I am a college student who has been fortunate to grow up in a wonderful, loving family, and I’m very close to my parents and younger siblings. Recently, when I commented about an article I was reading on sperm donation, my mother disclosed to me her decision several years ago to have her eggs harvested and given to an infertile couple who were friends of the family. I was devastated by this news. That family conceived triplets with my mother’s eggs, and I have met the children on many occasions. My mother insists that those children are not “her kids” and that she simply helped her friends become parents. My father is the only other person in our family who is aware of the situation, and the other family now lives in a different state. On one hand, I love her even more for such a selfless act, but on the other I feel upset by this news. Am I ridiculous for feeling intensely jealous and heartbroken? She is my and my full siblings’ mom, and I don’t want to know anything about these half-siblings. How can I get rid of the disdain I’ve developed for these children and erase the fear that she loves them as much as (or more than) me?
—Jealous and Confused Son
There you were, innocently enjoying your life, and your mother had to shove in your head not only the image of her eggs being harvested and fertilized, but the knowledge that the result was Huey, Dewey, and Louie. But try thinking of it this way: Your mother donated a microscopic bit of herself to allow this other couple to start their family, and that was the end of her involvement. The other woman spent nine months pregnant with triplets, gave birth to them, and she and her husband are now raising them far away. Your mother is right not to consider herself this threesome’s mother, and you shouldn’t, either. You say you are torn because, as angry as you are, you also admire your mother’s selflessness. Try, when thoughts about this come up, to focus on your mother’s generosity, not on your jealousy. But if you stay emotionally stuck, go to your college counseling service to talk about this. Your burden is compounded because this is a secret, and having a chance to vent your feelings might help you release them.
I recently moved into a condominium. In the unit across from mine is a young female, close to my age, who had put a cozy little bench into the common area in the breezeway. I have since installed a storm door on my front door, and I have to open it out into the patio in order to open my interior door. The position of the bench is straddling the wall between our two front doors—it is difficult for me to open my storm door and access the lock to my other door. So, I moved her bench 2 inches toward her door, which allows my storm door to fully open. Each day, she moves it back. It could not be inconveniencing her in any way for it to be 2 inches closer to her own door. One day, I decided to test her to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. I slightly moved her bench as usual and left my storm door open, in hopes that she would realize why I must move her bench. When I came home, she had shut my storm door and returned her bench to its original location! Should I leave it and be inconvenienced to avoid causing ill will? Or should I tell her to get her bench the hell off my side of the wall and put it by her own door?
—Waiting With Red Masking Tape
Knock on her door one night with a smile on your face and a bottle of wine in your hand and tell her you’re sorry you haven’t introduced yourself. Assuming she lets you in, say you wanted to talk to her about making the breezeway comfortable for both of you. Do you want to smile and give her a bottle of wine? No, you’d rather hogtie her and have her watch while you chop her beloved bench into cordwood, but we’re talking about the best way to end this tug of war before hostilities escalate. Go outside with her and show her that because of your storm door, you have to bang into her bench to get in your place. Ask if she’d mind moving her bench—tell her it’s very pretty—back a couple of inches so you don’t damage it. Either she’ll agree, or she’s a nut. If you conclude she’s a nut, be grateful you’re not going through life that way and decide it’s probably better to live with this slight inconvenience than engage in an endless border skirmish.
My husband and I live three miles from where I work, and with gas prices increasing, I want to buy a Vespa scooter for the commute. My husband is convinced that riding a scooter anywhere in our town is nothing short of suicide; a friend of his died in a motorcycle accident when he was younger. (His friend had been drinking prior to the crash.) Based on this experience, my husband wants to show me every scooter accident since 1990 on YouTube. I’m not proposing riding at night or on the four-lane roads or interstates. The route to work is mainly on neighborhood streets where the top speed is about 35 mph. My husband’s “compromise” is for us to buy scooters after we are retired and living at the beach because he’ll be able to ride with me. But retirement is about 25 years away, and we don’t even own a beach house. I feel like my life is being constrained by his fear. Am I wrong here?
Appreciate that while you find your husband’s objections to be overbearing, it is also utterly endearing that he is so concerned about keeping you in one piece. I’m with him in sharing a terror of motorcycles, but I have a petite neighbor in her late 50s who I have to admit looks adorable tootling around town on her scooter. You’re right, waiting 25 years is no compromise. Tell your husband the compromise is no highways, no going faster that 35 mph, and no riding late at night. Once he sees how much money you save on gas, he might even start fighting you in the morning over who gets to drive the Vespa to work.
I’m in my early 20s, and I recently began working at a pet store. I love the job—the work is interesting, I’m good at it, the money is decent, my co-workers are friendly, and the customers love me. I could easily see myself working here for several years. There’s only one problem: I’m terrified of my boss! He’s very strict and hypercritical, and sometimes he can be downright nasty. I’m not used to this kind of work environment, and I’m so nervous around him that it’s affecting my job performance. It’s turning into a vicious cycle: He criticizes me, I stress out and do a bad job, he criticizes me for it, and so forth. Today he really let me have it, and as soon as my shift ended, I sobbed for the rest of the day. Even though this was my dream job, I’m beginning to dread going to work. I’ve looked for advice on how to deal with a difficult boss, but most of the advice applies only to corporate settings, where you can complain to human resources. Can you suggest any tricks for staying cool, not taking his wrath so personally, and currying his favor?
—Pet Store Cinderella
Dear Pet Store,
First, accept that this may end up being one of those situations in which there are no good alternatives: Either you stay and it starts affecting your mental health or you go and have to give up a job you really enjoy. But the retail world is always in need of dedicated workers who get along with their colleagues and please their customers. Since you like the pet business, start looking around now for stores where you can put in an application. You’re right that this likely isn’t personal: You happen to work for an insecure bully, and he finds you gratifyingly vulnerable. Work up your nerve and request a meeting with him. Emphasize that you enjoy the job and have learned a lot from him. Then explain that when he criticizes you so fiercely your performance suffers. Ask him if he can temper his tone so that you can learn better. Definitely rehearse this conversation with a friend, who can role-play being a jerk. Perhaps he’ll have a little more respect for you for standing up for yourself. Probably he’ll just keep after you. But you will know you did what you could before you had to find another job.