I am a professional in my late 20s and purchased my own home a few years ago. I am also planning to get engaged to a wonderful woman soon. Due to increased work demands, I have gotten badly behind in my housework in recent months. My parents, who live nearby, decided to help by straightening out my house but didn’t tell me their plans. They used the spare key I had given them and cleaned the house from top to bottom. Drawers and closets were rearranged and things were moved around—including contraceptives and literature on engagement rings. A personal item belonging to my girlfriend was apparently discarded. Granted, some much-needed repairs were done (blinds put up, a light fixture repaired, etc). But I was furious that my personal space and privacy were invaded. I called my parents and, in a very loud, profane, and mean-spirited rant, told them that they had no right to do what they did and that they were not welcome in my house. I know that I was wrong to lose my temper with my parents, and I want to apologize and restore our relationship. But I don’t want to give them the impression that they have the right to come over and rummage through my things. My father is now convinced that my outburst was a sign of a mental-health problem and has demanded that I go to the doctor to discuss going on medication. Now my girlfriend thinks my parents are irrational and controlling, and is nervous that they will continue to do stuff like this after we are married. What can I do to straighten everything out?
—Clean House, Messy Relationships
There your parents were, whistling while they worked like a pair of Snow Whites, knowing that you would be stunned with pleasure at the transformation of your home from shambles to showplace. When you called, they were expecting to hear gratitude, but instead, Grumpy lays into them with an invective-laced diatribe. I’m not defending your parents—they grossly violated your privacy. There is a sanctity to anyone’s home, and they were treating yours as if it were your teenage bedroom and they’d gotten sick of telling you to clean it up. You had a right to be furious about their “gift.” But it’s usually preferable to contain your anger before expressing your displeasure, especially when the recipients are your well-meaning parents, who are oblivious to the wrong they’ve done. So, go see them with a bouquet of flowers. Apologize for what you said and the way you said it. Then explain to them that while you appreciate their generosity—and how much better the house looks—it’s your house, and you need them to respect your privacy and territory. Let’s hope they forget the suggestion that you seek medical attention. If your father brings it up, laugh it off by saying you temporarily snapped because you missed your dust bunnies. If your parents get it, then you can reassure your girlfriend there won’t be anymore break-ins. But if they don’t, then change your locks.
I am in my early 20s and have been in my first and only relationship with a great—perhaps perfect—man for more than two years. The problem isn’t him, it’s me. I have recently put my foot in the door of the modeling/acting business. This new career has given me the opportunity to meet so many interesting and beautiful people. I’ve twice been offered a flight to rendezvous with an industry person I had just met! I’m very upset to admit I have been tempted by these offers. I’m flattered that they find me attractive enough to drop some dough and give me a boost in the industry. I can’t help but be intrigued by the possibility of new sexual encounters and a leg up in my field. I’m not interested in any emotional relationship because my boyfriend fills me to the brim with his unconditional love and affection. Since I’m inexperienced with relationships, is this just typical temptation that every woman must fight, or is this a warning sign that I’m not in my relationship as deeply as I thought?
It’s perfectly common for a young woman who’s had only one relationship, and is just entering the wider world, to wonder what it’s like to be involved with other people. It’s less common for a young woman to be ecstatically happy in a relationship but think it may be a good idea to let guys fly her around so she can have sex with them. And it’s really uncommon for a young woman to be able to convince her perfect boyfriend that flying around and having sex with other guys has nothing whatsoever to do with their relationship—it’s just a career-building thing. (It’s probably best to leave off your résumé, “Had lots of sex with Client No. 9.”) Usually it turns out that beautiful, willing young women are a renewable resource for well-connected men, and that such men aren’t actually that interested in making you the next Heidi Klum; they’re just interested in making you. But if you do decide to give in to temptation, at least be decent enough to break up with your great guy before you get on the plane.
I have recently started frequenting a popular clothing-optional beach. This beach is fairly secluded, so I feel very comfortable tanning and swimming naked. The other day, however, I had a very embarrassing encounter. As I lay naked on my towel trying to improve my tan, one of my old college professors walked by me. (He was fully clothed, incidentally.) We recognized each other; however, neither of us said hello out of (I assume) mutual embarrassment. Afterward, I felt rude for not acknowledging him and am now concerned that he may feel that I snubbed him. Was it appropriate not to greet him? Do you have any advice on how I should behave if this happens again?
—Not a Never-Nude
There are certain situations in which not acknowledging an acquaintance can be the most graceful thing to do. One is if you’re in a restaurant, and the spouse of a friend in mid-canoodle with someone who is not your friend looks up and sees you. The other is when you are lying nude on a beach towel and strolling by is your former professor, who may be doing field work, though I doubt his field is conchology. While you are worrying that you snubbed your professor, he’s worrying that you think he likes to ogle the shore life. If he comes wandering by again, this is an occasion in which it would be perfectly acceptable to roll over and, figuratively, bury your head in the sand.
My grandmother has dementia and has recently been hospitalized. Every time my parents visit her, they encourage me to tag along. I never go. I love her and all, but she doesn’t remember that we’ve been to visit her. She left me some money, and my dad tries using that to make me feel guilty when I don’t go with them. To me, her body may still be there, but her mind is pretty much gone. When I used to go visit her, she often started conversations in her native language. (English is her second.) She has even confused me with her niece that passed away. I can’t talk to my dad about this because it’s his mom and he’s really sensitive about it. I feel I’m too young to be dealing with something like this, so how do I talk to my dad about it without him becoming upset?
—Teen Going on Adult
You’ve probably already discovered that life as a child or teen is full of doing stuff you don’t want to do because it’s your obligation and because it’s the right thing to do. Since you’re “going on adult,” you might as well know that when you grow up, you’re going to have to do lots more unpleasant stuff because … you get the picture. There are few things more depressing than seeing a beloved person be overtaken by dementia. But it doesn’t matter that your grandmother is not sure who you are, because when you are there, she will know that a sweet young person kissed her on the forehead and said, “I love you, Grandma.” And you will know, especially when you get to be an adult and look back on your teenage self, that you don’t have to be ashamed that you abandoned your grandmother because she was sick and visiting her was a drag.