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Every once in a while, I take time to glaze over the Dear Abby column in the local newspaper.  At one time, I even looked at postings on the website.  Why?  I guess it’s just the therapist in me, looking to give second opinions where they may not be wanted. 

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[On that note, I started my own Ask Writingbolt page for visitors of WordPress to ask me questions.  I figure I am just as knowledgeable as these advice columnists who have been giving debatable advice, lately.] 

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But, in this space, I will offer my own responses to those who write to Dear Abby (and her advising cousins).  [I may answer some in regular post form, as well.  But, this will be the home base of my responses.]

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So, if you know anyone who has written or plans to write to Dear Abby or another advice columnist, be sure to check here…ya know…if you want a second opinion from someone who’s a therapist by nature, not formal education.

 

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10 Responses to “Writingbolt’s Responses to Seekers of Dear Abby, Etc.”


  1. December 8, 2016 at 4:08 am

    Response to “Fantasizing in New York,” a married woman claiming to be bisexual and strongly attracted to women while in her second marriage to a monogamous, heterosexual man. She admitted to wanting to fantasize about her husband being a woman during sex and how her husband cannot cope with her bisexual notions, not even being open to a threesome.

    Dear Abby simply says it’s okay to fantasize and tells Fantasizing to stop punishing herself (as if Fantasizing was fully committed to the man she married).

    But, I found something seriously wrong with and missing from this advice. The woman wants to imagine her heterosexual husband–who has next to no tolerance for her bisexual feelings (which are apparently leaning toward lesbian)–is a woman during love-making. THAT is most likely the straw breaking the man’s temper wide open. It’s one thing to admit attraction or even hot, steamy feelings for a member of the same sex. But, she wants to pretend her husband is another woman.

    My thoughts: Fantasizing, you sound like one hot specimen by nature. You might fit right in with my harem philosophy. [Ask me about that in your own time.]

    But, you CANNOT make your husband be your (woman) and still love you like a man. Not unless you want to break his balls the way the Kardashians escorted an Olympic legend into womanhood and a black musician into a psyche ward.

    You can have your fantasies and eat them, too, if you get a divorce and seek out another woman, which you clearly seem more interested in having as a partner. But, it sounds like you’ve kicked a hornet’s nest. And, it’s not going to get any quieter. Time to decide which you want more. The other lady or Mr. Tiger.

  2. January 24, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Response to Some Good Times, a high school freshman who feels she has lost touch with her longtime female friend, considering the latter has begun behaving superior and cursing regularly while the former remains quiet and respectful.

    Your experiences with “Kathy” remind me of two female friends I had when I was about your age.

    They knew each other almost as long as I knew them. We had attended the same school for nearly eight years. I was closer to one than the other. And, they were not particularly close but decided to attend the same high school and stay friends. However, within a year, it seemed the friendship fell apart as one chose a different lifestyle path from the other.

    My closest friend became involved with a guy who initiated her in drug use. The other girl, the one I suspect is most like you, told be, by phone, that she no longer knew the girl I knew as my best friend. [At the time, I was attending a different school and had no time to spend with either girl. When I learned of what had become of these two, I lost hope and interest in pursuing what I had apparently lost. My mind and heart were not strong enough to mend three friendships; even one was too much to repair with what was haunting me at the time.]

    While Abby suggests talking to your parents about your concerns, not everyone is lucky to have the kind of good parents who are able to sit down and talk about the challenges of youth/growing up respectfully. Thus, I make an alternate suggestion. Talk to “Kathy’s” parents about your concerns. Tell them–and “Kathy”–flat out that you can no longer go on being friends with her acting this way. Let them work with their daughter, and let “Kathy” decide if she wants to make the effort to remain friends.

    Sometimes, putting quiet distance between you and the offender can shake some sense into the latter. If this does not work and she continues to be a pest, stand tall, defend your ground and tell “Kathy” you never want to see her, again. While we may not want to cut ties with friends we’ve known a long time, times and people do change, unfortunately. [And, sometimes, down the road, those same people change favorably and return to find you, again.]

    And, if the parents still want to socialize, as Abby said, you need not partake in the gathering. Nor should “Kathy” come along if she’s going to be a thorn in your side.

  3. January 24, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    Response to Full of Feeling in Arizona, a woman married to a guy who isn’t as emotional as she would prefer, particularly after someone dies.

    I have never seen such a small slice of advice as the one given to you by this Abby. It shook me to the core like a door slamming shut. She came off as cold and unhelpful as your husband (in cases where you feel more emotional response is required). I felt an immediate desire to respond and hope my lengthy thoughts serve you well.

    The first thing you say that raises a flag with me is this line:

    “I thought he would change once someone close to him died…”

    Every TV show and movie that featured a man or woman delivering such a line gives the same response (along with the heartless option of just walking away from the situation and/or person). You cannot expect to change others. You can hope. You can try. You can be delighted when your efforts make a positive difference. But, you have better odds changing yourself and how you react. Change happens when it is willed or required by a higher power.

    Then you touch on the idea of ending a 30-year marriage. Just to be perfectly accurate, you say this problem is not worth ending the marriage. But, even putting the thought out there (in any form) suggests there’s a toe out the door. It’s not much different than a child threatening to run away when deeply upset by her or his parents.

    If you entered the relationship, knowing he was this insensitive/unemotional, you cannot expect him to suddenly be the best friend to share a “chick flick.” You are not a parent conditioning a child before they reach a key stage of development. You are a grown woman engaging another grown person; both of you have spent considerable time developing and hardening your philosophies, morals, etc.

    If he became this cold or unfeeling way during your relationship, then you need to address the root event that led to his change of behavior. [See strategy 2 below.]

    Just as lovers may vary in libido (and fall apart when they are not aware of/willing to accept their differences), they may vary in emotional response. Some get a thrill from horror movies. Some like taking risks. Some play so safe that they appear boring.

    And, while these differences can create division and elicit disdain, we will achieve more if we try one of the following.

