Dear John: Quit Trying To Set Me Up

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


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What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected].

Dear John,

Work-related question for you. I am in my late twenties and work in a small office. The office manager, who has worked here her whole adult life and who is the heart and soul of the place, keeps trying to set me up with her daughter. (We met briefly once at a company function). I have no interest in dating her daughter for the simple reason that I am gay. The people I work with don't know this about me because I like keeping my personal and professional lives completely separate (something I learned the hard way). I was hoping a simple "no" would suffice, but the office manager is pushy—she almost seems to take pride in pushing until she gets her way. I get the impression that she's starting to take this personally. I strongly resent the thought of having to come out at work only so this woman will leave me alone. And everyone knows I'm single and unattached, so I can't very well come up with a long-lost "girlfriend." Do you see an easy way out of this?

Not Interested—Really!

Dear Not Interested,

Just because the office manager is pushy doesn't mean you have to let yourself be pushed. The next time she proposes you and her daughter getting together, tell her that her daughter seems like a wonderful, attractive woman (if in fact she does) and it's no reflection on her, but for reasons you'd rather not go into, you are simply not interested in going out on a date with her. I have to think she will finally stop nagging you, but if not, simply repeat this as often as you have to. You don't owe her any more information than that. If she takes this as some kind of personal affront, that's her problem, not yours.


Dear John,
I recently learned something I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around. My fifteen-year-old son has a friend who's sixteen.  They hang out together quite a bit, playing video games, watching dvds, playing music. Typical stuff - most of it.  But my son told me his friend's mother lets them watch pornography. Or at least doesn't care if they watch pornography on the computer. I called her (I had met her but don't really know her) to find out if this is true and she got a little huffy about it, saying she's a single mother, her son is almost seventeen, and if he's at home and she knows where he is and he's not getting into trouble, that's enough for her. I told her I'm a single mother, too, but my son is NOT almost seventeen, he's not legally old enough to be looking at pornography, I hope he doesn't look at it even when he IS old enough, and that he was not allowed to do so when he's visiting. To which she replied she is not going to monitor her son's visits and if she doesn't want my son doing that or anything else her son is allowed to do, he simply shouldn't come over. I don't want to punish my son by not allowing him to visit his friend, but I certainly don't want him exposed to everything on the Internet, either. Is this crazy or what?? Your thoughts?

Single Mom, Just Not Crazy

Dear Single Mom,

I think the other mom inadvertently gave you the answer when she said your son shouldn't come over. She accidentally stumbled into an uncharacteristic bit of good judgment right there.

You can't allow your son to visit the home of a friend whose mother justifies something bad by saying, "Well, at least it's not worse." What's next - allowing them to drink so they won't hang out in bars?

You're not punishing your son by not letting him visit his friend any more than you're punishing him by not letting him drive at fifteen. This is a great opportunity to explain matter-of-factly that visiting any friend is contingent upon their home being an environment you approve of. If the house is full of cigarette smoke, for example, he can't visit because it would not be good for his health. The ready availability of pornography is no different. (As an added bonus, this would be a great time to segue into a chat about how much Internet pornography is hostile to women and really seems created for men who harbor a lot of anger toward them.)

To answer your question, yes, this is crazy. I'm not sure, but it may not even be legal. He should definitely not be allowed to spend any time there. Instead, have his friend come over to your house for video games or whatever teenage boy activities you approve of. He will probably benefit from spending time in a home environment that is a little more disciplined.


Dear John,

My boyfriend and I have been together for a couple of years and are in a loving, committed relationship, including owning a home and a dog together.

The problem revolves around the topic of marriage. I am not willing to have children out of wedlock (nor am I ready to have kids anytime soon!). My problem is that I don't want to wait years to get married and then immediately have children. My parents had me later in life and I feel cheated of time with them. I have tried to talk to him about how many years it can take to plan a wedding, etc. and then wait to have kids beyond that. He is absolutely not thinking about marriage any time soon at all. Should I wait it out, or move on and find someone who is on the same page as me?

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

Dear Should I Stay,

Based on what you've written here, I can't presume to tell you whether you should or shouldn't break up with a guy you've taken some major steps with.

But there are a couple of things I'd like you to think about that may help you decide if you should stay or go.

First, I find it a little odd that your boyfriend bought a house with you but is "absolutely not thinking about marriage any time soon at all." If he is willing to thoroughly intertwine your lives financially with home ownership but is not considering marriage "at all", I think there's a possibility he may never want to marry you. He's living exactly as though you were married, and yet he doesn't want to take the step of actually getting married. I could be wrong, but to me, this indicates an aversion to marriage. Have you discussed this with him honestly? What was his parents' marriage like—could it have turned him against the idea of marriage? There are men who profess to want to get married, but somehow, they never meet the right woman. They may not even realize it, but they don't really want to get married.

And what about you? You really do want to get married—maybe even a little too much? I fear that if you do break up with your boyfriend, your desire to get married may cloud your judgment about the next guy you meet. I know you have a certain narrative in your mind about how you'd like your life to play out, and if it does, great, but trying to force life to fit your preconceived notions rarely ends well. You feel cheated of time with your parents, but how was the time you did have with them? A lot of people would gladly take fewer years with their parents if those years could be happier ones.

Also, you say you want to get married, be a childless married couple for a while, then have kids, right? That's fine, but how would the married years without kids be any different than what you have now? This is a good example of an expectation you may have to modify if you and your guy can come to an agreement on what the future holds.

So talk to him, openly, honestly, and at length. If he resists such a discussion, that tells you something right there. As I said, it would be presumptuous of me to tell you whether or not to stay in this relationship. Clearly, though, the two of you have different ideas about the near-term future, so if you're going to stay together, you're going to have to change your expectations.


John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected]. He's away from the advice desk this week, so he's chosen some of his favorite letters from previous columns to share.


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