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September 21, 2000


Dirty Little Boy, Difficult Customer, Tacky In-Law,  and  Shy Guy


Dear Mrs. Web,

My son is four. He is an outdoors kid who likes to get dirty. Sometimes he comes into the house and tries to kiss or hug me with his dirty, muddy fingers. I find myself always pushing him away because I donít want to get dirty. I feel so bad for the both of us. Any suggestions?

Being a parent means you are going to be smudged. So you are going to have to change your expectations. Think of your at-home wardrobe as play clothes, like yard work clothes. Expect them to get dirty, then itís not such a big deal. When dressed up to go out, have a wet, soapy facecloth and towel handy to slow down and scrub that boy energy. Dirt washes out, acceptance and loving memories doesnít.

Dear Mrs. Web,

There is a customer who comes into the food store where I work. She comes in about once every two or three days. She is obnoxious and tries to pry into my life, asks me questions and comments on my appearance. I always try to stop her.. I am never sure what to do. How do I handle this? I want to stop her and be polite.

First, I would tell my manager about her. One of the best ways to handle difficult customers is with a smile and small talk about a neutral subject. Donít forget to ask her that old standby: paper or plastic? 

Dear Mrs. Web,

My ex-husbandís father, my former father-in-law just called. He just asked me out on a date. He is still married to his third wife. I told him no thanks and not to call again. What should I do? Should I tell my ex-husband and father of my two children?

There are men who will hit up a telephone pole if it is unattached. One telephone callÖno. However, if he has a pattern of annoying you, defined by Dear Mrs. Web as two telephone calls, I would notify the father of your two children.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My libido has diminished. I have been thinking of going to my doctor about this, and perhaps obtaining a prescription for the highly advertised medication for men. I am so shy that I am blushing and uncomfortable typing this in. I would never be able to talk to anyone about this problem. How can I talk to my doctor?

Well son, youíre due for a complete physical. Make an appointment with your physician. Then sit down and type him a letter detailing the problem. Explain your shyness in the letter. Mark the envelope personal. Mail it off so it arrives at least two weeks before the appointment. 

It will be read by your physician and will go into your chart. Let him discuss the contents of the letter with you. That should break the ice for you.


September 20, 2000


Dangerous Pants, Smoking Sister. Unfaithful, and Difficult Dad



Dear Mrs Web.

My youngest boy, age 16, is wearing the wide pants, with streamers, popular among teens. He just bought a motorcycle and I am afraid his pants are going to catch on the spokes and cause an accident. He wonít listen to me. How should I handle this?

He is sixteen; he is doing something dangerous. You are responsible for him. Take away his motorcycle keys. Part of growing up is learning to accept and value the directions and wisdom of parents.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My sister is coming for her annual visit next month with her three children. She has taken up smoking in a misguided attempt to lose weight; she is now fat and smelly. We donít allow smoking in our house. What should we do?

Tell her you donít permit smoking in the house, and ask her whether she wants a smoking section set up outside (a bucket of sand in a pail) or will she be wearing a nicotine patch for the visit? Emphasize how much everyone is looking forward to seeing them.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband just came home tonight to tell me that he spent the night with a female colleague he met at a conference this past weekend. He said he lost his head. I am so shocked and in pain, I am breathless. What do I do?

This does not sound like a pattern. Find a marriage counselor committed to keeping marriages together. This will be a difficult time but many couples have overcome this tragedy and have stronger, better marriages.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My mother has been wheelchair bound for five years following a severe stroke. She has been living at home with my father and with nursing assistants/homemakers twelve hours a day. My 82-year-old father is responsible for her during the night.


Things have not been going very smoothly for some time. The help resigns because of my father's irritable and explosive behavior. The primary employee who has been working for them over four years wants to leave.  Her workday is now sometimes extended because the evening help keeps quitting.


My two younger siblings think Mom should be placed in a nursing home thus relieving Dad and themselves of this stress. My older sister and I have a less optimistic view of what life would be like for her in a nursing home. It seems a bit like asking my Mom to pay for a problem that is my father's. What should we do?

Does your dad need nighttime assistance with your mother? Is he tired because of the burden of caring for your mother at night? Eighty-two with diminishing capacities and abilities may make some apparently simple tasks much more complicated and exhausting.

Has your father been medically evaluated? Has his physician been alerted about these difficulties? Is the physician responsive? Perhaps he needs a work up by a gerontologist who would be able to find the best combination of drugs and care to help your parents remain in their home. 

Another option, if it is financially feasible, is a congregate housing facility.  Whatever is chosen, it will take tact, and a united front of family and professionals to help your parents.



September 19, 2000


Correcting His Mistakes, Seriously Depressed,  and He Loves Me. Not!


