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Hi Tim
Advice column by Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC.


Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkins and gourds

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.

Hi Tim,
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.

Concerned Ex

Hi Tim,
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.

Munchie Man

Hi Tim,
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.

Photo by Fotolia/Jenifoto

Peepers Creepers

Woman closing curtains

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.

Hi Tim,
I’m a single guy, mid 30’s, and I live in high-rise lofts with a courtyard but my unit is in a unique and awkward position. There’s a young girl, about 20, attractive and single college student who lives across the garden from me. We see each other in passing, at the mailboxes or laundry sometimes, or say hello but never any conversation. My unit is in a corner and so close to hers that I can never open a blind or look out a window without staring directly into her place! The large shower windows are directly across from each other, along with the patio/balcony doors in the bedrooms! I’ve seen her naked several times, quite by accident because I tend to leave my blinds open to let light in, or open a window for fresh air. Of course, I run away or close them once I see her.

A few nights ago I was relaxing on my patio. Her patio doors were wide open, and she came into her bedroom, flicking the lights on wearing nothing but panties. She saw me sitting there holding my beer, in shock, and ran out of the room. Now, when I have seen her around she goes out of her way to avoid even sharing the sidewalk with me. I tried to approach her to apologize once, but she just ran off. How do I patch things up between us so I can ease her suspicion that I am lurking around spying on her? — Peeping, Tim?

Hi Peeping,
Please do not invoke my name and drag me into this debacle. The only peepers in question belong 100% to you. Also, kindly refrain from saying "my unit" so often if you tell this story in the future; especially if you tell this story to a police officer. You may also have to explain to the officer how you even know this young lady is a student or especially that she is single? Or why you chased her in the parking lot just to declare, "I am so sorry I saw you naked!" I am already a bit creeped out myself but I am trying to give you the benefit of the doubt since you are writing in to me. If these observations speak to an innocent attraction you had to this young lady in the past, let me officially alert you now; game over!

There is nothing to "patch up" as you put it because there has never been a relationship and you must never contact her again. Do not risk another of these alleged chance encounters. Invest in a dark, heavy patio curtain and also some blackout shades, which at only a few bucks are much more affordable than the average bail bond and/or fractured neighborship. You keep your awkward unit covered up from now on, no matter who your neighbor is, and wait for a more secluded loft to become available.

Backgrassward

Hi Tim,
My college student daughter is a self-appointed social justice warrior. Now she's claiming to be aligning herself with the Plants Rights Movement. Seriously? I tried to look this up and only came across lunatic vegan rantings. She wants me to stop mowing our grass, and "educating" people who walk on it in the park? I think she is going to end up living there. — Backgrassward

Hi Backgrassward,
As I have become fond of saying, “Yes, it is a thing!” We actually need young folks to be more socially and ecologically aware, so the social justice movement has it merits. Some movements, however, are a bit less practical than others. Even the greenest tree-huggers tend to scoff at the grass-dodgers.

A 2008 constitutional amendment in Switzerland introduced legal protection of the dignity of plants, making offenses such as cutting roadside flowers punishable. Non-human parties, such as bodies of water and research animals are closer than ever to achieving "personhood," whereby they would have protected rights similar to those we enjoy. This trend may have more to do with affecting the financing of research and agriculture than the dignity of non-human beings. And dignity seems to be the focus for your daughter. Unfortunately, the social "grass-huggers" do not seem to have developed grassroots, as in a solid movement. If I missed an organization, please accept my apologies and let me know.

All social justice warriors, like everyone else, will have to learn to pick their battles and your daughter will, too. Grass is not likely to win because there are so many other serious injustices in the world that preclude it. Unless there is a drought or water restrictions are in effect, you have to mow what you have to mow. She may want to police the turf at the park while you do it, to avoid the silent screaming of the sward.

