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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
— 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.
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.
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.)
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.
By Amy Dickinson
June 17, 2014
Dear Amy: I have a “modern family” etiquette question for you. I’m a divorced mother of two, and I’m in a committed same-sex relationship. My partner does not live with us, but she is always with us on the weekends.
My kids are getting to an age where they want to have friends sleep over. Some friends’ parents know my partner, but others probably have no idea that I’m gay.
With parents who know my partner, I’d have no problem making sure they don’t mind that she sleeps over when their kids are also there, but I don’t know what I should say to parents who I don’t know as well.
Should I “come out” to the other parents when the invitation is issued to be sure they are OK with my partner being there? Should I say nothing and risk problems with the parents later if a child’s friend goes home with questions? Should I not allow sleepovers if my partner is there and the other parents don’t know about her?
I don’t want to hide my relationship, but I also want to be respectful of what other parents are ready to discuss with their kids.
— A Mom
Dear Mom: This is not an etiquette question (or even a “modern family” question). It’s a parenting question.
Think of this as a mom. Don’t you want to know about all adults in a household before you send your child into the household for an overnight? (Hint: yes, you absolutely do.)
Whether a household comprises Susan, Diane, Uncle Bud and the kids — or whether grandparents, cousins or older siblings and their friends are at home — you should know about all other people present in the home when you send your child there for an overnight.
If you were a divorced mom in a relationship with a man, you would be expected to disclose this to other parents — if the man was spending the night at your home during a child’s sleepover.
Some parents do not feel comfortable sending their child for an overnight where two unmarried people are sleeping together, regardless of their sexuality.
In your case, you say, “My partner ‘Helen’ spends the weekends with us. She’s virtually a member of the family. She’ll be here, and I want to make sure you’re OK with it and get the chance to meet her.”
It might be best to offer a general introduction to parents during a non-overnight function such as a birthday party or barbecue at your house.
If this amounts to a “coming out” for you, then so be it.
By Amy Dickinson
June 12, 2014
Dear Amy: My daughter has a neighborhood friend who lives down the street. They get along well, and the girl is very nice and well-mannered. The girls freq-uently have “late overs” on the weekends that involve pizza and movies/games.
These sometimes involve other friends of my daughter’s. The girls are all 8 years old.
Many times when it’s time for the movie, the neighbor girl says she’s not allowed to watch it. This has happened with “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “Harry Potter,” “Journey to the Mysterious Island,” etc.
Most of the time we find something else to watch. Other times, when my daughter has invited a friend from outside the neighborhood, I can tell they are disappointed.
Should I send the neighborhood girl home when this happens?
We have not exchanged phone numbers with the parents. Usually the girl comes and knocks on the door. I have told her to go ask her parents if it’s OK to watch the movie, and she replies that they are not home. I think she is being watched by her older siblings.
Dear Mom: I find it surprising that you would have an 8-year-old girl in your home for hours at a time without communicating with her parents. The very first thing you should do is to make sure they are aware that she is with you. If an older sibling is in charge, then you should contact that sibling.
Once you make the parents’ acquaintance and establish that they know where their child is, you can feel them out about media choices. It is a contradiction to exert such strict control over media while at the same time leaving an 8-year-old to socially fend for herself. I suspect this child isn’t really conveying all of the information you need (she’s only 8).
I think it is kindest to dial movie choices to the most sensitive child in the room, but you shouldn’t always have to do this. The next time this happens, you can say, “I understand you can’t watch this, but I think tonight we’re going to watch this one, so let me walk you home.”