Hiding in his wallet…

Dear Annie: I was married 45-plus years when my husband passed away. After being alone for a few years, I married a longtime family friend. His wife had passed away several years earlier. He pursued me and is a good man, and we seem to be happy together.

But at times, I do feel like his first wife lives with us. My question is, should he be carrying a picture of his first wife in his billfold? He does not carry one of the two of us. This really bothers me, and I am wondering what you think. — Second Wife

Dear Second Wife: If there’s any hope of the two of you carrying out a fulfilling and enduring marriage, it’s time to bury the past. Share with your husband how it makes you feel to have his late wife still seemingly, and quite literally, in the picture. He may not realize that what he perceives as part of the grieving process is actually a detriment to the security and progression of your marriage.

As for his billfold, it’s in with the new. Find a pocket photo of you and your husband to give to him. He may not have had one before. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Huh. I disagree. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that he was married for forty-five years, too. That’s almost half a century. In fact, it’s half a year longer than I’ve been alive. If someone I loved for my whole life were to die, I’d want to remember them. Photographs might help with that.

And if I had a spouse who was widowed (although I don’t really care for that word), I wouldn’t expect him to grieve his wife and then just get rid of all her photos. That seems… how to put it… rigid and controlling, not to mention insensitive.

I think the letter writer should realize that no one can replace anyone else. Unless her husband actually married her in order to replace his late wife, which would be ill-advised, then she needs to understand that she’s not his late wife, and nor does she need to compete with the aforementioned late wife.

My question is, should he be carrying a picture of his first wife in his billfold?

[Being sarcastic here] No, he should forget that his first wife ever existed. Out with the old and in with the new, am I right?

Oh my gosh, that reminds me. I had a catfisher on the line once. He told me, as they all do, that his wife had died. Somewhat suspicious, I asked to see her obituary. He wrote, she’s gone! Who cares? She’s no longer here. She is no more. 

And I was like, wow, that’s romantic–NOT! You stupid idiotic scammer! Die, catfisher, die! 

I hate catfishers.

But think about it. Would you really want to be with a significant other who threw out his or her late spouse (of forty-five freakin’ years!) like yesterday’s news? I can understand that as a phase of grief (denial, I guess?), but I can’t understand doing it as a lifestyle choice. I think it would be disrespectful to the person who was a huge part of your life for forty-five years.

If my dad were to die, I’d be devastated. Other people might be able to play similar roles in my life, but no one could replace him (or anyone!). People are individuals.

He does not carry [a photo] of the two of us. This really bothers me.

I think it’s simple compartmentalization. He keeps the photo there so that he can feel close to his late wife when he sees it. He doesn’t need to feel that same sort of closeness to his living wife, who’s still alive in the flesh, if that makes sense.

A relationship of forty-five years shouldn’t end at death, but that’s my spiritual take on it. If I were widowed and then got remarried, I’d still have a relationship with my late spouse in my heart. I doubt I could marry a man who had an issue with that. I mean, I commune with the dead all the time. People should do it more often. But it wouldn’t mean that I didn’t also love my second husband, in an entirely different way, I’d imagine.

It’s time to bury the past. Share with your husband how it makes you feel.

And how would that go, Annie Lane? “Bob, could you get rid of Marge’s photo in your wallet? She’s dead and I’m alive! Are you married to me, or to a corpse? Get with it. Oh! And… I knocked the urn of the mantel. Marge has been vacuumed. Uh… sorry.” (Said with a shifty expression.)

3263454-impliedfacepalm

Oh dear.

He may not realize that what he perceives as part of the grieving process is actually a detriment to the security and progression of your marriage.

Oh, Annie Lane! It’s a photo in his wallet! It’s not like he’s build an altar to her in his and the letter writer’s shared bedroom, complete with boudoir photos of his late wife, a strand of her hair, and a drop of her blood, stolen from the morgue!

I disagree with Annie Lane about grief. Maybe it’s just the way my mind works. When someone I care about dies, I can still feel them when I access their energy. They’re closer to us than a lot of people realize. But I don’t see anything wrong with his having a photo in his wallet! I have photos up here in my room of both grandmothers! How is that wrong?! If I were to “adopt” a new grandmother, would it be disrespectful for me to have photos of my late grandmothers? I hardly think so.

Where is Annie Lane getting this advice? She seems to be going with the assertiveness school of thought: tell him how it makes you feel. [Eyeroll.] I guess the letter writer could go that route, or she could just get an attitude adjustment.

Shout-out to my fellow quadragenarians!

Dear Amy: My father has realized his memory is failing and is using this to whitewash his questionable parenting skills.

Now I have no closure or recourse on events like his racist outburst of 2012 that led me to a very awkward Thanksgiving in a house full of people I did not know.

My dad will even see if his partner remembers an incident, and if she doesn’t remember, then it definitely didn’t happen; but she is apt to ignore it like it didn’t happen just to move off the subject.

I don’t need an apology (not that it would come), but it is just a new insult on top of an old one.

It makes me resentful when he literally says I must be wrong because:

    1. Both of them don’t remember.
    2. One of them doesn’t remember. Or, 
    3. Both remember, but act like they don’t.

My past has been check-mated by insecure septuagenarians. There is nothing I can do, is there?

– Manipulated S

Dear Manipulated: Here is something you can do: Understand – deep in your bones – that “closure” is not something another person can grant you.

In fact, the very concept of closure and the chasing of closure is something of a red herring. Closure is a distraction, keeping you from doing the work you need to do in terms of accepting reality: (“My father is a racist. But I can’t help him to change what he won’t admit.” “My father was a poor parent. Confronting him about this is useless, because he denies it.”)

Now that his memory is fading, the past will be mutable, and he will cling to his version just as you cling to yours.

If it helps you or feels good for you to continue to confront him with the truth that only you will admit to, then keep trying.

Unfortunately, confronting him seems to lead to frustration and more distress for you, and so maybe it’s time to stop. (c) 

Wow! Got to dodge those insecure septuagenarians! 😮 HA HA! That’s hilarious. Like sinister centennarians or awful octogenarians.

I daresay that I don’t understand, first of all, why the letter writer hasn’t raised these issues prior to now?

Now I have no closure or recourse on events like his racist outburst of 2012 that led me to a very awkward Thanksgiving in a house full of people I did not know.

If that’s the worst thing he did to her, then she doesn’t have much of a case against him here; but, I’m not assuming that that was the worst. Obviously, racism isn’t good, but sexual abuse, physical abuse, or parental neglect, etc., etc., are worse than a racist outburst.

