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Some short answers

My cleaning lady broke an expensive lamp and offered to pay for it. This isn’t the first time she’s broken something, and I always say no to her money, but this time I’m annoyed. Should I accept her money?

No. You should not. And you’re a terrible person for even thinking about it.

My ten-year-old doesn’t turn off the iPad right away when I ask, and sometimes promises to turn it off when his show is over but will sneak and start another one. This is unacceptable. What can I do?

Here’s what you can do: realize that the only time anyone in your household will ever respond and obey the first time they hear your voice is when you ask if they want ice cream. Maybe trick him and ask if he wants ice cream, and when he gets up to get it, snatch the iPad away and turn it off.

My teenage daughter’s friend sleeps over sometimes and I think she’s stealing from us. What would you do about this?

Not invite her to sleep over anymore. Or maybe invite her over and set a trap, like some gold and emeralds on the kitchen table, and when she takes them, jump out of the broom closet and yell A-HA. And then don’t invite her over again.

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I’m depressed about the new president.

I think my depression over Trump is making me physically ill, I’m slacking at work, I have no energy, I’m not sleeping, and I feel like his political rise is proving wrong everything that I always believed was true about human nature and our country. I don’t know how to get out of it. Help.

Many people are saying to volunteer, or donate money, or read novels, or be a more present, loving, and involved parent, but I have a better method. Here are my tips for surviving this first hundred days of a president you don’t like:

Subscribe to several newspapers and obsessively check them on your phone several times a day. Especially do this late at night when you’re supposed to be sleeping, to ensure that you wake up at 3:00 am with your heart racing and your peri-menopausal night sweats six times worse than usual.

To stay alert in case the end of the world is nigh, binge eat carb-free snacks, such as blueberries or crackers made entirely out of parmesan cheese. One will give you a terrible stomach ache, and the other tastes like dirty socks.

When reading the news gets to be too much for you, take a break and lie in bed sobbing quietly for a couple days watching the PBS “War and Peace” miniseries or that Leah Remini show about Scientology. Both will distract you, one because it is boring but you’ll feel compelled to stick it through until the end, and the other because no matter how depressed you are now, at least you’re not in a cult.

Exercise more, maybe joining a certain gym program in which, on your first day, you have to learn how to properly lift an enormous barbell over your head, and when you say, “On what occasion will I need to lift something this heavy?” the person teaching you laughs and laughs in a way that makes you scared to come back but even more afraid not to.

If all of those things fail to lift your mood or bust you out of your sadness, seek mental health assistance from your doctor–I hear counselors and psychiatrists are like quadrupled in new patients right now–or try to remember that we are but a blip in the universe, a blip in time, and because of this, we should do what all good people have done before us and what they will do after we are gone: do your best to live according to your principles, and hold on to the hope that all is not lost, and one day, things will get better.

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My roommate doesn’t want to live with me.

 I moved with an old friend a few months ago. I knew she was slightly messy and a little bit crazy, but I am living far from home and I feel like I don’t have a lot of options in this city. 

After a while I realized that she is a closet alcoholic, drinking all day, and she smokes pot, too. She’s really depressed and she was kind of mean to me last night and alluded to the fact that she didn’t want me there. I think the only reason she lets me live with her is because of the money.
What should I do? I feel so uncomfortable. I do have a brother who lives nearby, and I know he would let me stay with him happily, but he is married and has kids and I’m much younger and have a different lifestyle.
I just typed out maybe seventeen stories about insane roommates I’ve had. And then I remembered that some of them might read this. And then I remembered that I’ve also been an insane roommate, and demurred out of fear that one of them will try to get back at me by publicly sharing the story about the time I made out with her boyfriend (it was an accident!) or the time I told my roommate I was having a small birthday gathering for a friend and he came home to about fifty women and a giant chocolate cake in the shape of a penis.
Once, though, I lived with some crazy people, and of them was growing pot in his closet and I was not the kind of girl who lived with people who grew pot in their closets. Lucky for me, I had a cousin close by who let me crash at her house until I found somewhere else to live. This poor cousin had a young child, was pregnant, and was well beyond the stage in her life when anyone should be crashing anywhere near her. She also had a husband who was somewhat aware of the lunacy of her family but sure didn’t expect one of them to be sleeping in his living room on their pull-out couch. Thank God for her, and for him. They really saved me. This is what family is for.
Go to your brother’s. Do lots of chores, babysit for free, make soups and be sweet to his wife, and save some money for a deposit. Then you can choose your own roommate, or live by yourself. Don’t live somewhere that makes you unhappy if you have an alternative. Also, steal some of her pot before you go.

