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Party Poopers

By Mink Stole | Posted 2/8/2006

My wife and I have been married for four years, and we have a lot of friends who are also relatively recently married. We used to get together regularly for dinner at each otherís homes and occasionally at restaurants, but in the last couple of years some of our friends have had kids, so unless we want to join them at Chuck E. Cheeseís, we visit them at home. This is fine with us; we love our friends, and weíre enjoying watching their wonderful little babies grow from infants into toddlers. What we donít like are the little kiddie birthday parties weíre now regularly invited to. Of course we expect that all the kids in the world will be there, including many we donít know with parents we donít know, and we expect the games, food, and entertainment to be all about the kids. But what ends up happening is that the childless adults all huddle together as far away from the action as possible drinking our Kool-Aid and feeling like alien life forms waiting for a chance to make our excuses and beam ourselves out of there. Is there a way we can keep our friends without having to participate in these parties?

Childless in Seattle

It would be lovely, CIS, if parents could realize that not everyone finds the spectacle of a dozen or so toddlers smearing their playsuits with birthday cake as endlessly enchanting as they do, and would have the party-planning foresight to set up a separate section for the grownups with a full bar and finger food. Itís exactly the same principle as setting up a safe play area to keep the kids entertained when the grownups get together, only in reverse. But mostly they donít, so when the next invitation comes along, youíve got a few options. You can 1) offer to bring along some grown-up provisions, 2) find a good reason to decline the invitation altogether, or 3) say that youíve got just tons to do that day, but youíll definitely stop by for a few minutes with your gift for little Emily/Ethan. Unless youíre planning never to have kids yourselves, in which case you might want to scout out some alternative social opportunities, this last option is probably the best; it keeps you firmly in the friend zone while keeping you gracefully out of the alien-with-Kool-Aid zone.

 

Iím 31 years old and Iím married to a control freak. And when I say freak, I mean it. I knew I was an Oscar to his Felix, and that it would be an adjustment for both of us, but although I try really hard to live up to his standards of neatness, he has developed absolutely no tolerance for my occasion lapses into a more relaxed attitude. He goes berserk over the tiniest things. If I leave a book in the living room or forget to return a CD to its case, he freaks out. The other day the sight of my not-yet-put-away hairbrush in the bathroom set off a 20-minute tirade on sanitation and slovenliness. Heís not just annoyed; heís enraged. His face turns purple and his hands clench. Iíve suggested counseling, but he insists that thereís nothing wrong with him that my learning to be a little more considerate wonít fix. I try so hard, but Iím not perfect. I know he loves me, and when heís not flipping out heís wonderful, but Iím terrified one day heíll have a stroke, and it will be all my fault.

Walking on Eggshells

Your husand isnít merely a control freak, WOE, heís an out of control time bomb, and youíre right about the stroke possibilities, except that it would not, I repeat, not, be your fault. It is not normal, healthy, rational, or sane to flip out at the sight of a grooming implement. Practitioners of pop psychology will tell you that a person who needs that level of control is insecure, anxious, and in constant fear of being dominated by others, and that the best way to deal with such persons is with calmness, patience, and kindness. Understand that itís not personal, and that the attack on you is a coping mechanism to protect himself from feeling vulnerable. Instead of reacting angrily, they say, speak softly and let him tell you how he feels. They suggest that you reassure him of your love and loyalty, while at the same time gently but firmly letting him know that the outbursts are unacceptable. They go on to say that while this may work one incident at a time, the effect is not cumulative. Unless he acknowledges his problem, stops blaming you, and seeks professional help, itís probably not going to get any better. My personal experience with guys like this has been that the more I tried to placate them the worse they got, until I didnít give a blind freckled fuck what sad experiences made them this way, I just wanted out.

If youíre willing to whisper and tiptoe through the rest of your life, putting your own needs aside just to keep his life perfectly ironed, thatís up to you. But I say get out now, before a stroke turns him into a vegetable, or one of those clenched hands turns into a fist in your face. H

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