I sense that the racist outburst was one of his major sins, because she refers to it as the racist outburst of 2012, which is just as hilarious as the nonexistent nonagenarians thing. As such, she might want to be grateful that she wasn’t abused or harshly mistreated. While I’m sure it’s not great to grow up with a racist parent, I can’t help but wonder why the letter writer can’t make a better case against him than that. I’m not trying to make racism sound okay. But I’d rather bear witness to a racist rant than to experience child abuse.

Moving on, I think whitewashing is done due to guilt, remorse, or regret. Otherwise, wouldn’t this flagrant racist just own it? “Hell yeah, I’m a badass septuagenarian! You got a problem with that?”

She (guessing at the gender) signed herself Manipulated S, but this seems like low-level manipulation at best. Her dad’s take might be, “Gee, quit shoving all this stuff in my face!” Even if he’s not remorseful, there should still be a statute of limitations on harassing someone for their bad behavior, and we know the racist issue was nine years ago. And the worst effect it had on her was to make Thanksgiving awkward. If she were a blogger, it would’ve given her some blogging fodder! Something for her to think about. Dysfunction makes for great blog posts.

I don’t need an apology (not that it would come), but it is just a new insult on top of an old one.

Well, that’s the problem with racism. People who are racist believe they’re right! They’re not going to apologize! It’s likelier that someone would apologize for losing their temper or saying things they didn’t mean. But racism is a consciously chosen act, unlike doing something bad on accident and then regretting it.

Furthermore, the letter writer isn’t traumatized. She tells us she’s insulted. Okay, let’s get some perspective here. Being insulted is, again, far preferable to being abused and traumatized. The more I think about it, the more irritated I am with this letter writer. People get old! They forget things! And yet she’s making her dad’s memory loss about herself. (I get that he might be pretending not to remember, but some of his memory loss must be legit. You can’t wholly fake that sort of thing.)

So, I think the letter writer just needs to get over it, or to just accept that it’s not a huge deal. Surely no one blamed her for the racist outburst of 2012. It’s common knowledge that racist behavior can only be attributed to the racist in question. And come on. We’ve all had bad Thanksgivings.

My dad will even see if his partner remembers an incident, and if she doesn’t remember, then it definitely didn’t happen; but she is apt to ignore it like it didn’t happen just to move off the subject.

Right, because memory loss isn’t something to torment someone about. Duh. Also, there’s no reason to put the dad’s significant other in the middle here.

Unfortunately, confronting him seems to lead to frustration and more distress for you, and so maybe it’s time to stop.

Amen! Hey, I’ve gone to dinner parties where my mother wasn’t on her best behavior. No, really, Meg? Tell your readership something they don’t already know. Here’s the thing: I have a short memory and don’t harass her about such events years later. But interestingly, there was one party where she was really poorly behaved, and I later came to suspect that she was freaking out about age-related cognitive decline. She claims to have memory loss. I believe her, but fortunately, there are no major issues of note. But before she had her stroke/TBI/seizures, she was worried to death about memory loss. After, she just decided to own it and tell everyone her memory’s going, and so now she’s not a stress mess about it anymore. She’s quite the savvy septuagenarian.

Rockin’ that fortnight!

I had a huge boon yesterday with the garage project. I woke up and went outside, where I discovered that the morning recyclers hadn’t come yet, as it was broad daylight and no one’s bins were emptied. Delighted, I checked several local bins and found extra room in them, so I carried my stacks of cardboard panels I’ve been making in the garage (cut from old cardboard boxes) and deposited them in our neighbors’ bins. Then, on the off-chance that the recyclers would take a huge amount from our house, I stacked all the piles remaining on top of (and around) our tiny recycling bin. An hour later, it was all gone! And now morale has improved for the project.

Morale was down because:

  • It’s a huge undertaking, as I’ve only done about half the boxes so far,
  • $475 out of the $500 my dad’s paying me is being allotted to dentistry (gee, Meg, merry Christmas), and
  • It’s just a mess out there, and I keep feeling hopeless about it.

But today I hope to get a lot of it done. At this exact moment, I’m checking my email (officially) and procrastinating (unofficially). Not to give the wrong idea. My dad doesn’t care when I get it done. (However, we are being strong-armed by a neighbor who just listed his house for sale. Can’t say that I blame him.) My dad’s a great “employer”, as it were. I’m mostly self-motivated. I also keep the whole house clean because my dad doesn’t like to clean. I have no issue with this since his house is a nice place to live, and he doesn’t complain when the house gets dirty, so I can clean at my own pace.

The only time he puts pressure on me (about as gently as can be imagined–“Don’t forget about my brief!” or, “Have you started my brief yet?”) is when I’m doing a legal doc for him that’s due in the court’s office. I always manage to prioritize those projects.

But anyway, I’d like to get it done long before I go to Prague in two weeks and five days. (Not that I’m counting!) (Okay, yes I am.) The recyclers come every two weeks, so if I can prepare the rest of the boxes within a fortnight, to be put out right before I leave town, that would rock. (And by the way, I’m not British, so that’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever used that word!! Oh my gosh, FORTNIGHT! Go Meg! Ooooh, blog post title!) I also need to put out a few more items for this weekend’s semiannual large junk pickup and then clean the garage floor.

Well, I ought to get to it. It’s a beautiful day, so I’ve got to make it happen here. Pep talk! You can do it, Meg! Okay, I’ve got this. I be rockin’ this fortnight!

I hope everyone out there is having a great day!! ❤ ❤ ❤

Loads of commentary tonight!

Dear Annie: I have been with my partner for 10 years. While he was going through his divorce, his mother lived with us. At the time, she had nothing nice to say about his ex-wife. She acted like seeing her was a chore when one of the children graduated high school (I was not allowed to attend the graduation).

Since then, the children he shares with his ex have grown up and they are on their own. The older child now has children of her own. My issue is that his mother stays with the ex when she comes into town and still sends her presents.

Now, if my partner had been mean to the ex, or if the kids were still young and at home, I could understand. But that isn’t the case. The ex also hosts parties for the grandchildren, and we are never allowed to attend them.

Can you please help me understand why his mother still has this friendship with the ex? Again, during the divorce, she had nothing nice to say about the ex at all. She told me how abusive she was to him. — Fed Up (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Oh my. Annie Lane might’ve bitten off more than she can chew with this one. I shudder to see her answer. Okay, come on, Annie Lane, you can do it!!

Dear Fed Up: It sounds like your partner’s mother felt defensive of her son during his divorce and likely hurt and disappointed herself. Still, no matter how much water is under the bridge, your partner’s ex is and will always be the mother of her grandchildren.

