I am 16, and my parents think that it's "cute" and "fun" to have sex in other places in the house besides their bedroom. I'm never home when this occurs, and am mature enough to realize that every couple needs to spice up their life a little now and then. Recently, I found out that my parents had sex on my bed. This was mortifying and horrific for me. Of all the places to do it, they thought it would be interesting to try it on my bed. I haven't even had sex on my bed! They don't see anything wrong with what they've done, but I find it completely disgusting and unnecessary. How can I explain to them that this has scarred me, possibly for the rest of my life?
—Need New Sheets
Your parents sound as if they think they're starring in an X-rated version of Goldilocks. Since you weren't home when they discovered your bed was "just right," how did you find out? Do they discuss their conjugal adventures over dinner? Or do they make innuendos to each other that you're now old enough to understand? You're right to be disturbed (and it's awful that they've forced you to contemplate the need for sexual variety between middle-aged couples, in particular them). I can't tell from your letter if your parents are just a little bit screwy on this subject and don't realize you know more than they intend, or if they get their jollies from subjecting you to recitations of their intimacy. If it's the former, you must say, "I can't stand hearing references to your sex life, and I need you to stop. I also need you respect the privacy of my bedroom." If it's not the former, or if they don't get it after you talk to them, you have to seek help. Discuss this with a trustworthy relative, a member of your clergy, or a counselor at your school who can intervene on your behalf.
Recently, my girlfriend of six months was using my computer. Later that evening, while looking through some work reports, I discovered that she had viewed some old pictures and letters on my computer that I totally forgot existed. The pictures and letters were from a previous serious romantic relationship, one that I have been very forthright and open about to my current girlfriend. I haven't talked to my ex in years; I forgot I still had these files and the letters and pictures contain nothing illegal or incriminating. However, I feel uncomfortable about my girlfriend finding and viewing them, as they were in a place not easily discoverable, and believe this was an invasion of privacy. I've read your responses to people who have discovered illegal pictures or salacious e-mails to co-workers on a mate's computer. But this is the opposite situation. I want to know if this a big deal, if I should feel uncomfortable about her reading this material, and if I should I discuss with my girlfriend the fact that I know she looked?
Yes, this is a big deal; yes, you should feel uncomfortable; and yes, you should tell her you know she snooped. I give a pass to people who innocently look up driving directions on their beloved's computer and their eyes fall upon child pornography or e-mails about co-workers' heaving bosoms. I also believe that probable cause—beloved comes home with lipstick on his collar, or blouses that smell of aftershave—justifies a lap around the laptop (I know, I know—such searches could raise potential legal issues). But your new girlfriend betrayed not only you but herself, revealing her own lack of trust in your relationship. Tell her that after she used your computer, you saw she had entered your long-forgotten file about your previous girlfriend and that she violated your privacy. Then see what she says. She can repair some of the damage by owning up to what she did, apologizing, and promising not to do it again. She might tell you that her previous boyfriend cheated on her, so she's tormented on the subject. That's an excuse but not a justification, and you two must come to an agreement about what's acceptable in this relationship.
I have a dilemma. A guy I knew (but not well) asked me for my résumé, got me hired at the company he works for, and now is basically my supervisor. Along the way, we got to know one another, became close friends, and there is attraction on both sides. We spend every day at work together, and almost every evening. He has told others that he likes and wants to date me but that he's very worried about the work situation. What do I do?
—Wanting Something I Can't Have
Yes, you are in a ticklish situation, but for goodness' sake, if single people can't fall in love with their colleagues, we are doomed as a species. Since he's the supervisor and clearly feels more constrained in making a move, you have to take action. The next evening you're together, tell him that things have become awkward for you at work because you have developed romantic feelings for him. Explain that you know that since he is your supervisor, this presents a problem but you need to know if he shares your feelings. If he says he does, cue the music and fade to a kiss (and when you come up for air, discuss if there is a way he can transfer you to another boss).
How does one grow old gracefully? How does one accept (deal with?) the inevitable decline in abilities? I am grateful for every second of life, but those seconds seem to be passing much too quickly. I recently turned 58. I'm in excellent health and am doing volunteer work in a foreign country. But it seems time has taken its toll: I wear glasses and hearing aids; I'm a little slower than I used to be. I stay physically active, but it seems like I'm more easily winded. Frankly, other things don't function quite as well as they used to. I'm single and feel like I've lost my attractiveness, especially to women under 50. Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted with my life and I am very aware that there are many people my age who are in a much different situation. I only want to know how one adjusts (if there is adjustment to be made) as one gets closer to check-out time. How do I cope with all the changes? Intellectually, I know that it's all a natural part of living. Emotionally, I'm a little in the dark.
—Trying To Age in Style
Your check-out might be 30 years from now, so you don't want to spend all that time in the lobby waiting to settle your bill. There's a whole industry catering to bucking up aging boomers, so look into some of their findings. For example, an article in the New York Times last fall cited studies showing that viewing old age as a time of decline and frailty helps push you there. And a recent article in the Wall Street Journal discussed studies that found one's knowledge of a profession or hobby is retained into old age, that vocabulary grows with age, and so can emotional intelligence. Two books that deal with being vigorous and fulfilled in the last part of your life are Successful Aging and Aging Well. It also sounds as if you need a thorough check-up; there may be an organic reason why you're winded and, uh, not functioning so well in some areas. And since you're pushing 60, you'll surely feel more attractive if you pursue women closer to your own age. As for your circumstances, you were able to retire early, travel, and volunteer for something you love. That sounds like a good formula for enjoying the rest of your life.