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Earning Your Keep

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 9/3/2003

I just lost my job, making my husband our sole source of income. We were managing before, but now we're falling behind. I have two sons from a previous marriage, and they both live with us. The older boy, who is 21, has a job, and he helps out a little, but the other is still in school and I'm afraid his grades will go down if he takes a job. My older boy's girlfriend also lives with us. She works as a secretary but never gives us a dime. She never does any work around the house either. My son thinks she's the greatest thing since twist-off bottle caps and defends her, saying she's exhausted when she gets home, but I think she's just selfish. I'm afraid if I ask her to help out my son will get upset and they'll both leave, but it seems unfair to ask my husband to support her as well as my kids. My husband is a doll, but I know he thinks they're taking advantage.

Mom in a Bind

Dear MIAB:
I was ready to rip off a rant about what a parasite this babe is, and how you should kick her out on her lazy ass, but then I thought, maybe she doesn't know. If you never talked to her about money before, maybe she's a perfectly nice girl who's still young and naive enough to think parents always expect to pay. And maybe, instead of being lazy, she's so afraid of being underfoot or doing things wrong that she's staying out of your way. Maybe. Maybe not. But you need to speak up to find out. If you're concerned about confronting her directly, explain to your son that, now that you're unemployed, money's tight and you need help. Figure out what it costs to keep them (her) and what it would cost them (her) to live on their (her) own, and ask for an amount that's somewhere in the middle. If he wants to pick up the whole tab, fine. If he can't, then she'll have to kick in her share, which, if this theory is right, she should be happy to do.

Of course, if my first assumption is correct and she is playing you guys for chumps, the minute the free ride is over she'll beat feet out of there. If your son is dumb enough to follow her, you'll just have to hope that she'll dump him, too, and send him back to you a sadder, but wiser, man.

I'm 15 years old and white, and I have a boyfriend who's also 15, but he's black. We go to the same school, we're both honor students, and we really like each other a lot. We've been hanging out, mostly after school, for about two months. I brought Jamal home to meet my parents last week, and they acted really nice and seemed to like him, but then they told me I'm too young to date him. I think it's just because he's black, and that if Jamal were white they'd be perfectly OK with it. When I told them that, they said I was just acting up to get attention. This is really unfair because I've always been such a good girl. I don't drink or do drugs or have sex, and all I've ever wanted was for my parents to be proud of me. Now Jamal wants to stop seeing me because he says he doesn't want to cause trouble for me. This makes me so sad and angry, and I don't want to stop seeing him. How can I make my parents not be racists and let us date?

Lily Girl

Dear LG:
Your parents might be handling this wrong, but it's not so surprising, considering you've spent your life doing everything they expected you to and nothing they didn't. Bringing home a boyfriend of another color is unusual, even for people who would be horrified to be thought of as racist, and they were unprepared. Interracial couples face challenges others don't, and that's often the first thing people think of.

Jamal sounds great, and if your parents asked me, I'd tell them just that. I'd also tell them that if they don't let you date him, they run the risk of alienating you to the point where you might start hanging out with kids they'd really hate. I'm not suggesting you do that, I would just warn them that you might. But since they didn't ask me, it's up to you to convince them that you're mature enough to choose your own friends. Instead of banging around the house in a foul mood, stay cool. Instead of picking fights, acknowledge that you caught them off guard. Tell them they'd like Jamal if they gave him a chance, but that he respects their feelings, so if they won't reconsider, he'll stop seeing you whether you want him to or not. This may bring them to their senses, but if it doesn't, don't mess up your life because of it. You can still see Jamal at school, and if you keep up your grades, it won't be long before you're off to college and free to live life on your own terms.

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