"If a friend is in trouble, don't annoy him by asking if there's anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it." --Howe
How To Keep A Brother-In-Law At Arm's Length
(taken from 12/18/20 "Carolyn Hax")
LETTER: My brother-in-law is not someone I consider a good role model for my son. His idea of appropriate behavior with his nephew at a holiday dinner is arm-wrestling him at the dinner table and then teaching him about gambling while watching football. Should I ask my sister to tell her husband to steer clear of my son, or let it go for one time a year?
Carolyn said something about the pandemic, but Skillz tackles the issue head-on:
SKILLZ SAYS: Your BIL arm-wrestled your son? Heaven forbid! And taught him about gambling? For SHAME. If you don't cut this off right away, BIL's next act may be—yikes—showing your son a karate move! We have to stop this maniac at once!
In case you can't tell, I'm being exceptionally sarcastic because you, ma'am, are overreacting. Your son is not going to end up in jail if he learns how to arm-wrestle. ALL MEN ARM-WRESTLE at some point. It may even motivate your son to increase his physical strength, which is sort of valuable in men, if you haven't noticed. Your son is going to be a man some day. He should know basic "man things".
As for the gambling? I hate to break it to you, but gambling exists in many forms. Many legal forms, such as Lotto. People who buy Lotto tickets do not suddenly quit their six-figure jobs to become bookies. A kid knowing how to bet on a football game is, well, real life. Sooner or later, and I'm betting sooner, he will bet on something with his buddies (if you allow him to have buddies). IT WILL NOT—I REPEAT, NOT—RUIN HIS LIFE.
Listen, it's better to be overprotective than underprotective, but at this rate, are you going to let BIL or anyone else who drives five miles over the speed limit drive your son anywhere? Your BIL is showing your son how to be "one of the guys", so unless you want him to be a through-and-through dork for eternity, you'll relax a bit "one time a year". WIN! You're welcome.
Mom Of Five Would Like To Put Cork In Questions About Family Plans
(taken from 4/18/20 "Ask Amy")
LETTER: I have five young sons. Everywhere I go, people ask me if I'm "done having kids" or if I'm "going to try for a girl." I get these questions from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers.
I feel that the topic of future reproductive plans is a personal one. But I am a friendly person, and I end up answering some pretty personal questions, so as not to hurt the feelings of the person asking. Honestly, I would rather steer clear of the matter entirely!
Sometimes I just say, "We love boys!" when people ask if I'm going to try for a girl, especially when my kids are listening. People still like to push the question further. I know I've hurt at least one person's feelings by trying to change the subject at that point.
I understand that people are curious about our family, but I would rather not discuss whether or not I'm done having kids unless I choose to bring it up, myself. What is a friendly way I can steer the conversation?
Amy advised you to take the high, non-offensive road. Skillz thinks otherwise...
SKILLZ SAYS: What is the matter with these nosy people?
Obviously, most people have between 1-3 children; those with more stand out. It's normal for curiosity to be piqued, but it is not normal to ask your future reproductive plans. I suggest you never, ever give in to these dopes by legitimately answering any of their questions. Rather than steer the conversation, you need to end the conversation, and you do so by further confusing them and having internal laughs at their expense.
Next time someone asks if you're trying for a girl, respond in one of these ways:
(sounding as desperate as possible) "YES. Do you know anyone willing to try with me?"
"They ARE girls."
"Oh, hahaha, we just did try in the store's bathroom. SSSHH!"
"We have five girls, too. But they refuse to travel anywhere with the boys."
"I already have tried. With my husband AND his brothers. Guess it just wasn't meant to be."
"Ew, no, girls are icky."
"A girl? Don't you think I have ENOUGH children?"
Next time someone asks if you're done having kids:
"Well, I've said yes before, but then my husband goes and puts on that Superman costume again..."
"Oh, these aren't my kids. They're my brothers."
"You got that right. I told my husband "Rear Entry Only" from now on!"
"Not a chance! My friend lost a bet and so every child I have, she owes me $100!"
"I don't know! They just keep coming somehow."
People this damn intrusive deserve to walk away from the conversation scratching their heads and regretting ever approaching you. I'm as curious about certain things as the next guy and I'd never DREAM of essentially asking a stranger about their sex life, not even for cash money. Hopefully, you employ these responses properly and the nosies will realize they have crossed a line—not with bad intent, but still. WIN! You're welcome.