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I moved in, but I don’t live there.

I moved in with my boyfriend seven months ago, and he won’t let me change anything in the house, as in changing furniture around, moving pictures, bringing some of my pictures and decor in the house. The house is very small, I understand that, and we are looking at a bigger one in a few months, but I don’t understand not changing things around.

This is a tough one. Maybe make a single change, see if he notices, and then figure out what to do next based on his reaction. I would suggest something small at first, like moving out.

Let’s play out a scenario in your house.

You: I have some beautiful prints from my grandmother’s art collection that would look smashing in the living room. I’m going to hang them there!

Boyfriend: No. I don’t want you to bring anything personal to my space, because that would signify an actual commitment, a willingness to compromise, and a desire for the person I love to feel comfortable in her own home. I don’t want any of those things, because I’m a dick.

Okay, now let’s play out this scenario in my house.

Me: Look at this insane thing I bought that I love and you’re probably going to hate! I’m going to display it prominently in the living room.

My husband: You’re right, I do hate it. Do we have to hang that up?

Me: Yes. We do.

Husband: Okay.

Aside from one incident with some bedroom furniture that I will now, ten years later, admit wasn’t the best choice I ever made, this is how we operate, and we both carry on, happy to only bring up the bedroom furniture and how it signifies my lack of respect for his opinion when we’re in an argument about something else.

This is what it’s like to live with someone. I hang up weird shit in the kitchen, and he deals with it. He fills our barn, shed, and every other available storage space with broken microwaves, cordless lamps, and baby gear that we’re obviously never going to use again, and I deal with it.

It’s your home. You’re living together. You’re creating not just a place to sleep and brush your teeth, but a home that reflects your commitment and feelings. It’s the one place in the world where you should feel exactly equal, where your desires matter just as much as the other person who’s there with you. It’s in the Constitution. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and your God-given right to just see how it looks with the TV above the fireplace and the couch and coffee table on the other side of the room.

I think if he can’t get this right when you’re just starting to live together, he’s not going to get any better over time.

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Can I break up with someone before we go out?

I’ve been talking and texting for a couple weeks with someone my friend set me up with. He has been out of town so we were just communicating by phone, but he is coming back this weekend and we are supposed to go out. He has already annoyed me. He is pushy, wants to take me to a loud bar that I don’t like but he is insisting, and then sent me some weird text about how I can give him a back rub after we go out. He seems awful and I don’t want to upset him or my friend but because of his texts and calls I don’t want to go out with him. Can I cancel or is it rude to not give him a chance?

You will never have a relationship with this person, because you hate him before you’ve even gone anywhere with him. You wouldn’t eat a moldy bologna sandwich, because you know it’s bad and will make you sick, and you wouldn’t want to endure the suffering that comes after. This man is a bad bologna sandwich.

Do you know what’s going to happen if you go out with this boob? You’ll have a terrible time in a loud bar, shouting because you can’t even hear each other, while you resent him for not meeting your needs or caring about what you want. (This is the kind of stuff you get mad about after you’ve been with someone for fourteen years, not before you even know his middle name.) Then you’ll go have a boring dinner while you chug six bottles of wine to dull the pain because he won’t stop hinting that you need to give him a massage after dessert and the thought of touching any part of his body makes you want to set the restaurant on fire so you have a reason to escape.

Text him or call him and say you’re sorry, that you’re sure he’s very nice, and that Susan spoke so highly of him, but you’re just not feeling like a relationship is a possibility, and you don’t want to waste your time or his.

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My mother-in-law puts my kids all over Facebook.

God help me, my mother-in-law has discovered Facebook. She puts pictures of my kids on it all the time, whenever my husband sends them to her. But she doesn’t know how to do the privacy settings and it creeps me out that there are possible strangers looking at my children online and commenting on them. She is also friends with people she barely knows. Am I being overprotective? How do I ask her to be more careful?