The Messenger

Hi Tim,
I am a guy, mid 20s. My ex-girlfriend "Beth" and I had a rocky romance for a year and her family was always in our business. They are loud, usually drunk or high and sometimes break into arguments that turn into physical altercations. We could not seem to get away from Beth's mother, father and brother, and ultimately it caused our break-up which I know is for the best. I still love her but I couldn't live with her, family or not. We aren't good for each other and I see that now. My life is so much more calm and stable and normal. But there's a secret her mother told me while she was drunk and stoned one night. Beth had passed out and her mom confided in me that Beth was adopted! Even Beth doesn't know. It was an ugly break up and I never want to contact Beth again, but do I owe it to her to share what her mother told me? — The Messenger

Hi Messenger,
On the surface this might seem really complicated and something that could torment you for years to come. Trust me, it is not. You do not have to be The Messenger, and besides over at her place that might just be enough to get you shot. First, you do not even have confirmation that this dark secret is even true, rather than merely the crude manipulations of a severely dysfunctional family member. Second, you had to sit through the show in that house of horrors for a year. Do you really want to invite an encore? Third, it simply is not your life and is none of your business. That family needs help; you are not their social worker, nor are you Beth's savior. Mind your own business and continue taking great care of yourself. Ill-gotten and unconfirmed information is not yours to fret over.


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/LoloStock

Oh, the Horror!

Front yard Halloween decorations

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.

Hi Tim,
I'm young at heart, in my 30's and Dad to "Sarah," 8 and "Trent," 5. I've been married to their Mom "Brenda" for 13 years and we're doing mostly fine. Except for Halloween season. I'm really into Halloween and decorate the whole house and yard with blood dripping out of windows and gore like severed heads on the walk, etc. There's a 6 foot hooded executioner with a bloody axe on the porch, stuffed bodies here and there, and dismembered zombies scattered around. Of course, we have the standard skeletons and spider, fog machine and the whole works for Halloween week. Sarah loves it, and she's been watching gore movies with me since she was three, at least after Brenda is asleep because she doesn't approve of the kids watching horror movies. Last year, Trent started having nightmares around October, had a reversal of potty training and still sleeps with a pull-up and the lights on. Brenda wants me to tone down the Halloween festivities this year because he does not seem to be recovering. I know he's 5, but I think if she'd let him watch a few movies he'd get used to it and might even have a good time. It seems like, developmentally, she's not letting him mature properly and he should face his fears instead of hiding from them. Am I right? — Hurting Haunter

Hi Haunter,
Your letter will haunt me indefinitely. Of all the monstrous mayhem you have cooked up, what I find most terrifying is your ego. Go back and read your own letter. You argue that a three-year-old should be introduced to the living dead, murder, carnage and general terror so that he or she may "get used to it." So, every preschooler should already be familiar with dismemberment, torture and beheadings, so that they can cope with those things when they happen in real life? Perhaps you only want to prepare your offspring for the predictable trials of life: inevitably, one day in the future they will be hanging out with four sexy teenage friends and you can set your watch by it, the serial murderer will appear, attempting to stalk and kill them one at a time, or two if he can dispatch them via coitus interruptus.

Of course, the gallery of gore that keeps you transfixed is only fiction. What you want to force your children to get used to is merely amusement for you, the adult who understands the difference between entertainment and making children feel unsafe in their own home. You are responsible for teaching these youngsters how to cope with the world, and scaring them does not make them any stronger. You like the thrill of being scared. Perhaps your daughter does as well, if she even had a choice at all. Not all people are like you! Please read this article that explains the adrenaline rush you crave. This is not a rush or a thrill for some other folks, especially young children. And your Trent is just that; his own little individual person in the world. He should not be expected to like everything Daddy likes, and trust me he most certainly will not. The most important thing a parent can remember is that your children always come first. I would encourage you to reconsider the images you are exposing those little minds to, and ask yourself if a child could feel safe with that embedded in his or her subconscious. Then consider getting your fright fix away from the house, instead of turning your loving home into a child's nightmares.