    1) THE CIRCLE OF COMPANIONSHIP. Make a decision to be with those who appeal to our interests while letting those who do not (share our outlooks) exist separate from us. [Or, in your case of a 30-year marriage, either accept the fact your husband is the way he is or divorce him.]

    2) COMFORT ZONE THERAPY. “Massage” the one(s) we wish to change, provided our motive(s) is/are noble. Instead of badgering someone to change their “erroneous” ways, find out what comforts them, make them comfortable and then discuss their connection to whatever bothers you openly and tenderly. If someone has a stiff neck, would you strike it with your flat hand or gingerly rub the stiffness away? If you want to mold a piece of firm clay, do you hit it with a hammer or press it repeatedly with warm fingers? As the old song says, try a little tenderness.

    3) SCHEDULED SEPARATION. Enforce a period of “separation,” either spending time away from him when he has upset you or living in separate homes until, maybe, he realizes what he’s not doing to please you. But, this risks a number of marriage fractures, including affairs. [Results will vary, depending upon how close/loyal partners are and how their sex drives operate.]

    4) MIRROR. Try giving him a taste of his own medicine (though this may be exhausting and/or intolerable for some kind hearts) and gauge his response. The next time he seems in need of your sympathy, show none. DO NOT suggest or voice any inkling of malicious motivation; do not let him know you are trying to teach him a lesson as this will surely lead to war. The idea here is to be a mirror without him knowing you are behaving this way intentionally. In couples therapy classes, this would be covered under “role reversal,” pretending to be your partner as you see them. The ideal goal is for the negative knot to unravel itself once it acknowledges being a negative knot, versus fighting with the knot. [But, sometimes, knowing something is an “exercise” prevents people from believing in and/or accepting it.] If his response is anything other than realizing his mistake (and possibly offering an apology for being callous), you may continue playing the mirror as long as you can tolerate the alteration to your behavior and he does not show any sign of wanting to end the relationship. [IF the relationship is threatened by this tactic, resume being your usual self and try something else.]

    If none of the above appeases your nerves, consider this. Sometimes what we initially perceive as a weakness or negative can turn into a strength or positive. You have come to a wall. You can complain it’s too high to climb. You can seek a way around it. Or, you can find a way to turn it into an asset.

    Some bring first-aid kits when entering survival mode. Others bring knives to defend and hunt. Your husband is carrying a knife. You have a first-aid kit. Working together, both items may benefit the team.

    Donald Trump is viewed by many as a mean, offensive windbag. But, one thing he will never likely be viewed as is a softy, a pushover, a weak link (unless, of course, lies are exposed and he turns out to be a transmitter of national assets that should remain exclusive to the nation from which they came). He makes decisions that go against what others see as logical, perhaps simply to say, “Who says this cannot work? I’ll show you!” His brash behavior may just be the bark that avoids a bite from those who would dare to bully some other leader who bends over when enemies shout. He’s putting up an emotional wall to denounce and deny weakness (just as any military/terrorist group leader would do when faced with opposition). He wants to win/succeed, and, to do so, he feels he needs to appear invincible. However, not everyone sees things his way. And, any lies he may speak could make matters worse.

    So, your husband lacks tears when someone dies and is bothered by your son calling to deliver bad news when he is trying to sleep. Maybe he wants to appear strong (as he defines the word) and be the wall he cannot see others opting to be. His “stiffness” may be what he wants to protect the family. It may be what he wants to instill in his family to toughen them from crumbling in times of despair.

    But, if his behavior cuts you to the core, if none of my approaches work and you cannot let this go, ultimately, I see only one solution: divorce.

  4. February 6, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Response to Lip Locked in LA, a man (or teenage boy?) who is questioning his girlfriend’s interest in slamming him against a wall to kiss him.

    Do you really have to ask, Lip Locked? Quite simply, your girlfriend may be revealing a fetish. [One I find strangely appealing though it could lose its charm over time.] Like Abby said, she probably saw enough movies or TV shows in which people did this; and she is now projecting the suggested level of intense feeling upon you.

    Another possibility is that she has been treated this way by a past boyfriend (if she had one or family member if she didn’t) and is silently asking you to indulge the “itch” to repeat history. [Didn’t think to suggest that one; did ya, Abby?] It may be a sign of her still harboring old feelings and not being ready to try something entirely new. It may be the only experience she had that wasn’t entirely unpleasant and thus became her reflex “move” in intimate moments.

    I am inclined to say you DO NOT entirely enjoy this habit. Or, at least, it happens more often than you care to experience. Would you say she is a “one-trick pony” and that you wish she would change things up now and then? If so, identify which of the following types of relationships matches yours.

    A) Aggressive/Dominating female and submissive male.

    B) Aggressive/Dominating male and submissive female.

    C) Equally aggressive/submissive and/or experimenting partners.

    I am doubting you two fit Type B. Correct?

    If you are okay with her being the dominant one yet are not entirely content with this obsessive kissing behavior, politely suggest alternatives or entice her to think of some herself. Try catching her off-guard with a pinch to the ribs or tickle her when she approaches and see how that affects her. Or, place yourself away from any walls; maybe play the sleeping lamb on a bed or grassy slope.

    If you two are equally aggressive/submissive, it means you have a reasonable amount of harmony and are open to experimenting. It should be easy to address the situation, find out why she does this and explore alternatives. [In which case, you writing this short letter would merely be an interest in getting someone to offer a high five of support for finding such a passionate/quirky mate.] Suggest kissing in the rain or through a thin barrier like a napkin or sheet of plastic.

    If none of the above makes sense, this need to ask could mean you just aren’t as passionate about her as she appears to be about you. Or, her passion is artificial, and your “spider sense” is detecting the falsehood. A difference in “libido” could grow into a bigger problem if not discussed openly.

