I took a break. And now I’m back. Thanks for sticking around.

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My husband’s girlfriend loves my kids. Ugh.

My husband left me for his girlfriend. They moved in together right away, and she immediately started parenting my kids, as in, refers to them as “my kids” and getting involved in parenting decisions. Half of me feels like I need to remain Zen about it and the other half of me wants to punch her. How can I deal with this? What do I say to my kids?

Here’s how you deal with it: take up smoking, walk behind her on the sidewalk one day, “accidentally” flick your butt in her hair and then scream “FIRE!!!!!!” and run away.

Kidding! Smoking is bad for you. Just set her hair on fire.

The burn here (pun totally intended) is that your husband left you for this woman. If you had divorced, and he found a nice lady who wanted to lovingly parent your children, you would probably be slightly more happy about the situation. Better to have someone who likes them, or even loves them, watching over them and driving them to school each day, than someone who calls them The Assholes and feeds them beef jerky for breakfast. But your husband, with her, tore apart your family and has now set up shop with this other person who now fancies herself Maria Von Trapp.

There is room for both of the feelings you’re having. You don’t say anything to your kids. You say, “Oh, Sally bought you an X-Box and a kitten and is taking you to Disney World? How wonderful.” And then you go in your bedroom and kick the closet door and make a voodoo doll of Sally. But you don’t say anything to the kids. They need a happy home life in both of their homes, and no matter how she got there, Sally is part of the package now. Your job is to be a good mom and a good co-parent with their dad, and to take up some kind of violent sport to work out all of your anger.

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I’m always late. Do I have a mental disorder?

Time and I have never had a very good relationship. Punctuality is not my friend. This is obviously within my powers to fix, but I don’t. So I’m almost always a bit late to things like meetings and social engagements, I wildly underestimate how long things will take and therefore miss deadlines, and I frequently take a lot longer to get around to doing things than I expect I will.

I also do that thing where you keep saying to yourself “Five more minutes of answering email, talking on the phone, soaking in the shower, whatever, and then I’ll go,” and before you know it, it’s meeting time and you’re fifteen minutes from being there. Sometimes it’s because I allow absolutely no margin for error and, of course, error happens. Other times it’s because I genuinely lose track of time. I’ve always been awful at estimating how long things should take. If I say an hour, it’s guaranteed to take two, and if I pad it and say a day it will take two days.

I know this is very annoying to people, but recently a friend told me it’s because I’m passive-aggressive and have underlying issues that make me behave this way. Is she right? Am I being passive-aggressive? Do I have some sort of genuine coping mechanism here?
It is so like a person who’s always late to gleefully latch on to any excuse that might absolve them from any personal responsibility for being late. Don’t get all excited; you don’t have a mental disorder that causes you to be late, unless it’s narcissistic personality disorder, in which case you wouldn’t even be emailing me, you would be carrying on with your life, walking in to meetings two hours late and letting everyone know how lucky they are that you decided to show up at all.
People who are always late are selfish. Yes, you. You are selfish. You said it yourself. You know you have somewhere to be. You know it, yet you’re like, “I want to shower for longer. I’m happy in the shower, with this warm water and these frothy suds, and I want to stay here, so screw the doctor who’s waiting for me to make my appointment on time, and fuck you, People I Work With, I’m going to be fifteen minutes late because I’m enjoying myself and I don’t want to stop, and bite me, friend who’s waiting in the cold on a street corner.” You’re saying, “My time is more important than yours.”
Maybe your friend is some kind of Jedi master, and she’s mind-tricking you in a passive-aggressive way to get you to think that you’re passive aggressive in order to stop being passive-aggressive and show up on time. Or maybe she’s sick of you and giving you an excuse, while letting you know that it’s not okay. I could give you tips on how to be on time, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t use them. One day, you’re going to lose a friend or miss a plane or get fired, and that might motivate you, but until there’s an actual consequence, I’m guessing you’re just going to be that girl who breezes in all late and out of breath, with insincere apologies and elaborate stories about bad traffic and large birds kidnapping your dog and plumbing emergencies, and everyone will just roll their eyes and carry on without you, like they always do, because you’re always late.

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I’m a single dad, and my daughter wants to have a sleepover.