The relationship the two of them choose to have doesn’t concern you. Instead, work to foster the bond you have with your partner’s mother (and with his children and their children). After a decade together, that should take priority — not scrutinizing what friendship his mother may or may not have with the old flame. Don’t see their closeness as competition: You’ll only end up losing.

Yeah, that’s pretty lame. [Shaking my head.] How about calling this person out for being a homewrecker?!

I have been with my partner for 10 years. While he was going through his divorce, his mother lived with us. [Emphasis added.]

So this letter writer was already living with him during his divorce?! Not only did they commit adultery, but they were already living together before the divorce papers were dry. And with his mother!

She acted like seeing her was a chore when one of the children graduated high school (I was not allowed to attend the graduation).

Right! No adulterers allowed! And she’s not even apologetic about it. Instead, she (I’m assuming her gender here for purposes of simplicity) wants to win the prize with her significant other’s mother. Like, Hey, quit liking his ex and like me instead! His ex is the real bad guy here!  

I knew Annie Lane would go obnoxiously easy on this letter writer. I just hoped I was wrong. Oh well.

Dear Annie: For close to 50 years, my friend “Chloe” and I have met for dinner once a week, and she always discusses her husband’s past affair, which occurred over 50 years ago and lasted a year. They are still married and had a few children after the affair ended. She seems to refuse to believe he has told her “everything” and still asks him questions about it.

I empathize with her pain and repeatedly tell her that forgiveness is about her being happy again within herself and that it does not mean she condones her husband’s past behavior. She has been very mean to him all these years and says hateful things to him, which distresses their daughters.

They have been to couples therapy a few times, but nothing has changed with her. I am at a loss to figure out why she keeps this up after all these years. I need some understanding of why she repeatedly expresses hate for her husband but continues to live with him. Does she need to be a victim? — Concerned and Confused

Dear CC: You are a good friend with wise advice, and Chloe is lucky to have you on the receiving end of her weekly pity parties.

It sounds like Chloe is using a “victim mentality” to avoid dealing with deeper relationship problems. If she forgives her husband’s infidelity, she’ll have to assume some responsibility for the failures in her marriage. It’s far easier to just lay the blame on him.

Still, it is clear she has some unresolved feelings of rejection. Fifty years is a long time to be carrying around so much anger, and she must be tired. Chloe has two options here: leave her husband, or forgive him.

If she chooses to forgive, remind her once more that forgiveness is not a stamp of approval for his actions; it is merely an acknowledgement that their marriage and their family are more important than a mistake he made 50 years ago.

Unresolved feelings of rejection?! Oh, Annie Lane! Please! She’s been milking it for half a century–longer than I’ve been alive–for the same reason that dogs lick themselves (according to Blanche Devereaux): because they can!

They are still married and had a few children after the affair ended. She seems to refuse to believe he has told her “everything” and still asks him questions about it.

This could just be me, but I’d ask questions first and have kids later. [Groan.]

It sounds like Chloe is using a “victim mentality” to avoid dealing with deeper relationship problems. If she forgives her husband’s infidelity, she’ll have to assume some responsibility for the failures in her marriage. It’s far easier to just lay the blame on him.

Oh, Annie Lane! That’s not it! It’s been fifty years! Don’t make excuses for Chloe! There’s really no excuse or justification for her to spend fifty years making him pay for his mistakes! To say nothing of how the letter writer has to hear about it every single time they get together. Geez. Talk about your conversation killers. That’s fifty years’ worth of talking about one topic! Someone needs to segue the conversation elsewhere!

You are a good friend with wise advice, and Chloe is lucky to have you on the receiving end of her weekly pity parties.

Oh, Annie Lane! Chloe isn’t lucky to have the letter writer! Chloe’s an energetic vampire who’s been feeding on the letter writer and possibly other victims as well. I mean, there’s self-absorption, and then there’s self-absorption, you hear me? I talk about my relationship problems too, usually with the goal of resolving them or moving past them. But to spend fifty years rehashing an affair and also talking about it ad nauseam to the letter writer is a wee bit over the top.

I have no clue why the letter writer is still in this friendship, but here’s what I’d do:

Chloe: “My husband still hasn’t come clean about that affair back in the 1950s.” 

Me: “What are you going to do about it?” 

Chloe: “Well, I just expect him to…” 

Me: “No, not him. You. What are YOU going to do about it?” 

Chloe: “But I shouldn’t have to be the one to…” 

Me: “Answer the question. What are you going to do about it?” 

Chloe: “Well… nothing, I guess.” 

Me: “Good.” 

And then I’d change the subject. My guess is that Chloe would start crying crocodile tears, so I’d say, “Eat your soup,” and gesture to her soup, “before it gets cold.” And if she went back to the topic of conversation, I’d repeat my above performance, for which I’d win an Oscar.

My mentor told me that supporting people doesn’t always mean telling them what they want to hear. That’s very wise, I think. It ought to go on a fortune cookie. Or it could be stitched onto a sampler.

Chloe has two options here: leave her husband, or forgive him. If she chooses to forgive…

First of all, Chloe didn’t ask for advice–her friend did. Second of all, if the letter writer tells Chloe, “You have two options: forgive him or leave him,” Chloe’s not going to do either.

Annie Lane, Annie Lane, Annie Lane!

Let’s see what Ask Amy is up to.

Dear Amy: I am a recent college grad, home (for now) looking for full-time work. I’m looking to move somewhere new, make new friends, and live my young adult life to its fullest.

While home and job hunting, I have spent the summer reconnecting with an old friend/flame, “Toby.” Toby and I have been talking casually on and off for a little over a year.

When we didn’t see eye to eye in what we were looking for in a romantic partner, we decided to remain friends instead, something I am proud of.

Toby is leaving the U.S. to attend grad school overseas and I am sad to see him go. While there is still some chemistry between us, I also hate to see someone I care about move so far away.

Leading up to his departure, we’ve been getting together for fun, casual activities.

Recently, I was invited over to his house, where we sat and talked all night about our friendship, relationship, and individual goals for the future.

In a moment of silence seemingly out of a movie, we locked eyes, and Toby very calmly said, “I love you.”

I was at a loss for words like I’ve never been before. This was not my goal for the evening, and he says it wasn’t his either; he felt it in the moment and decided he should let me know.

I am flattered, but feeling a lot of things: adored, caught off guard, and somewhat betrayed by our pact at friendship.

Any advice for this sticky situation?

– Really Confused!

Dear Confused!: “Toby” is leaving the country for the next many months. If there were ever a moment to express your sincere love for someone – this would be it!

