Friday, April 24, 2009

Frigid Partners and "Family" Photos--Unwanted Advice (4/24/09)

DEAR ELLIE: I recently started a relationship with a man 10 years older than me, which doesn't bother him or his parents, but for some reason his sister doesn't like me. She started a rumor at our favorite bar that I'm trying to get pregnant and trap her brother into marriage. Now no one will talk to me there.

I've tried to be nice to her, but she's been mean and nasty; she also keeps calling me a baby or too young. I'm 23 and she's 32. Do I have her brother talk to her or do I do it myself?



Who gives a shit? Since you’ve got a man now, you don’t need to trawl around in the same bar as this sad sack, so let her have the place to herself while she badmouths you. Eventually, people will get tired of listening to her, and either tune out or play the jukebox. And if they don't, so what? Nobody believes a bunch of drunks anyway.

DEAR ABBY: My wife, "Helene," refuses to speak to me for days or even weeks. When I try to find out why or talk to her, she ignores me. She has moved into another bedroom, which has become her own little domain. She refuses to have sex or even watch TV with me.

I have no reason to believe Helene is cheating, and I am certainly not cheating on her. We are raising my son from a previous marriage, and sometimes I wonder if this is what is bugging her.

My ex-wife lives in another state, and we communicate only once in a while. My boy is a pre-teen, and Helene and I have had him since he was a baby. He considers her his "Mama," and she considers him her son.

I am very much in love with my wife, and I can't figure this out. Can people just fall out of love?



Yes, and I recommend that you do so immediately. I don’t know what bug has crawled up her ass, but I doubt it’s your son—he’s lived there for so many years that if that were the issue, it would have been raised before now.

If she refuses to discuss it with you, there’s no reason why you should put up with this shitty treatment. You can try visiting a counselor, but I’d stop by a lawyer’s office on the way home. It’s a shame about the son, but how much good is it doing him to watch her act like this?

DEAR AMY: I had a child before I met my husband. When we got married, my husband adopted my daughter, who was a year old at the time. We then had three more children. Now they're all grown and have children of their own.

My mother-in-law now wants to have a "generation picture" done. She plans to include only the children my husband and I have biologically together. My husband considers my daughter to be "our" daughter.

Is it rude of his mother to ask for pictures with our other children and exclude her?

If my mother-in-law won't include our daughter in the shot, I feel no pictures should be taken.



I agree. If your husband adopted your daughter, she must have lived with you all those years. For your mother-in-law to want to exclude her now, she must be either senile or just an extraordinarily mean and petty old bag.

Either way, it’s time to get a nursing home on speed dial. She can take her “exclusively biological” family photo and set it on the back of the toilet she shares with an incontinent woman named Mrs. Fleezly.

DEAR MARGO: My partner and I have been together for 26 years. After a messy divorce, he said he didn’t need a piece of paper to tell him whom to love. A few months ago I finally got up the nerve to tell him how dissatisfying our sex life has been. I asked him if he wanted to tell me anything, and he said he had not been aware that there was a problem. I tried to be as specific as I could, while at the same time not blaming him. He knew I was inexperienced, because I told him.

Now to the problem: Since our "talk," we have not had sex. In fact, he seems to fall asleep on the couch more and more. I wanted things to get better, not worse. We barely have a relationship anymore. I’ve tried several times to talk things out, but he says almost nothing. I dislike him more each day. He is not abusive and supports our son in every way. My family all love him. I just see our relationship disappearing! I still love him, but I sure don’t like him very much anymore.



Let me get this straight: are you trying to tell me that, after 26 years, you’re trying to claim that you’re “inexperienced?” I sure hope I read that wrong.

As far as the sex problem: he was probably not all that hot in the sack to begin with, but obviously you’re not very good at constructive criticism, because whatever you said turned this guy completely off. And if you dislike him, imagine how he must feel about you—it’s no coincidence that he’s sleeping on the couch.

