A: Yeah, I bet he missed one folder. The folder he turns to when he wants to relieve certain urges. I think as a society we need to make more of a distinction, especially in our legal punishment, between people who look at illegal images and those who go out and physically molest. But your father takes illegal images himself, and has so little control that he has included his stepdaughter among them. I think you should tell. Yes, this will bring serious repercussions. But what he's done is a serious act.
Q. Miss My Adulterous BFF: My BFF and my brother had an affair. My sister-in-law caught them. She decided not to divorce my brother but, as a condition of their reconciliation, required everyone in our family to cut my BFF and her family out of our lives. Anyone who has any contact with my BFF is not a friend of their marriage and is no longer welcome in their home. I love my sister-in-law and I do not approve of my brother's affair in any way. At the same time, I ache for my BFF. We were like sisters, and now if I so much as email her, I won't be able to see my nieces or my brother anymore. I am depressed over the loss of this lifelong friendship, and my sister-in-law has noticed my grief. She's angry with me for missing a "homewrecker" and thinks I approve of the affair because I miss my BFF so much. She thinks I should be outraged at my BFF. Maybe I should be. I don't want to lose my brother or my nieces or my friendship with my sister-in-law. But I can't stop missing my BFF, and I am having a lot of trouble concealing how much I miss her. What should I do?
A: I would think your feelings about your best friend have been somewhat tempered by her affair with your married brother. And given the volatility of feelings now, you would yourself feel it best to take a breather. However, your sister-in-law, hurt as she may be, is behaving as if she's the family's parole officer. You made a tactical error by mooning around her about your grief over losing your best friend. You should have just told your sister-in-law that you agree your friend, and your brother, behaved terribly and you understand her feelings. I assume you don't have to check in with your sister-in-law when you're conducting your social life. If you wanted to have lunch with your friend, unless one of your friend's favorite activities is violating boundaries, I don't even know how your sister-in-law would find out. But if you do see your friend, make discussion of your brother and his family verboten.
Q. Re: Pet Allergies: I caved to my wife's requests (I'm not good on boundaries) for cats (hate 'em, AND I'm allergic to 'em). Been miserable ever since: can't sleep, can't work as much or as long as I used to, almost never feel like making love. Here's the problem—I fell in love with the cats, and I can't stand the idea of passing them on. However, I'm angry (about 20 percent of the time) with my wife for bringing them in the home to start with—she KNEW I was allergic. Wish we'd never gotten them. Short version: Believe him when he says he's allergic, and make your choices.
A: You are allergic, so your wife should not have insisted on bringing new animals sure to make you miserable into your home. That seems very different from ascertaining whether someone is actually allergic as well as his willingness to accommodate a beloved, ailing pet.
Q. Re: Possible Rape: Thank you for saying outright that this is a case of rape, and that the letter writer has legitimate legal options. More importantly, if the letter writer isn't sure she wants to press charges, she needs medical care. There may or may not be physical injuries, but she can still get tested for exposure to STIs and, depending on the time frame, she might still be able to get prophylaxis and emergency contraception. However, as a rape crisis counselor, I'm extremely disappointed that you continue to victim-blame. No matter how drunk she was, “Stewart” had no right to take advantage of her, and neither does anyone else. Instead of telling young women not to drink alcohol, maybe you should tell young men that they shouldn't have sex with people who are too drunk to give consent.
A: I don't want to reopen this debate at length. I totally agree men should not commit rape. I also think drunk people who are not in a pre-existing sexual relationship should not have sex with each other. I get endless grief about my blue-nose dislike of drunkenness, period. I am giving advice about the real world, not a world in which everyone is exquisitely sensitive to gender issues. If women go out and get so drunk they are unaware of their surroundings or actions, bad things are much more likely to happen to them. Relying on the good behavior of others, drunk or not, because you have lost the capacity to be responsible for yourself, is not a good idea.
Q. Dad's Awful Girlfriend: If I want to spend time with my dad, I now have to spend time with his girlfriend, who is always at his apartment. My dad left my mom for this woman last year, and even though he's told me how much he loves her, I can't respect her or bring myself to even like her. My brother feels the same way. Unfortunately, because we spend so much time around her, and because we're cordial to her at our mother's behest, my dad now thinks we accept her. I think he'll be disappointed in us (we're 15 and 17) if we never come to like her. Do we have to? How can we tell him we don't like this woman at all, we don't respect her, we just love him and want to be around him?
A: I'd like to nominate your mother for an award. She was left by her husband and is now encouraging her teenage children to be polite to the new woman? That's amazing! You do not have to like your father's new girlfriend—it would be very improbable you would like the person who was party to breaking up your parents' marriage. But he's in love with her and it doesn't sound like she's going anywhere. Your mother is right; to the best of your ability be cordial. But that doesn't mean every visit has to revolve around the girlfriend. Your father has a responsibility to be a good parent, and that means focusing on his children. This will be a hard conversation but tell him you and your brother would like to be able to spend more time just alone with him and not always have it be a foursome. Say you know she's part of his life, but you might all be happier if you didn't spend all of your time together. And if you and your brother want a neutral party to talk about what's going on, ask your parents if you can see a counselor to help you sort all this out.
Q. Unsolicited Advice: I'm a career server in a rather upscale, posh establishment. I've never had any qualms or shame in what I do for a living, as I feel I come by my income honestly, but it seems some of my patrons do, in a backhanded kind of way. I often get compliments on my level of service, which is all well and good, however it is often followed by "So what are your REAL plans?" or "Is this all you do?" I'm often taken aback by these statements. I went to college, graduated with huge student-loan debt and realized my chosen major wasn't a lucrative one in the real world. Doing what I do now, in the environment I'm in, I make on average around $50K a year, with full medical benefits, 401K options and paid vacation. For a single gal with no kids that's not too shabby. I've been able to pay off my student loans entirely, and though my job might be too "blue collar" for some, I find I'm always physically active, I'm never in rush-hour traffic, I don't take my work home with me, I get my errands done when no one is around, and if I suddenly want to take off in the middle of the week and go on a trip, I can. My job gives me the freedom to enjoy my hobbies , volunteer in the community, and even be the occasional "lady who lunches." I'm absolutely fine with what I do! My question is, though I understand it's a compliment for others to see me as skilled in my profession, when the 21 Questions of my life choices start flying, how do I politely and tactfully tell them to put a cork in it?
A: Given your description of your life, I think posh restaurants are about to be flooded with the résumés of recent law school graduates. Since your job requires you to be skilled at handling people, you need to brush of these insults disguised as compliments gracefully. To the question about your "real" plans, you can say your real plan is to given all of them the best evening out possible. To, "Is this all you do?" laugh it off by saying if you were simultaneously doing something else, they would be complaining about the service. If they keep pressing, just say you're glad they think highly of your skills and you really enjoy your work.
Q. Baby-sitter: We've had the same baby-sitter since our first child was born and she is great and very reliable. A few weeks ago, she baby-sat for us and everything was, again, fine. But when I turned on the TV in the morning, the channel was on a channel (that we don't get) which is dedicated to porn. It is possible that the (young) kids messed around with the remote, but seems highly unlikely that it just landed on that channel by accident. Obviously if she was trying to look at one of these channels while baby-sitting our kids (even if they were asleep), I wouldn't feel comfortable trusting her judgment. Yes of course I can try to find a new baby-sitter, but we've used her for years so it would be hard to explain easily, and because of the young age of our kids we think it would be difficult to find someone else who can maneuver bedtime as well as she does with them. Do I just give her the benefit of the doubt that the kids messed with the remote or move on to someone else if I have any concerns?