December 30, 2010
My 63-year-old husband behaved terribly on Christmas Eve. He got a bit drunk and stared—really stared—at my 30-year-old son’s cute little 24-year-old girlfriend all night! I can put up with the drinking, but the ogling has put me in a foul mood—not so much because of my husband, but that poor little thing. What must she think? Do you think she will leave my son?
—Desperate Mamma in Mobile
Dear Desperate Mamma in Mobile,
It’s OK to feel a littlesorry for your husband. He probably has not seen a cute little girl up close and in the flesh—needless to say sitting down for a meal with him—in about 20 years. We all know that men can’t help but look, and they will never stop looking, so this is not the main problem.
It is never good if your father seems interested in your girlfriend. Even if you know he is only a harmless drunken leering old man, it can be very creepy when you’re the 24-year-old femme on the receiving end of his glances. You could try lecturing him about the permanent emotional trauma such behavior can inflict on pretty young girls, but that could backfire and make it more enticing. He may step up his game and start shooting her some sober flirty glances instead of slow drunken stares, and that’s much worse.
Try to water down his drinks. Spend some time in the kitchen experimenting. I don’t know whether it’s myth or miracle, but I’ve heard that one or two tablespoons of olive oil before drinking alcohol will prevent one from becoming a bad drunk. It is worth a try. If these ideas don’t work and the staring continues, make sure he is not allowed to meet your son’s current girlfriend (or any future one) until she has been safely locked in as your son’s wife. Unless it is a supervised daytime activity, invent every possible excuse to keep your husband away from this girl.
Christmas Day was a disaster to say the least. Mid-lunch and many drinks into the day, my father started verbally attacking and degrading my brother. His wife, also quite a few drinks into it, freaked out. She started screaming that it was unacceptable behavior and made her kids and my brother leave right then and there, leaving all the unopened gifts behind. She ruined our Christmas. I am really angry but not sure if I should call her on it.
—Angry Sister in London
Dear Angry Sister in London,
I think you should call up your sister and praise her. Your father is teaching his grandchildren that it is OK to be a mean, nasty drunk. She rightfully refused to watch her husband getting torn down in front of his own children. Could she have been less dramatic and more polite while making her point? Most likely. But as a mother bear, she was right to defend her den. “Defend yourself from those who attack you” was broadcast on Italian radio after Italy switched sides in WWII, and it is still good advice for everyone. It is not only minority-interest groups who are allowed to make a fuss about fair treatment!
Your father should know by now that if he wants to be a crotchety drunk, he has to spread out the abuse to include all guests. It is unfair to single out one person; let everyone join in the family fun. From time to time, a family can put up with a grumpy grandfather who is mean to everyone. But a grumpy grandfather who focuses on one victim should expect retaliation from his prey.
Sometimes things happen, and one of them was that on an impulse I left my husband. He did not take it well. I reconsidered my action and offered to move back in with him as his housekeeper. I said I would take care of him, but without the added requirement of conjugal relations. To my surprise, he turned me down and filed for divorce. Now I don’t know what to do. He needs a housekeeper, and I need a place to stay.
—Bewildered Helpmeet in Hanover
Dear Bewildered Helpmeet,
Things don’t just happen. You don’t just happen to leave your husband. It is like saying that you just happened to have sex with a person because you tripped and fell on top of them.
People don’t leave husbands “on impulse.” What part of the story are you hiding? Something tells me you ran away for some fast-talking Romeo who then dumped you, and now you’re stuck in the middle holding an empty bag and are too humiliated to admit it. Whatever sort of impulse-control problem you have, even Wikipedia will tell you that “The ability to control impulses, or more specifically control the desire to act on them, is an important factor in personality and socialization.” Translation: You will have no friends and no long-lasting relationships if you can’t control your urges.
Maybe—just maybe—your husband could have forgiven your capriciousness if you’d also offered to come back as a sex slave, but a housekeeper “without the added requirement of conjugal relations” will only attract middle-aged closeted homosexuals in Northern Ireland.
Please write to Delphi at firstname.lastname@example.org
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