I’m 23 and in my last year of law school in Massachusetts. My boyfriend, who is also a law student, is the greatest guy in the world. We’ve been dating for more than two years, have lived together for six months, and we’re planning to get married, and, until recently, our biggest problem was deciding whether to have the wedding before or after we take the bar exam. Now I realize I might have a much bigger problem. Jimmy comes from a large and very close-knit New England clan—dozens of brothers, sisters, cousins—and even though as a group they’re a bit overwhelming, I really like them. The problem is that Jimmy won’t even consider the idea of living more than 20 or 30 miles away from them. He also expects us to see them at least twice a month, every holiday, and summer vacations. When I suggested that maybe we could spend an occasional holiday either alone or with my folks in the Midwest, he refused to discuss it. I think it’s wonderful he loves his family, but I think what I want should count for something. This is the first major thing we’ve disagreed about since we’ve been together and maybe I’m just worrying about nothing. Should I trust that after we’re married we can work this out?
His Family Matters
As a lawyer in training, HFM, you should already know how divorce lawyers pay for their own kids to go to law school: with the money they make from dissatisfied and disillusioned spouses who believed all their problems would magically resolve themselves after the wedding. And speaking of weddings, you might want to check that Jimmy hasn’t invited the gang along for your honeymoon. Those are pretty short familial apron strings he’s attached to. It would scare the bejesus out of me to have my social life laid out in advance for the rest of my life, no matter how much I liked everybody. But the time to fight for the right to have Christmas with your folks is before the wedding. Otherwise, you forfeit your right to bitch, and you might have to wait a long time for Jimmy to play fair. You also want to be sure that he doesn’t have other not-open-for-discussion bombs he’s planning to drop on you. This isn’t so much about his family as about whether or not he’s prepared for any of the compromises married people have to make for each other. A refusal to discuss is a door slammed in your face. Without trying to turn him into a hostile witness, you need to ask a lot more questions. Otherwise you might just find yourself with a managing partner instead of a husband.
What do you do when you have friends with impossible kids? My husband and I have been friends with Ricky and Sharon since college, and before their daughter was born we spent a lot of time together. We’d still love to spend time with them, but, as awful as this sounds, we can’t stand their little girl. I’ll admit I’m not overly fond of kids in general—my husband and I are deliberate nonparents—but even if we doted on other children, Melody would be a tough sell. She was a sweet baby, but now that she’s 4, she’s rude, demanding, and loud, and any attempt by her parents to calm her down or make her behave is met with shrieks, foot stomping, and slammed doors. Her parents have had her examined, and there’s nothing physically wrong with her, and she’s very smart, but she’s such a terror no one will baby-sit for them. The last time we invited them to dinner, which we had clearly said was “adults only,” they had to bring her, and although we pretended we didn’t mind, placating her all night so she wouldn’t scream totally ruined the evening. We hate the idea of dropping Ricky and Sharon, but if we can’t see them alone, we don’t know what else to do.
Adults Only Please
It doesn’t take a child psychologist to know that this is one very unhappy kid, but it would take a good one to figure out why she is and how to help her. That’s not you. And it’s not your job. But it would be a kindness to suggest it to Ricky and Sharon. Because parents tend to get a wee bit touchy when they think their kids are being criticized, spare them the news that you’d rather spend a weekend fending off a pack of hungry hyenas with hemorrhoids than another five minutes with their little darling; if they’re smart, they already know how disruptive she is. Instead tell them you’re genuinely concerned about Melody, that you remember what a sweet baby she was, you can’t help but notice that her behavior is “exceptional,” and you wonder if maybe it would help her to see someone who works with unhappy kids. If they’re smart, they’ll listen to you and take some action. If they’re not smart, they’ll take offense and will go out of their way to make sure you never get to see their little sweetikins again. Of course, you won’t get to see Ricky and Sharon again either, but it will be their decision,and although you may miss them, you won’t have to feel guilty about dumping them.
Pick and Choose (4/12/2006)
First of all, homosexuality isn’t like snake handling or Catholicism; it isn’t a cult or a religion you can be recruited for or converted to.
Territorial Rites (4/5/2006)
Youth Movement (3/8/2006)
Self-immolation by otherwise perfectly bright, perfectly sane humans on the altar of smooth, young flesh has been with us forever.
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