You’d both better get to a counselor. And this time, please leave the talking to someone who knows how to do it.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in a dental professional office and have a dilemma. This is a privately owned office with only one dentist and I am the only employee hired for the reception area. My problem revolves around solicitors that decide to come in to the office. We do have a "No Soliciting" sign that does nothing to deter them. After listening to their speech, which is never short, I spend the next several minutes explaining, to no avail, that we are not interested.

My question is how do I politely refuse them without having to explain several times that I, nor the doctor, are interested in the products or services they are offering?


Skip the explanations. Point to the sign and tell them that since there’s only one reason they should be there, the dentist will start drilling immediately.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Death Tattoos, Tacky Wedding Presents and More Unwanted Advice From Aaron (4/17/09)

DEAR ABBY: My older brother moved from the East Coast to Wyoming 20 years ago, which put him in a different time zone -- two hours behind me. He died in June of last year.

I am planning to get a tattoo memorializing the date and time of my brother's passing, but have reached a dilemma. My brother died June 12 at 11 p.m. in Wyoming, but it was 1 a.m. June 13 here in Connecticut.

Which date should I use? I have asked friends who say I should go with what feels right to me, but others have told me to use the date on his death certificate. Which is correct?



First, can I mention how creepy this whole thing sounds?

OK, now that’s passed.

Since you insist on putting your brother’s date and time of death indelibly on your skin—with needles—that will hurt—you should make it the date and time of his death, which happened in Wyoming. Therefore, you should use the 11 p.m. time.

DEAR ELLIE: I was seeing this woman for five months and everything was perfect. However, her new job has taken her away, and we haven't seen each other for five weeks. This "dream job" (her words) will take her to the north and then possibly to Europe. She wants me to follow and I desperately want to, but I own a small business and my children live in this area with their mother. Should I follow her?

Lately I've been going through difficult times missing her yet wondering if I follow her, will I be able to see my kids. I love her very much and I know she loves me although she's unwilling to make any concessions so it'll be me doing all the sacrificing. Do I hope we can re-establish the magic we had before she went off on her adventure or do I call it quits with her? She seems to be OK with it either way.



Ultimately, the choice is yours, but let me put it this way: do you really want to give up your business and your relationship with your kids (who should be the most important things in your life right now) to pursue some tepid "magic" with someone who you admit doesn’t really care if you’re around or not, and who’s unwilling to make any sacrifices to keep you?

I’ll let you think about it for a while.

DEAR AMY: After a meal in a local restaurant I discovered to my horror that I had been given a "senior discount."

Thinking I might have been given someone else's bill, I called this to the attention of my waitress.

She looked at me quizzically and said, "Oh, we give these to anyone we think might be over 60."

Amy, I am 50-ish, and have always believed myself to be reasonably youthful in demeanor and appearance.

How should I have handled this? (I got angry, went home and cried, and was depressed for days afterward.)



Well, I can safely say “not like that.”

Next time, ask her when her baby’s due. (Don’t ask me to explain—just do it.)

DEAR MARGO: I am 23 years old with two small children. My husband and I have been together for five years. He works out of town most of the week and our time together isn’t exactly romantic. Real life is bills and stress, so the loving relationship I want us to have goes out the window. An old romance contacted me and we started talking. Each day that we talked, more and more was discussed. Eventually we both acknowledged our feelings and said "I love you" to each other. It was long distance so there was nothing physical. It was merely a phone relationship. Then he called it off in a rather mean and hurtful way, saying cruel things about a very confused message I sent him. I am feeling heartbroken and guilty. I have a great husband, yet this person invades my thoughts. Should I forget the past and let go?



Yep. This old flame is clearly a creep who was stringing you along until he was tired of you, then used that “confusing message” excuse to break it off roughly.

You married young, and probably weren’t ready for the heavy dose of reality that come pouring in. It doesn’t sound like an ideal situation, but it doesn’t sound all that uncommon, either, and others have made these arrangements work.