And – referring to your cinematic moment: Isn’t this how Harry finally really “met” Sally – by confessing a love for her that went beyond their friendship?

Is Toby expressing romantic love, friendship love, kinship love? It might be all three. Maybe it’s the somewhat grasping utterance of a guy whose ship is about to sail.

Or maybe it’s the moment-of-truth statement from a person who is seeing his own life with some clarity – and wants to be honest with you, before you both start new phases of your lives.

You have the next few months to communicate with Toby about this. He has been honest, and you should be, too. (c) Ask Amy

That’s mystifying.

When we didn’t see eye to eye in what we were looking for in a romantic partner, we decided to remain friends instead, something I am proud of.

Okay. Who wasn’t attracted to whom? Can we be a bit more clear on that point? Actually, this letter writer seems so wishy-washy that she might be telling the truth about them not seeing eye-to-eye. Maybe they’re both attracted to each other, but she doesn’t like his tendency to hold open doors for his date. [Eyeroll.]

I am flattered, but feeling a lot of things: adored, caught off guard, and somewhat betrayed by our pact at friendship.

Flattered! Yuck. If I had a dollar for every man who’s been flattered by my affections, I’d be rich. It really reads like she’s not attracted to him. As soon as someone says, “I’m flattered, but…” then you know you’ve just struck out. Kiss of death. Die, flattery, die!

Leading up to his departure, we’ve been getting together for fun, casual activities. […] This was not my goal for the evening, and he says it wasn’t his either.

Okay. Maybe I can inject some sense into this. Romance is supposed to be impulsive, isn’t it? I don’t know this from experience, but I’ve been told that you can’t schedule romance. Like life, it has a way of happening.

Toby: “I love you.” 

Letter writer: “Toby! This was not my goal for the evening. What’s wrong with you? Who do you think you are? What are you doing? This ruins everything!” 

3263454-impliedfacepalm

I mean, of course it’s fine if she’s not into him and wants to convey that. But it sounds slightly more credible that she’s a flake. She made all these references to keeping things casual, as though she’s not the sort to get too deep; and when they were discussing life and all their experiences, she was discomfited.

We sat and talked all night about our friendship, relationship, and individual goals for the future.

I love such talks! But the letter writer clearly doesn’t. She needs to let Toby down gently, and if she avoids him after his profession of love, that alone might do the trick.

Geez! Why can’t the rest of us find Tobys?

More bad advice today from Annie Lane!

Dear Annie: I’ve been very happily married for several years to a man I love deeply. Suddenly, his son from a previous marriage, who lives in another state, wants Dad to move to his state to be close to him, as he and his wife are planning a family. His son and I have never been close.

My husband works for himself and has a major client — a very attractive woman, mind you, whom he talks to online several times a week — in his son’s city. After doing some “homework,” I discovered the state we would be moving to is not a community property state … which our current state is. My husband has all the money in this marriage, as I left my career behind to tend to his business, home and family, and his son gets everything that I won’t in the event of a death or divorce.

Being currently married, do I have any recourse, such as a post-marriage “prenup,” to make sure I’m OK financially if we move and my stepson and this businesswoman break us up? — Worried in Wyoming

Dear Worried: You say you are “very happily married” to a man you “love deeply.” Why would a female client or a son who wants his children to know their grandfather change that?

Based on your letter, it seems like your husband has honored the commitment he made to you on your wedding day. By assuming the worst, you may be causing yourself undue anxiety. The first thing you should do is communicate with your husband about where these fears are coming from — perhaps they are being triggered by anxiety about the move itself and the life changes that surround it.

If you are genuinely concerned about your assets in the event of a divorce, consult an attorney. I would not assume that “his son gets everything”; in fact, such an outcome is unlikely. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Oh dear. I can always spot the paranoiacs.

There used to be this whole literary trope in which the surprise ending was that the character was schizophrenic. Never once have I not figured it out by page five. It’s the most obvious ending you could throw my way. This book right here has that particular “surprise” (there’s no surprise about it) ending. I’m just leaving the link without naming the book so I won’t give spoilers. It’s YA.

I can totally relate to her thinking. It’s not just that her husband has a hot, sexy client. But she’s also being paranoid about her husband’s son. And there’s no relation between the son and the client, except that (presumably) neither of them has a close relationship with the letter writer. This isn’t romantic jealousy. It’s paranoia.

I’ve been very happily married for several years to a man I love deeply.

Thank God for that much! She ought to talk to her husband about these things. He might be familiar with her paranoia. I live with my dad, and he knows all about this sort of belief.

By assuming the worst, you may be causing yourself undue anxiety.

Ahh, it’s not anxiety, Annie Lane. It’s paranoia. But there’s some overlap. Paranoia feels like a form of anxiety. For example, if you’re worried that people are out to get you, then the paranoia presents like anxiety. It’s possible this letter writer is simply catastrophizing, but… it seems paranoid to me, her beliefs that two unrelated people are about to break up her marriage.

His son and I have never been close.

Therein lies the problem. Do you all know who I’m paranoid about? The people I’m not close with! Like my sister, for example. I mistrust her out the wazoo. Fortunately, people who I am close to (shout out!), I’m not suspicious of. It sounds the exact same with this letter writer, who’s blessedly close to her husband.

Annie Lane’s advice is good about talking to her husband, but Annie sure missed the chance to urge this woman to get evaluated for paranoia-based mental illnesses.

Dear Annie: My girlfriend and I met about two years ago. She has two younger kids, ages 3 and 6. I have older kids, 15 and 16. She’s a “helicopter parent” who wants to micromanage everything her kids do. Well, when it comes to my kids, she wants to scrutinize everything they do, too. She says she doesn’t agree with my parenting and basically calls me a crappy parent when I don’t do things her way. She also thinks that it is a requirement for my kids to speak to her, even if they are busy or having a bad day. She will text my kids and say mean things to them and even drag their mom into it.

My kids don’t do drugs. They don’t lie. They are heavily involved in sports, on the honor roll and don’t get in trouble. But my girlfriend has caused so many issues that my kids don’t even want her around. I’m also a retired Army veteran with severe PTSD, and I rage when I’m mad. She wants to argue about who ate the last rice cake or took the last drink. It’s one argument after another. What do I do? — Confused From Indiana

Dear Confused: It’s time for you to set some boundaries with your girlfriend. Micromanaging is one thing; insulting your kids via text, offending their mother and starting arguments over rice cakes are quite another.

Assuming your relationship with her progresses, you will be one big family someday — all six of you. If you can’t squash her argumentative and overbearing tendencies now — toward both you and your children — they will only get worse.