    One last suggestion: Look into astrology. See how your Venus and Mars signs match up. [IE Your Venus is a fire sign while her Mars sign is a watery one; this could be bad. But, if her Venus is an air sign, and your Mars sign is a fiery one, there’s hope.] If there is conflict, consider the possibility this relationship is only warm on the surface. And, if it falls into the “friend zone,” either accept having a friend who pushed too hard too soon or understand that continuing to interact may hinder emotional growth and/or moving on with better partners.

  5. February 6, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Response to Teen in Ogden, Utah, a young man caught up in the divide between two parents with differing religious views who may or may not be applying unnecessary pressure on him and/or considering divorce.

    The opposite of faith is certainty? What is that supposed to mean, Abby? And, what do you expect this young man to do with that? I’d expect him to emulate his father. I do not think such “wise” words would inspire him to remain true to any religion/faith.

    “Teen,” there is only one thing I am certain of: you will learn a great deal about how impulses of your parents dwell inside you in the coming years if not decades. And, you will do battle with those facets until you can rest assured in your choices. Knowing this, you can either accept the stress you feel as part of the life you’ve been given or seek out activities and groups that relieve this stress. Hopefully, ones that don’t involve “recreational drugs” and/or violence other than martial arts practice. A club or class/group that eases your mind will be far less costly than a therapist and could result in making some valuable connections.

    If I may ask a few questions…

    Exactly how does your belief in God vary so greatly from your mother’s that there is this problem? And, why does it seem like your non-believing father has no interest in involving himself in this struggle of yours? I picture him hiding his face behind a newspaper or cellphone while your mother “encourages” you to participate in a religious community. Apparently, you have no concern for hurting HIS feelings because he has offered none; he simply lets you do what you like until it affects his wallet or some other non-religious aspect of his life. [Or, is it possible your parents are on the verge of divorce and you simply opt to support your mother while opposing your father? Is it possible your mother married your father with aspirations of changing his ways and making him a part of her chosen faith?]

    I may be off-base. But, I hear these other voices in response to your comments.

    You say: It’s really uncomfortable when people ask why I haven’t been in church.
    I hear/think: Church bothers me because it’s too formal. [Or maybe] Church bothers me because I’m asked to give money. [Or] Church bothers me because it interferes with my free/fun time. [Or] Church bothers me because my parents don’t go there together; it does not hold us together as a family.

    You say: Mom signs me up for church activities, and I don’t like going.
    I hear/think: I struggle with socializing/participating. [Or] I’m anti-social. [Or] I suffer from social anxiety.

    Abby suggests telling your mother how much you love her and hope she will continue loving you as you explore your life/religious options. I would guess none of that sounds easy or comfortable for you. Am I right?

    If I was you, I’d have a hard time saying I love my mother, too. At your age, I was entering a similar battle and just starting to distance myself from my parents who seemed unable to respect my decisions and even my personal space. Pressure to change one’s ways or attend certain activities could be a sign of lacking trust in you to make your own decisions and come to your parents for advice when you need it.

    I cannot tell you which faith is right or wrong. But, if you can better understand or see what motivates the feelings you have, you can answer your own questions. If your mother is so bent on getting you involved in the activities of her church community, hurting her feelings may be inevitable. Yet, if her faith and love for you is strong, she will recover from the bruises. [Just don’t cut ties with her completely unless that is what you truly want. What you want today may differ from what you decide to have in your life years from now.]

  6. February 6, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Response to C, a man (or teenage boy?) who is on the verge of breaking up with his girlfriend who–along with her parents–micromanages in excess, making him feel caged and unable to act freely. [His advisor of choice, Carolyn Hax.]

    C, from your account of the situation, I’d be inclined to hit the EJECT button and get as far away from those people as possible. I know those people.

    However, a tiny voice inside my head presents a hint of doubt. Why, if you are so happy together, would you even need to suggest ways to improve anything other than in self-defense of this “micromanaging?” Could you be coloring details in your favor? Hearing the situation in her own words would definitely improve comprehension.

    You DID say you two have had “many happy times” and are “quite compatible in most fundamental ways.” But…ummm…can you explain those terms? Fundamental ways? What are we talking about here? Your body parts fit together nicely? You can share a bed without discomfort? You have great sex but define this as “functioning well together?” You get along while washing dishes by hand?

    If she goes so far as to take action when you’re not around, invading your personal space and attempting to alter your lifestyle choices, then there is no getting around this. You either stand up to her or evacuate.

    If every detail is as you describe it, understand that you will not likely ever be friends with her parents and should consult your girlfriend about how much time she intends on spending with them, if any. [Sometimes, a safe distance from a source of negative radiation can ease the tension and reduce the impulse to nag.]

    Regardless, I will offer a few desperate strategies to stay “in the fight.”

    Strategy #1: Be like water. Maybe you could try letting her demands slide rather than confronting her. The next time she corrects you, just nod or say, “Yep. Sure. You’re right.” And, walk away without giving her the impression she has bothered you. Don’t undo what you did or correct it. Let her do whatever makes her happy. If this begins to leave you short of breath or if she goes one step further, take a deep breath and tell her this ends now.

    Strategy #2: Redirect the negatives into positives. Think of a martial artist catching a flying fist and redirecting it away from his/her body, wasting the opponent’s energy away until the desire to fight is gone. Maybe some of her suggestions aren’t so bad. If there’s any chance you could say, “Hey, that could work. Thanks for the tip,” you’re one step closer to resolving the obstruction in your relationship. However, if she’s poked you so many times, already, that you’re nerve endings are sparking or dead, you’ll likely compare this to drinking bleach.

    Strategy #3: Confront the bear in the woods. What is that wild animal survival guides say should be confronted by making yourself look big? Maybe you have been a limp noodle so long that people like your girlfriend and her parents make mince meat out of you. Perhaps this upheaval is a wake-up call to “grow a pair” and defend yourself. Do not fence with them. Do not simply retaliate with “their own medicine.” This might be a case in which two wrongs definitely don’t make a right. But, maybe by displaying a backbone and not backing down–similar to what Carolyn said toward the end of her response–you will dazzle the gal (and her parents) with your resolve, and the claws will retract. Be confident in your choices (unless you are just as likely to be guilty of obsession, addiction, etc.). [If you are defending a desire to stack beer cans in a living room, then she has every right to fuss.]

