Oh hi! Who’s running late again? That would be me! I expect at some point I am going to get a letter from a non-signing chickenbutt that says “Dear ABP, I put together a biweekly news publication for a popular website. It is a lot of hard work but I do enjoy it immensely. Well, I enjoy it most of the time, I wouldn’t be writing to you if I didn’t have an issue. It seems that one of the regular contributors can’t be arsed to get her column in on time ever. Ever. Short of stringing her up and gutting her like a fish and putting her on display as a warning to all others who might consider being late with their submissions, what can i do?”
And you know what? The only advice I could give is, “String ‘er up! Gut ‘er out! Show ‘er off!”
Once again, my sincere apologies to the wonderful people behind the scenes at TWiR who do the hard work and put up with people like me!
Dearest Auntie BubboPants,
In the last few months, I’ve finally gotten the nerve to break up with my long distance boyfriend and start seeing the boy at work that I’ve been crushing on for a long time. He’s perfect. Charming, old fashion, open and honest, passionate, has two jobs, and handsome to boot. I’ve never felt more happy or smitten in my life.
However, there’s one little thing that kind of bugs me. I don’t think he brushes his teeth. He’s got this icky grime in his mouth all the time, and it makes it gross to kiss him sometimes. Should I say something? Should I definitely NOT say something? I’ve never had to deal with this before. The last boy was very set on dental hygiene. Everything else about him is great, clean cut, well dressed. Just his teeth. What’s a girl to do?
-Nonsigning Chicken Butt
Tell him. You have to tell him, but you have to find a way to broach the subject in a way that shows you are not being critical but concerned.
Every once in a while David gets the Mad Funkies in his breath. It’s not that he’s not brushing his teeth, he is, I see it happening. It’s that he tends to get very low grade sinus infections that he doesn’t really recognize are there. The build up of bacteria in his sinuses comes out and can give him bad breath. The first time I noticed this I fretted and fretted about how to approach it without seeming overly critical. Certainly, I didn’t want to just bust out with “blergh! what you got in there? A dead raccoon??” Luckily, I had a moment of A-HA! and I remembered that bad breath is often caused by low grade infections.
I opened with, “I’m not being critical, but I think that you might have a sinus infection.” Then I went on to explain about the bad breath, the bacteria, the bad breath again and assurances that I wasn’t being Judgey McCriticalson, I was just concerned. He went to the doctor, they found the infection and he got some nose spray. Now I have only to ask him to use his nose spray.
Now! Of course you might be dealing with a different monster here. If he’s not brushing his teeth then “sinus infection” isn’t the issue. HOWEVER, it will give you a way to bring up the topic. it’s not lying to him, per se, it’s just bringing up the issue of his mouth in a non-judgmental way. It will allow him to contemplate the issue without getting defensive or feeling shame.
Now, if the subject is brought up and he still does not start maintaining a regular oral hygiene regimen, then you will have to push again. And this time is harder because you will have to be more direct. A fully grown adult male with easy and affordable access to modern dentifrice has no excuse for not taking advantage of it. Then again, maybe he has other emotional issues, ones that run deeper than oral hygiene but express themselves of toothbrush avoidance. If this is the case then you have a decision to make. Are you willing to accept and help deal with the much larger issues at hand? You don’t have to, you aren’t obligated. It’s not unreasonable to have certain expectations in a relationship. If you decide that you’re in it for the long haul, then learn to be supportive and nudging and learn to accept the sometimes stinky foibles in exchange for the knowledge that with time and effort they can be overcome.
Guru Auntie Pants of the Bubbo,
I would love to get your take on my wonderful situation…
I have a sixteen year old daughter that has been in a relationship with a family friend’s son for about six months. He is a good kid, although he has lost direction and needs to hop back on the train to his future. I can’t come up with any cute way to say… I am aware of what level of intimacy is involved in their relationship since I was lucky enough to walk in on them during a moment of secret late night couch activities. I have taken steps to help insure they are practicing safer activities and hopefully will not end up like I did in the teenage parent classes in high school.
During a recent conversation with my wonderful daughter, she told me that said boyfriend often talks about how things will be years from now when they are together. She thinks it is sweet and all things warm and fuzzy, but she is not sure what she sees in the future. First of all, she doesn’t want to spend her life with someone that has fallen off the future train and can’t seem to hop back on. In fact, she has recently told him she wants to see action on his part before she will spend time with him. Second of all, she says she isn’t sure she wants to spend forever with the first person in which she has been in a real relationship. She adores him and he think he is wonderful even with those perfect imperfections.
