I am a middle-aged woman with breast cancer. As a result of treatment, I can't do many of the things I used to do, but I am able to care for my husband and child. My long-term outlook is uncertain, but I'm determined to enjoy life. My widowed mother lives in the same apartment complex. My husband, child, and I took our first trip since my diagnosis, and the time together was especially precious. When we returned, my older brother called and blistered my husband's ear because, as it turns out, my mother had an attack of vertigo and he wanted us to return immediately to take care of her. He believes I should be available 24/7 to care for my mother. I've taken care of her for nine months, through much of my illness, and it's not a workable situation. I need rest to function and don't like to be disturbed after 11 at night. My mother was never a particularly good parent, and we have never been close. She doesn't need nursing care so much as social activity, but she doesn't care for my suggestions. Although I include her in our activities, I can't take her everywhere we go. I did lose my temper with my brother last year during chemotherapy, so my mother feels he's entitled to be angry with me for that, even though I have tried to make amends. In 10 days, I return to work for my husband's family business in another state, a job that will require a lot of travel. May I pass the baton to someone else?
You should feel free to drop the baton. If your brother is so terribly concerned about your mother's care, nothing's stopping him from ensconcing her at his place, where he can give her the kind of round-the-clock monitoring he apparently feels she deserves. Your mother is a difficult, and possibly disturbed, person (borderline personality disorder, anyone?) who has raised a difficult, possibly disturbed son. You didn't need a diagnosis of cancer to be entitled to limit the endless drain of time and energy your mother demands, or the abuse your brother dispenses. But given that you are dealing with your own health and future, save your strength for the family you have made, and move on without guilt.
I'm 28 years old. There's a guy in my circle of friends who I like, and I think he likes me, too. We flirt whenever we're around each other, and I'd like to take it to the next level and ask him out. However, I have no relationship experience. I don't just mean that I'm a virgin; I mean that I've never had a boyfriend. I've never even been kissed. Since I do like this person, I'm a little nervous about pursuing the relationship and having my lack of experience revealed. Should I tell him any of this? I don't want to scare him off with my lack of experience, but I don't want him to think I'm totally pathetic and unskilled, either. What should I do?
—The 28-Year-Old Virgin
Ask him out, but since you're bound to be nervous, make it as low-key as possible. If your group has a gathering, call and suggest you two drive together, and say you'd love to have coffee and catch up with him before you join the others. If he says yes, after you order your cappuccino, don't blurt out that no man has ever expressed the slightest interest in you or even gotten close enough to kiss you. As you two get to know each other and exchange life stories, the absence of previous boyfriends will be revealed and you can tell the truth—that you're shy around men and you haven't had romances. If things heat up, take a look at The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amazing Sex, and for the time being, stick with the chapter on learning how to kiss. But if he doesn't take you up on your offer and makes no counteroffer of his own, you have to do some investigating. Since you have a group of friends, tell your most trusted ones that you need to make some changes in your life. Explain that you've never had a boyfriend, and you want to know if there's something you're doing that keeps men away. Listen to what they say, make the changes that make sense to you, and put out the word among friends and co-workers that you're on the market.
I am getting married in a few months. We're very lucky that a high percentage of our friends and family will make it to our wedding. This increased the wedding tab a bit, but that's one of the good problems in life. We're having a catered sit-down dinner with two choices: chicken and vegetarian. One couple sent me an e-mail requesting a kosher meal. When I asked whether a vegetarian meal would suffice, they said no, they need a kosher meal that must be prepared by a certified kosher chef. This request bothers me because our caterer will charge us $120 extra for two kosher meals (they have to outsource it), and this couple are not the only ones who have dietary restrictions. We're not making any accommodations for vegans, diabetics, or people with food allergies. Do I just have to suck it up and get the meals in order to be a gracious host, or are guests with special needs supposed to take care of themselves?
Thank you for supplying me with a letter about a wedding problem in which the bride is not an out-of-control maniac, but the guests are. Of course, at any large event you're likely to have guests who keep kosher, or eat low-carb, or are allergic to nuts. But what's nuts is when such guests haven't learned how to meet their own dietary needs without causing expense and distress for the hosts. It's one thing to tell the hostess when you accept an invitation to a small dinner party that you can't eat pork, or that a bite of shellfish will send you into shock. It's another to demand a special meal be prepared at a wedding. You can tell your friends that if they're able to bring their own food, you will ask that the kitchen be prepared to plate it for them. Otherwise, you hope the sound of their growling stomachs won't drown out the toasts—OK, don't say that, just say that you hope they'll enjoy themselves at the reception and will be able to eat on their own either before or after.
The other day at a fast-food restaurant, I was lined up at the drive-through when a grandfatherly man and two young boys walked up to my open car window. The man explained that he was from out of town, was visiting his daughter and her new baby, had lost his wallet, and was extremely low on gas. I gave him $20 and he thanked me sincerely, and so did the two boys. As I pulled ahead in line, I saw him give the same pitch to three other customers. If it was a scam—and in hindsight, I see that it probably was—is there some positive way to think about this event, other than accepting that I am a gullible boob?
—Handing Out Cash
Think about the poor boys being dragged around by a con man. Maybe your 20 bucks actually went toward food or clothing for them. There are worse things than being kind enough to be taken in by a man using children to get money out of strangers. But if you see him again, don't hesitate to call the police—the authorities should get involved in the welfare of those boys.