Talk to your girlfriend about what is appropriate and what isn’t. Having a mediator or a couples counselor present will prevent your confrontation from escalating to a(nother) full-blown argument.

Setting boundaries? Oh dear. You know, setting boundaries works a lot better in situations where other options are in short supply, like if you have difficult coworkers whom you can’t avoid, or if you’re trying to get along with family members whom you didn’t choose to be related to (blood family, in-laws, et al). In this instance, heck, I’d dump her.

The whole concept of boundaries here also implies that this woman simply needs to be told that some things aren’t okay. Um. She darned well knows she’s being a [bleep]. She seems to get off on it.

I’m also a retired Army veteran with severe PTSD, and I rage when I’m mad.

And here we have another reason for him to dump her! He needs a girlfriend who’s compassionate and not prone to starting arguments over rice cakes(?!?!).

That reminds me of the ridiculous screaming arguments my parents got into when I was a kid. My dad brought home lime marmalade instead of orange, and wheat sandwich buns instead of white (these were two separate occasions), and both arguments became the stuff of family legend.

“You brought home the wrong item on purpose, subconsciously, just to upset me!” my mom shrieked.

“Oh, Becky, don’t be ridiculous. I made a mistake!”

“It was no mistake. You know I hate lime marmalade!”

“I know it now!”

[Facepalm.] I think the neighbors knew it by then, too, because the arguments were really loud.

So I’ve concluded that any relationship that inspires conflict over grocery items is doomed. And I do mean doomed.

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She […] basically calls me a crappy parent when I don’t do things her way.

Well, gee, that’s not nice of her. And his kids are on the honor roll and everything! I hope this man can find a nicer girlfriend posthaste!

Easy come, easy go!

Well, I’m going to the dentist tomorrow. I think it’s been too long, and I don’t want to have dental problems in Prague, even though my handy guidebook taught me how to know when your Prague dentist is yelling, “Wait, come back! I’m not done with your teeth!” which is probably good to know. HA HA HA! Like, help, I must escape this scary foreign dentist! I know, I’ll run for it!

I’ve been working hard in the garage every day to clean it and get the dirty, damp boxes out there cut into cardboard scraps for recycling, and I might wind up having to spend all of my earnings on dentistry. How much of a bummer is that?! But since I will have some extra coin, that was another reason that it seemed like a good time to go.

And they’re going to take X-rays. Those are always expensive.

I hope they don’t get upset about the state of my teeth. In good news, I use a water flosser which I load not with water, but orange mouthwash (alcohol-based). That stuff sees germs and kills them dead, and at high pressure, too! In bad news, I only bother to use it once or twice a week.

Now I’m anticipatory. And it’s hard to drive out there and back because it’s not in my part of town. I always have to print out the MapQuest directions. For all I know, my new car has… what’s it called? oh yeah, GPS… but I have no idea how it works. However, I don’t have BlackBird with me. My brother is still driving her.

I’ll have to drive my dad’s old clunker. In good news, it will be available tomorrow morning. Oh, hey, ask how old his car is! “How old is his car, Meg?” Thank you for asking. His car is so old that when you push the button to roll up the window, it boldly goes up, hits the top of the window casing, and then ricochets off of it, shooting down about an inch or so. So the windows can’t be closed all the way. [Makes face.] If you try, it just goes thump, thump, thump, thump, thump. Now that’s old.

It’s too bad. I miss BlackBird. My brother borrowed her before I could break her in. She’s a wonderful car! I hope my brother doesn’t just decide to keep her. [Eyeroll.]

I’m worried about my sister. Word on the street indicates that she’s having a nervous breakdown. This is bad. She has a daughter who’ll be two in late November, and she’s pregnant with child #2. I think the issue is that she went off her antidepressant due to the pregnancy.

If I were to become pregnant (most likely via divine conception), my unborn child would have to be medicated right along with me. But Seroquel (one of my four drugs) is the trippiest stuff ever! That would be one happy, goofy baby. And that’s the best kind of baby, am I right?

I honestly wish my sister would go back on the drug. She has a tendency to be abusive (toward me, historically), and I don’t want her to become a child abuser. The thought of that really upsets me. It’s why I’ve refused to meet her daughter, Li’l Sweetmeats. I want to shake some sense into her doctor and say, “You don’t know what you’re doing by depriving her of her antidepressant. She could become abusive now, and that can never be undone.” But fortunately for all involved (I assume), I don’t know who my sister’s doctor is, so my hands are tied.

At any rate, with all of this going down, I’m really glad for the timing of my upcoming vacay. Whatever happens with my sister going crazy and becoming abusive, I won’t be here to even hear about it, much less to see it. Interestingly, it was when I was last in Prague that Li’l Sweets was born in late November, 2019.

I sense that my sister is following in my mother’s footprints. My mom always pushed herself to the max to do more than she was capable of. Gotta have that third kid to save the marriage! (Like that ever works?) Gotta maintain the gardens, work full-time, do this, do that, and on and on and on. So now, along a similar vein, we have my sister having a second kid without the benefit of antidepressants. It just seems ill-advised.

I appreciate that she thinks it’s best for her unborn child to be medication-free. But… in this instance, it makes me gravely concerned. What about her already-alive child? And if she thinks her stress levels will go down once the second baby comes… [Facepalm.]

Also, why’s depression (assuming that’s my sister’s diagnosis–it was news to me that she takes antidepressants) considered to be an almost imaginary mental illness? Like, “Oh, you’re just depressed? You can live without your meds. No huge deal.” It’s the same way with anxiety. “Oh, you’re just anxious? Deal with it. Whatever.” But as soon as the mental illness wafts into bipolar or schizophrenic territory, it’s taken seriously. People with depression and/or anxiety don’t deserve that sort of disregard shown for their illness(es).

Like, I was in this low-grade cult that could better be described as a meditation study group that was very cultlike. During my first involvement with them, as a young adult, I was taking an antidepressant but had more serious mental health issues that simply hadn’t been diagnosed. The cult’s attitude was, “Please. People pop antidepressants like candy for every little hiccup,” and they used peer pressure to get me to go off the drug.

About ten years later, I got involved with them again. This time I was schizophrenic and bipolar and obsessive, etc., etc. They didn’t say a thing about me going off my meds. Maybe they were concerned about liability…? [Shrug.] I mean, they still discussed being med-free, but they didn’t put any pressure on me.

The cult leader at that time, the second time, was Rory, a young man who had bipolar condition since age thirteen or fourteen. He was unmedicated and treated his bipolar with meditation, not medication. Why medicate when you can meditate? And all that.

