Friends of ours bought a beautiful old house in the country, and they're restoring it. This has always been a dream of theirs, and they plan to meet expenses by running it as a bed and breakfast. The trouble is, they are asking friends and relatives to be their B&B customers. While we realize that it would be expensive for them to have us all out to stay for weekends (it's a little too far out of the city to just drive there for an evening), it looks as though we'll never get to see their place except as paying customers. It's awkward to say no, but we feel like they're asking us to pay their mortgage. Also, it's in a beautiful part of the country and sounds very restful, but what if something goes wrong? If you're spending a country weekend at an inn, you can complain to the management, but not if "the management" happens to be your friends. What would you do?
—Thanks very much,
The real issue is this: Do you wish to help out your friends or take a vacation? There are many complicating factors. As you point out, there is the feeling of being somewhat used. It is not exactly a heartfelt invitation to be asked for a weekend … but pretend it's an inn. Also, you would be paying guests—but the payment is a favor and doesn't give you the rights or services of a hotel guest. It's an odd situation to pay one's friends to see their country house. As for what Prudie would do, she would try to arrive at an honest answer to the question of whether or not she wanted to help her friends, financially, without any ambivalent feelings. And if the answer turns out to be "no," they might catch on that the invitation didn't seem very friendly.
My wife and I attend the Indianapolis symphony and have wonderful seats—except for the "Perfume Lady." She reminds us and our neighboring seatmates of Charlie Brown's friend Pig Pen —not that she is dirty but her perfume can almost be seen. She is making us miserable, and we have even thought about small battery-powered fans blowing the vapors back toward her. Please help.
—Choking in Indy
Prudie has no objections to the fan. And should you actually do this and the Perfume Lady turns around to inquire about the breeze on her neck, it would be a perfect opening for mentioning that her perfume is knocking you out. You might also inquire about a change of seats, though Prudie knows it's not easy to get good subscription seats. Because it sounds as though you and the Perfume Lady are not acquainted, you might take a chance and tell her that she is surely unaware of it, but her perfume is quite strong, and you are allergic to it.
I am in my late 20s and got married last summer to my boyfriend of almost six years. We are often told we're the "Barbie and Ken" everybody longs to be and that people would kill to have what we do. I can see where they get these assumptions, based on outward appearances, but what nobody knows is that I am lifeless inside. I realized, even before the wedding, I had fallen out of love with "Stan" quite a while ago. At least that is what it feels like. I am not into sex, I don't get excited to see him, and I don't miss him when we are apart. When I figured all this out, our families and the pressure from our friends kept me from backing out of the marriage. I relented and put on a smiley face. Prudie, he is a great, handsome guy. Any girl I know would take him in a second. He is honest, faithful, great with money, and most of all he loves me more than anything. We don't have major arguments, only bickering, and he knows nothing of my feelings. I can either continue this way, showing little emotion and pretending I can rekindle what was, or be honest with him and let him know I need to leave in order to allow him to rebuild his life without me. I rack my brain every morning thinking how to tell him. And I know people will tell me I'm crazy. Can you please tell me what to do?
—Lost in CA
The first thing to do is discount how wonderful other people think your marriage is. It doesn't matter what they think; you did not get married as a favor to them. Granted, it is easier to undo from a skunk instead of a great guy, but this great guy may have been a mistake—for you. It is somewhat hard to track how you put in six years before you figured this all out, but maybe that's a project for a therapist. You really ought to go see a professional to understand the dynamic at work here. You may well wind up leaving the marriage, but you might also unearth some factors you had not been aware of.
I have been involved with a man for several years now, five to be exact. We have gone over the necessary topics in a relationship and decided things would be better if we waited a few years until he completed his education (MBA), then settled down and went from there. Well, "Jake" has been finished with school for a year now, and I want to know what the status is with us. He keeps telling me he needs to be established in work so we can live comfortably—whatever that means. We live across the country from one another and see each other once a month. Our status is a topic that is avoided until he is intoxicated, and then he "forgets" about the conversations when he sobers up. I realize he is busy traveling for work, but if I am important, then he needs to let me know. At times I feel like we are having an affair because he is "married" to his work. Should I be patient and wait for his move or demand some sort of answer now? I am not getting any younger, and I need to move on if he's never going to get off the dime.
Alas, you've gotten your answer. The drunk Jake says it's a done deal, but the sober one keeps moving the goal post. Prudie happens to think differing drunk and sober conversations should be a deal-breaker, but what may have even more meaning for your future is the married-to-his-work factor. You would be wise to think about that, as it seems to be a great irritation to you NOW. Prudie also thinks it's not a good sign if you have to work at getting a guy to marry you. You might give serious thought to forgetting about the ultimatum and listening to what the sober Jake is telling you.