Unhealthy Choices Could Derail Blooming Romance
(taken from 3/28/20 "Dear Abby")
LETTER: I've had an 18-year-old girlfriend for six months (I'm 24). She's a sweet girl who's caring, thoughtful and respectful. Every day typically goes well, and we never argue about anything -- except for when it comes to her health.
She is terrified of dentists and doctors. I used to be as well. But I have tried repeatedly to make her understand that, though those situations can be scary, it would be worse if she has to go to these places when it's nearly too late. She refuses to go to a doctor or dentist's office with me to watch what I experience. She says she'll receive vaccinations "when it's time" -- except for the flu shot and other "nonessential" shots. She says she'll go to the dentist when her teeth start to hurt. Her logic is, "I'm doing fine without this stuff now, so I'm OK."
I am trying to be as patient as I can with her. I have tried to explain that her logic sounds like, "I won't wear a seat belt because I haven't gotten into a car accident yet." I'm afraid I will soon grow so impatient with her ignorance that I break up with her. I don't want to be with someone who can't take her own health seriously. What can I do to get her to come around, face her fears and acknowledge that her health is incredibly important?
Abby made it clear you should end the relationship, but Skillz will help you keep your girlfriend AND change her thinking:
SKILLZ SAYS: You are dating a teenager. And a good percentage of teens are naive, if not outright dumb. They only know what they know, which is little compared to everyone else. So what I'm going to do is afford you a way to take advantage of said naivete, which will get you what you WANT, and get her what she NEEDS.
Do not talk about anything health-related for months (unless, of course, SHE brings it up.) Wait until the current virus has been dealt with for good—we aim to be duplicitous, not cruel. Then, out of the blue, leave tabs open on your computer like "Is herpes contagious?" and "nearest std testing center"
When she angrily confronts you, just respond "Don't be silly. I was checking for a friend!" but don't be all that believable. "Oh, come on babe, you're overreacting. Nothing's wrong with you, right? Let's have sex." You'll have an argument, true. But I can almost guarantee if she has any brain cells in her head, she won't fully trust you and will head straight for a doctor. Hopefully, the importance of maintaining good health will be communicated to her, or it'll sink in on its own. That's all you can do with a person like this at this stage in their life. WIN! You're welcome.
P.S. I'm aware there's a chance you'll be TOO believable and wind up dumped, or that she's too chicken to even get herself tested for herpes. In those instances, it'll be clear you shouldn't be together.
A Single Mom's Night Out Comes With A Guilt Trip
(taken from 3/6/20 "Carolyn Hax")
LETTER: I am a single mom (divorced) and have spent the past few years completely prioritizing my kids. They are now 13 and 8 and are very happy and well-adjusted. For once, I feel comfortable dating, and have started exploring a relationship with my friend "Greg." Greg expressed interest a few years back, but I didn't feel comfortable spending time away from my kids, who were so young then. Now I look forward to seeing him some evenings and on weekends.
But last night as I was getting ready for dinner with Greg, my 8-year-old groaned about how I was leaving "again." The last date I went on before this one was over a week ago. I felt terrible and considered canceling the date, but went on it and could not enjoy it at all.
I talked to the 8-year-old this morning and I don't think she was especially upset, so maybe I overreacted, but I am not sure how to tell whether I am spending TOO much time away from my kids vs. just claiming a reasonable amount of "me" time and teaching them a healthy lesson by doing so. What do you think?
Carolyn made a few valid points, but Skillz can end the complaints once and for all:
SKILLZ SAYS: Though it sounds like your kid may not have a true problem with your going out, why risk matters? After all, they did express disapproval, and kids usually mean what they say and say what they mean.
With that in mind, there are some things you can do to ensure A) you get to enjoy some time away from the kids, and B) they won't have a problem with it. First of all, you have to make yourself more annoying. Why? So they not only don't miss you when you leave, but they'll actually want you gone at times! Start parading around the house belting out Fergie songs at the top of your lungs. Any meal your kids eat, help yourself to two or more bites, especially of their favorites. Whenever they're occupied, make sure to interrupt with stupid questions (i.e. "Can you run your hands along my ribcage and count? I think I'm a couple short.")