So with that background information, I will move on to my actual question… I understand what she is feeling, but I’m not sure what I should do on this one. At her age, I don’t think she needs to worry about long term future in your relationships. This is all practice for later on in life. But I also think learning about maintaining a relationship is good too. What thoughts do you have about how I can support her in this situation?
Yet another nonsigning chickenbutt
Learning to maintain longterm relationships is really one of the most important skills one can learn. It’s not just a single skill, but an entire skillset full of rich and diverse abilities. Learning to maintain, longterm healthy relationships comes with practice and time and maturity. Certainly, the only class offered for such a broad subject is called “Life Experience” and we’re already signed up for it.
But you know what else? You know what is more important that learning to maintain longterm relationships? Learning to take care of yourself. This is so important and yet so many people miss out on this. I don’t mean “take care of yourself” as in “eat good apples and don’t speed in the rain and wear sensible shoes” but I mean it more like, “know your limits, understand your needs, be resolute”
Too often people grow up believing that complete self sacrifice is the best way to live that it provides the highest amount of happiness to other people. How common is it for someone to enter into or stay in a relationship believing that “if they could only fix the other person” it would be perfect. How well does that turn out? How often do people stay in dead end relationships simply because they feel trapped by their choice?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of working very hard up until the last minute when you finally have to accept the relationship is gone.
Let me give you a metaphor (because I love me some metaphors!). On an airplane you are instructed to put on your oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. This is one of those things you hear and never really give much thought to, but it a very simple set of instructions that pretty much translates to all areas of life. In the event of an emergency, you might be able to help one or two people with their masks before getting to yours, but by the time you get to putting yours on you may not have the strength and wherewithal to don it properly. You might not even have a chance to. You’ve helped one or two people and lost yourself.
If you quickly and efficiently put on your mask, you then have all the time and oxygen you need to help as many people as you can reach AND you will have saved yourself.
Take care of yourself first. Be strong first so that you can share MORE strength and that strength with multiply within you instead of dividing you.
As a side note, I’d like to say a little something about the teens that have fallen off the future train. Some of us, we make it back on. It’s true. I barely made it through high school, I had to hustle through summer school in order to graduate and I graduated with a shamefully low GPA. My future train left the station without me because I was wandering around looking at other things. Standard public high school was not the place for me, but nobody really knew that at the time. My train left without me and it took a while for me to get caught up but by the time I got to my train I realized that rail transportation was not the only way to meet my future. I opted for hovercraft!
All I’m saying is that even the most irresponsible teens can grow up to do something completely unexpected and shiny with their lives.
Dear Auntie BubboPants,
I have recently started a relationship with a new guy who like sweaters (and looks very good in them, I might add) and who loves the things I knit!
I am not stupid, however, I am not going to knit him a sweater. I WOULD like to knit him some gloves though, and maybe some socks.
Do you believe in the sweater curse? If so, how far does the sweater curse go? Is it reserved only for sweaters? A scarf takes a lot of time, does it occasionally bring tragic ends to relationships? Can I make this awesome guy a pair of socks?!
And in your professional opinion, why is the curse real/seem real?
Happily In Love
I do not believe in curses but I do believe in what Granny Weatherwax calls “headology”!
A sweater cannot break up a relationship anymore that a pine cone can conquer Lake Erie. People create relationships and people break up relationships. The sweater curse is based on very simple headology. Handknitting a sweater can take a lot of care and effort. Receiving, wearing and appreciating a sweater can take some effort but the laws of headology are pretty clear, the receiver can never match the effort of the giver. The receiver can love and appreciate the sweater to the nth degree, but the maker put in effort of a value of nth degree plus 1 (I don’t think this is mathematically correctish, I never caught up to the algebra car of my future train!).
The idea is that the receiver can get this sweater and wear it and love it, but at some point it really is just a sweater to them. Because that IS what it is, a sweater. To you, the maker, you touched every single stitch, you measured and seamed and thought and loved. It is a product of love. It represents something entirely ineffable, whereas to him it represents a wonderful but very real piece of clothing.
This discrepancy is the fulcrum on which the overloaded levers of relationship issues get bent and broken. It comes to symbolize all that one person hates about the other “He doesn’t appreciate me!!!” and “she wants me too get all nutty about a damned sweater! I told her I loved it! what more can I do?”
