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 college girl in my 20’s and I have a new friend who is a gorgeous, funny guy. We have a mutual attraction but are in that awkward phase where we both want to go further but wait for the other one to confirm, etc. No big deal, we will get past that, and when he invited me to go to his parents’ house over the holidays I thought this might be a good time to get closer. We arrived at the house first, and as his three sisters and two brothers and various cousins started getting there, I noticed something odd. They kiss each other hello, goodbye, etc. on the mouth with their lips locked for just such a long time it gives me the creeps! Boy, girl, old, young does not matter, they plant one on the same or opposite sex and kind of linger there for a few seconds before coming up for air. I don't see any tongues, but the lingering allows plenty of time for it. I’m not a judgmental person, but what to make of this? I said something to him, almost by reflex because I'm unable to not comment on a display like that, and he got defensive, assured me there was no tongue and suggested maybe my family was not very affectionate. I kind of understand, and really do like him a lot but is this normal? — Too Close for Kissing
Hi Too Close,
Please forgive the pun that is forthcoming. It sounds like you feel that holding your tongue would have been the right thing to do. Indeed, many folks like you would probably rather don an eyes-only balaclava, a strip of duct tape or even a hazmat suit rather than engage in mouth meetings with your family members. Your beau is probably perceptive enough to have noticed you recoiling in horror at his kinfolks’ sloppy salutations. Better you put your thoughts out there than spend the rest of the evening hiding behind furniture. If you two are getting close, you need to be able to process things to which either of you has a strong, involuntary reaction.
As for the kissing custom, well, families have been carrying on weird customs since there were families. They have ugly sweater parties, attend family nudist retreats, join cults, dress up their pets, take questionable photographs and even innocently show intimate, physical affection for one another. If you have ever been around a family of icy mackerel who are so emotionally distant from each other you have to do a quick head count to reassure yourself that everyone is still inhabiting the same space, or the tension is so thick you have to duck outside to exhale, a harmless mouth kiss can actually be reassuring and definitely does not confirm incestuous behavior; he did deny tongues, after all. If you care to attend any more of these family reunions then lighten up, pet the dog or engage in some similar diversion during the kiss-in. But stay out from under the mistletoe; you are not obligated to participate in something that would make your skin crawl.
Not Your Daddy
I am a widower, late 50’s, and just starting to date after losing my wife three years ago. There is a special lady I met online, and she is 12 years younger, but we get along so well. Our relationship only recently began to get physical after dating for several months. She has really awful habit of calling me “Daddy,” making our age difference all the more awkward around others, but she has taken it further; to the bedroom. When I go to her home she acts sexy and talks about, “Waiting for Daddy all day,” or worried about, “What Daddy will do if he finds out I have been a bad girl,” and you can imagine the rest. Tim, I have two grown daughters, and there is no overlap between being a parent and turned on. She’s turning me off. I have to use some heavy-duty imagination and get my mind out of my body to stay aroused, and I want to be with her, not do some sick role play that I don't even find exciting. How do I approach the subject without turning her away? — Not Your Daddy
Hi Not Your Daddy,
If this is the first time a lover did something out of left field that killed the mood, then congratulations! Most folks get over that hurdle much earlier, but I am happy to hear about your previously unchallenged record of sexual compatibility. Sometimes others are oblivious to the signals of disinterest we are sending, but they may also be trying too hard to get approval or ease the tension around the awkward spots that will invariably manifest themselves in any relationship. Do not make matters worse with passive aggression or ambiguity. Sit down with your partner and talk; tell her that behavior is crossing a line for you. Tell her you are not bothered by the age difference, at least not until you are reminded. It will be one of those things that you both laugh about later, or the impetus to re-evaluate your overall compatibility.
I’m female, 30’s and just divorced my loser of a husband because he was cheating. Luckily, we had no kids and I have a great job to help me forget. I also have three great long-time girlfriends, all married, and we always have a great Valentine’s Day couples dinner party. This isn’t my year to host but how can I go through with it? I’m miserable and the last thing I want to do is look at other people being happy. No one’s mentioned any plans to me yet. How can I cancel without hurting any feelings? — Heartless
You said it all. Long-term friends who know and love you will understand, and it is not even your turn to host. There is no need to interrupt their tradition, either. Make other plans, to go shopping or do your taxes or binge on television — perhaps skipping the rom-coms this round — and do what you need to do for yourself. Your friends are not going anywhere because you miss one event, and certainly ought to understand. Maybe this year’s host is sensitively waiting for your directive, so the sooner you issue it the sooner she can make plans accordingly and you can stop fretting over this slight quandary.
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.
Photo by Fotolia/Eugenio Marongiu