Trip to the movies could lead to “Jaws”

By Amy Dickinson

July 30, 2014

Dear Amy: My ex and I have a long history, and I guess we are (sort of) friends. We both loved each other very much but we fought way too much, which made the relationship impossible.

I have moved on to someone else, and I am pretty happy. However, I feel as if my current relationship isn’t as fun and passionate as my old one.

I think my ex has noticed this and is trying to get close to me once again. He recently invited me to the movies as “just friends.”

Should I go? Or is it a bad move? 

— Ex and Friend

Dear Friend: Let me answer by referencing a favorite quote from one of my favorite movies — the 1975 summertime classic, “Jaws.”

"This is not a boat accident.”

What I’m getting at is that if you are Richard Dreyfuss lifting a severed arm out of a stainless steel pan, you get to call it like you see it, by pointing out the obvious.

In this regard, I’m Richard Dreyfuss, your nascent “friendship” with your ex is the severed arm and your trip to the movies is like swimming with a giant, man-eating shark.

Potentially exciting. Very risky.

Lonely times at the town beach in Skaneateles, NY on a typically blustery “summer” day in Upstate NY

Lonely times at the town beach in Skaneateles, NY on a typically blustery “summer” day in Upstate NY

Worst week ever should prompt a reevaluation — and The Mindy Project

By Amy Dickinson

July 29, 2014

Dear Amy: I have had an especially horrible week. I received a low performance appraisal at work, which blindsided me because I’m extremely dedicated to this hard (and, apparently, thankless) job.

The same day I logged on to Facebook to see that my boyfriend is in a relationship with someone else. After more than a decade together, this is how he voices his desire to “see other people.”

Then, one of my best friends declared she doesn’t want to be friends with me anymore because I’m friendly with a woman she dislikes. I’m not completely surprised — I was one of her few remaining friends — but I am hurt.

Oh, and I’m also turning 30. It’s supposed to be a huge milestone, but what do I have to celebrate? I’m a wreck! How do I even begin to get my life together? 

— Worst Week Ever

Dear Worst Week: No question about it: Any one of the items on your “worst week” list could take down a rhino. This is “bad things happen in threes” to the max.

I prescribe giving yourself some time to self-medicate with soft-serve ice cream while binge watching “The Mindy Project.”

After you crawl out from under the covers, you should take another look at the one thing you can do something about: your job situation. It’s important to follow up on this job appraisal. Stay calm and focus on discovering what things you can do differently. A second look at your evaluation may yield information that you didn’t understand fully at the time because you were hyperventilating too much. A mentor at work could help you strategize on how to turn things around.

Write yourself a mission statement. Turning 30 is the perfect time to take a long and broad look at your future. Other than rewinding the past week and having it play out differently, what are your larger dreams and goals? What is your vision? What is the big picture?

Every successful person has a “worst week” story, and many look back on these tough times as important turning points. Your worst week is in the past. What you choose to do next is the only important thing.

He promises no sex, no marriage; what’s not to love?

July 28, 2014

By Amy Dickinson

Dear Amy: I am a 50-something devout Catholic who has been divorced for over 20 years.

Since my petition for annulment through the church was rejected, I am not in the position to remarry. Accordingly, I fully accept the church’s teaching that permits sexual intimacy only within the marital bond.

Given these facts, I can only offer women platonic friendship, which I disclose early on whenever there is a mutual attraction.

Without fail, women become disinterested — although they remain very friendly in future encounters.

Is there a reason why a woman would not be interested in having a healthy, nonsexual friendship with a man? — Devout

Dear Devout: Speculating here, but a woman might not be interested in a relationship with you because she wants one or both things you must deny: sex and/or marriage.

Your best bet might be to connect on a Catholic matching site, such Other devout single women who remain “married” but without partners because of the church’s rules might be interested in a longer-term, chaste, platonic relationship.

