Dear Tyler (Prudie)

by on February 13, 2006 at 6:24 am in Education | Permalink

Here is a recent column of hers, but I would have answered the readers' questions differently.  A' la Tim Harford, let's see how the advice of this economist might have come out...

Question: After several years of searching for Mr. Right, I have met someone who holds great promise for a long-term relationship. He is a soft-spoken man who treats me with great respect. He’s been a widower for many years, raising his children alone and doing a marvelous job. He’s a hard worker, honest, and seems very smitten with me. We have a great deal in common including our profession, which has been a real challenge for me since I have a nontraditional job in agriculture. The problem is, he’s an awful kisser, something I find pretty important when it comes to intimacy. How do you tell someone that the way they kiss is a real turnoff and not hurt their feelings? It’s not like we’re kids, we’re in our 50s.

Tyler: This is a signal that you don’t adore him as much as you think.  Some basic technique is required, but kissing is ninety percent psychology and connection.  Cut through the self-deception and ask yourself the honest questions.  Why didn’t you write "I love him"?  Your second, fourth, and fifth sentences make him sound like a dullard whom you will grow to despise.

The economist can be brutal, no?  Let us try another one:

I been involved with a lady for two months. We have much in common, and in many ways it’s a very satisfying relationship. Recently she dropped a bomb. In the middle of conversation she announced that she was going to kill herself when she was 75. Did not want to go through the usual body/mind deterioration. She made this choice at 18, after watching Harold and Maude. I watched the movie but could see little that would cause one to make such a brutal decision and stick with it. She’s 51 now. We are on a month’s sabbatical from the relationship. I’m just coming out of deep mourning and feel it’s my role now to try to convince her of the wrongness of her decision. I’ve decided it’s the most selfish, arrogant act imaginable. She wants family and friends there to cheer, "What a wonderful life. What a glorious death." Out of love, I must try to dissuade her from this wasteful end. Any advice? Why did she have to tell me this late?

Tyler: Have you heard of "cheap talk equilibria"?  It is unlikely she means to carry out her plan.  Probably when she was eighteen she thought she would kill herself at age 51.  That being said, read my advice to the first question above.  You probably don’t want her anyway, and you are writing Prudie [Tyler] to put off facing this unpleasant truth about yourself.  You are still not out of your mourning, and that will wreck this relationship whether you want it to or not.

Let’s skip the question about non-intersecting offer curves and move to the next:

I am engaged and we are in the process of planning our wedding. There is a huge debate over what is OK to put in the invitations and what is not. My fiance and I have been living together for a little over a year and we aren’t planning on registering because we already have so much. So, monetary gifts would be great for us! Now, how do you put this in your invitation? A few suggestions have come up but we don’t want to seem rude or crass. Please help!

Oh, what a softball.  We have already blogged on the deadweight loss of gift-giving, here and here.  So my major advice is simply to read MarginalRevolution on a regular basis.  I can add only that if you are going to ask for money, set up a college fund.  Your kids-to-be are not yet experiencing the impatience of waiting for the money, which implies an arbitrage opportunity with g > r, or the growth rate of the funds greater than the rate of time discount.  Nor do I think that the mechanisms of Ricardian Equivalence will fully offset this transfer.  Got that?

Jane Galt February 13, 2006 at 8:02 am

ick! ick! ick! I don’t care if it’s inefficient, asking for money is one small step above charging your guests admission.

Collin February 13, 2006 at 8:36 am

1) Jane, I agree completely!

2) Tyler, I think you’ve found your calling. This is the best entry ever!

Brant February 13, 2006 at 9:24 am

Regarding wedding gifts: Put all the money into a fund to pay for a reunion party in ten years. If it does well enough, it will even pay for guests’ travel. Good times, good times.

Peter February 13, 2006 at 10:08 am

Regarding the second letter – the couple’s been dating for two months, yet are already on a month’s “sabbatical” from the relationship? I’d say it’s a little early for such a step, but then again the whole idea of a “sabbatical” in a dating relationship makes precious little sense to me. If I were Prudie, I’d advise to correspondent to make a permanent break.

Tim February 13, 2006 at 11:42 am

The custom of gift giving at weddings (like bride prices or dowries) is designed to transfer wealth to the next generation (in a more controlled fashion than inheritance). Which means control lies with the giver. Sorry, honey, you’ve got no power in this relationship, and in order to get what you want you’re going to have to sacrifice some of the cash value (and whatever time it takes to put the stuff on EBay.

DK February 13, 2006 at 11:50 am

anon: in the US most people don’t mind receiving cash; it’s the idea of using your wedding invitation to ask for cash that is offensive. For that matter, referring to any of form gifts on a wedding invitation at all can be seen as rude. Giving a guest a list of demands is only appropriate if the guest is Santa Claus or a professional hostage negotiator. Otherwise, let the guests choose to ask where your registry is, if they wish to do so.

Kevin Postlewaite February 13, 2006 at 3:25 pm

Regarding wedding gifts: don’t get away from the person’s actual question: is it okay to ask for $$$ IN THE WEDDING INVITATION. Etiquette is clear: no. Nor is it acceptable to inform people in the invitation if/where you are registered. These are communications that must happen (etiquette speaking) outside of the wedding invitation, regardless of the inefficiency. Personally, I will give less to someone who breaks these rules. “No gifts” is acceptable to include, and I personally wouldn’t be offended by “donations to whatever charity”, but that’s all.

-Kevin

Sam February 13, 2006 at 6:39 pm

Forgot to mention: this apparently is a common custom among this immigrant group, Koreans. My parents also go to other weddings and probably are doing the same.

john February 13, 2006 at 7:17 pm

do any one remember the godfather?

Slocum February 13, 2006 at 10:18 pm

“2) Tyler, I think you’ve found your calling. This is the best entry ever!”

Well, the last answer kind of reminds me of the “Ask a …” Onion feature, you know like:

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/37434

I mean, could ‘The Onion’ really do better than:

“Your kids-to-be are not yet experiencing the impatience of waiting for the money, which implies an arbitrage opportunity with g > r, or the growth rate of the funds greater than the rate of time discount. Nor do I think that the mechanisms of Ricardian Equivalence will fully offset this transfer. Got that?”

Jacqueline February 13, 2006 at 11:57 pm

You simply MUST make this a regular feature. Also, I think in addition to Dear Prudie you should also write your own answers to the questions sent in to Dan Savage (“Savage Love”). Or do a different advice columnist every week…

linda October 9, 2006 at 8:28 am

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