    Strategy #4: Play the therapist. Seize an opportunity to discuss her childhood in a comfortable setting. Perhaps you two are reading the newspaper while relaxing in the living room. Inject a question. “Honey? Were your parents exceptionally strict with you?” See where that goes. Follow up with one or more of the following. “Did they expect perfection? Is that why you find fault with the smallest of details? Do you aspire to be like your parents?” Of course, phrasing is touchy at best. Your choice of words will definitely affect impact. And, this could go the wrong way, easily. But, if it does–if she bristles and counters–calmly end the session and either continue sharing space quietly or excuse yourself by saying, “I’ll be (where?). Come talk with me when you’ve calmed yourself down.”

    [A fifth strategy that comes to mind would be a scheduled period of separation to see if she softens when confronted with your absence. But, if she really is such a “control freak,” I doubt this would have any impact other than showing your desire to retreat. Even my first strategy is a form of resilience in the line of fire.]

  7. February 9, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Response to “Needs Help Fast,” a proclaimed 50 year-old virgin man dating a 28 year-old woman who he fears will dump him once she learns the truth about his “size” which he has mistakenly exaggerated in verse during their one-year relationship.

    Needs, seriously? You are 50 years-young asking a total stranger–but not just any total stranger–how to come clean about exaggerating your manhood with a GROWN WOMAN (not a girl)? Of all people, you come to Dear Abby with this question?

    I’m going to throw this out there as a possibility. Are you lying in more way than one? Could it be you are NOT as old as you say you are? Could it be this 28 year-old “girl” is really a girl and not even close to 28 yet? Could it be you are fooling around with a minor?

    Could it be the only facts you included were being a virgin and lying about your size? Cuz I am detecting some falsehood. That or I go back to my first statement and question why you are asking Abby this question instead of someone you know better, like another man who could be considered a friend or trusted family member. If you have none of those, I feel your pain.

    I would presume your concern and your need to lie to her comes from her being “more experienced in that area.” Did you avoid mentioning your virgin status to her, as well? Or, could it be your status actually turned her on? [Some women seem to thrive on finding virgins and “taking their cards” to maximize the “exploding growth” experience. It’s similar to men in their late teens and early twenties seeking out virgin girls just to rack up numbers and/or enjoy the pains inflicted on many girls their first time.]

    Abby gave you the only answer she probably could, the simplest answer given to most people afraid to say something. SAY SOMETHING. Talk to your partner. The longer you wait to spill the beans, the worse you’re going to feel. And, you oughta know yourself, a relationship built on a lie is doomed to fail.

    You’re terrified she will dump you once she knows the hidden truth. If there’s any legitimate reason for this fear–if sexual geometry is such a factor with her–then she is not worth your “card.” For whatever reason, if you ARE a 50 year-old virgin, you earned your status. Don’t take chances with someone who’s going to judge or dismiss you because of your “size.” But, if you must feel/be humiliated, do so verbally versus waiting until you share a bed.

    Is there something about her that is too small for you? How do you think she would feel if you found/mentioned something lacking about her?

    All good questions not being asked/addressed. If you are able to read everything I have to say and not withdraw in discomfort, you’re ready to tell her the truth.

  8. February 28, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    Response to Achiever Mom who is concerned about her pre-teen son. He is not exceptional in sports or academics and void of any interest with which she feels able to relate. She mentions her husband as a socially anxious under-achiever and highlights a moment in which her son supposedly chose to forfeit a spelling bee due to a lack of interest in winning/trying. Claiming she grew up grasping at every opportunity she could, this incident made her angry at him for not being more ambitious to achieve greater status.

    ————–

    Achiever Mom, you be careful with that boy. I don’t want to scare you, but soon, he will be entering high school, that tumultuous stormy sea between Scylla and Charybdis that tests youth’s metal. He will face temptation, heavier work loads and peer pressure like he has never known. He will be torn between convention and rebellion, between practical and unorthodox. And, if you so much as twist his wrist in an effort to tell him “how it’s done” or fail to teach him how to accept defeat, you could scar him and the connection you have for life.

    If you don’t mind reading a novella, I’m content to sit down and discuss this with you for the moment. Getting all of the thoughts out and answers we might benefit from is a tad hard to achieve in half of a newspaper page. Why don’t you make yourself comfortable, take a deep cleansing breath, maybe fix yourself a calming drink and have a go at this.

    [FYI, I speak from experience; I was a boy much like your son. I had a father who (without any “inheritance”) boasted military experience (in “peace time”) and a mother who was the self-proclaimed ruler of discipline and organization (as well as the queen of denial). But, I didn’t bail on the spelling bee. I simply fell short and discouraged myself from trying, again, because I had been built up to think I was smarter than I performed and acknowledged for a skill I must not have valued much (until I was older and learned to care more about the full use of words than just spelling them). I made one mistake and didn’t have the nurturing I felt necessary to continue or didn’t see the logic in trying, again. I had no “failure coping skills,” no interest in being less than the best and, to be quite honest, little to no interest in glory from spelling.

    There were many other instances in which I had gut instincts to go one way and my parents insisted I go their way. And, in short, because they only accepted doing things my way after it was too late (after I paid the price of going against my gut feeling) or after lengthy protest and stressing out, a rift gradually grew. In just a few years, it grew to the point I lost sight of the childhood love I had for my parents. And, to this day, that love is razor thin; it’s an obligation and an oath, not a comfort or treasure.