Otherwise, do your best to develop all kinds of friendships with all kinds of people.

Wait Wait backstage crew runs the show from on stage in San Francisco. #waitwait

Wait Wait backstage crew runs the show from on stage in San Francisco. #waitwait

In San Francisco for tonight’s taping of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me: first sight this morning. @waitwait

In San Francisco for tonight’s taping of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me: first sight this morning. @waitwait

Woman buries the lead — and possibly her sexual orientation, too

By Amy Dickinson

July 10, 2014

Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I have been together for five years. We were long distance for four years, and then last year I moved to Florida to be with him. He has always said he doesn’t want to live anywhere other than Florida.

Initially, I didn’t think that would be a problem but now I’m wondering. My family lives thousands of miles away, and I miss them terribly. I resent that he’s unwilling to compromise about things — like where we live, for instance.

To top it off, I don’t feel attracted to him. Sometimes I feel attracted to women. I’ve never been with a woman, but these feelings really confuse me. I’m 34 years old. If I were gay, wouldn’t I have known it before?

People are beginning to ask us if we will marry, and the thought makes me feel queasy. My parents had an acrimonious divorce, and I thought I was opposed to marriage because of this. Now I wonder if there is more to consider.

I worry that I run away from good things when I have them. Despite the fact that I’m not always happy here, sometimes I am, and my boyfriend is incredibly supportive and loving. I love him, but I’m not sure I’m “in love” with him.

We live together, I have a job here and any real change would have to be a big one. What should I do?

 — Unsure

Dear Unsure: In the news business, we call what you just did — “I’m not sure about moving and by the way I might be gay” — “burying the lead.”

So let’s go back to the part of your narrative where you wonder about your sexual orientation. This is the part of your story that is truly about you.

There are no rules about sexuality. The current thinking is that sexual orientation happens along a wide spectrum. You can discover or uncover different aspects to your personal and sexual identity at any point in your life.

You have a lot to sort out, ideally with a therapist’s help. You need to peel this onion, be ruthlessly honest with yourself about each and every layer, and make some changes (perhaps even big changes) — knowing that in life the thing that matters most is not whether you make mistakes (or change your mind about things), but whether you act with integrity toward yourself and other people.

Facebook fail leads to …. Mom, NO!!!

By Amy Dickinson

July 9, 2014

Dear Amy: My mother has been using Facebook more frequently in the last few months, and I think that’s fine. Unfortunately the majority of the pictures that she posts are of me. Her profile and cover photos are of me.

I am not her “friend” on Facebook, but if I look up her name I can see dozens of photos of me all over her page. I really don’t want her plastering my picture everywhere, especially if her privacy settings are weak and anyone has access to the photos.

My personal page is very private, and I only have friends that I actually know on my page.

I have asked her to take down many of the photos but she refuses (or lies to me and says she did). I told her she could post one picture from my graduation but instead she posted 20.

I understand that she wants to post pictures for family to see, but many times she does it just to show off and brag. I don’t feel comfortable when I look up her page on Facebook and all that I can see is my face attached to her name.

Will she ever respect my wishes? Or because she is my parent does she “own” images of me? Am I overreacting? I am legally an adult. What should I do? 

— Technically Frustrated

Dear Frustrated: Facebook seems to have created a reverse metric in how generations use it.

Generally speaking, the generation you are a part of, which grew up sharing on social media, seems to have grown much more circumspect about how you conduct yourselves on Facebook, while adults in your mother’s and grandparents’ generation don’t seem to have caught on.

I have seen unintentionally hilarious examples of parents leaping over boundaries on Facebook while their young adult children comment: “Mom, NO!”

I agree that (at least the way you describe it) this is a deliberate breach of your privacy.

However, realistically you cannot do anything about this, other than avoid your mother’s omniscient camera at family events (by the way, she “owns” all of the photos she takes, even if they are of you).