If you can perfect the art of annoyance, your kids will be glad to get rid of you in short bursts.
Don't want to go that route? Fine. You can also make sure to return from every excursion with a gift or two for the kids, and be sure to say "Greg and I found this while we were out. Hope you like it!" Or "We had some change left over from dinner. Here ya go!" I don't like this approach much because you're basically buying your kids' approval, but in the end you're getting what you want: complaint-free time with Greg. WIN! You're welcome.
Chatter at School Bus Stop Turns to Uncomfortable Money Questions
(taken from 2/4/20 "Dear Abby")
LETTER: I need help dealing with a neighbor problem. "Diane" and I have been neighbors for five years. We both have daughters in elementary school who ride the bus. At the bus stop, Diane always manages to point out something about my daughter or me that makes me uncomfortable. She'll ask things like, "Are those new shoes?" "I like that jacket. Was it expensive?" "You have a new hairdo; did it cost much?" Or "Wow, how can you afford such nice clothes for your daughter?" "Are those new jeans? How much were they?"
I find her prying annoying and quite rude. Most of the other parents avoid her, probably because of this behavior. I work to afford the things I have, and I don't feel I need to discuss what I spend for my child or myself with anyone. Other than this, she's a nice neighbor. What's the best way to get her to stop asking these questions? I try to ignore them, but this has been going on for years, and I'm at a loss.
Abby suggested the direct approach. Courtesy of Skillz, here's another approach:
SKILLZ SAYS: "Are those new shoes?" "No. In fact, they were mine when I was a child."
"I like that jacket. Was it expensive?" "Not sure. I found it in the back of a taxi."
"You have a nice hairdo. Did it cost much?" "No, I have some dirt on the person who did it."
"Wow. How can you afford such nice clothes for your daughter?" (Which may be the rudest question I've ever read doing this feature) "Let's just say I know the right people."
You get the idea. Never admit what you're spending because it's none of Diane's business, but at the same time have some fun with her. These type of answers come with a risk; your neighbor sounds like she carries mega gossip potential, and while she may let up on the questioning, before you know it the "other parents" you mentioned will be believing you're in a crime syndicate. Or at the very least, morally bankrupt.
You could also avoid Diane like the other parents do—perhaps drive your kid to school now and then, and when that's not an option, sidle up to the bus stop as late as possible to minimize the contact. WIN! You're welcome.
My Pesky Co-Worker Thinks I'm His Personal Google
(taken from 12/28/19 "Ask Amy")
LETTER: I am a woman working for a corporation. I have a male co-worker at a similar professional level who asks me questions about his/our work on a daily basis. None of my other co-workers ask me as many questions as he does.
Sometimes these questions have a simple answer, like confirming deadlines, and I give him the benefit of the doubt and provide the answer when I know it.
More frequently the questions are, “How do I…?” I feel like these should be directed to a supervisor, since my job responsibilities do not include training other employees.
My response is usually to grudgingly help if I have the time, or an “I don’t know, sorry” if I don’t know or don’t feel like answering.
I’m torn between being a team player and being a tattletale. While I don’t mind helping out when I can, I honestly feel his questions are directed to me too frequently. Sometimes he finds the answer himself only a few minutes after sending me the question, which makes me feel like I’m his first option and that he doesn’t care if he wastes my time.
Should I pretend I don’t know the answers and hope this discourages him, while keeping the peace, or do I need to be assertive and tell him he should be asking our boss these questions instead?
Amy gave you a short spiel to offer him if his bugging continues. Skillz has a couple of ideas, too:
SKILLZ SAYS: Do not, under any circumstances, tattle on this guy—you obviously want to preserve workplace harmony and this could turn him into an enemy.
Rather, the next time he asks you in person something you can claim to not have the answer for, burst into tears. Loudly and embarrassingly. "I'M SUCH AN IDIOT! YOU ASK ME THESE QUESTIONS AND I TRY TO HELP AND I TRY TO HAVE THE ANSWERS BUT I'M SUCH A LOSER! I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING!!!" He will console your sobbing and hopefully feel too guilty to ever seek answers from you again.
Another option is to make thing so awkward between the two of you that he stays away. You could do this by: waiting near his car after work and letting him catch you peeing on the ground. Or letting something not-so-innocent fall out of your purse in his presence; I'm thinking a toy, if you follow.
