of advice--as do bright Yale students. So what's the problem?

--Prudie, problematically

Dear Prudence,

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I need to address your answer to the "grocery grazer" question. "R. in St. Paul" should have spoken to the store manager about the stealing. We are trained to handle cases of this sort in the following way: We would put a person within sight of the customer who's stealing without actually confronting her. If she hesitates for anything, we would then ask her if she needed any help ... again, letting her know she is being watched without accusing her of anything. Also, the security cameras would be "watching" the whole time, as well. This procedure would be repeated whenever she is in the store. This is designed to make her a little uncomfortable about stealing from us while at the same time keeping a paying customer in the store. We cannot take any action without seeing the stealing ourselves. If we didn't do it this way, we would have more lawsuits than we could handle--and lose a bunch of customers besides. Neither of these things is good for business. Thank you for listening to me.

--Sincerely,

W.D.W.

Dear W.D.,

Prudie and countless readers who had something to say about this thank you for the information about how store people want to deal with this problem. Many people wrote to say they believe the woman should have been reported, and a few pointed out the hygiene aspect: that scoops are there for a reason--hands carry germs. If enough customers become familiar with the way stores deal with grocery grazers, perhaps these pilferers can be "encouraged" to cut it out.

--Prudie, gratefully