You should tell her, “Mom, this is an incredible breach of my privacy, and I’ve asked you to stop. This is disrespectful and you either don’t get it, or you don’t care.”

After that, avoid her lens and stop checking her page.

Is keeping something you didn’t pay for the same as stealing?

By Amy Dickinson

July 7, 2014

Dear Amy: Last week my wife and I purchased three pairs of sneakers at a store. The service was poor and the experience was frustrating.

As we were leaving I noticed the cashier only charged us for two pairs of sneakers. I chose not to say anything about it.

In the car I told my wife what had happened, and she said, “Well, the store made an error, the service was poor and I guess that means I got a pair of free sneakers.”

Even though I sort of agreed with her (and I didn’t go back to the store to say anything), this issue has been nagging at me.

I feel as though I “morally” did the wrong thing. Should I go back to the store and pay for the sneakers?

 — Feeling Guilty

Dear Guilty: When you throw quotation marks around the word “morally,” you make it seem that morality is a theoretical construct. But morality is real and guilt is your character’s gyroscope.

It is wrong to take and keep something you haven’t paid for, regardless of whether the service was lousy or a mistake was made, and regardless of what your wife thinks.

You should go back to the store and pay for the sneakers.

You should also speak to the manager of the store and express your frustrations about the service you received (follow up with an email). If this store is serious about retaining your business, the manager will make an effort to make things right.

Gentleman farmer’s filthy hands gross out his woman

By Amy Dickinson

4 July, 2014

Dear Amy: I’m in a long-term relationship with a man who lives on a farm. He’s wonderful, but he has some rough edges, most of which I’m OK with. The one thing I can’t accept (and he seems to think it is just silly quibbling) is his dirty hands and fingernails.

I understand that a guy who works on a farm is bound to get his hands dirty. My point is that before he eats or goes out in public, he should wash his hands, including getting the grime, grease and God-knows-what out from underneath his nails.

I think it’s gross when we go out to eat, and I definitely don’t want him touching me intimately with those dirty, scraggly nails. Whenever I bring it up, he says that’s what happens when you live and work on a farm. He thinks I’m being ridiculous. He says I don’t understand what it is like to be a farmer.

I admit, breaking up with a perfectly decent, funny, intelligent man over his fingernails seems silly, but it truly grosses me out.

Your thoughts? 

— Grossed Out

Dear Grossed Out: I grew up on a farm, and aside from a brief snit over not being named my county’s Dairy Princess as a teenager, I have proudly associated with farmers for my entire life.

There is no question that farming is a tough and dirty business that leaves residual calluses and tough-to-clean hands and nails.

However, the only farmers I can imagine who would go to dinner grimy are those people who would probably be dirty no matter what they did for a living.

Nails, however, are tricky (your guy should keep them short). You should try to be more tolerant about this.

The real issue here is his refusal to even try to do something differently (is he familiar with Lava soap?). The obvious compromise is for you to not inspect his nails quite so closely and for your funny, kind and decent guy to make an effort to de-grime at the end of a long day.

Old photo stirs up new emotions

By Amy Dickinson

July 2, 2014

Dear Amy: I recently found a photo of my wife posing with an old boyfriend. She was 19 years old and very beautiful. They were walking arm in arm.

Though we have been together for 30 years and the photo was taken two years before she even met me, this picture has made me jealous for over a week. Why is this? Is it that I see her with him? Is it that she was thinner and prettier than she is now? (I know I have aged and put on weight, too.)

I can’t get this picture out of my head. Is it because as a man I can’t stand to see my wife with another man, or that I see her with him looking so beautiful?

Any suggestions for how I can shake this feeling? I don’t want something out of my control to ruin my marriage. 

— Jealous Husband

Dear Jealous: This is not out of your control. And it will only “ruin” your marriage if you let it.

Your reaction to seeing this photo is both common and complex — that’s why you find it so confusing. As we age, many of us find it difficult to look at younger versions of ourselves or our partners — some parents even develop irrational jealousy toward their own children, for the sole reason that they possess the dew of youth that is now a mere memory for the parent.