I am the single dad of a 12-year-old girl. All of her friends are into having sleepovers for their birthday parties, and she wants one for her birthday this year. I told her didn’t think it was a good idea because other parents might not be comfortable with it, since I am a man alone in our house. She doesn’t understand why this would be a problem, and I have no desire to explain it to her any further. I don’t know what else to say without making her upset or feel weird about something that is, of course, completely innocent. I do know, however, thanks to a very vocal but well-meaning sister-in-law, that mothers sometimes feel uneasy about having a man alone in the house with a group of girls at a sleepover.

What do I tell my daughter? Do I go ahead with the party and tell her some people might not come? Or do I just say no and take her and her friends to a movie, and disappoint her?

Buckle up your dad jeans and hang on to your hat, cowboy, because this is the start of a long, bumpy ride. Three years from now you’re going to be crying into your whiskey and dreaming of the days when your worst problem was that your daughter’s friends’ parents might think you’re a pedophile. I feel bad for you, because it’s not easy to be a single parent, and these teen years are going to kick your ass a little bit. But you seem like you don’t completely have your head up your own ass, and this sensitivity is going to help you immensely.

I’m not making this up–near where I live, a dad was recently convicted of drugging some girls with a milkshake and then molesting them at a sleepover party. So while I’m sure you’re perfectly innocent and have only the best interests of your daughter at heart, I can also understand how other parents might be apprehensive.

Enlist this vocal and well-meaning sister-in-law (how lucky for you to have one of those; they’re usually just vocal) to join the sleepover party, and make sure the other parents all know she’s going to be there. Or if she’s unavailable, ask the parents of your daughter’s best friend to join you in the house overnight, or even hire a babysitter that you might use when you go out of town. Whomever you get, make sure it’s a woman you trust, and as an extra measure of good faith, call or email the other parents–without being creepy about it, please–and let them know you’re going to have a helper for the party. You could even make a joke about it and say all the screaming and laughing over Justin Bieber would give you a migraine, or you don’t know how to make chocolate chip cookies, so you’re getting some backup.

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Waaaa. My parents are moving.

My sister had a baby a few months ago, and since then, my parents, who live in the same city, have spent a lot more time with her in the town where she lives, which is about an hour and a half away. I understand that they want to spend time with their grandchild, and I wish I could see him more, too. They are now buying a house two streets away from my sister, and I feel really hurt. I feel like I will not have the same support when I have a family, and that my future children will not have the same depth of relationship with my parents that my sister’s son will enjoy. I also feel like I will always be the one asked to travel for family events. My parents said they are “committed to a two-way relationship,” but I doubt it will apply to travel if everyone else lives in the same place.

I don’t want to feel left out. I love my family and I like spending time with them. I can’t move to the new town with them, because I have a long-term boyfriend who doesn’t want to move because of his job. I basically feel like this move is a great decision for everyone except me. My parents have always been very supportive of me, and I know if I made a fuss they would reconsider. Should I discuss how hurt I feel by this with my parents, or is it not really any of my business?

This move is going to be good for you.

You’re kind of a baby.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you’re the youngest in your family. This is, of course, based on no anecdotal evidence whatsoever from my husband, who is a youngest child, or my youngest sibling, who is perfect in every way. I will base this guess solely on the behavior of my youngest child, who had a temper tantrum yesterday when I wouldn’t allow him to push me down the stairs, so I RELENTED and let him push me. I let a two-year-old pretend to shove his mother headlong down a staircase. When he grows up to be a raging psychopath, you can place the blame solely on me.

I sympathize, I really do. I live near my mom, and my siblings live really far away, and sometimes when she makes me our favorite childhood chocolate cake, I feel bad that I get some and they don’t…and then I take a picture of it and text it to my brother with the words NARNY NARNY NOO NOO MOM MADE ME A CAKE. I would hate to be on the receiving end of that text. It’s a really good cake. But parents live the closest to the child they like best, and if they prefer your sister, the way my mom prefers me, then so be it.

Okay, really. Your parents want to be near their grandchild. You don’t even HAVE children. You’re not even thinking of having children yet! You’re getting upset and thinking of making a stink because your UNBORN CHILDREN might miss out on some time with their grandparents, who, by the way, aren’t moving to Siberia–they’re moving an hour and a half away!