    I had a hard time talking with my parents about nearly every concern on my mind. And, there were plenty in my early teens. Certain tasks or challenges were deemed too dangerous or unfit for me before I could even attempt them. Where I wanted to try was not always approved. The more often I quit, the less my parents approved of me; and the more I disliked myself. Yet, I could not see any merit in continuing what discouraged and/or hurt me, as well as what seemed “too hard.” I was told I was a good student, but that didn’t seem the case when it came to learning from/with my parents. Confusion does not make a good foundation. And, when later asked by others why I couldn’t do something, I felt too embarrassed to say no one never taught me or that I was afraid to learn. Nor could I easily take what others taught me and apply it at home without my parents objecting strongly.]

    Your last little paragraph kind of says it all. You are a tightly wound violin string ready to snap at the kid for a “mocking bow” and potentially never succeeding at anything. You may say it was so, but I don’t know and doubt he was mocking. Nor would I be so harsh to assume he will never succeed at anything; that’s just devastating talk. Get that junk out of your head, doing a weekly sweep if necessary.

    [That reminds me of a time when my mother thought I was “faking” weakness/illness/injury. I was actually physically, mentally and emotionally hurt; and she thought I was faking. I don’t remember her saying so when I was in the moment. But, hearing her thoughts, decades later, hurt almost as much as they would have had I heard them as that kid. It explains why I felt so abandoned and helpless at the time, left to fend for myself like a baby bird that fell from the nest. Yet, I didn’t do so well fending for myself. Had I been a bird, I probably would have died or been eaten.]

    Whether or not you shake your head at my earlier assessment, let me ask you a valid question (or two). How successful are you, really? [That might have shed some light on the situation.] Are you the “breadwinner?” Are you at the peak of your career path? Or, are you “content” with much less than you yourself could have had yet wishing–as many do–for your children to “have a better life” while losing sight of what you experienced?

    Understand that some things never change; but others do. Tools that were available when you were his age are not the same now. Opportunities you had then are not necessarily available now. Others you did not have are. Circumstances are slightly different.

    ———
    This next portion is going to sound much like what Carolyn said with a few different words. You might find a few new perspectives. But, you can skip past it, if you prefer.

    Instead of focusing on the word “succeed,” right now, put the phrase “stimulate the happiness of others” up over your work space and do everything in your power to guide your son toward what makes him happy (not what makes you happy). In time, I would guess (I mean, what do I know?) this will turn into success once he feels good about what he can do before assuming he can or must be successful.

    Teach him a lesson my parents had a hard time–if not failed at–grasping: how to experience failure and deal with it. Don’t teach him to fear failure and fear trying things you feel he isn’t fit or right to do (like laundry, cooking and other household chores), just because he doesn’t do them your way or makes a mess. [Maybe there’s a reason he doesn’t follow directions well; and it doesn’t have to be a “disability” or “attitude problem.”]

    The scariest part of the coming years could be letting him do what he chooses and being ready to cushion any blows that come from those decisions, not letting him take over your house and lifestyle but allowing him to mold himself rather than have you pick the shape he takes. If there is competition, let him decide to enter or avoid it. Encourage him to discuss what is happening in his life without framing the moment with past experiences and assumptions/predictions. Then, if you see an opportunity for him to take a chance with good odds, kindly nudge him.

    Say something like, “Hey, you’d be good at that. Why don’t you give that a try?” And, leave it at that. Or, provide the tools/supplies without any pressure to use them. [If you must, try a little negotiation. Say you’ll do ____ for him if he does ____ for you (for himself). And, don’t cave if he resists. But, don’t deprive him of necessities, either. Don’t take away his ability to connect with friends, regardless what he has done (and not from what he MIGHT do).] If he turns away from the challenge, don’t fight his decision. [However, if his life takes any scarier turns, if he withdraws so much from interaction, chores and challenges that his life seems in jeopardy, other action will become necessary.]

    ———

    The first line of your letter that jumped out at me was where you mentioned your son being nervous and not wanting to be there. [Actually, the first was his saving grace, his sense of humor. I seem to have survived this long with that little life preserver, myself.] While nerves and refusal may be signs of weakness one could halt by pushing the weakling into the fray of battle, it might also have been an area of achievement he had little interest in pursuing. And, pressure to do something we do not instinctively favor could be unnecessary pressure, like peer pressure. Just because our peers tell us we’re uncool for not doing what they do; that doesn’t mean we can’t choose to do things differently.

    Some adults might recall being kids pushed to take up musical instruments but, later, giving up these lessons to take up medical or financial jobs. They might look back and question their parents’ pressure to take interest. [Or, if they are so fortunate, the former kids might integrate those lessons into adult life and be some amazingly, envy-worthy, diverse people.]

    [I personally was adept at math because I had a brain apparently gifted at absorbing equations. But, would I pursue math contests? No way. Too boring. I’m a creative spirit. There is no creativity in math, other than creating problems and, later, solutions. I don’t mind problem-solving. But, I guess I have little to no interest into imagining problems in terms of numbers and variables. My mind is more geared toward seeing social, arrangement/composition or regulation problems around me and figuring out solutions.]

    One other thing about your letter that sticks in my mind: You briefly mention the husband being socially anxious and an under-achiever who struggles to get jobs. Yet, you love this guy; you married this guy, right? [That may be a tiny weight off my shoulders, an ounce of hope.] But, how much do you love him? And, could it be your marriage is merely another challenging opportunity you took upon yourself? Did you enter this family structure like a school contest, hoping to work your way up the ranks from district to state, mold the members like clay sculptures until they won the blue ribbon at the county fair? In other words, do you love your husband (and your son) for who he is, for being part of your life? Or, do you see them as works in progress you just haven’t been able to fully improve to the best of your ability, yet?

    What would you say or have done had your husband not “inherited” any money? Would that have any impact on you marrying him? Was the money or family status a push toward the thought of a stable future/home?

    I wonder, how does your husband feel about you (and the kid/s)? Do you have more than one child? That too could be a big factor in this pressure-to-achieve situation. For instance, how does this son get along with his siblings? How “successful” or “driven” are they? Might this son feel pressured to be like them when he is not?