Jealousy thrives on secrecy and rumination. Take your feelings out for a spin and share them with your wife. Be completely candid with her, using “I” statements: “When I see this picture I feel jealous, but I don’t really know why.” Do not put her on the defensive.

There is a strong likelihood that your wife can understand your emotional reaction to this. This episode could spark a new, deeper and intimate understanding that you are in fact growing old together. And that’s a truly beautiful thing.

It’s called @theDoughnutVault and I will be going on the road with them until further notice.

It’s called @theDoughnutVault and I will be going on the road with them until further notice.

It’s called @theDonutVault and I will be going on the road with them until further notice.

It’s called @theDonutVault and I will be going on the road with them until further notice.

Mom worries lesbian gym teacher is on the prowl in locker room

By Amy Dickinson

June 26, 2014

DEAR AMY: My seventh-grade daughter’s female gym teacher is openly gay. None of the parents or kids has a problem with this.

The issue is that she observes the girls changing into and out of their gym clothes, and my daughter and many of her peers feel very uncomfortable having a lesbian watch them walk around in their underwear.

I’m afraid to say anything because I worry that my daughter will be given a “special area” to change, and it will make her feel awkward.

I understand that seventh-graders need supervision in the locker room, but it seems to me the school should know that it may not be appropriate to have a lesbian in the locker room with young girls.

By the way, the teacher has never behaved unprofessionally — nor is anyone worried that she might — it is simply an issue of discomfort.

What’s the right answer that respects everyone involved?

Concerned Mom

DEAR CONCERNED: You might start this conversation by letting your daughter know that there is a likelihood some of her fellow students at school or on sports teams are also lesbians, and that in this environment, along with trusting her instincts, she also has to trust other people (gay and straight) to have integrity.

You seem to think that because this teacher is a lesbian, she may also be attracted to — or be an unhealthy presence — for girls. Judging by the preponderance of recent alarming news reports of improper sexual relationships between teachers and students, a student is much more likely to be hit on by a heterosexual teacher than a gay one.

If your daughter feels vulnerable (or if this teacher has acted inappropriately), then you should definitely take this issue to the school. However, you say this is not the case, so if your daughter feels self-conscious, she should change her clothes in a bathroom stall. (I assume the locker room has stalls.)

Frenemies pull on their big girl panties

By Amy Dickinson

June 21, 2014

Dear Amy: A group of “frenemies’ recently went on a trip together. I wasn’t invited and didn’t have any expectation of an invitation. During their trip, someone in the group took a picture of them doing their thing with what they considered a funny caption and sent it to my email (knowing that I don’t participate in Facebook and would not see it there).

I didn’t find it a funny friend share, if you know what I mean.

I think it was a spiteful, mean-spirited thing to do (it’s not the first time something like that has happened).

When I spoke about it to someone who knows the situation and who has also been hurt by this group, I was told to put on my big girl panties and get over it — double smackdown.

My question is: Am I wrong to interpret this as a kind of bullying? I have, however, finally taken the hint and distanced myself from this group.

I’m a grown woman and this has put me in a deep funk. How do young people handle this stuff?

 — Rejected and Dejected

Dear Rejected: This is a kind of bullying. It is the obnoxious, exclusionary, passive-aggressive, “Housewives of Atlanta” kind of bullying.

Young people handle this the same way you did — by feeling sad and dejected and wondering where they went wrong to somehow deserve this treatment. But let me pass along some wisdom gleaned from a decade of writing this column: Sometimes, it’s really not you. It’s them. Sometimes, people are the worst.

You should move on and up and away from this petty cruelty.

Then you and I are going to band together. We will hunt down the person who came up with this “big girl panties” expression (I’m blaming Oprah), and we will do what we can to eradicate it from popular usage.