The curse does not exist but relationship problems do exist. What to do? Make him something only if you WANT to make something for HIM and not for some unreachable pinnacle of appreciation. Know that your effort will be greater than his ability to express appreciation, but also keep in mind that there is much he does that you probably forget to appreciate. The scales are surprisingly equal in most relationships, the people themselves just fail to notice.
Hey Auntie BubboPants,
One of my best friends came to visit me earlier this summer and we had a really great time. At one point, she ran out of cash and didn’t have an ATM card. To solve this problem, she wrote me, at different times, two different checks for $60. I deposited them in my bank account and then withdrew cash for her. Problem solved, right?
About three weeks later, after she had gone home and I was about to leave the country, those two checks bounced. The bank took the $120 out of my bank account and charged me $20 for each bounced check. This left me out $160. I called her and talked to her about it and she said she could PayPal me the money once she got paid – but I would have left the country by then. The money didn’t come.
Later, I was home for the summer and hanging out with her, but felt like it would be awkward to press the subject as she had quit her job and was really broke. Her dad was paying her rent. She was supposed to have started a new job before I had to leave to go back to school but it fell through and I left town without having been paid back.
What do I do? Financially, I’m better off than her, but that doesn’t change the fact that I expect my friends to accept responsibility for situations like this. I’m working and saving to pay for study abroad, and to a college student $160 is a lot of money. I’m trying really hard not to feel like a greedy miser but I’m not sure how to get her to pay me back.
Awkward situation, awkward question…I need your help in this one.
One more nonsigning chickenbutt
Dear OMNSCB (sheesh, what is it with you people? Sign your letters! I’m not your letter signing mom!)
You are not a greedy miser. You are not a greedy miser in any way at all. Ever. In good faith you lent her some cash and in very poor form she wrote checks to you that her bank could not cash. Not only did she get cash from you in order to make her visit with you more enjoyable but she left you with bank fees and a sour taste in your mouth.
Okay so maybe she doesn’t have a lot of money, but it sounds like you’re not exactly rolling in it either. She is an adult, she is capable of getting a job, she is capable of tweaking her finances at least a little to get her to the point where she can come up with the $160 she owes you.
Cash is the sweater curse of the friendship.
Bring it up calmly and with no accusations. Explain that this $160 is important and that you need it back. You don’t have to justify why you need it back, you don’t have to feel bad because you have more money than she does. She was not in dire straits when you lent her the money, you are not charging usurious fees and she already violated your trust by writing bad checks to you. Offer a payment plan of some sort, even if it is $20 a month. As your friend she needs to know that she can go to you for help but she must also respect you. Taking money and not paying you back is a form of disrespect, causing someone else to deal with bank fees because of your irresponsible actions is a much larger disrespect.
I can’t promise you will get your money back. There is a possibility that she will continue to pay lip service to paying you back while continuing to put you off. You could take legal action, but I am not one to give advice on that, I don’t know enough about it. But my feeling is that if you took legal action you would be out more than the initial $160.
If she does not pay you back, then you are out $160 and I would advise you to cut her out of your life as it is obvious that she is used to using people and does not recognize the consequences of disrespecting those who put themselves out for her.
Dear Auntie BubboPants,
Please excuse me first of all, because it’s late and I’m on a caffeine drive which makes me wordier than normal. I’ll try to get to the point, but there’s a lot I probably need to explain.
I have this really difficult issue, and honestly, you are the only person I could think of who would tell it like it is and be objective enough to answer me in a way that is honest.
Okay, here’s the issue.
I have 3 siblings, and the oldest of them, who is 7 years older than me, is getting married the day after Thanksgiving. This should be a really happy occasion, but here’s the deal, it’s his 4th time getting married, and there are already big warning flags that this one will go just like the last three. His bride-to-be is a recently admitted alcoholic, they have lived together for about 8 months, during which time she has “moved out” a few times, and at one point, she even destroyed the garden they had planted together. She was extremely jealous during the summer, and kept believing that he was sleeping with his ex-wife (who he was still technically married to at the time). Oh, and did I mention the kids? There are 6 children involved, 3 from his previous marriages (2 and 1-the middle wife couldn’t have kids, so they are separated by a 10 year age gap), and her three children with her ex-husband.
This isn’t the real problem, because frankly, it’s his life, and if he wants to continue to screw it up, no amount of me butting in is going to change that fact. The real problem is that I’m heartsick over this whole business, and I can’t even talk to my ever-loving mother about it. She is something of a waffler on this business, because she is the kind of person who will tell you just want you want to hear, not what you need to hear. So she tells him while he’s not with this woman that he’s better off, but when he goes back to her (as he always does), she tells him it’s all gonna be okay, and the rest of us can’t say a word against it, or she makes our lives a living hell for it.