Talk it over with your husband and see if there’s any chance he can be put in a position that requires less traveling (at least trying will show that he puts value on the relationship) so that you can spend relaxing time together when you’re not busy constantly dealing with problems. This will make the time less stressful and you won’t associate your time together with whacking moles. (Unless that’s what gets you both going. To each his own, I say.)

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My brand-new husband and I eloped late last year due to the financial cost of having a wedding. We sent out announcements to both of our extended families to notify them of our happy news, and received a most horrid gift in return: my husband's aunt and uncle had co-written a book on marital infidelity and sent it along with a card inviting us to attend (and pay for) one of their weekend seminars. They even went so far as to autograph the inside cover.

My husband and I have never had so much as a heated argument, much less an affair on either side. We're both offended and positive this was an act of self-promotion. Our question is, do we write a thank-you note for an offensive gift? Thank you for your insight.


No, you just return the card declining to attend the seminar. If you feel the gift was offensive (and it was certainly thoughtless, at best), then no further explanation should be necessary.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This Just In! Our Elected Officials Have No Time For Us!! Say It Isn't So!!!

Color us stunned. The oldest game in the world is the one where you immediately shank those whose backs you rode to get up the ladder. Did we expect our politicians (who are known for being scumbags) to be any different?

In the words of Marcia Brady's bitchy friend who stepped all over her after she helped her win Miss Popularity (or Small-Curd Cottage Cheese Queen, or whatever contest it was):

"It doesn't matter how I got here. The point is, I've arrived."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Aaron's Unwanted Advice-4/10/09 ("It's Late in Honor of Our Savior's Death" Edition)

DEAR ABBY: I am writing about your response to "John in Savannah" (Feb. 1), the 24-year-old man who is unsure how to explain to people that using a belt to discipline his three little girls is different from abuse.

Sometimes, in order to teach that actions or behaviors are inappropriate, some form of punishment, whether it's a spanking or a time-out, becomes necessary. I give my children three chances when they misbehave. If they continue, they are punished. They know that there will be consequences if they do wrong. Like John's children, mine are also frequently praised for being courteous and well-behaved.

Small children do not understand long-term punishment like grounding, taking away toys, etc. By the time the duration of that kind of discipline has passed, the child has forgotten the reason for it. For young children to understand the consequences of wrong behavior, the measures must be swift and short-term.

John should answer those who ask by saying he uses "consistent discipline accompanied by corporal punishment when necessary." If more parents did the same as John and me, we'd have fewer behavior problems in schools.



Giving a kid a swat on the hiney with your open hand is one thing—we were spanked sometimes as kids, and it didn’t kill us. (Truthfully, our parents found other ways to scare us, so they didn’t have to spank us that often.) BUT—hitting a little kid with an object, like a belt or a switch, is quite another story. You don’t know how hard you’re actually hitting them, or how much injury you might be inflicting.

Congratulations on your well-behaved little darlings, but there’s no getting around the fact that hitting a small child with a belt is abuse. “John” is lucky he hasn’t had to “explain” his actions to Social Services, rather than just a few annoying ol’ Nosey Parkers.

If you’re still unconvinced, then maybe somebody ought to clobber you with a belt and see how you like it. And this time, you won’t get to wear the leather mask.

DEAR ELLIE: I've been with my husband for 10 years; we have a daughter, 8, and he has a son, 12, who's never lived with his dad (the parents split up before he was born). His son visits frequently and lately claims the mother's boyfriend is mean to him, but I know his mother would never allow that. I'm sure he gets smart with the boyfriend and doesn't like his response or the fact that his mother has a man in her life.

My husband and I are well off financially; we go many places and do lots of things, and I think that's another reason why he wants to live with us. We give him everything from expensive game consoles to the newest clothes. We have family nights where we all do activities together, so he's not lacking attention.

He's a spoiled brat who wants all of my husband's time, and my daughter and I on the back burner. He acts smug because he's able to do this when he visits-- he dominates my husband's time with "tall tales" about his life at his mom's house.