Dear Mrs. Web,

My sister is two years older than I am and she is constantly correcting my language faults. She is a first grade teacher and treats me like one of her students. It is embarrassing to be some place and have her correct my tenses. She seems to be on autopilot.

You are right; she probably is on autopilot. She spends over forty hours a week correcting language and pronunciation mistakes. Go easy on her. Make it a joke. She owes a nickel a correction, and you take her out for lunch with the accumulation.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My brother has been so depressed since his wifeís accidental death. We are afraid he is going to kill himself. What should we do?

Line up your or his minister, priest, rabbi or imam, if there is one, and as many family members as possible. A counselor, social worker, or other psychotherapist who knows the family would be helpful. Alert his doctor about his need for an inpatient admission. Have everyone gather to confront this sad and hurting man. 

This is called "an psychiatric intervention". Your goal should be an inpatient psychiatric evaluation because you feel he is an immediate danger to himself or others.

Dear Mrs. Web,

I am totally in love with a guy. I have known him for a year and have slept with him occasionally. He used to blow me off all the time.


He came over to my house last night and told me he cares for me, that Iím everything he wants in a girl, and that we were going to start all over again. It was very romantic. He apologized repeatedly. He even spent the whole night with me, a first.


We had plans for today and he blew me off again. I am crying and waiting by the telephone. He is so confusing. If I am with another man, he gets mad and jealous. What should I do?

You sound like someone who wants to be loved and, frankly, will pay almost any price to have it happen. You have found a young man, whom, for the most part, has "blown you off" and you have made a decision, for no apparent reason, that you are "in love".

Of course, he has told you that you are everything he wants in a girl. You will settle for almost nothing. He can pretend he has a relationship with you when you are with others to fulfill his masculine fantasies. He can ignore you except when he has an itch to fill. A truly loving man is considerate and thoughtful, not self-centered and hurtful. Many men say nice words and give hugs. They are fulfilling their own needs.

One truly judges whether someone loves you by their character not what they say. Loving, kind, and caring men place their beloved at the center of their lives, not as an add-on feature or a sex depository. Men who love sacrifice themselves for their loved ones.

You can sit by the phone and weep or you can realize that you gave yourself to someone who didnít value you enough to keep his promises. You can promise yourself better. You deserve more; any woman does.



September 18, 2000


Materialistic Guy, Peer Counseling, and Playing House



Dear Mrs. Web,

I spend time with a group of people. I like them all except for one guy. He is the most materialistic human on this planet. He is always talking about stock portfolios, the market, good jobs and saving money. I bet he has never read a good book since college. Sometimes I really want to just tell him off. What should I do?

Some people find stock market trends and money saving ideas to be as intellectually interesting as others find literature or music. Telling him off seems a little intolerant. He has different values. Perhaps you should find people who are more in line with your values.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My daughter came home with the information to sign up as a peer counselor at high school. She is sixteen.  This is an intensive six week course covering issues of sexuality, drugs, alcoholism, teen suicide, physical, mental, and emotional abuse as well as other topics. What do you think?

Peer counselors cope with large issues. I am hesitant to recommend that a teenage be "deputized" to become involved in her peerís turbulent lives. This is a place for adults to take responsibility, not to send in children who need to deal with their own teen life issues.

Dear Mrs. Web,

I have been with my boyfriend for almost 2 years now, and have lived with him for about 2 months. I love him very much and feel this is forever. The only problem is that I don't know if he feels the same way about me. We have joked around about getting married, and occasionally he has jokingly called me his "wife", but I don't know if he is serious.

I wouldn't want a big wedding and he said he didnít want one either. How can I find out how he feels about marriage? I donít want to pressure him. I have even thought of proposing. What should I do?

I cannot come up with one good reason why he should marry you. He has everything a marriage provides: a warm woman for his bed and someone who will help with the household. You have nothing with him. You are not even engaged. While you hang onto every word he utters about marriage, heís playing house with you. Youíre telling me plans for your wedding and he's cracking jokes!

You should not pressure people to get married. However, you should care enough about yourself to get your needs met at each stage of a relationship. This happens through honest communication. If you are afraid saying what you want will scare him off, you don't really have him. You were silently hoping for marriage as you moved in with this man. It is time to get real.

If you want something from this man you need to stand for yourself put it on the line. In your shoes I would move out, tell him you what you want out of life and that you will only live with your husband. Then listen to him instead of projecting your needs and hopes on him. Begin making yourself a life. He needs to arrive at a decision and you need to commit to your needs, with or without him.


September 15, 2000


Dating Mean Women,  Used Baby Equipment, Children and Computers, and Job-hunting


Dear Mrs. Web,

I find myself attracted to mean women. Ones who date others behind my back, or who treat me poorly. I never go out with the nice women from my church or neighborhood. Instead, I am only attracted to women who actually donít like me very much. My sister pointed this out to me. I want a home and family. How do I change?