Last resort: next time he emails you a question, respond with a Photoshopped image of the two of you together attached to the legit answer, with no other explanation. (This will especially work if you are unattractive.)
Any normal person will be too uncomfortable to make anything but the most necessary of contact with you going forward. WIN! You're welcome.
Young Adult Must Keep Debt, And Dad, At Bay
(taken from 11/8/19 "Ask Amy")
LETTER: I'm 23 years old and currently in a lot of debt. I've been doing my best to pay it off.
For the last year, I've held a well-paying job. However, my dad is constantly curious about how much money I have.
I loaned him $1,200 nine months ago. He said that he just needed a little help with some bills.
How my parents handle their bills is none of my business. I've talked to my mom about it and she thinks it's wrong of him to be asking his youngest daughter to pay his bills. She is also lending him a lot of money. Amy, I just gave him another $400 to pay his cellphone bill.
A couple of days ago I was on the phone, telling him about a situation I was in. He interrupted me, asking me to put more money into his account.
He has never paid me back anything, even though he says he will.
I don't even want to answer his calls anymore because all he wants from me is money.
I love both my parents very much. Any suggestions?
Amy wants you to have a reasonable discussion with Dad. Skillz presents an alternative:
SKILLZ SAYS: Seriously, does your father have an addiction??? I know I'd personally have to be on drugs to even consider borrowing that much dough from anyone, let alone my kid.
Let's assume for the moment that he is not an addict, because the problems stemming from addiction go well beyond the scope of our expertise. Let's just say he's a financially-stunted human being.
The first thing I want you to do is make your dad feel as small as possible. Yes, I can see where you wrote how much you love him but your goal is to stop him from seeing you as his personal ATM. One of these days, YOU call HIM asking for money. But before he can stutter out an answer, immediately add, "Oh, wait, I forgot. All your money comes from me already." Then quickly disconnect.
Send photos of you with things you want but cannot afford, with passive-aggressive messages attached: "Wanted this car, but was $1200 short of the down payment. Darn!" Post to social media if possible, especially if Dad has an account.
Another social media avenue to travel down: make it known you are turning to others for help besides your papa. "Dead broke and ran out of gas today, luckily I can count on my (pastor/dentist/landlord/butcher) to come through in a pinch!"
And if none fo this stops Dad from again sticking his hand out, make him do stuff for the cash. Make him mop your apartment, change your oil, something. Even if it's just for your amusement. Remember: the guy is asking you for hundreds of dollars so it's not unreasonable for YOU to want HIM to perform a little dance for the money. (And if he IS willing to humiliate himself for the $, I say he's earned it; don't ask for it back. You probably wouldn't get it anyway.) WIN! You're welcome.
Helicopter Dad Won't Leave Son Alone
(taken from 9/10/19 "Dear Abby")
LETTER: I'm a 23-year-old man living in Texas. I am a college graduate and on my own now. My parents are very caring, but my father has an unhealthy obsession with me.
He messages me multiple times a day. It never stops. I'm currently looking for teaching jobs, and he tries to intervene by looking for them for me. He's like a wasp that will not go away, and it is making me very uncomfortable. Even though I am an adult, he tries to tell me what to do and how to do it. I am so confused; please help me.
Abby said talk to your parents, which Skillz doesn't think will work:
SKILLZ SAYS: Confused? There's nothing confusing here. t's pretty clear the first thing you should do is tell your father you have a job, even if you don't. That eliminates what sounds like the biggest part of the problem.
As for the overall obsession, pretend to be your own girlfriend. When he sends a barrage of messages, angrily respond "This is (name's) girlfriend and I'm trying to pleasure him sexually BUT YOU KEEP BUZZING THE DAMN PHONE!!!" The one risk here is your father beginning to pester you about your relationship, but I feel the odds are low and the risk is worth it.
Another option: pretend to take his (likely useless and outdated) advice, but report that it backfired horribly. For example: if he tells you to change your own oil, report that your HOA busted you for a $1,000 fine. If he tells you to get a guard dog, report that said dog bites you in the junk multiple times a day. Do this enough times and you'll have the perfect avenue to tell Dad "ENOUGH with your crappy suggestions!" WIN! You're welcome.