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A Good Start

By Mink Stole | Posted 5/25/2005

Iíve been dating a really nice guy who just happens to be a lawyer. We met while he was shopping in the bookstore where I work. Iíve introduced him to my family, and he gets along with everyone so well that weíve started having dinner with them at least twice a month. But the problem is that my dad, who is a retired orthopedic surgeon, wonít stop making lawyer jokes every time I bring William over. Some of them are really awful. William swears he doesnít mind, but it embarrasses me. Iíve asked my dad to stop, but he thinks heís hilarious and says heís just kidding and Iíve got no sense of humor. I grew up listening to my fatherís jokes, so Iím used to it, but I donít think itís funny that he makes fun of my boyfriend. Sometimes I think he uses the jokes as a way of being really nasty to William. What can I do to make him stop?

Doctorís Daughter in Distress

The worst thing about lame lawyer jokes, DDID, is that there are so damn many of them. Which means that until your dad gets bored with his little shoot-the-shyster game heíll have plenty of ammunition to play with. Yes, it would be nice if heíd respect your wishes, but whether heís being subtly sadistic or just good-naturedly tedious, itís clear that heís enjoying himself too much to let a little thing like your overly sensitive, overprotective feelings stop him. Or maybe heís gotten so used to using humor, or what passes for it, as a means of communicating that he has no other tools to work with. If he couldnít kid around, perhaps he wouldnít to talk to you at all.

You have choices. If the jokes are truly unendurable, you could refuse to visit your folks unless they stop. Or you could come armed with lawyer jokes of your own and shoot them off before your dad gets a chance, which has the double benefit of stealing his thunder and proving what good sports you and William are. Or you could accept the fact your dadís not perfect and take the jokes in stride. We all have things we would change about our relativesóand they about usóif we could, but mostly we canít. So unless your dad becomes downright offensive, grinning (with or without gritting your teeth) and bearing it might be the best way to go.


My husband and I have turned into enormous slobs. We can barely prepare meals, much less wash dishes, so weíre ordering out for pizza, Chinese, and whatever else we can have delivered. The house is a mess. My husband works from home, and his office is in chaos. Weíve gained weight, lost energy, and weíre both depressed. Even our dog has gotten fat since weíre too tired to walk him twice a day. We know weíd feel a lot better if we could clean the place up and start eating right again, but every time we try to work up some motivation, we get totally overwhelmed by how huge a project it is and give up before we get started. Weíre only in our 30s, but we feel like weíre 100 years old. Do you have any suggestions?

Sad Sad Slob

As one who suffers from both depression and a near total lack of innate housekeeping skills, SSS, I know the debilitating effects of looking for stuff in all the wrong places, because the right places are buried too deep under the rubble to excavate. I know what itís like to crawl back under the covers because it wasnít worth the effort to clear a path to the bathroom until some bodily function or other forced the issue. I never had a dog to walk, but itís not too hard to imagine myself just leaving a window or two open so the poor thing could let itself in and out. Iím better now, but itís never easy, and I have to be on guard consistently, if not constantly, or my house can go from tidy to trashed in less time than it took Giacomo to win the Kentucky Derby.

If you can, hire a professional organizer or a cleaning service. As bad as your place seems, theyíve seen worse, and theyíre in the business of motivating, not judging. Just watch one of those clean-your-house shows on HGTV or PBS to get an idea of what they do. If you have to do it yourself, the next time you feel less lethargic than usual put on some loud disco music and empty the refrigerator. Since you havenít cooked in ages, thereís nothing edible left in there, so toss it all. The freezer, too. Then clean it. This will make you feel better. Then do whateverís in the sink. Itís a funny thing, but a sink full of hot sudsy water can improve a mood. Instead of looking at the whole house, set yourself tiny, manageable tasks, like cleaning the tub or changing the bed. Throw things awayóthat really feels good. Then, once you have the place back to some kind of normal, hire a regular housecleaner to come in at least twice a month. Staying out of household hell is more than compensation for a regularly scheduled lack of privacy. And unless your medical insurance is way better than mine, a maid is cheaper than Prozac.

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Pick and Choose (4/12/2006)
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