My husband feels guilty and goes out of his way to make him feel special while shutting out my daughter and myself. His mother has told me that he's very jealous of our daughter because she lives with her dad.

I don't want my stepson to live with us. I can't stand how he's conning my husband. I don't want the responsibility of dealing with a pre-teen before I have to. I like my life the way it is. I don't know how to prevent him from moving in or bring it up to my husband. I don't want to appear insensitive to his "poor unfortunate son." What can I do?



I don’t know who’s the bigger brat—you or the son. So you’ve got it pretty cushy, huh, and don’t want to share? Get over yourself, Imelda. And if you “can’t bear it” now, just wait until that daughter, 8, hits puberty! You’d better buckle up, sweetie pie, because adolescence is one bumpy ride.

When you married your husband, I’m assuming you knew he had a son (who would have been 2 at the time). Once you marry someone with kids, those kids become yours too, and you must have also known that he would eventually grow and become a teenager. So whether or not you realized it, you signed on a long time ago. Well, tah-dah--it’s showtime!

Kids tend to exaggerate things—hence the mother’s “mean boyfriend.” (Just how do you presume to know so much about the goings-on at his mother’s house, anyway?) This does not make your stepson a “con man” anymore than your saying that “you could just die” would require you to climb into a coffin and close the lid (although you’re encouraged to do so).

You said yourself that your family enjoys a lifestyle that’s pretty comfortable. It’s understandable that he’d be jealous of that, but it’s pathetic and ridiculous for a grown woman to skulk around pouting because her husband is spending too much time with his own son. If you feel you’re being left out, try scheduling activities for the whole family while the son is there. Otherwise, just shut up and slap a smile on that sour puss.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was changing my baby’s diaper in a public restroom the other day. The changing table had no privacy whatsoever, and anyone walking in or out of the restroom had full view of what was going on.

While most people seemed to avert their eyes, there was one woman who, while waiting for her children to wash their hands, kept looking over at my daughter while her diaper was off, and it made me very uncomfortable and upset. I don’t feel that staring at anyone, no matter how old, in that position is right.

What would be an appropriate way to say, “Would you please stop staring at my half-naked daughter, it’s quite rude?"


“So when does she get to see yours? It’s only fair since you’ve been gawking at hers.”

DEAR AMY: I would like to know your thoughts on displaying formal portraits of brides in their wedding gowns once the couple has divorced.

My sister-in-law continues to ask my opinion of the life-size portrait of her daughter on prominent display in her home. The marriage ended in bitter divorce, and her daughter has since remarried.

Until now I have tried to be kind and told her to do as she wishes in her home.

If she asks me again I am tempted to tell her that maybe it's time to take the picture down, as she and her daughter both hate the gentleman from the first marriage. I also cannot help wonder how it makes the new husband feel to have the portrait forced upon him.

It's her home, but she keeps asking for an "honest opinion." Any thoughts?



I’d change the subject and ask her if she’s suffering—from Alzheimer’s, that is, since you’ve answered the same question on numerous occasions. Since the picture never changes, it’s unlikely to have gained weight or developed wrinkles, unless she’s living in an episode of Night Gallery.

Next time she brings it up, go ahead and ask why she keeps it displayed. Is she trying, in some subtle, evil, old-bitchy-mother-in-law way, to say that she likes her new son-in-law even less than the old one? If so, she’d better watch it, because two can play at that game, and he might just have a life-sized dartboard of her in his rec room.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Few Pebbles in My Stream of Consciousness

I was saddened to read about this firefighter’s passing. I remember reading the book The Fire That Will Not Die, written by one of the survivors of the Our Lady of Angels School Fire (who has since passed away), and it struck me at the time how especially awful it was that the tragedy happened so close to Christmas. The fire happened in 1958--the kids were about the same age as my mom. (Incidentally, the photo of the fireman that accompanies this story is just the saddest thing in the world—he’s carrying the body of a 10-year-old who died from smoke inhalation.)