But he seemed to be falling apart at the seams. I was in my early thirties and he was in his early- or mid-twenties. I had maternal feelings toward him. I tried to gently point out that he was a bit… unstable, as it were, but he apparently didn’t believe me. This was what he said, though: “It’s my fault. I created the bipolar condition because, as a teenager, I craved drama.”

“Mm-hmm,” I said. “I think that’s true of every thirteen-year-old alive, Rory. It’s a developmental thing,” I said.

“No, you’re wrong. I created the illness.”

That was what the cult had him thinking. Ugh.

The cult leaders (Rory’s higher-ups) had it out for me because I have this odd tendency to think for myself, which is discouraged in cults. They told Rory to push me away and get rid of me. So I was at the school one night (a small house in a nearby neighborhood) when Rory accosted me for putting my legal name on a form instead of my birthname. A heated argument ensued.

“The form clearly asks for your birthname,” he yelled.

“I don’t like my birthname. I like my legal name.”

“You’ve been disrespectful! How dare you!” Rory seemed unhinged. “You made us think that this was your birthname, when in fact, it was not!”

“Well, now you know the truth.”

“This form has to be properly filled out,” he insisted, “Or you won’t get another past-life reading.”

I refused to budge.

[I’m shaking my head and rolling my eyes.] I didn’t know yet that he’d been told to get rid of me. I was actually worried about him, despite how attacked I felt, so I called his higher-up, Mary, and told her how concerned I was. She seemed unmoved.

Mary was a scary lady. She was always telling me that my ego was resisting. As if that’s a bad thing?! The ego can be problematic in the sense that you don’t want pride or conceit to take over. However, the notion that we should disconnect from our ego identities is preposterous and sort of scary. We’re humans. We should embrace who we are, not try to rid ourselves of our own uniqueness and become mindless sycophants.

I was still worried about Rory, so I did something that, to this day, I’m not sure was the right thing to do. I wrote a letter to his parents in Illinois and explained the situation, describing Rory as a charismatic young cult leader. Within days, they called for Rory, got him returned to Illinois, and gave him a pretend graduation from the cult so he could feel accomplished.

(While that may sound like a patronizing thing for his parents to do, here’s the problem: the cult had a tendency to keep pushing students back to the earlier levels. Like, you’d work to get to level 100, for example, and they’d decide you needed to go back to level 5. Many people, Rory included, deserved to graduate but weren’t allowed to.)

You know what would be great? A cult that’s not controlling.

Oh, right, I was talking about my sister and antidepressants. Huh.

The pigeons were huge!

I’ve been given an opportunity to make some money. My dad’s paying me quite generously to get rid of the disaster in the garage: wet boxes, styrofoam, and household junk. I’ve been doing manual labor for several days now, and I’m quite determined. I also called and requested a bigger recycling bin, but a lot of this stuff is going to have to be driven somehow to a recycling center, I’d reckon. My dad’s friend, Mr. Sullivan, might take it in his pickup truck. My dad doesn’t want me to get our cars’ interiors dirty.

I don’t actually have possession of my car. My brother was involved in a car wreck over the weekend, so I loaned him BlackBird. I think he’s taking slight advantage of me because he could call his insurance provider and request a rental, but instead of dealing with that, he’s just absconded with BlackBird. Hmmph.

I was relieved that he wasn’t injured, and nor was the other driver. But their cars were totalled. There’s no way his car’s coming back from that. (He posted photos on social media.) That car’s dead.

This would be perfect timing if I were in Prague, because I’ll need someone to occasionally drive my car while I’m gone. But it’s not like I’m going to complain to my brother about the timing of his near-death experience! 😀

My mother’s in her house in Maine now, and it’s for the best that I didn’t go along because it would be too much for me to cope with. But she and her boyfriend have gotten back together! It’s amazing.

I’m very excited about going to Prague, and I’m trying to tamp it down a bit so I don’t have too high expectations. But I’ve been there twice before and would’ve gone a year ago but for the coronavirus. I went in Nov/Dec 2019 and Oct/Nov 2018.

This is funny. When last I went and Sonya picked me up from the airport, we were taking the tram (is that the word?) to her apartment, and I kept going on and on about how huge the pigeons were. And I’m not making this up–they were huge. And Sonya kept saying, “No, they’re normal sized pigeons!” And I was like, “Look at that bird! He’s bigger than Mr. Kitty!” And it became the world’s most ridiculous argument. She insisted the pigeons were normal sized. I thought she’d lost her mind. I was braindead, of course, from traveling. But those were really huge pigeons.

rawImage

Here’s a photo from The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock. Wasn’t there a scene where an idiotic character said, “I’ll go check the attic,”? Well, okay, first of all, if you’re being pursued by carnivorous birds, maybe avoid the attic. Second of all, if you do check the attic because no one can talk any sense into you, don’t look inside, notice birds lurking everywhere and eyeing you like you’re fresh meat, and then close yourself into said attic with said birds. [Facepalm.] Any chance I’m remembering the movie wrong? I sure hope so.

Speaking of classic campy movies, Sonya and I are going to watch The Watcher in the Woods. She’s never seen it, and I want to discuss its masterful plotting with her. (We’re both writers.) She’s going to help me plot a novel that I might write for NaNoWriMo.

(If you don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and is held in November. The goal is to write 50,000 words toward a novel that month.)

The thing I like about The Watcher in the Woods (no spoilers) is that you find out a little bit more, and a little bit more, and a little bit more, and one character has such-and-such motives or memories, and another character has a different perspective due to such-and-such happening, and although that sounds vague (hey, I promised no spoilers), it’s the perfect plot in my eyes. I love-love-love creating novels where you get this whole unraveling of a mystery going on like that. I watched The Watcher in the Woods tirelessly as a kid (it’s kid-friendly horror, which is great because that’s the only sort of horror I can handle–I sure can’t handle The Birds), and it influenced me as a writer–I’m sure of it.

Dear Amy: Recently a very good friend of over 20 years took an overnight road trip with me.

We have been through everything together – his breakups, the death of my husband, travels, you name it.

After this last trip, he refused to return my calls or texts.

Finally, he texted me and said, “I am having a hard time getting over this last trip. I wanted to call you, but I knew I would be too emotional to discuss it. I’m sure you don’t remember what you did, but I can’t forget.”

Amy, I was dumbfounded! I immediately texted him, apologizing for whatever it was, asking him to please let me know what I did to upset him.

I did this numerous times with no response, until he texted back: “Soon, I’ll let you know.”

I racked my brain, and even called the hotel we stayed at to ask if there were any complaints about our stay.