I think you should be supportive of your parents’ move, and feel happy for your sister that they want to be near her. This really will be good for you. I think being on your own will help you grow up, which is something it seems like you really need to do.

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I want to see her again, but I don’t have time.

I met a smart, cute, friendly girl last weekend at a happy hour. She is the friend of a friend (who I’m not even that great friends with) and I’d really like to see her again. However, I’ve been told by a female friend that I’m a little too formal/business-like when I ask girls out, and that I should take it more casually.

I live half an hour away from this girl, so a date can’t really be a spur of the moment thing. Also, this week I’m swamped with work meetings, and the next two weekends are booked with work and social obligations. I would really like to see her soon, though, and keep up our initial momentum. Would it be too forward to have dinner midweek? How do I keep this going? 

I’m suspicious that you’ve somehow found a time machine and are emailing me from the 1950s. From what I understand, these days, guys ask girls out by texting them things like, “Wanna hit it 2 morrow send me a pic of your boobies lol.”

Today, incidentally, is an anniversary of my first official date with my husband. We had met up with some friends for our first unofficial date, and the next day, he emailed me and said something along the lines of, “I had a great time last night, and I would like to see you again as soon as possible.” It was very nice, sweet, honest, and complimentary without being stalkerish, and it obviously worked. I think this is the way for you to go. (And unless you’re asking girls out for dinner by sending them meeting requests from your iCal, I don’t think formal is a problem. Wooing is nice. Your female friend probably has very low expectations.)

Call her and say, “I had such a nice time with you. I’m so busy with work for the next couple weekends, but I would love to see you as soon as possible. Want to have dinner next Wednesday?”

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Should I take down my dirty picture before grandma visits?

I work in the sexual health education field. As you can imagine, I’m very comfortable talking about and looking at images and concepts involved in sexuality. Here is my problem: my mother, my grandmother, and my young step-brother are coming to visit. I have a fun, fairly tasteful framed print hung in my living room of a drawing of adults in a variety of co-mingling sexual positions. It’s a real conversation-starter, and I like the way it looks. But I’m torn between honoring my profession and maintaining my beliefs that sex is normal, natural, and something that shouldn’t be hidden, and not wanting to offend my grandmother or scare my step-brother. (My mom wouldn’t care.) Should I take it down while they’re visiting? 

As a sex-ed teacher, surely you know that there are appropriate ways to talk to different people about sex, and that answers to questions about sex need to be carefully tailored to suit one’s audience.

Six-year-old: Mommy, how did that baby get in your tummy?
Mommy: Well there, young Brayden, let me tell you about what Mommy and Daddy like to do after you go to bed. First, he puts on a lady nurse’s uniform…

Grandma: What is this lovely picture of, dear? Is that a crocus and a pickle? Let me get my glasses on…OH MY WORD!
You: Call 911! Grandma just had a stroke!

Take down the picture. Go to TJ Maxx and spend twenty bucks on an inoffensive print of the Eiffel Tower, and hang it up for their visit. Just because you believe in good sexual health doesn’t mean you have to scar people for life with it.

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My daughter and I fight about her clothes. And she’s only eight.

My eight-year-old daughter and I fight every single day over what she’s going to wear. I get very frustrated because she asks me to help her choose, then fights with me over the things I pick out for her. Help me. I’m sick of fighting every day!

One of my children is really, really into pajamas. He wants to wear them everywhere. He wears them to the grocery store, he wears them to birthday parties, he wears them hiking and boating and one time he even wore them out to dinner underneath his regular clothes. Then he gets mad when people ask him why he’s wearing his pajamas in the middle of the afternoon in the mall.

He’s not allowed to wear them to church or school, but other than that, I don’t care. I’m over it. If you’re sick of fighting with your daughter, then don’t fight with her. Make some rules together about what she can wear to certain occasions (underwear always underneath her pants, not on top; bathing suits only when there’s more than a foot of water in the foreseeable future, etc.) and then let her pick. Who cares if she’s wearing plaid and stripes and a tiara and soccer cleats? She’ll learn, once she gets to school and can’t play soccer without her tiara falling off, that it might be better left for days when she’s sitting around ordering her subjects to make her toast. If she asks for your advice, don’t give it…say, “What do you think?” Or choose the one you don’t want her to wear, and then she’ll pick the one you do want.

