Advice column by Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC.
Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.
I’m a retired widow in my 70’s living alone. A few months ago a young family moved into the house next door. Their children are a third grader and teenage boy who seem okay but also a teenage girl who is wild. She’s only 15 but she has a boyfriend and they spend a lot of time in his car when he is supposed to be dropping her off. Of course things get steamy on the front porch too, which is screened in (hard to see into at night) with couches, chairs and a fall display of pumpkins, gourds, corn wreaths, and such. Their little boy plays outside with my grandchildren since they are close in age.
The children have been sharing some joke about the fall decorations, dropping hints that I did not understand at first. When I asked my granddaughter, she told me that the teen couple was worried about her staying a virgin or getting pregnant, so instead of making love they were doing sexual things to each other with the long-necked gourds, and poking holes in the pumpkins, etc. You get the idea. I’ve tried to keep watch and find evidence of the misconduct so that I can alert the girl’s parents. Should I have proof first or just go over and talk to the parents? — Hormone Harvest
Hi Hormone Harvest,
If you get offered a pumpkin pie by the neighbors over the holidays, I would channel Ina Garten and insist, “Store bought will be just fine!” Please forgive me if the verbal maze in which I have placed the centerpiece of my following response is a bit corny.
I know your initial reaction must be, “Oh, my gourd!” However, without the proof for which you so diligently stand watch like a scarecrow, straining to catch a glimpse through the neighbors’ screen, you have no way to distinguish the truth from children’s maple leaf; you may be getting buffaloed. There is a veritable cornucopia of reasons a youngster may embellish the details of a raw and juicy story. So try not to be taken for a wild hayride.
What you have gathered through the vine does not always guarantee what belongs in the soup. All I hear on the wind is the rustling of a couple of middle-schoolers, but what if it is true? Perhaps the thought of two teenagers getting each other’s apples candied only a couple dozen feet from your own door is what fills you with fright, even if they have decided to remain puree until after they jump the broomcorn and their eggs are free to pickle.
Please do not be an old cranberry about the matter. If you do not fondly wax nostalgic about your own youth and persist in feeling bitter about these young luffas having their rolls in the hay at least mind your own casserole. Instead of boiling about whose nuts or melons are being harvested next door, put a lid on it! Place your judgment a-cider and can your suspicions to preserve the peace for the family next door. Unless these two allegedly curious veggie-lovers are using the autumn produce from your own porch; that would justifiably be the last straw bale.
I would be more concerned about how those little goblins are gaining enough access to watch these turkeys remove each other’s dressing in the middle of the night. Keep a closer eye on your own little Brussels sprouts’ whereabouts, remind them to respect others’ privacy and squash their gossip, and even notify the parents of nonspecific adult content being shared with the assurance that it will be monitored. Then leaves the colorful show next door alone.
I’m a man, 30’s, married to my wife for 2 great years with 2 terrific kids. My wife is very close to her younger sister who is also married with kids and we all hang out together a lot. My problem is that I used to date and live with my sister-in-law. We lived together for almost a year. The relationship was rocky but we were in love. The split was mutual and friendly. We get along great now and everyone knows about our past, my wife included. She sees us refer to private jokes and glances now and only gets upset occasionally. That part will get better with time. My concern is that my sister-in-law’s husband is a tool. He’s controlling and manipulative, and emotionally abusive. We have not seen any evidence of physical abuse but I think I should approach her and ask about it. I think she might feel comfortable talking to me about it, rather than her sister because she might judge her for staying in the relationship. Does this make sense? — Concerned Ex
Hi Concerned Ex,
As I stated in last week’s column as a general rule; if you are considering taking any action involving your ex that places you in the role of either social worker or savior, do not do it. You can never be either one for that person. A marriage of two years may seem solid, but a quick way to test it is to indulge in private jokes, physical affection, stolen glances or fits of nostalgia with ex-lovers in full view of marital partners.
I am inclined to believe that your head is in the right place, but your heart may be confused about how to calibrate when cavorting in the mixed company of lovers past and present. You are simply too close to this person with too much history to be expected not to respond, but it also seems to have temporarily blinded you from another intimate connection between two sisters that began well before you ever showed up. If you are concerned about your sister-in-law, tell your wife and hand it off to her completely. They have been able to communicate with each other since childhood and you are not obligated to intervene. If you persistently feel this protective instinct around the woman who is now just your in-law, you may want to limit you time together and if that does not discourage your interest the next step would be counseling to help you determine what you really want from her.
I’m a man, 20’s with a girlfriend whose father is a police officer. I am supposed to attend Thanksgiving at her family’s house in Texas this year, but my tradition is to light up a pre-dinner blunt and get baked before the turkey does. The girlfriend doesn’t want me to do it but it’s not up to her. How do you politely excuse yourself to get stoned at a family event? — Munchie Man
Hi Munchie Man,
If your letter is in any way indicative of anything weed might have done to your brain, consider immediately quitting altogether. I suspect your personality plays a bigger role. You did not mention where you are from or whether or not you are prescribed pot, but regardless of those circumstances, marijuana is illegal in Texas, right or wrong that is the reality and if you believe you can get away with smoking a joint at a police officer’s house, you are probably wrong.
Hopefully there are not any other holiday rituals you insist upon sharing with gracious strangers, like talking on your mobile phone at the table, wearing headphones or breaking wind with wild abandon. If you really do conduct yourself in everyday life as an entitled, arrogant ass who bullies a partner he affectionately refers to as, “the girlfriend,” and fancy yourself even above the rules of a house that has graciously welcomed you for the holidays, then try one act of kindness that will leave everyone thankful this holiday season; break up with your girlfriend.
Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.
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