    [I knew a few “only childs” and saw how their parents treated them like pet projects, like singular rockets filled with hopes of greater success than any family of six or more could achieve.]

    How would the husband feel being labeled an underachiever? Does he accept this like a healthy bowl of bran cereal to stabilize his diet? Is he comfortable not doing as much as some, accepting that some people are tortoises while others are hares? Or, do the words cut a little deep, leave him a little less eager to try?

    ———
    Here comes some more advising verbiage. Again, breeze past it if you’d rather read more unique material.

    At twelve, your son is at a crucial time of development, sure. [Heck, every year between birth and whatever number you want to use for labeling adulthood is crucial.] And, you could fortify this by giving him a swift kick into some regimen like boarding school or a “balanced diet,” and trust this will keep his back straight, his shoulders back and his elbows off the table. But, what is more important is a trusted family member fortifying him with experiences, both good and bad.

    He needs to be free to try things, learn how to do them both your way and his own way and experience failure to learn from his mistakes. You’ve probably heard similar advice elsewhere. It just might not have stuck with you or found purpose. Well, I’d say the purpose has been found. It’s your son. And, he needs his mother to still catch him when he falls but to let him fall, as well, and learn what comes with failure, including the steps to recovery.

    A parent who is driven by only success and grabbing every opportunity might not be relaxed enough to say, “It’s okay if I don’t have any interest in ___. Maybe I’ll give it a try; and, if I don’t like it, that’s fine. I’ll do better at something else.” You might get upset if you take on a crossword puzzle and leave half of it blank. You might cut interests out of your life because you did not excel at them. Or, you might think you have to be good at everything.

    ———

    Which brings me back to the father in the picture. What’s his input with the son? How does he nurture the boy? Is his method annoying to you? If you answer the last question with some form of “yes,” that says plenty. Maybe a lack of desire to compete and excel could be directly or subtly linked to an unhappy union in which two committed lovers–role models for the boy–are anything but encouraging images at the finish line. The boy might not want to complete the race because the prize at the end of the road is not worth his time/energy. [Or, maybe, it’s not you he’s looking at but other families falling apart.]

    ———
    One last push to sound competent and professional. These moments just pour out of me like a leaky boat. It’s the chatty therapist in me.

    Get to know your son and his interests. [If at seventeen he still likes the cartoons he watched at five or keeps a stuffed animal on his bed, don’t harp on that being a bad thing.] Let him decide when it’s time to keep or part with something. Don’t assume his decisions or ways are bad ones. Teach your son how to pick himself up and try, again. Don’t insist he must continue or be smarter or more successful than he feels fit/able. Or, live with the possible failure of staying connected with your son; accept that he will likely cut ties with you or resent you if you push too hard or fail to fill in other gaps.

    You can’t guarantee success no matter what method you try. You, too, must be able to cope with “failure” and still find happiness, contentment. Otherwise, this life is a miserable one.

    ———

    Phew! And, breathe. [This is just the tip of the emotional iceberg for me.] If you manage to find my lengthy thought process here and wish to continue, feel free to contact me.

  9. February 28, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Response to Bored Life in Wisconsin, a fifteen year-old teenager suffering from a mix of social anxiety and depression. It’s uncertain if this person is a boy or girl. But, they are clearly at a crossroad in life, lacking friendship and comfortable chats with peers, questioning acceptance of their chosen hobbies, wanting desperately to improve their situation. [I didn’t know kids (or “young adults”) still play Dungeons and Dragons.]

    ————–

    Bored Life? I’m going to give you more than something or “anything.” Not just advice but also some of my own experience with what you are facing.

    Lesson number one. Don’t ever say you’re bored or boring. Because, to the people that matter in your life, you’re not.

    As I read your letter, I am checking off all the points that may match not just my teenage years but also my adult life. Repetitive schedule (including the details you gave)? Check. Depressed? Check. Inability to drive? Check. Trouble talking to others–aka social anxiety–double check. Parents that don’t go anywhere/do anything to stimulate your mind…nor, apparently, your bond/relationship with them? [Which may be something we want to discuss, later.] Double check. No friends with whom you can hang out/feel at ease with in person? Double check and an exclamation point!

    Right now–and for who knows how long–you don’t have a “crowd.” You don’t have your niche. You’re a rare purple song bird in a forest full of blue and pink ones. You could perch next to a group and give your two cents. But, that would leave your comfort zone. And, once out of that comfort zone, you fear you’ll get hurt. Right? Who or what will protect you when you are completely exposed to the public and responsible for your words/actions.

    Let’s tackle those key notes separately.

    1) Your comfort zone/crowd.
    This is what suits your desires/interests. It’s what you feel most at ease doing. This includes those “boring” activities you indulge, homework and drawing. When you get older, people start associating this with a career and raising children. Those become zones into which people lock themselves and struggle to escape. Some run away, producing single parents and questionable resumes.

    Here’s the first ray of light I’d like to shed your way. What may seem boring today could be seen as a sign of dedicated study and achievement, later. And, perhaps, in the future, your work will pay off with attracting the niche crowd you’ve wanted, allowing you to filter out those who are not what they appear. [And, there will be your share of those, as well.]

    Surely, you are not the only person in your world who is focused on homework, drawing and video games. Quite likely, there are others who are just about as secluded as you. And, that is why you don’t see each other or pair up. You are in your own corners, feeling similar doubts and concerns. Yet, even though you may have the same interests, there’s also the matter of personality differences.

    2) Fear of painful exposure.
    When we aren’t naturally adept to or taught at an early age to socialize, it becomes more and more like a stiff joint we haven’t moved in a while. It’s painful and/or difficult to stretch. It feels alien and uncertain, scary, even. What if we make the wrong move and do more harm? Leaving one’s comfort zone, trying new things…these can become painful to imagine. And, who doesn’t want to avoid pain?…except maybe those who preach “No pain, no gain.”