Find a therapist who works with men and relationship issues. Your priest or minister should be a good resource. There is a reason you are attracted to rejecting women.

Dear Mrs. Web,

Since my daughter was born six months ago, my mother-in-law has purchased second hand equipment for our visits including a crib. I am happy she loves her granddaughter but I am not happy about all of the second hand merchandise. We have everything my daughter needs for her visits to Grandma's. If needed, we bring her stroller, bouncy seat, and even her portable crib. We donít need to use the ones she bought. Am I being unreasonable about her purchases?

You are objecting to the fact that the equipment is used because perhaps you find it unhygienic or unattractive. Many a baby has been brought up on used equipment. Well-cleaned used equipment should not be a hygiene concern. Think of hospital and hotel rooms, furnished with what essentially is used equipment.

You may also have a touch of "First Baby Disease". I remember it well. All new moms get it. The major symptom is that the mother attempts to control everything and everyone around her baby. Eventually sanity returns. Your mother-in-law is doing the best she can. Give some grace here.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband wants to buy another computer for our elementary-aged children. We have one now but he wants to buy a better one with Internet access and lots of education software. Moreover, he wants to plunk it in our dining room. What do you think?

I donít know how it will fit your living room dťcor, but computers are not the best way to educate young minds. Children need conversation, three-dimensional objects, varied stimulation, and the active learning a flat screen cannot provide. There is an excellent article about this at Alliance for Childhood. I recommend all parents read it and Endangered Minds before making a computer purchase

Dear Mrs. Web,

I am having a problem at work. We are so busy and never can take any time off. I am not comfortable working here and I want to call in sick Friday so I can go to a job fair to get a better job. What do you think I should do?

Do you want me to tell you to lie so you can take a sick day? I cannot do that. It would be wrong. However, you could tell them you have a commitment and need to take personal time for a few hours at the beginning or end of your workday. Then you can go to the job fair and talk to a few prospective employers. Clarity and honesty can help you get what you want.


September 13, 2000


A Man in a Chair, Limiting the Media Trick,  A Mean Grandma, and Marriage Rebirth


Dear Mrs. Web,

I know this kind, well educated, financially secure, thoughtful and thoroughly wonderful man. We have been friends for a couple of years and now I find there is a spark between us. Dear Mrs. Web, he is a paraplegic and is in a wheelchair because of an auto accident years back. I donít know whether I should even begin to get involved. Would he be able to father children? He seems open to a relationship. I really like him butÖ

Most folks come with baggage. Your friend is sitting on his. When one becomes involved with someone with a major disability, it is different. You will need to decide what you can live with. As far as fathering children: some paraplegics are completely sexually able, others are limited.

You could do a lot worse than kind, well-educated, financially secure thoughtful and thoroughly wonderful man who happens to be in a wheelchair. Why donít you have a few casual dates and get to know him better?

Dear Mrs. Web,

Our twelve-year-old is asking for a personal stereo system for her room. We monitor her music selections very closely. She enjoys show tunes, Charlotte Church, and various instrumentals. We recently sat down and listened to the radio stations in our area. We really donít want her listening to the "shock jocks" or the nihilistic music played incessantly on most of our local stations. Any ideas?

Find a personal stereo or boom box. Take it to an electronics repair shop and have an electronics wizard disconnect the radio. You have the right and responsibility to control what media enters your home.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My mother was never the nicest of people but she is being increasingly mean to my children.. She teases them, calls them names, and gets them upset. They are 9 and 11. I didnít like it when she treated me meanly when I was little but it tears me up when she hurts my kids.

Your mom sounds like she has a sadistic streak. Your job as a grownup is to keep your children safe. They don't have to go through what you did. Never leave the children alone with her. Leave with the children immediately if she says or does anything hurtful.

Tell your mother clearly, firmly, and without compromise, which behaviors are unacceptable. This includes name-calling, teasing, and general meanness. She needs to know that if she continues these behaviors she will jeopardize continuing her relationships with her grandchildren.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My husband and I were on the brink of divorce. Our marriage had a rebirth, much in the way you describe in your letter about commitment in marriage. We have recently recommitted ourselves to each other and to our marriage.

We were driving yesterday in our van with our two children. They were discussing between them the recent divorce of a schoolmateís family. Suddenly our youngest turned to us and said, with the trust of the young, "Well Mom and Dad, I donít have to worry about divorce with you. You keep your promises." There were two weeping and thankful parents in the front seat.  Keep on encouraging people to work their problems out and focus on the commitment. It certainly worked here.

What a wonderful story to find in my email! Thank you.




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