Speaking of unfortunate children, I feel mega-sorry for this kid. I saw her parents on A Bachelorette Wedding a few years ago (by default--it was on TV wherever I was) and hoped to God that these vapid Hasselbeck clones never reproduced. I hope there are some strong (non-relative) role models in this little girl’s life—she’s gonna need ‘em.

This is a cool idea, but I don’t know if it’s necessary to spend that much money to find out when it’s time to head for the basement.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Aaron's Unwanted Advice (4/3/09 Edition)

DEAR ELLIE: I'm married to a man of two personalities: sweet, docile man and sexually addicted liar. After my previous divorce, we dated for five years, during which he had an affair. We broke up and eventually reconciled. Since marrying, there've been hints of him visiting porn sites. When confronted, he'd be Mr. Nice Guy. However, he never had time to help the family or provide for us.

He's a compulsive spender even when he doesn't have a job. I've always provided for the family. Last year, he admitted he'd been seeing high-price prostitutes since we married. I then realized why I contracted an STD (which he'd blamed on his prior indiscretion).

Now we're separated but he kept coming back -- charming, nice and even shared his phone record (not e-mails) to prove his "innocence." I received gifts and flowers, and it's very tempting. However, he refused to see a counselor. Are my feelings persisting because I'm lonely or am I a "co-dependent"?



Neither. You’re just not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

The man cheated on you during a five-year relationship, has never contributed to the household, patronizes hookers and gave you an STD, for Christ’s sakes.

How many bricks do you need to fall on your head?? You need a CT scan. And under no circumstances let this man back into your life. Tell him to save the money he spends on flowers (assuming he hasn’t stolen them from a cemetery), and use it to buy a Chevy Vega to live in.

DEAR AMY: My wife has been invited to a baby shower. The expectant mother is our 21-year-old grandson's girlfriend. They are not married.

I am against honoring this lack of commitment and their unwed pregnancy with a gift, which says we approve of what they're doing.

My wife says the gift is for the baby, and therefore it is OK. In addition, she is fearful of hurting our grandson.

What should we do?



Buy a damned gift. Whether or not these two are legally hitched, that baby is still your great-grandchild. Do you want to punish the kid because its parents haven’t been through The Pageantry? And your wife is right, there’s no point in hurting your grandson. You can find plenty of other ways to express your Old Man disapproval—you can threaten him with disinheritance, lecture him sternly about good old-fashioned family values (throwing in a few good anecdotes about walking back and forth to school, uphill both ways), and blast Fox News when he comes in the house. Have fun with those, Grandpa Grumps.

In the meantime, if you do choose to go the disowning route, remember: you only have one will to cut him out of. There are many Christmases left for you guys to be alone (because if you think his parents won’t take his side, you’re bananas). Think about it.

DEAR ABBY: I have been living with a terrible secret for the past five years. I don't love my older son. He is very difficult and has been since infancy. Don't get me wrong -- I'd jump in front of a bus to save him -- but I don't like him.

I have a degree in psychology and have taught child development. I have taken parenting classes and read every book that's available on hard-to-manage children. But I have yet to find something that can help me, and I feel terribly alone. My husband tries, but he doesn't understand what it's like because he is mostly at work.

I am involved in parenting groups, playgroups, etc., but the other mothers all seem to be doing everything "better" than I am, and I have never heard any other mom admit to having negative feelings toward her kid.

What makes it worse is I adore my younger son and feel a special bond with him. I know this must be awful for the older boy because I'm sure he senses it, no matter how hard I try to hide it. But I don't know how to change what I feel. Abby, how can I change things? I desperately want to be the kind of mother my son deserves.



What is it with you child psychologists-cum-parents? You’re always into that “being totally honest and not-believing in hypocrisy” thing, so you insist that it’s “OK to admit to yourself that you love one child more than another.” What kid wouldn't be difficult if he had to live with that?

