I've never written for a columnist's advice, but then, I've never agreed with one as much as I do with you. Here goes: Almost three years ago I met a man who swept me off my feet. Though it was a long-distance relationship, he wooed me stunningly for eight months. Then his wife called. He said they were mid-divorce, she claimed they weren't. It was a nightmare but I decided to try to make things work and get through it (and yes, they finally divorced). Since then, I've discovered he lies about all types of things, both big and small, and despite multiple promises to change and countless proclamations of love, it never seems to stop. Aside from this, he's amazing to me—kind, thoughtful, funny, considerate, and I know he truly loves me, all of which makes it very hard to leave, even though I think that's probably best. He's about to be relocated for his job and I don't think I want to move with him. I just don't trust him anymore. I've grown weary of always having my guard up. Without a catalyst, how do I end the relationship without guilt?
—Lying in Wait
For all this man's fine qualities, the guy's got a problem with the truth. Comfort in a relationship is key, and always waiting for the other shoe to drop is to be always looking over your shoulder. Without trust, the kind/thoughtful/funny traits will never feel like enough and you'll spend your life feeling jumpy. As for calling it a day, you have a perfect out because of his relocation. Tell him that after a great deal of thought you've decided it is better for your life to stay where you are. Over and out.
My husband has a 5-year-old son from a previous relationship. Things are working out well, but the only problem is that he calls me by my first name and it just doesn't sit right with me. I grew up having to put a handle or a title in front of any elder's name out of respect, but nowadays children don't. I require my 2-year-old son to do this as I want him to understand the distinction between his peers and mine as he matures. But as a new stepmom, I'm having a hard time even thinking of what he should call me, though I know it definitely should not be only my first name. He already has a mommy, so that would be inappropriate, and saying "Miss" before my name sounds too formal and cold. What would you suggest?
Your thinking regarding youngsters knowing the difference between their peers and yours is admirable, as is your wish for teaching children the proper form of address. Your particular situation, however, is the exception. It has become standard practice for stepkids to call the new parent by his or her name. Unlike grandparents, the steps don't have the same latitude about what name to be called. Whereas "Grandma" often precedes a pet name, "Stepmom Lulu" doesn't cut it. Also, grandparents' names often come from a toddler's inability to pronounce a certain name; presumably the 5-year-old kid you are writing about is beyond baby talk. Given your preferences, the closest Prudie can come to a solution would be "Mama fill-in-your-name."
— Prudie, nominally
I come from a large and prominent family in our community. I have never had a father, per se (long gone, and gratefully so), and in his place has been my grandfather, the head of our family. All my life I have admired and emulated this man. But now I am at a loss. Several weeks ago, my grandfather was in a severe accident. Thankfully, he recovered. However, he requires an escort for transportation, etc. Unfortunately, he does not trust strangers to look after him, so this task fell to me. At first, I was very excited to spend the extra time with him, but I suppose this has become a case of "be careful what you wish for." I do not like my grandfather. In the past several weeks, being with him, I have come to realize that he is quite possibly the most unpleasant person I have ever known. He is rude, mean, petty, angry, and negative ... things from racial and ethnic epithets to horrible treatment of wait-staff. Worst of all is his demeaning treatment of my grandmother. They have been married for over 60 years and he treats her as a nonentity. While one might be quick to blame these failings on the accident, after talking with my family I realize that is not the case. I guess the question is: What do you do when your heroes fall? I love my grandfather. I just do not want to become him.
It is odd that you have idolized this man for so long without being aware of any of his objectionable qualities. Perhaps old age, illness, and neurological changes have magnified his appalling characteristics? In any case, from what you write, you're in little danger of becoming him. Honest. You seem acutely cognizant of his inadequacies. As to the larger question of how to feel about fallen idols, the old "feet of clay" syndrome, the answer is to make your peace with the human condition and understand that there are no perfect people. (Though some are better than others!) We are all flawed, in one way or another, and putting people on pedestals almost always leads to disappointment.
I have relatives who live in another state. They are very dear to me and I look forward to time together when they can visit for a few days. Unfortunately, they have begun to include their cats as guests during their visits. I have nothing against cats purr se (sorry about that), but I have a mild allergy and I always end up with a stuffed head. The visits are also memorable because I find mementos for weeks afterward, such as fur on the furniture and litter scattered where the box was placed. Among the reasons I don't have pets is the fact that I don't want fur and hair all over the house (not to mention my accompanying immune reactions). Some of my friends are of the opinion that it is unusual to include pets when visiting a relative for a day or two, so I'm asking for your opinion. Am I out of line to request that they leave the cats at home, or should I just buy more Claritin and vacuum bags?
—Not a Furball Fan
Unusual to bring along pets when you're a houseguest? How about rude? If it's not set up in advance with the host, bringing an animal is the height of presumptuousness … in spirit no different than showing up with uninvited guests. Since your rellies have simply assumed that their small, four-legged associates in fur coats are welcome, you need to set the record straight. One ought not to have to take allergy medication in one's own home, let alone find hairy furniture for weeks. Once you explain your health difficulties, Prudie is certain that no cat-astrophic (sorry about that) damage will be done to your relationship.