My mother-in-law is on Facebook, too. The only questionable thing she’s ever done is comment on my son’s Halloween costume picture; he was dressed as a pirate and she said he was cute, but that pirates are terrorists. I’m not sure if she was joking or taking the opportunity to make a stand against pirates, but I didn’t ask.

You, however, shouldn’t let it go if you’re uncomfortable. The easiest way to ask is to say, “Hey, Judy, I noticed that your Facebook photos are all public. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with just anyone being able to see the kids. Do you mind if I help you change your settings so that only your friends can see them?” (See how easy it is to be straightforward and honest?)

As far as how overprotective you are, I don’t know. I’m not sure I see the harm, but I think it’s all about your comfort level. I know a woman whose son is on a national TV show, and she doesn’t seem to mind that is face is all over the place all the time, so Facebook doesn’t seem like a huge deal. What’s going to happen? I don’t know any statistics and am too lazy to look them up, but are there really any kids who are stolen or stalked because their pictures were on social media? Are your mother-in-law’s friends commenting and saying things, “Hey, those kids are cute. I’m going to kidnap them!” or are they saying things like, “Congratulations on your beautiful family!” That might give you a clue as to how worried you should be.

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My mother’s cat is an asshole.

My mother has a really mean cat. It is about five years old. It has attacked people and sent them to the emergency room, and causes all of the trouble but gives none of the rewards of having a cat. My mom is elderly and has dementia, but is still living at home with assistance. No one wants to go in the house with this cat, though. What is my responsibility to the cat? Should I try to give it away? Will anyone even take it? A shelter would be a death sentence and I don’t know if I can do that. I feel responsible toward my mother and her feelings for the cat, but I don’t think it can stay in her house.

My friend recently killed a cat (by accident) with her car, and when she told me, I felt bad because she had to deal with the people who owned the cat, but really, my first reaction was, “Who cares? Cats are assholes.” And when she informed the owner’s roommate that she had run over the cat, the roommate said, “That cat was a dick.” So. I’ll try to be objective.

Your mom’s cat sounds particularly terrible, and clearly shouldn’t be living in a house with an elderly person anymore, especially considering her health problems and the people coming in and out of her house during the day. Getting sued by a mauled home healthcare worker is the last thing you need right now. If you really won’t take it to a shelter, which is probably what you should do, you have two other options. Either place an ad on Craig’s List advertising just how terrible this cat is, and hope that some whacked-out crazy cat lover will see it as an opportunity to save a dead cat walking, or keep it yourself.

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My sister won’t visit me because of Ebola. Which I don’t have.

I bought my sister plane tickets for her birthday, for her and her kids to come visit me. Now she’s saying she won’t come because she is too afraid to be in an airport and doesn’t want to expose herself and her family to Ebola. How can I change her mind? I’m also mad because it’s wasting money I spent on the tickets.

Funny. It’s a sister-travel kind of morning; I just told mine I wanted to come visit her, and now she’s suddenly claiming she’s going to be “out of the country” that week.

There’s nothing you can say or do to change your sister’s mind, but I have a technique for getting people to do what you want without them even knowing it, and it’s going to change your life. Here are a couple of scenarios when I used it, and totally got my way.

Scene 1

Me: I think we should re-do the kitchen. We need all new appliances, and the countertops are ugly, and it’s a dark and depressing pit of despair where I spend 95% of my waking hours.

Husband: No. I don’t want to.

Me: Great. I’ll call and get some estimates.

(six months later, we have a lovely new kitchen)

Scene 2

Preschooler: I don’t want to go to school and I’m not getting dressed and I’m going to eat my cereal with only my face and no hands or spoon!

Me: Okay.

(cereal is eaten)

Me: Look, now you’re all wet from milk, you silly kid, and there’s a Cheerio stuck up your nose. Let’s put on some dry clothes!

Preschooler: Fine but I’m NOT GOING TO SCHOOL.

Me: Okay.

