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Tug of War

By Mink Stole | Posted 8/1/2001

The men in my life are tearing me apart. My father, who lives several hundred miles away, wants me to come and stay with him for a while. Although he's physically in good shape, he's been really sad since my mother died a year ago. I'm an only child and I love my dad, even though we were never as close as my mom and I were. I want to go; I feel like this might be a real chance to get to know him better. My husband, though, insists that my place is at home with

him, that we can't afford for me to take off work (we're paying off a lot of debts). He says my dad is being manipulative and selfish and that all he wants is someone to clean the house for him. No matter what decision I make, someone I love is going to be upset and I'm going to feel guilty. Can you help?

Torn Apart

Dear Torn:

Talk about manipulative and selfish! Your husband is acting like a total turd. I must admit I'm a sucker for getting-close-to-Dad scenarios because my father died when I was a kid and I can't help envying anyone who still has one. But even so, if you don't take advantage of the chance to spend time with your father now, you may always regret it. It's not fair of your husband to try to stop you. Your problem isn't what to do--you should go--but how to convince your husband that this isn't a contest that he has to keep you home to win.

Try this compromise. Visit your dad for two weeks. You should be able to get this much time off work without jeopardizing your job or landing in the poorhouse, plus setting a time limit should reassure your husband that you're not abandoning him. While there, spend as much time as possible talking with your dad. You both miss your mother, and this could be a great time to learn more about her while growing closer to him. Rather than let Dad get dependent on you for housekeeping, hire him a cleaning service if he needs one and, before you leave, fill his freezer with plenty of good microwaveable stuff.

In the meantime, long distance is cheap, so call the hubby as often as you need to. You'll have to deal with his dependency issues when you get home, but the more contact you keep with him the easier it should be. And don't forget to bring him back a present.

A few months ago a relationship I was in for years ended by mutual agreement. We'd stayed together more out of habit than anything else and we've stayed friends. This is great, but now I'm ready to start dating again, and it's incredibly confusing. My biggest question is, who pays for the date? One guy I went out with was insulted when I offered to pay for dinner, another was offended when I didn't. What gives?

Completely Confused

Dear Confused:

Join the club, kiddo. Nora Ephron once said that the major achievement of the women's movement was the Dutch treat. This meant that a guy would expect you to pay for your own dinner and have sex with him too. We've come a long way since then, but there is still no definitive answer to this question. And even if there was, chances are the guys you date wouldn't know it. The way you handle this on the first date is just one more of the infinite number of variables to deal with in deciding whether or not there will be a second date.

In a logical world, the one who initiated the date would pay. But a lot depends on where you go and how formal the occasion is. If someone I know has money invites me out to a fancy dinner, I expect to

be treated. If, on the other hand, I invite a guy to a movie, I'll pay. If he balks at that, I'll suggest he buy the popcorn. Unless you're both loaded, if you suggest having dinner with a man, choose a pleasant, moderately priced restaurant. You can then offer to treat, or to go Dutch, or if he wants to pay and you'd like to see him again, you can thank him sweetly and insist that the next time's on you. The trick is to be tactful and flexible, and at these prices no one's ego or wallet will be threatened.

All my feminist principles notwithstanding, I do love putting on my high heeled shoes to be wined and dined on someone else's plastic, so I am inclined to look favorably on a man who can pick up a check. However, regardless of how elegant the meal is, if the guy paying for it is a creep, it's still a bum date. Conversely, dinner at a diner with a guy who can make me laugh is a great evening no matter who pays.

A Warning to the Wise: Never open any e-mail with an attachment ending in ".exe" no matter who sent it; it's probably a virus. And if it's the "worm" one I just got, you don't want it. It took hours with my tech guru to purge it, and I totally apologize to anyone it sent itself to through my e-mail program.

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