Please save your parental primal scream for when the kids are grown and you can take that nice, long Calgon bath—right now, your job is to be a good parent to both of them and not make it obvious that you like your younger son better. It’s bad enough that parents naturally tend to favor one kid over another anyway—you don’t need to rub the older one's nose in it.

How can you not to love your own child? Even Rhoda Penmark’s mother loved her, for Christ’s sake. It may be difficult to like them all the time, which is normal, and may be what you really mean. I sure hope so.

It’s always the kids of psychologists (especially ones like you) who are the most fucked up, so you’d better get his ass to a good child shrink before you end up turning out another David Berkowitz.

DEAR MARGO: When I was a teenager, my father cheated on my mother with his best friend’s wife (a close friend of my mother, or so my mother thought). Needless to say, my parents are now divorced. After leaving our family, my father neglected to stay in contact with us — despite the fact that he lived a few blocks away — and I have not spoken to him in 12 years.

Oddly enough, he sent my sisters and me a Christmas card this year and enclosed his telephone number. What is he trying to do? What is his motivation? I have long since dismissed my father from my life and find myself apathetic to the entire situation. I would like to continue living my life as I have been. Is this normal? What would you do in my place?



Send him a card back enclosing your phone number. That should make it clear that it's on him to pick up the phone and call.

I can understand not wanting to jump right back into a relationship with a father who disappeared from your life through no fault of your own, but leave the door open. There could have been lots of reasons that he never got in touch, and he may deserve the chance of at least explaining himself.

Having said that, there’s no reason why it should be up to you to make the first call, which is why you should just write back with your phone number. The message should be that you might be open to speaking with him, but he’s gonna have to work for it.

And if you do talk to him, and find that you’re still more comfortable keeping your distance, you can tell him that. You might find it therapeutic.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I employ five people in a small manufacturing setting. I encourage my employees to be friendly and have no problem with them talking during work or listening to the radio with their ear buds.

During the course of the day, I have occasional questions regarding the job. I will walk into the manufacturing area, and if I determine that the conversation is of a personal nature, I will politely stop the conversation and ask the business question at hand.

One of my employees thinks I should allow them to complete their personal chatter, and when they're finished, I can speak to them.

My feeling is that this is my time, and I pay the salary. When I have business to conduct, all else should come to a stop, and the business should be taken care of.
Am I being ill-mannered to expect that the workday is to come first?


No, you are not. If they are in the work area--where the purpose is work--they should expect that their pointless nattering may be legitimately interrupted at any time. They can use their break time or lunch hours to yabber about whatever stupid television show they gawked slackjawed at the evening before.

If they object, perhaps you should remind them that if they so choose, they can spend their entire days making inane chitchat at their prolonged leisure.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

My Open Letter to the International Olympic Committee

Dear Olympics People,

Run away. Run far, far away. Run fast. Don't turn back. This place costs us enough as it is without building a bunch of useless shit that will be forgotten as soon as the corndog wrappers are swept up.

Oh, and I won't be putting on a happy face for you during your visit. It's best you get to know us as we really are. And you ain't gonna like it, because we ain't gonna kiss nobody's ass. (Remember, we voted for Blago--twice--we clearly don't care what anyone thinks.)


Taxpaying Chicagoan

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The 'Light' Goes Out

I knew it was only a matter of time, but this was still a tiny pain in my heart. Of course, I haven't watched in years (the show jumped the shark long ago), but it was still a part of my growing-up. It won't be the last to go, either, I'm sure...

I wonder what Kim Zimmer will do now?? She became the matriarch of the show after the first one, Bert Bauer, passed away. Strangely, I remember when KZ joined the show (I was 15) and, before that, her first daytime role on The Doctors--as Kathleen Turner's replacement.

I just hope that the networks don't decide to fill the programming gap with shitty reality shows (although they probably will). Or, worse yet, Judge Judy. (Christ, I hate that woman.)