A: If only "good-looking" people were able to find mates, natural selection would have made it so that by now everyone on the planet would be Vogue-worthy. No, you just can't say, "Miranda, I love you to death, but face it, you're a dog." But I'm betting that you may have some guy friends who are average-looking themselves, aren't able to outkick their coverage and are in the market for great women in their looks league. If so, do some matchmaking. But if the problem with our female friends is not their intrinsic looks but the fact they dress like schlubs or never wear makeup, then a guy's perspective that they aren't doing everything with what they've got could spur them into action.
Q. Ailing In-laws: My mother-in-law was very sadly diagnosed with a terminal illness. She could potentially live with this for the next three to five years, depending on treatment. She is fortunate enough to have excellent health insurance and access to wonderful medical care, so we are all optimistic. We have two children, ages 6 and 4, who are informed in age-appropriate ways what is going on with their Grandma. There is some friction between my MIL and my parents. Since the diagnosis, my MIL has wanted holidays and such at her home because she doesn't know how many she has left. My wife's kneejerk reaction is to give her mother what she wants, given the situation. My parents gently brought up the other day that she could potentially live for a number of years and they do not want to have to give up every holiday—particularly when my children are at these ages. My wife agrees with this in theory, but when actually talking to my mother-in-law it can be hard to say no. My mother-in-law also does not like to include my parents in holidays at her home because then she has to "prepare for company." My wife and I are trying to do the right thing and be sensitive to everybody, but the right thing to do here is not completely clear. Any advice?
A: I hope your mother-in-law has many years left, and also that her illness doesn't blow your families apart as in the previous letter. Of course it's understandable that she wants as much time with her grandchildren as possible, but she simply can't dictate that for however long she lives, all the holidays are at her house—your parents being pointedly not invited. It sounds as if all of you live within striking distance of each other, so starting now it would be a good idea to ratchet down the holiday expectations and increase the casual, everyday interaction you and your children have with their grandparents. Maybe you could host some brunches at your house at which all four grandparents attend, allowing them to interact more naturally with each other. Mother's Day might be a good occasion to start this. Maybe it's even time—if you have room—for you to host a Thanksgiving or Christmas. The next generation is going to have to step up for that duty one of these days. The major holidays are far away, so just put this worry aside for now and do your best to make sure the children get equal amounts of grandparental love.
Q. Re: "Get a jump rope": A young mother expresses concern that she might resort to violence with her new baby, and you suggest she try jumping rope? Are you kidding? A more appropriate response might have been putting her in touch with a support network or suggesting counseling. Wow, Prudie, you really blew it here.
A: She didn't say she felt she would be violent to her child, she said she was hitting the walls. I said she should go back and see her therapist. Of course, if she feels she's a danger, she needs to see someone immediately. But many people pound pillows or go to the bathroom and scream who never take it out on their child.
Q. Family Squabbles: My parents have been estranged from their family for the past 10 years after a fight that I don't really know the details about. I am now grown up and living on my own. I have been contacted by email by my uncle wanting to get together. I would like to, except I feel like I need to say something to my parents first and I'm afraid this is going to start a fight. I don't want to go behind their back but I'm not sure if bringing up this conversation will be worth it. What can I do?
A: You're an adult so you can see whomever you like. If you feel it would be dishonest to see Uncle without telling your parents, then tell them you have been contacted by him and are considering getting together. Say you would really like to hear their side of what happened. At the very least you are entitled to know why you don't have a relationship with your other family members anymore. If there is something criminal or morally objectionable that happened, you can then make your decision about getting together. If it's just one of those stupid family messes that got out of hand, you can explain you're glad your uncle reached out and you at least want to have lunch with him. Let's hope your parents then don't threaten to estrange themselves from you.
Q. Re: Terminal MIL vs. other side: This happened in my extended family. The couple decided not to host the annual big Thanksgiving get together with all of his side of the family to be with her father, who was ill. Two weeks later, his “healthy” mother died suddenly. You can't predict who will die first and have to live your life in the present. Just do the best you can and see all the people you love as often as you can.
A: Excellent point. Carrying on as normally as possible will also benefit everyone.
Q. Earning Money for Work: I am very passionate about photography and in the past have provided services to friends and family for no charge. When I take on a new client however, I do charge. Sometimes, from the family and friends, I do receive a thank you and gift card, which is appreciated. I am attempting to make this be full time work, but currently have to work in an unrelated field to pay bills, so I don't know if I'd call myself a professional. Do you have an advice on what to say to people that I have previously worked with for free?
A: The next time a family member lets you know you're on for photographing the wedding or graduation be ready to explain that you have been transitioning from photography as a hobby to a second career. Say you are pleased you have gotten good enough that you now have paying clients and you're afraid you can no longer offer your services for free. Since you got experience by photographing your family, you can say that you are happy to offer them a special rate. But make it something worthwhile for you and stick to it.
Emily Yoffe: Thank you all. Talk to you next week.
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