But I just can’t bring myself to even feel an ounce of happiness for him, because the thought of him getting married yet again when it’s nearly a guarantee that he’ll be divorced again in a few years (with possibly ANOTHER child), makes me sick to my stomach. I’ve been on the verge of tears every time I think about it for the last two weeks since I found out they were getting married against ALL better judgment.
The worst part? My mom basically bullied me into making them a wedding cake! I’m making a cake for them to “celebrate” their marriage, when I don’t have any celebratory feelings about this whole messy business at all, and when what I’d rather do is shove both their faces into a cake than spend the hours of effort making one. But my mom is the queen of guilt trips and the best I can do is accept what they are about to do and go along, even though I am so against it that I can actually feel my body rebelling against me when I think about how I’m going to design the cake. It is taking every ounce of willpower I have right now not to scream out (I’ve got two little people sleeping right above me, that would be a very bad thing to do!), because I can’t stand it!
The worst part is, I can’t talk to anyone about it because all of my friends know my mom, and I don’t want to speak ill of her to them, and because I don’t want to spread family issues among too many of my friends and acquaintances, since my mom is a vip in many of those circles. (we go to the same church and she happens to work there and knows a lot of people) I love my mother, but unfortunately, she doesn’t show the same face to people outside our family as she does to those within. I know there’s dysfunction in every family, but here’s what really sucks: in spite of saying she doesn’t have any favorites: my oldest brother IS her favorite child. We’ve all known it for years, and we’ve all mostly accepted it. She will not hear a negative word against him, and even if something sounds like it might be negative, she tears the rest of us up limb from limb if she thinks her bestest child is being picked on. But he’s also the most screwed up of all of us, so I don’t really think the favoritism has worked in his ahem favor.
I guess my problem is with my mom, but on the other hand, I don’t know what to say or do about my brother and his future wife. She’s a nice woman, and she seems to care about him and like being around my family, but I can’t be happy for them. Is it okay that I’m not happy for them? I don’t really want to make waves just for the sake of making waves, but I just have no joy whatsoever when it comes to this union.
Do you have to be happy for them? No. No you don’t. No one is the boss of your feelings but you. You are the only person who gets to decide how you feel about something. So no, you don’t have to be happy for them.
What do you HAVE to do? The simplest answer is “nothing”. But the world is not simple and the simple answers rarely suffice.
You don’t have to be happy, you don’t have to think this is a good idea, you can think it is a bad idea if you want. BUT! the thing that you have to do is acknowledge that this is happening and no amount of disapproval on your part is going to change that. Being angry is not going to change this. Being unhappy is not going to stop the wedding. Making lists of all the ways in which this is a bad idea is not going to suddenly give him a better idea.
Only you are the boss of your feelings, only you can choose how you can react. You don’t have to approve, but he does not need your approval. You don’t have to be happy, but he does not need your happiness. You don’t even have to make the cake if you don’t want, he can order one if you flat out refuse. If he wrote to me to say that his sister was angry and did not approve of his upcoming wedding, I would tell him to find a way to sidestep the anger while still respecting you. Your anger and unhappiness in this particular situation are about as useful to you and others as banging your head into a wall. It’s big and undeniable, but the wall won’t fall down and your head can only take so much.
You don’t HAVE to be happy, nobody can make you be happy. You don’t have to approve, nobody can make you do that either. If it makes you feel any better, I’m thinking this whole wedding thing might be a bad idea too, but I’m not here to advise him. I’m here for you.
Cakes are beautiful and delicious. Almost everybody loves cake and eating cake makes people happy. You can choose to make this cake. Making this cake is something you can choose and control. Cake makes people happy, you can focus on that. Choose to focus on the aspects you can control, like delicious wedding cake, and let go of those things you cannot control, like irresponsible siblings. Make this cake and make it a symbol that says “I will do the best I can with what I have. I will let go of those things that are not mine to hold and I will share with others these things that come from me.”
You don’t have to love your new sister in law but you can feed her cake and cake is delicious.
Dear Auntie BubboPants is a weekly advice column covering everything from love, self esteem, pants, yarn and recipes. Auntie BubboPants doesn’t really knit, she only crochets, so don’t ask her to ssk2tog for you!