Q. Old vs. New Flame: When I was in college (10 years ago) there was a guy I met through mutual friends, and one night "Bob" and I ended up hooking up ... in a PG-13 sort of way. We had a lot of fun, but this was about a week before graduation and nothing ever came of it. We've since reconnected through Facebook, and it turns out that he'll be passing through my city next weekend. We made plans to catch up, and through some flirting and entendre, there's really no doubt what will happen—and I think we're both looking forward to it. The problem is that while I've been single for a while now, I started seeing a new guy "Jim" about three weeks ago. It's way too soon to have "the talk," and we're not exclusive, but I like him a lot and am excited at the potential. Getting the elusive second date these days is hard, and I don't want to mess up a good thing. So ... do you think it's OK to hook up with Bob? Is that asking for trouble with Jim? I don't know the next time Bob will be in town, and I really would love that closure.
A: I understand being horny and all, but I don't know what kind of "closure" you get from planning to have meaningless sex with a guy you barely know anymore. Sure, if you use condoms you reduce the risk of contracting an STD, but not to zero, and the fact that you've been exchanging flirtatious messages is not an imperative to jump into bed with a former make-out buddy. Yes, it's way too early to make life plans vis-a-vis Jim, but because of him you yourself are uneasy about having sex with Bob. So enjoy Bob's company and decide that while it will be pleasurable to have him pass through town he won't be passing through you.
Q. I'm Your Daughter, Not the Nanny: The last time I went on vacation with my dad and his new family (my stepmom and their three toddlers) I spent more time baby-sitting my siblings than spending time with my dad. I'm mostly happy to help out, but because my dad lives across the country from me, I wanted to spend some time with him. Since the kids were born, whenever I visit him I feel more like free child care than like his daughter. My dad wants me to come to Hawaii with him and his new family for my spring break. I miss my dad, but if I go, I want to spend time with him and feel like a member of the family, not like the help. What should I tell him and his wife, whom I don't know very well?
A: Shame on your dad. I understand that three toddlers are a handful, and that you want to have a relationship with your new siblings, but it sounds as if Dad and stepmom think, "Built-in nanny!" whenever you arrive. You need to have a conversation with your dad about this. I don't know how old you are, or what kind of relationship your mother has with him. But if she and he are on decent speaking terms, she could also step up on your behalf. Tell your father you love and miss him and you know he has a lot of responsibilities with his new family, but you hope he can make time just to be with you. Say it doesn't have to be long or exotic, a weekend together occasionally, just the two of you, would be fine. Explain that over the past couple of vacations you've spent more time taking care of the kids than being able to be with him, and you wanted to talk about this openly before you made plans for spring break. Say that if you go, you would appreciate if they could hire a baby sitter a few nights, so that you, he, and his wife could go out for more grown-up dinners and you can all get to know each other better. Say you would like to have one or two afternoons just devoted to the two of you. See how he reacts, and make your spring plans accordingly.
Q. Re: "Tickle game": When I was 4, we moved into a new house. My bedroom shared a wall with my parents' and for some reason, they placed both of our beds against that wall. One morning at breakfast, I asked my mother why Daddy was hurting her the night before. A few days later, our rooms were switched, and my bed was placed on the other side of the room. I never understood why they made such an abrupt change to the house. I have no memory of this, but my brother, who was 7, remembered it vividly and told me about it when we were in our 20s or 30s (we are now in our 50s). My mother denied that this happened and insisted that it was because the closet in my original room was substantially larger (which was true). As an adult, I was very happy to learn that my parents had an active sex life with two small children.
A: I really like your kicker that in retrospect you are happy your busy parents still managed to get it on!
Q. Co-worker's Grief Means More Work for Me: My co-worker's baby died suddenly four months ago. She'd already used up her maternity leave when her baby died, so our boss gave her some time off to recover. Now she's back, but she's struggling to function. Her anguish is understandable and heartbreaking to watch. At first I tempered my frustration that she didn't do any work by telling myself that as a young woman in my 20s, I couldn't begin to comprehend my co-worker's pain. Gradually over the past two and a half months I have taken on more and more of her responsibilities to the point where I'm doing 95 percent of her work. I feel for my co-worker, but I am exhausted and can't keep picking up her slack. We used to work together closely, and when she was gone our bosses assigned me an intern. I no longer have the extra help. How should I approach my co-worker? Am I being insensitive?
A: This woman is in agonizing pain and less than three months is a very, very short time to expect someone to be functional after this kind of loss. I'm hoping you work at a place that has compassion and that your bosses are good people. If so, speak to your supervisors and explain that your co-worker for the time being needs more support as she deals with her grief, and you're hoping her duties can be temporarily parceled out to several people and that getting an intern back would also be a great help. If you have a decent relationship with your co-worker, you could also go out for coffee with her, listen to how she's doing, and suggest that she might want to contact Share (nationalshare.org) to talk to others who understand.
Q. Husband's Eating Himself Toward Diabetes: During our five-year marriage, my husband has gained nearly 100 pounds. He was never slim to begin with, and has several medical issues that can easily be attributed to genetics—thyroid problems that run in the family, high blood pressure from his dad's side, etc. But with this additional weight gain, he now has liver problems and high cholesterol. We're only in our late 20s, but I'm worried that my husband is on his way toward a major health crisis. He resists my attempts to get him to exercise with me, or to trade in his fatty fried foods for healthier fare. Any attempts to get him to see reality get me labeled a "nag." I'm scared for him and scared that I will be left a widow and single mother to our daughter. He's a grown man and must make his own choices, but what he puts in his mouth ultimately affects our family, too. Any advice?
A: Your husband's trajectory is alarming. He's already morbidly obese and given his eating and exercise choices he's on track to shorten his life, or make you his caretaker because he could end up disabled due to weight. I think you should insist that you two go together to talk to a bariatrician. Your husband is beyond your nagging about fried food, he needs a complete work-up and plan of action with someone who specializes in weight. If you were planning on having more children, you need to have a blunt conversation with him about the fact that you want to put this on hold because of your concerns about having to care for your family by yourself. You also need some good financial planning—you need health insurance and your own source of income in case the worst happens and your husband starts lurching from health crisis to health crisis.
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