At this point I want to text him and say, “You are a lucky, lucky man to have so many close friends that you can afford to toss one away with no explanation.” What do I do?

– Scratching My Head in CA

Dear Scratching: Your pal texted: “I’m sure you don’t remember what you did…”

So, he knows you don’t remember what you did to offend him, but he also won’t fill you in.

His behavior has effectively made you the wounded party, now, and I agree with your current sentiment toward him.

I do wish you two would be brave enough to at least hash this out verbally, however, versus trading cryptic texts. (c) Ask Amy

Wow, I love a good mystery! Hmm…. were they sharing a hotel room? If so, did the room have two beds or one? Were alcohol, Ambien, or any other substances involved? (You all have no idea how goofy I get when I’m high on Ambien. I had to quit taking it, but too bad, you know?) Has the letter writer checked her sent messages folder from that time period? Were there possible romantic feelings on either or both ends? Did he proposition her right as she was falling asleep, and she naturally has no memory of it? Does she have a history of somnambulism or indecent exposure? Or what about pseudobulbar affect, does she have that? Did she tell him he was stinky? Was flatulence involved? Did her emotional support falcon eat his emotional support hamster? Did they engage in a threesome that the letter writer is conveniently not mentioning, viewing it as irrelevant to his current behavior? Did she dip her chocolate bar into his peanut butter? (How old am I that I remember that commercial? “Hey, you dipped your chocolate bar into my peanut butter!”)

At any rate, this man has created enough intrigue, and it’s time for him to reveal the letter writer’s crime or let it go. I agree that he has no right to have it both ways. I’m surprised that this friendship has lasted twenty years! This guy’s being a passive-aggressive twat.

It reads as if he just made it all up. Like, nothing untoward happened, but he wants to create drama from nothing. You have to wonder. But if it were me, I’d be dying of curiosity. Huh.

A poem!

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An Ode to Mr. Kitty

(by Meg © 2021)

Why a dead mouse,
Mr. Kitty, why, oh why?
Here in my house,
and you’ve got no alibi!

Bad little cat,
you’re a naughty little fiend!
Bad pussycat,
little mouse was guillotined.

You made me scream,
shriek and wail and call for help.
Like a bad dream,
my dad didn’t hear me yelp.

Fast, sound asleep,
he could not quite hear my cries.
Or hear me weep
as I saw those bugged-out eyes.

Why bring me mice,
Mr. Kitty, why? You jerk!
I’ve told you twice,
roadkill makes me go berzerk.

Bad little cat,
you’re a fiend and a true foe.
Bad little cat,
spare me please the blow-by-blow.

You saw him near,
and he ran, so you gave chase.
You bit his rear,
now he’s in a higher place.

You going down.
You a naughty little cat.
You’d better frown,
for the judge is one huge rat.

You are on trial
for your mean obstacle race.
This makes me smile:
OJ Simpson murder case.

Meg’s favorite alter ego!

Dear Amy: I was in an exclusive monogamous relationship with a man for eight months and, unfortunately, I kept catching him using dating apps, even after I had drawn a hard boundary about it.

He also lied to me about substance abuse (he was in Alcoholics Anonymous for years but kept falling off the wagon).

He told me he was a social drinker and was just taking a break from alcohol for health and fitness reasons.

He would go dark and fall out of communication and then deflect onto me when I would ask him why.

So finally, after a week of him being particularly inconsiderate and insensitive, I broke off our relationship.

I did so with honor and said goodbye to his friends and family and spoke not one unkind word about him to anybody.

Now he wants to go in for couples counseling, even though when I was with him, he refused to listen to me about even the simplest thing, such as deleting his dating apps.

I don’t know why he wants to go to counseling now that he has completely repelled me.

I don’t even know how I feel about this.

A part of me loves him still, but a part of me doesn’t trust the relationship (or our “situationship”), since he kept a separate list of rules for himself than he did for me.

I’d really like your take on this.

— Curious

Curious: I agree with you that deleting needs to happen. You need to do the deleting and what you need to lose is him.

Based on what you say about this person, you obviously don’t like, trust or respect him.

You were feeling good about how you ended things, but if you allow him to draw you back in, you won’t even have that.

Counseling is a great idea, especially for him. If he wants to enter therapy to figure out how and why he sabotaged the relationship with you, then let him do so and perhaps at some point in the future, he will be inspired to try to prove to you that he has changed. I hope that by that point, you will have moved on. (c) Ask Amy

Oh my. Why is this woman even considering this? Run! Run!

I’m not sure why, but both of my past boyfriends (total losers, the lot of them) also tried to find new love interests via online dating, even after we were committed to each other. My thinking at this point is that if that’s happening, the relationship is dead. Hard stop.

I don’t know why he wants to go to counseling now that he has completely repelled me.

It’s a no-brainer. He wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Don’t give him any more cake!

I think the letter writer must be convinced that this guy’s trying to do the right thing. No, no, no. He’s just making a last-ditch effort at keeping her around so that he can play her for a fool.

My first boyfriend was a guy who had a massively overblown ego. Picture Oprah Winfrey in male form. I think he dumped me because I refused to accept his beliefs that he was the smartest man alive. He was smart. I can’t sit here and type otherwise. He was a genius thrice over: artistically, musically, and intellectually. But his energy was so muddied and icky. He used his talents to worship himself instead of making any effort to do good in the world.

Interestingly, he was visited in his dreams by the shadow people. From what he told me, the shadow people were astral beings who arrived to scare people with huge egos. He didn’t put it that way. “They show up to scare those of us who are so much better than everyone else,” he said.

“Why would they do that?” I asked.

“To hold us back.”

Hmm. My theory was that it was more of an ego check. I decided not to share that theory, though. He fell asleep once, and I saw him toss and turn before waking, scared. He pointed to the door. They’d been over there, he said. I asked myself if he was faking, but I think he was being legit. Go figure. The shadow people.

My second boyfriend was mentally challenged. He was deprived of oxygen at birth. Since he was nine and ten years younger than his two older brothers, respectively, his dysfunctional mother used his birth disorder as an excuse to baby him and keep him close to her forever. Thus, she hated me.

So imagine my disgust when I saw that he was still on the dating site where we’d met. Like I said, we were committed to each other. So, being Meg (or, rather, not being Meg), I created a fake account and messaged him. Hey, hot stuff. A hot guy like you must surely have a girlfriend, right? And I signed it Sexy Lexi. Sexy Lexi was awesome.

And his response was, No, I don’t have a girlfriend. 

In a move that still tickles me to this day, I said, Well, guess what? This is your girlfriend, Meg! I tricked you! What do you have to say for yourself? 