(kid is changed and put into car and taken to school)

Do you see what I did there? I just said okay, and moved ahead as if my husband had said, Sure, let’s get a new kitchen!, or my four-year-old had said, I can’t wait to get in the car and go to school! So just agree with your sister that Ebola is terrifying and we’re all going to get it, and that only the wisest, most sensible people know to avoid leaving their houses for any reason whatsoever. And then a week before she’s supposed to arrive, tell her you got tickets for a show or made a reservation at a great restaurant, and then a couple days beforehand tell her you spruced up the guest room and the kids even put a chocolate on her pillow because they’re so excited to see her. She’ll come see you. You’ll make it happen through sheer will. No worries.

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I tooted at work and someone heard me.

I work in a dentist’s office. I ate a roll of Mentos Mints today and got terrible gas at work. I had to go downstairs in the storage area to let it off. It was a long, loud fart and it didn’t stop for a long time. When I went to go back upstairs, there was one of the doctors, standing in the kitchen doorway, laughing. I ran so fast upstairs and told my friend and coworker Candy what happened, and she laughed so loudly I had to shush her. I came home early today because I couldn’t face him. What do I do? Apologize or excuse it later, or pretend it was me pushing a box across the room? I need advice…I don’t want to get fired.

As a person who has never, ever passed gas, I’m unable to answer this question from personal experience. I do have a friend, though, who has had two painfully excruciating experiences with accidental public gas-passing, one of which involved a CCD class which my–I mean her–father was teaching, and she was in high school and there were boys in the class who told everyone in the entire school, and then 9,000,000 people knew about it, and it was possibly the worst moment of her life. I do believe she changed her name and moved to Kansas. The other time, it involved some college hockey players, the sorority dining room at formal dinnertime, and I think that time my friend just disintegrated on the spot, leaving a little pile of dust on her chair. It was very sad.

I don’t think you can get fired for passing gas; in a medical office, even one involving teeth, one would think that bodily functions would be at least tolerated, if not embraced! I think in this situation, you have two options. The first is to hold your head high, pretend it never happened, and move on with your life. Be audacious: look the doctor in the eye with boldness and confidence. And if Candy ever brings it up again, pretend like you have no idea what she’s talking about. The second option is to make a joke out of it, own it, and buy whoopee cushions for everyone in your office. 

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I don’t want my husband to move his parents’ furniture.

My in-laws are moving and they asked my husband and his brothers to help them get rid of some furniture by moving it from their home to a consignment store. My husband is not very fit, he does not work out, and he earns a very good living and supports our family. We are happy and comfortable in our life and I am afraid that if he hurts himself moving this furniture it could affect our life and his ability to support his family. Chancing a back injury from moving this old furniture so my in-laws can make some money from it doesn’t seem worth it. I am sure my sisters-in-law feel the same way about their husbands. 

I want to call them and get together as a united front to tell my husband and his brothers that they should pay a moving company or hire someone to move the furniture. I am afraid though that my husband will get mad at me for interfering. He and his brothers are happy to move the stuff. I just feel strongly about this. Should I say something?

If your husband and his brothers were jumping out of an airplane with their pants on fire and a rabid gorilla on the parachute behind them, I would say, Sure. Go ahead. Point out how this could potentially be risky. 

But moving furniture? I hate to brag about this, but I have superhuman powers, where as soon as my husband and children leave the house, I become some kind of hulking beast-woman who can move a three-part sectional all by myself to a different floor of the house. In normal life, I make my husband take out the garbage because a full Hefty bag is too heavy to carry out to the driveway. This appears to be genetic, because one time I saw my mom pick up a piano with just her pinky.

Your husband isn’t going to get hurt. His brothers aren’t going to get hurt. You only get a few opportunities in your life to raise a major stink involving all of your in-laws, and I don’t think you should waste it on furniture transportation. Save it for the time your brother-in-law tries to book you all a family reunion at a nudist resort. I think you’re feeling resentful about the move, or about your husband’s parents asking him to do something, or about them not paying for movers, or whatever.

Don’t make a fuss over this. It will stress your husband out over something not worth another thought. I would even go so far as to suggest that you make a potato salad and get some beers, and invite everyone over for a little cookout after they finish moving the stuff. Have a nice family day. Everyone’s going to be fine.

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