    There are those that seem to make life appear easy. Jocks flock with jocks and hide any emotional responses they may have. Glam queens gab with other glam queens, and one is usually prettier than the rest for a reason. But, just because these people hang out and/or play together doesn’t mean they’re good friends. They may be avoiding your discomfort simply by staying busy. When they go home, life may not be as fun as they appear in school. School becomes their escape from solitude, family troubles and responsibility. It’s a different sort of comfort zone that seems high risk to people like you and me. It’s the fast lane while we coast in the slow lane.

    3) Responsibility and taking chances.
    Even I will admit (though I’m genetically inclined to deny) I have moments when I don’t want to be responsible for what happens. Companies satisfy this fear by posting “disclaimers” and “warnings,” all manners of fine print to ward off punishment should their business fail to satisfy the consumer and/or do greater harm. There may be something in the human genetic matrix that detests responsibility. But, if you know anything about Spider-Man, you likely know what Uncle Ben taught him.

    Our great power is being the dominant species of this planet. Our responsibility is how we wield that power. We cannot be entirely careless with our actions. What we say and do impacts others.

    Yet, we cannot take NO action or risk, either. If we try nothing, we achieve nothing. [But, don’t be so quick to dismiss what you DO try. Sometimes and some people will think you do nothing when, in fact, you ARE doing something that just isn’t apparent.]

    One of the hard lessons of adulthood is taking steps to make progress (or even maintain what already exists) and being responsible for what results. If something goes wrong and it’s genuinely our fault, we need to take what comes with this negative result or defend ourselves if the punishment seems unjust. There will be other times when what occurs is just coincidence or cosmic fate, an “accident” we may not have been able to prevent. And, we need to learn to “roll with the punches;” accept failure or lesser achievement, regroup and try, again.

    As I say, I am in a similar rut as you and not adept to making improvements/changes. But, many years after being in your shoes, I’ve gathered various tidbits of insight, therapy and wisdom from various sources. Right now, you’re at the start space on the board game of adulthood. Or, maybe, three steps from the start. I took a bit of a detour along one of those chutes or ladders and am not much closer to the finish line. But, I feel “wiser” for the experience. And, every step outside my comfort zone I am able to make, I get a tiny bit less afraid…even if I sometimes meet with what might be seen as disaster.

    If I may, I have a few questions I hope aren’t too bothersome.

    1) Who got you interested in Dungeons and Dragons? As I said earlier, I didn’t think anyone (especially your age) still played such games. I thought that was reserved for people from my and older generations.

    I myself never played but have studied maps and guides. They were sources of artistic inspiration in my youth. I can remember being about seven or eight when I drew a picture of a warrior fending off “yellow mold” (and “black pudding” in another drawing) with a spear or sword.

    2) You’ve NEVER had a crush on anyone? I could see not kissing or dating. But, not even a strong feeling about another person?

    I had those feelings as early as four years old. I was given some unpleasant labels in my youth and in my teens which did not help me make friends and made approaching the concept of a romantic relationship almost impossible. I knew I wanted more than friendship with at least one girl. But, neither my parents nor my peers were any help in making my wishes come true. Instead, they made life more difficult and made me curl up in my “corner.”

    Granted, there was one kid in my class who seemed the sort you claim to be. He had no interest in girls. Nor was he admittedly gay. I’d call him asexual because he was obsessed with annoying details in everything and never once said anything flattering about a boy/man or girl/woman, never showed any interest. If you asked him about such feelings, he’d pick a verbal fight and insult you.

    There may be a strange blessing in this absence of “passion.” You could be spared the trials others face because they cannot control their “lust.” You could avoid the distractions and penalties (unplanned parenthood, for one) and get ahead in other areas of living. Then, down the road, those feelings you’ve been without might surface (at “the right time”). Yet, you are feeling discomfort because this difference makes relating to others less likely.

    You make a point of mentioning how having feelings for someone can be a big part of interacting/talking with peers. [Can I just say I have not known any teen your age to even use the word “peers” in a sentence? That strikes me as unusual, too. I’d say “classmates,” “fellow students” or “other kids in my school.” But, peers?]

    And, I can relate to that, too. I am pretty sure that’s why I was given the labels I received; I didn’t feel comfortable talking about “banging” that girl/guy or how much I wanted to grab some girl’s breasts. [Nor could I gossip about past relationships I didn’t have.] I felt guys who did this were juvenile. I didn’t necessarily say or think I was better than them–as many would argue against me–but I didn’t want to be like them. I chose a different path and was humiliated for it.

    My struggles were amplified by factors I never saw coming. I was outnumbered and overwhelmed. I was at war with family. And, all of that slowed down any progress I could make so badly that I could see everyone else walking away and getting ahead in life. I continue to question my decisions and why I had to fight those battles. Could I have avoided the conflicts somehow? Could I have ignored the “jerks” and focused better on those who mattered? Why did I make the decisions I made?

    I seem to recall writing a letter like yours back when I was your age (except I made it clear I had feelings for a number of girls and was distraught for losing contact with at least one). I did not find or receive any response. Hopefully, you’ll find my words and get some good out of them.

  10. February 28, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Response to “An Ace in a Hole” who is struggling with an “asexual” identity. He/She is being pestered by friend and family alike to do what is “normal,” including sex and having kids while Ace shows no interest. As with others who feel abnormal or exceptionally unique, he/she is distraught and seeking a means of maintaining friendship with those who bother him/her.

    ————-

    Ace, you might help me out by making your gender clear. What I have to say might slip into applying to one gender or another. But, I will do by best to keep this asexual.

    One quick question: Why do you call yourself “an ace in a hole?” The term “ace in the hole” is defined as an advantage waiting to be revealed. I’d say being openly asexual while enduring punishment from those closest to you does not match that definition.

    [If you have no interest in my personal experience/opinion outside the realm of advice geared specifically to your problem, you can skip the following portion and start with the separate question.]

