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Dear John: Old Enough to Know Better

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

 

Is it because no one at home listens to all his good advice? Maybe. But lucky for you, he's here, he's ready to advise, and all you need to do is ask. Which you can do by writing to [email protected].

Dear John,

I have become somewhat smitten with a woman I work with. We’re both unattached adults, so there’s nothing particularly complicated about our situation except for one thing: I am 54 and she is 29. My question is straightforward. How much of an age difference is too much? We get along great when we work together, and she’s leaving our company at the end of the month. It’s the prospect of not seeing her any more that has me thinking of asking her out.

Sincerely,
 
Older Man, or Just an Old Man?

 
As anyone who has seen any of Woody Allen’s last few movies will attest, there is a point at which the age difference between an older man and a younger woman just makes you think, “Yuck!” I don’t know exactly what that age gap is, and I don’t think you’re there yet, but my gut says you’re skirting awfully close to it. In fact, I had to remind myself that next year your colleague will be 30 to make your proposal palatable.
 
It’s not that a relationship between a 54-year-old and a 29-year-old can’t work; it’s just that there are so many red flags. You don’t provide much background information, so I don’t know anything about your past relationships, if you chronically seek out women much younger than you, etc. If you decide to pursue this, good luck. And if it doesn’t work out, I’d make it a point to look for someone closer to a peer than a daughter.


Dear John,
 
My parents are divorced and they both do something that drives me crazy! When one of them is mad at the other (like most of the time) they will refer to each other as “your father” or “your mother” when talking to me. Like, “Did your father get in touch with you about next weekend?” It’s kind of hard to explain, but it makes me feel like they’re blaming me for the flaws of the other! Like I picked who my father and mother were! How can I not let this bother me so much? Talking to either of my parents about anything having to do with the other one usually backfires.
 
Sincerely,
Their Daughter

 
Dear Daughter,
 
It’s completely understandable that this bothers you. It’s a shame that after making you endure their divorce, your parents continue to involve you in their hostilities. It happens in a lot in families that are split up, and it’s wrong. It’s definitely not a situation you are in any way responsible for or deserve.
 
Despite not having much reason for optimism, I think your first step is to talk with them (separately, obviously). Don’t frame it as something having to do with the other parent, but something the parent you are talking to does that hurts your feelings. Show your mom and dad this letter if you think it might help or if you have a hard time raising the subject. All you can really say is that it’s hard enough to have divorced parents without getting caught in the middle of their squabbles.
 
If this doesn’t help, do you have another adult you can talk to who may be able to intervene? An aunt or uncle you’re close to? A guidance counselor at school, maybe?
 
I really hope you can make your parents aware of how this makes you feel and that they will promise to at least try not to do this. And remember that the breakup of your family is tremendously sad for your parents, and a lot of times adults who feel sad express their sadness by acting angry. It’s easier to feel mad than sad, I guess. Keeping this in mind may help if they refuse to leave you out of their arguments.


Dear John,
 
My husband and I are basically at opposite ends of the political spectrum. With another political season starting up and our son being old enough to take an interest and ask us our opinions about different issues, how do we answer his questions honestly without leaving him confused or under the impression we don’t agree on many things, politically speaking at least?
 
Sincerely,
Opposites Attract

 
Dear Opposites,
 
I don’t think you have a problem. I think you have a fantastic opportunity.
 
Assuming you and your husband can talk about these issues respectfully together, discussing them with your son will teach him a number of very valuable lessons. That adults can disagree and still respect each other’s opinions. That people can take the same starting point and arrive at very different conclusions. That things in the real world are almost never black and white. And not least of all, that it’s important to take these questions seriously and look at them from every angle.
 
Will your son get the impression you don’t agree on many things? Of course! You don’t! So what? If a child knows his parents agree that they love each other, that makes up for virtually anything else they may disagree on.


You know you've got a problem. And you need some solid advice. Send it off today to [email protected] . Make it interesting enough and he'll probably write back. In front of a million of your closest friends.

 

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