Kids have so little control over their lives. Just let her wear what she wants, and let the natural consequences of her actions help her figure out how to make good decisions.

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How do I tell my friend she’s not getting a job because she looks terrible?

How do I tell a friend that she looks unprofessional and that it’s hurting her job search? We are former colleagues, so I know her work well. She is bright, capable, friendly, and well-liked in her current job but she’s been there a long time without a raise and is ready to move on. I would not ordinarily get involved, but she asked me to help her because she gets interviews, but has not been offered a job yet.

She wears makeup I can only describe as garish, as in, she shaves off her eyebrows and draws them back in. Her foundation is the wrong color and is noticeably a different shade from her complexion. Her clothes are often too tight for her figure. She’s very fit but if it’s too small, it’s too small. We are in a conservative city, and her fingernails are just over the top. They are long and pointy and covered in rhinestones and glitter.Is there a tactful way I can mention these things? I’m sure she’d get a job offer if her appearance were more polished.
I used to know this girl who was smart and capable and was a co-worker of my good friend. Her nickname, no joke, was Mensa, because she insisted that she was a Mensa member, but no one really believed her because she looked like a hooker. Her hair was a vibrant shade of yellow never before seen in nature, her sizable bosom struggled to escape from her teeny, tiny, stretchy little v-neck tank tops, her skirts were no bigger than a napkin, and didn’t leave the house in any less makeup than last year’s winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Lovely girl, hideous style.
I would love to live in a world where women could wear whatever they want to work and be judged on their performance and not on the fact that you can see the outline of their areola through their t-shirt. But sadly, in the corporate world, you don’t want to knock on someone’s office door and have them wonder if you’re there to give them the latest market research report or a lap dance.
Here is the tactful way you mention it:
“You have such a great personal style, and I love that you express your personality through your clothes. I’m worried, though, that people aren’t taking seriously because you’re not quite conservative enough; people around here are soooooooo uptight.” Then offer to loan her your black suit, go makeup shopping together and get your faces done, go out together for manicures that don’t involve glitter, and then compliment her excessively on her new look. Make sure to tell her she can use you as a reference any time because you know how amazing and smart she is. Even if she gets mad, I guarantee you she’ll think about what you said the next time she gets dressed for a job interview.

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It’s Christmas drama in September!

I know it’s a little early for this, but it’s starting already. My parents have been divorced for a very, very long time and both live near me. Even though they broke up many years ago, they still hate each other and do not speak under any circumstances. In the past we have always spent half of Christmas Day with my mother and half with my father and his wife and her children. So my mom just informed me that this year she does not want me to split the holiday; I think it’s because she got hurt and upset last year because she had cooked a big meal for us and no one was hungry. I can usually avoid these problems with my parents, and I hate the dynamics of the holidays, and I do not want to choose, but I feel like I have to. To complicate matters, my mom offered to have us over only for Christmas Eve and once my dad got wind of this through my brother, he decided that this year he does not want to do visits on Christmas Day, only Christmas Eve, so I would end up leaving her alone if I went to see him. What do I do?

Go to Hawaii.

We had a situation around Christmas a few years ago in which a variety of people (including, possibly, myself, but probably not since I’m a mature adult and would never do that kind of thing), announced self-righteously that they would not under any circumstances go spend Christmas with the rest of the family for a variety of reasons–some valid, some insane, and some that I’ve completely forgotten because the passage of time inevitably proves that all the things we get upset about regarding our families are bullshit 99% of the time.

Anyway, it was a disaster on all accounts, and everyone was mad, so we just completely changed our plans at the last minute and went to New York and had a great time and ate our way from one end of Manhattan to the other.

You’re not leaving your mother alone on Christmas; your mother is choosing to be alone on Christmas. I don’t even quite understand who wants who to be where when, but the gist of it is that you offered to come visit on Christmas Day, and no one appears to be available that day, which seems terrible but is actually really nice for you because it clears up your schedule to go to Hawaii and wear a coconut bikini top and drink pink things with umbrellas in them. You can go to your mom’s house on December 20, and you can go see your dad on January 3, and you can give each other presents and eat ham and throw snow at each other and get into Merlot-fueled fights over who’s going to host Christmas next year. Enjoy your husband and children (or whomever makes up your immediate family) and leave it at that.

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