    ———–

    While a mother pushing the idea of marrying a gay man at you tells Abby you are a woman turned off by sexual intercourse, I am wondering if your mother didn’t have another motive, if you are an asexual man, and she thought a gay man would eventually awaken the gay manhood in you or make you comfortable with someone who didn’t look at sex the same way heterosexual couples do. I could be way off base here. But, hopefully, you can see how/why I’d make such a statement.

    Some might bring up the matter of having children. Well, would you really be more likely to have children as an asexual woman with a gay man than with a straight one? No. You’d likely adopt or be in a situation like James Corden who is apparently married to a heterosexual woman AND gay (or bisexual) with kids.

    At an early age, I was “informed” having children was “normal” and to be expected. And, as early as maybe twelve, I thought about having two kids of m own. But, once I learned about sexual intercourse and all that came with it, over many years and from meeting many people, I kinda lost interest in bringing kids into this world. [I’m not ruling kids out completely; but they seem unlikely in my future. Still, I might help others with their kids and consider that my “parenting time.”]

    No discomfort intended, but I am surprised you have ANY supportive friends (unless the friendships are very “cool” and “casual,” not people you spend extensive time with outside of work and/or have heavily personal talks with, for example). Being as you are cannot be common in your area. Can it? If your supportive circle consists of other asexual individuals, well, aren’t you lucky. I’m more likely to believe the people you know are quite comfortable discussing and seeking sexual intercourse while just patting you on the back as they bite their tongues in your presence (if they are that respectful).

    From as far back as the age of five, I can recall kids being quite mean to me. I’ve had my share of bullies picking on me for everything from the shape of my head to how I walk or dress. I could have curled up in a closet and decided years later I was gay because I couldn’t connect with girls the way other boys did. But, that’s just not me. I knew early on I liked girls; I just didn’t know how to convey my feelings without embarrassment or social conflict. And, as I learned about sexual intercourse, I was turned off, much like you. The new knowledge only made socializing more difficult.

    There was one girl in particular I befriended for whom I had strong feelings. And, as these feelings became apparent to our peers, we were harassed until we–or she–made a decision to separate. It was painful to lose touch with her. Meanwhile, a few of the hecklers were having their first sexual experiences with foreign exchange students; and I don’t recall them being harassed for attempting this.

    There was also one boy who I’d call asexual because he never expressed any interest in a boy or girl other than as an ally or enemy. Everything seemed to be about war with him. You were either his “right-hand man” or on a list of people he had no problem talking about wiping off the planet (though he never followed through with his threats). I thought he was a Nazi leader. It was hard for even me to understand how he could be so robotic and, in his own way, juvenile.

    In my late teens, I was viewed by some of my peers as the equivalent of a “gay priest.” I was, like you, repulsed by the realities of sexual intercourse, especially the common practice of “casual sex” (including “oral” which I refuse to try or accept others doing). I was also serious about respecting religion which seemed to be a foreign concept to my peers though we were attending a Catholic school. [Had I not been given such a steady diet of religion growing up, I might have had no qualms about casual sex.]

    I could admit to liking or even lusting for a girl. But, the truth came out under pressure and, usually, with unpleasant results. I consistently hoped I’d have a quiet moment alone with whoever interested me so I could express my feelings without heckling or judgment and cope with the rejection I might yet receive if the feelings were not mutual. I was a passer of notes who had little to no luck doing so. My unique mindset made me an outcast. And, a few bold souls pressured me to try things with which I was not only uncomfortable but also opposed.

    On occasion, the suggestions/dares were made in jest, just to see how badly I’d make a fool of myself following orders. Suffice to say, high school put a big dent in my ability to socialize. I went from a “plus one” (in terms of social aptitude, on a scale of 1 to 10) to somewhere in the negative digits. I might as well have been dead. That would have made everything easier. But, in my heart, I still longed for companionship and hid those strong sexual feelings most of my peers had and discussed freely.

    Ultimately, I had to accept being an outcast and cutting ties with people who seemed unable to respect my choices. [And, though I didn’t always see it at that age, I was not the most respectful of choices made by my peers, either. If I didn’t like something they did, I’d complain when they were in my company. But, I didn’t nag, tease or challenge anyone. I just bluntly said, “I don’t like ___.” Or, “___ are stupid.” And, often enough, I’d give reasons no one really wanted to hear. I thought I was being social and honest, having an opinion.]

    ————

    How do you maintain contact with these people who are becoming increasingly bothersome/suffocating?

    Right off the top of my head, I’d say you don’t (maintain contact). You set yourself apart from them and regroup. Why continue to stand in their line of fire and take that “abuse?”

    Give yourself a place and time to shake their pressured intentions from your mind (and soul) like a plane shaking the fire from one of its engines. Maybe there’s a coffee shop or fast food restaurant/cafe you can visit to unwind and entertain yourself with some tabletop hobby (IE reading, crossword puzzles or doodling). And, if they continue to seek you out and push their views, you give them one last warning before cutting ties completely. If they ignore your warning, there’s your answer; they are not going to change.

    It may hurt to lose a friend or warm relationship with a parent, but crap happens. If your mother won’t accept you as a person and family member because you don’t get married and/or have kids, you tell her she has only so much time to change her way of thinking because you are going to be who you choose to be until that changes, if it changes, which will not happen because of her pressuring you.

    Abby says this is an opportunity to educate. Well, who says you have to be the spokesperson for “asexual America” and go on talk shows to start a movement for supporting people like you? If that sounds good to you, go for it. If not, defend yourself. At the very least, you tell these nags that you will consider other options when and if your feelings change. And, if that’s not enough to shut them up, again, set boundaries, make ultimatums and follow through. Accept the fact that you may not always have the best of relations with your parents and/or that one person you call a friend.

    But, let’s do our best to be polite about these matters. Right? Because it wouldn’t be “prudent” to lose our tempers. No. It would just be natural. If you value yourself and what you believe/feel, you do what is necessary and may not be able to sort out–at the time–what is excessively hostile. Still, there are things we can say and/or do via impulse that might be worse than necessary. And, we should avoid doing more harm than good.


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