Emily Yoffe: Thank you for this roadmap—and story with a happy ending. As long as the parents are paying for school now, the miserable college student should take advantage of all the counseling opportunities available there. How awful when parents can't see their children as individuals, but only as projections of their own desires.
San Francisco, CA: After four years of dating, my boyfriend and I have decided to move in together. Unfortunately, I have a cat and want cats in my future (and have had them since we met); my boyfriend does not.
Neither of us is willing to budge on this one. My boyfriend restores furniture and homes, and thus his house and the things in it mean a lot to him. He has said that my bringing a cat into the house would signify that I didn't care about his happiness. (Never mind that I have addressed every single issue he had with the cat; I literally made a list—nails, hair, litter—and found viable solutions to each, but it has made no difference at all.)
But I am a writer, home several days a week, and cats are no small part of my happiness; in fact, my boyfriend benefits from the cats by proxy, without realizing it.
At the moment, I only have a single cat, but he will not negotiate at all. He will not live with her. And I don't want a future without pets. What should we do?
Emily Yoffe: Although I know the practice is frowned upon, if it means that you would be able to have a cat and continue your relationship, and your cat is strictly an indoor one, have you considered de-clawing it? (Please, cat people, I am a cat person, so you don't have to tell me this is a barbaric suggestion.) If even that wouldn't convince him, you simply have to decide if having him in your life is worth having cats out of it. If someone is allergic, then that is an understandable non-negotiable. But your boyfriend's intransigence on this subject is rather incomprehensible since it is purrfectly (sorry) possible to live with cats and beautiful things. And I would wonder about a boyfriend who is so unwilling to bend on something so important to you.
New York Toddler: To the New York mom, what a fun mom/daughter in-law you must be. You know what, most girls LIKE rhinestone ponies and Disney princesses, which I have a hard time seeing as "hooker clothes." You know, these people, i.e., your daughter's grandparents, are just trying to be nice. How about you "approach" it that way. Geez.
P.S. Obviously inappropriate is WAY different from "solids and repeating patterns."
Emily Yoffe: If you look around, there is a pernicious trend to dress up little girls in trashy-looking clothes styles with suggestive statements—or deliberately obnoxious ones—printed on them. Also, it is perfectly reasonable for parents to want to dress their kids the way they like. Sure, if the child is begging to wear the Disney princess clothes the grandparents send, the mother should be flexible. But if Mom generally can't stand the clothes the grandparents send, it's worth it to make a suggestion to them, then forget about it.
Washington, D.C.: I had to weigh in on the pre-med student who is having a rough time. Pre-med is hard enough for people who want to do it; being forced to do it sounds like a special kind of torture. I know an acquaintance who also expected his son to become pre-med. According to mutual friends, his son was miserable but since his dad was also a doctor felt he was letting his dad down.
Unfortunately, his son committed suicide in his second year of med school, and his father never recovered. Words to the wise ...
Emily Yoffe: What a horrifying story. To the pre-med student who doesn't want to be one, I hope you have a decent enough relationship with your parents that you can show this letter to them. If you don't, all the more reason to get out from under their oppression.
Wabasha, Minn.: My niece and I have had a falling out. I found her having chats with my ex-husband on Facebook about recipes. I drew to her attention that he has abandoned his sons ages 13 and 15, who are still in the home. He has not had ANY communication with them since around last Christmas (no calls, no e-mails, no visitations). He sent not so much as a card for what was each of their golden birthdays this year. This is despite every opportunity for it on my part. This niece is my oldest sister's daughter, and we used to be very close. Despite all my begging, she refuses to cut him from her "friend" list. Don't you think I have a right to think her disloyal and unsympathetic?