Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Nov. 9 2006 10:17 AM

The Kid Can't Stay in the Picture

I loathe my stepson. How do I get rid of him?

1_123125_122976_dearprudence_02

Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

Dear Prudence,
I've been married for a little over a year. I met my husband several years ago when we were neighbors; he was married at the time and had a young son. He moved away, got divorced, and I didn't see him for several years. Then we reconnected, dated, and got married very quickly. His son is now 10 and I'm having a really hard time getting to like the boy. This might sound mean, but I can't stand him sometimes. I know he's a child, and that he gets his bad manners from his psycho mother, but everything about him just grosses me out: the way he eats; the way his mother dresses him (like a little rapper); that he's too lazy to even clean his room. I try so hard to hide my feelings, but my husband senses it sometimes. I take his son to buy school clothes or toys, but he can't behave and it's driving me insane. I really don't know what to do, especially now that we have him every weekend. I asked my husband if he can give me "me" time at least once a month, but his excuse is that he hates leaving his son with his ex-wife. I really can't take sharing my husband with his son. What should I do?

—Can't Stand Him!

Dear Can't,
What a heartbreaking situation this boy is in—he has a psycho mother and a spiteful stepmother. I have no doubt this little boy is difficult; given his circumstances, that's almost a guarantee. But one of his problems is you. You can't even refer to him as your stepson, but only as "his son." You are asking for advice on how to dump this child. But since you knew getting into this marriage that your husband had a child, maybe the thing for you to do is dump the marriage. You express no love or understanding of either your husband or your stepson. You sound hostile and resentful. And if you get out now, you will have been only a blip in both of their lives.

Advertisement

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
Every time I go out with a young lady in my social group at a setting where there are young men, she insists on dominating the attention of any man in the room, even if I have already shown interest in a specific one and she has been warned by others not to engage that person. To put it bluntly, she likes to steal guys from me specifically and from others. She has even gone so far as to flirt with my ex-boyfriend, who told me how uncomfortable it made him. She's very petite and thin, and young men love to have her attention. I love the group of friends she's part of and I hate missing out on events with them because she's there. The most infuriating part of this whole situation is that she doesn't have any intention of pursuing a relationship with these men, ignoring them once the evening ends. Though others acknowledge her behavior, they make excuses, saying she is so nice and outgoing and doesn't realize what she's doing or have any negative intentions. She is a recovering bulimic, and I believe that her actions have something to do with her own body image. When confronted, she plays dumb. Do I continue to act as though I have no issues with her just to keep the peace in our group of friends?

—Slighted

Dear Slighted,
Let me try to understand your beef. You resent the fact that a pretty, nice, outgoing young woman attracts the attention of young men. Do you also object to the tides going in and out? You say she steals men from other women, but you admit all she does is talk to them at social events and does not try to break up relationships. When you discuss this with your friends, they essentially dismiss your gripe and defend her. You also feel once you have expressed an interested in a man (do you put an X on his forehead?), she shouldn't be allowed to speak to him at a party. What are you doing to further the man's interest in you? Sitting in the corner radiating resentment? Social events require socializing, and she is good at it. Since you have studied her so closely, instead of hating her skills, try to learn from them. Adapt some of her techniques so that at the next party you are busy being vivacious and engaging yourself.

Advertisement

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I am a fiftysomething divorcee with a teenage daughter. I have been divorced for several years, had no interest in men, afraid of being hurt again, and have been celibate since my divorce. I look great. Even strangers tell me that I look like I'm in my 30s. I recently took a teaching job in a new school. When I started the school year, I met the only male teacher in the school. I'm sure he's younger, but I am very attracted to him and it's daunting. I don't know what to say or to do. We teach together every day in a classroom. He treats me in a strictly professional way at all times, as I do him, but I would like to get to know him, though I don't have any idea how to do this without feeling vulnerable and/or getting slapped with a sexual harassment suit. In fact, he doesn't even seem to notice me, although we work very closely. How should I proceed?

—Confused Teacher

Dear Confused,
Since you're an English teacher, the novels of Anita Brookner or Barbara Pym will give you some insights into your situation. They deal with stories of lonely, middle-aged woman who develop crushes on inappropriate men who show no interest in them. As a reader, one keeps wishing the women would realize the hopelessness of their misplaced desires, and look elsewhere for love. That's what you should do. Forget your colleague—it is clear he is not romantically interested in you. But he has done you a favor by stirring in you long-dormant emotions. Yes, in some ways it can be easier to live as you have for the past few years, with your feelings in hibernation as you recovered from your wounds. But now you feel alive enough again to want to connect to someone. So, what do you do? Try the old-fashioned way: Tell friends and colleagues that you're ready to start dating; join an organization in which you'll meet people with similar interests. Then (cautiously) explore the new world of online dating. And remember that only in cheesy romance novels is the heroine guaranteed to find true love without the risk of vulnerability or pain.

Advertisement

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My friends and I have an unusual situation that we're not sure how to handle. One of the girls in our group of friends has started drawing her eyebrows on in a very obvious manner. She draws with eyebrow pencil two perfect (rather large) boxes at the beginning of each brow, making her eyebrows look like commas. These have the effect of making her look perpetually surprised. Everyone notices, but we are unsure how to approach something like this. We're afraid that if we don't say something, a patient (we are medical students) may and that could be embarrassing. Normally in my group of friends we point out potentially embarrassing things, like food in teeth, smudged mascara, but the eyebrows took us by surprise and now we aren't sure what to do. Any suggestions for how to point this out to her? Group intervention or one-on-one? Is it even our place to say anything?

—Concerned Friend

Dear Concerned,
Since you are the doctor-to-be, is there anything else in her behavior to indicate that it's not just her eyebrows that are alarming? If she's otherwise OK, maybe she's such a fan of Joan Rivers that she wants to emulate her expression. I think the cure for this malady is a one-on-one conversation—ideally when you're both in front of the mirror in the ladies' room. Be direct and matter-of-fact, "Hey, I've noticed that you've been doing a heavily penciled eyebrow lately. But I think it's detracting from your looks."

—Prudie