Our online conversation went quiet. Deathly quiet.

The funny thing is that… actually, there are two funny things. The first is that he never answered anyone else online. He was afraid it was me again. Over the following years (but not recently), I sent him a few simple signs of interest from different fake profiles, and he never answered. There’s no way he could know it was me. I think I scared the dickens out of him. Well, he can enjoy his singledom, and God bless.

The other funny thing is that he had a foot fetish… until he saw my feet. That scared him straight. Bye-bye, foot fetish. In my defense, I’ve gotten much better at maintaining optimum foot health since then. But still, my feet. [Shaking my head.]

Yeah, so his mother disliked me, and it was mutual, although at least I made an effort. After he and I broke up, which was circa 2010, his mother kept calling my dad every few years. My dad held the phone away from his ear and whispered, “Do you want to get back together with [his name]?” And I just raised an eyebrow and rolled my eyes. Eventually she quit calling.

One thing that upsets me about this letter is that people like the letter writer’s ex manage to get away with this level of mistreatment all the time because people like the letter writer tolerate it. (That sentence was meant to be shorter, but it took on a life of its own.) We need less tolerance! Although tolerance sounds like a virtue, and it can be, it needs to be tempered with discernment and clarity of perception. This guy does not deserve a second chance.

I [broke up with him] with honor and said goodbye to his friends and family and spoke not one unkind word about him to anybody.

Oh my. I would’ve trash-talked the daylights out of him. Being a class act is overrated. In good news, it’s never too late to trash-talk your ex. Gee, Meg, it’s a good thing you don’t still work with kids. That’s a beautiful sentiment. [Facepalm.]

I don’t know why he wants to go to counseling now that he has completely repelled me.

Therein appears to be the problem. She must not be repelled enough if she’s considering his offer. One thing I sense is that we’re sometimes socialized to override our repulsion. This gives bad boyfriends like this one the opportunity to keep being bad boyfriends. If there were more justice in this world, the bad boyfriend would have to do extreme soul-searching and/or see a therapist to find out why he’s so horrid. But we have this letter writer reconsidering him instead of writing him off. If someone repels you, then that repulsion should only be overriden if that person is genuinely remorseful, which clearly isn’t the case here, nor is it applicable. This guy’s not capable of remorse.

So, I turned over the idea of going out with the guy who bought my car. But in the end, I wasn’t enamored of how he was acting that day. While it’s great and miraculous that he found me sexy, that alone wasn’t enough for me to be interested. I’ve reached a point of having high standards for anyone I get involved with, which is a miracle because I used to just throw myself at everyone. Life is weird like that. But, hey, Sexy Lexi will ride again.

Meg’s just fed up.

Dear Annie: I am a 39-year-old man who is married to the greatest wife in the world. We have three boys and one girl; our oldest is 19, and our youngest is 8. A couple of years ago, I started a cabinet-making business, and it is growing faster than I could have imagined. Our oldest son works full time with me. Even with his help, I am falling further and further behind on work. In a world where everyone is used to next-day delivery, it seems like customers don’t understand that the type of custom work I do takes time. I don’t want to turn down requests, though, because we’re trying to get out of debt. We’ve been doing pretty well so far. We paid off our last credit card about six months ago. After years of living with a stress cloud over our heads, it felt like things were finally getting better.

But a few months ago, we were hit with a bombshell and a blessing when we found out that my wife is pregnant. We thought we were done having kids; in fact, I was planning on getting fixed next year. But after finding out the news, I pumped myself up and said: “OK, one more. We can do this!”

We went in for the first ultrasound, and they found two heartbeats. I almost fainted. Then, at the next ultrasound, they found three! And then we found out that all three are girls! It might be a dad thing, but I worry about my daughter more than the three boys combined.

Long story short, I am losing my mind with worry for my wife. She is doing amazingly so far, but three babies is so much for her to carry. She is still trying to do all she usually does, but she is so easily exhausted, so she gets upset with herself. The kids are helping all they can, but she is a mom who thinks she can do it all and doesn’t like to ask them. Meanwhile, I have been working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to get caught up on the jobs. I also try to take my wife to all her appointments. Recently, I started having some chest pains and spent two days in the hospital. Seeing the worry on my wife’s face then broke my heart. The last thing she needs is more to worry about.

I feel like I am trying to do too much, but I don’t see any other way. I truly feel like this world has chewed me up and spit me out, and now it has a yoke around my neck, and I don’t see any way out. — Dad on the Edge

Dear Dad: To start, take a few long, deep breaths. It’s essential that you stop overworking yourself. Set realistic expectations for clients in terms of project timelines, and turn jobs down if need be. Yes, this might lead to reduced cash flow in the short term. But it’s the best way to ensure that, in the long term, you’re able to keep working, without getting sick, burning out or worse. You need to be here to watch your three new baby girls grow up, after all.

A worry shared is a worry halved. Let friends and family members in on what you’re going through. They’ll want to help, and there will be many ways for them to do so — like running errands so your wife doesn’t have to, assisting with appointments and helping care for those three incoming bundles of joy once they arrive.

Lastly, it’s admirable that you’re trying to avoid stressing out your wife. But bottling everything up inside will only cause her to worry more. Open up to her, and share what’s on your heart and mind. You two will get through this together. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Oh my.

We thought we were done having kids; in fact, I was planning on getting fixed next year.

You were planning on getting “fixed”? So, what does that make you… a French poodle? Dogs get “fixed”. Humans get vasectomies. Dude. Your choices of words now has me visualizing your… ahem… man parts. And by the way, they’re nasty. I know because I’m visualizing them. Thanks a lot. Maybe show some sensitivity the next time you casually describe your… ahem… plans to get “fixed”. Being genteel hasn’t gone out of fashion. Keep it in your pants. Thanks.

Well, it’s obvious I can’t sympathize with this guy due to his disgusting word choice. Fixed… [shudders.] No, just no.

Since I’m not feeling sympathetic, I’ll point out that his decision to get “fixed” (said with forced goodwill and optimistic emphasis) next year showed that they were open to pregnancies for another year. Otherwise, that was just stupid. Why put it off if you want it taken care of now? Dude! Birth control!

Second, I’ll point out that any pregnancy can be a multiple. Merry Christmas! It’s the job of responsible parents to be prepared for these possibilities.

I truly feel like this world has chewed me up and spit me out, and now it has a yoke around my neck, and I don’t see any way out.

Ohh! Now we have a way with words! Okay. So that reference to getting “fixed” was, in fact, base vulgarity coming from someone who could’ve rephrased it.

HA HA! I’m having issues. I have no advice for this letter writer.

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