Q. I feel my situation is more common than most folks are aware of. Let me explain: I’m a 48-year-old woman. I was widowed six years ago.
I have no family left (our children are now adults), and I am lucky to be extremely close to my in-laws.
Here’s the problem: About two years ago, my in-laws and extended in-laws decided that I was “too young to be alone.” Amy, they have started showing up with random “thirsty” men from work, church, the grocery store, you name it!
I’m at peace being by myself. I don’t need money. I love to work in my garden and play with my two cats, while waiting for grandbabies.
I simply don’t want the stress/drama of another relationship.
The holidays are coming, and I have a feeling I will be presented with a string of unwanted random men, either wanting a hook-up, or a traditional (per their faith) subservient wife.
How do I tell everyone to leave me alone, without destroying the deep bond I share with these family members?
A. If you don’t want to be surprised by a poorly curated selection of randos this holiday season, you should contact all of your in-laws and say, “I love you and appreciate your efforts to see me with another partner, but I’m happy now, and I intend to stay single. Please don’t introduce me to anymore men. It’s awkward for me, and it’s not fair to them, because I’m just not interested.”
I can’t resist the temptation to add that, like you, I was once a very happy and solitary 48-year-old woman, definitely not looking for a relationship, when I met the love of my life (NOT through a family introduction, I might add). My life changed radically from that day on, and while I love my crowded life, I often look back on those alone-years wistfully.
My point is this: Keep being you. Continue to advocate for your right to live the life you want to live, but I hope you will also remain open to the possibilities.
Q. I have a friendship of more than 40 years with a delightful woman. We see each other about once a month, often at dinner in a restaurant with mutual friends. About six months ago, “Sandra” announced to us that she had just discovered that she is allergic/intolerant to gluten. This has become a focus of her life and often dominates the conversation.
Since that time, every trip to a restaurant includes a very (VERY) long discussion with our waitperson and/or chef regarding each item on the menu and whether it fits into her gluten-free diet. Then the bread basket comes, and Sandra dives in because “it’s just too good to pass up.”
Several of us, outside of Sandra’s presence, have commented that not only is the gluten conversation tiresome, but also embarrassing when held in a busy restaurant. Additionally, most people are aware that those who are truly gluten intolerant become very ill when they eat bread, and avoid doing so at all cost. We’d love to talk this out with Sandra, but are afraid she’ll become defensive and angry, although this is not her usual reaction to thoughtful criticism. Any advice?
A. You say that “Sandra” usually reacts well to thoughtful criticism. So — offer some thoughtful feedback.
Say to her, “Sandra, I hope your health has stabilized since being on this new diet, but do you realize how single-minded you have become? When we get together, we all spend about half of our time talking about gluten. It would be great to catch up about other things, too.” I wouldn’t call her out on her bread noshing. This is an almost too obvious violation of her gluten-free diet. Your group might get out of this rut by planning an outing that doesn’t revolve around restaurant dining. A hike, a bike ride, or a session painting pottery might set you on a new track.
Q. “New Mom” complained about how her brother was upset that she hadn’t written a thank-you note for his gift to their newborn baby. I was surprised that you didn’t suggest that she write a thank-you note!
A.“New Mom” described a complex situation. She also said that she had thanked her brother profusely while their newborn was in the ICU. I saw a brother emotionally blackmailing and trying to control his sister.Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.