Uprooted Again

Hi Tim,
My husband, a teacher and coach in our small town, is facing an attack by his school board for "inappropriate behavior" with female students, even though he assures me that nothing happened and I believe him. We have two young children and I am certain he would never hurt them. The bigger problem is, this is the third time we have found ourselves in exactly the same situation. He is facing almost certain termination after a board review and if that happens, we will have to move again and I will have to leave my job as a medical assistant, for the second time. I love my job but I can survive. What I do not know how to do is explain this to our kids, 6 and 9. They have already been through this twice but since they are older I worry about them hearing things at school and I do not want all these vicious lies to poison their minds against their father. How can I protect them? — Uprooted Again

Hi Uprooted,
I cannot accompany you on a journey to La-La Land, where we ignore the obvious for the sake of denial. Please first make sure your children are safe. Your guy has trouble holding down a job, or allowing your family to settle down in one place, presumably because he is constantly being persecuted. You, on the other hand, seem to be able to keep a job. That is a reality, so losing your stable jobs is going to take its toll on your career over time. This conspiracy against your husband spans three towns and as many school districts. Forgive me for questioning his innocence, but at the very least he will want to look into a career change; to a field where no contact with young girls is possible. If nothing else, for the sake of avoiding these far-reaching schemers who seek to discredit him. Counseling will help both of you reconcile these frequent fallouts and what they mean to your family. Therapy may also help him with personal and social adjustment, in the case that he truly is innocent and merely suffers from a debilitating lack of social skills. A third party may help you put an end to this pattern, perhaps painfully, but if it continues your children will most definitely find out; I would be surprised if they were not already aware.

Haunted by Harlot

Hi Tim,
I'm a divorced woman in my thirties. My ex-husband cheated on me several years ago and stayed with this woman for two years, then they split for the same reason. She seems to think this erases the infidelity, sneaking around, having sex with my husband, breaking my marriage up and ruining my life, at least temporarily. I got over him in a big way, I have a great boyfriend and don't even think about my ex anymore. That is, until his now-ex moved into my neighborhood, joined my gym, and worse, joined the ecological advocacy group I belong to and started attending meetings and protests. She has even tried to pal around with me and come to group coffee meet-ups and strike up conversations with me, rolling her eyes when she inevitably mentions "that guy" we were both involved with as if we are now a little First Wives Club or something. Tim, I can't stand her! She is loud and phony and has the most bizarre sense of humor. I'm not alone on this one, either. She really grates, husband-stealer or not. However, I don't wish to be as thoughtless as she has been in her life. How do I tell her politely to go screw herself? — Haunted by Harlot

Hi Haunted,
I know a certain guy who loves frightening things showing up in his yard, see above; if only we could point her in his direction. On second thought, we need someone who likes to be annoyed more than scared. That may take a while longer to find. In the meantime, you have certainly made your case. I think it is admirable of you to take the high road, but you should be enjoying the scenery there and not have to look over your shoulder and scan the horizon in case she jogs up alongside you or pops out from behind a tree. It is a good thing to know your limits, and you need not apologize nor explain how you choose your company. Boundaries are best served short and sweet. You may approach her in public and simply tell her something like, "Trixie, I believe in owning my limits and communicating them clearly. I am sorry, but we simply have too much history. I am not able to be your friend and I do not want to discuss it any further, but I sincerely wish you the best in life." End it there, and when you see her out and about she will be one of many people you know but with whom you do not socialize.


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/menfis

Disclosure Dilemma

Job interview 

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.

Hi Tim,
I am in my fifties and have been out of the workforce for the past seven years. I spent some of that time caring for my disabled child and parents with medical problems. I also had been struggling with an undiagnosed thyroid disease called Hashimoto's Disease, which my doctors and I mistook for bipolar disorder. After a correct diagnosis and months of adjusting thyroid medications, I feel better than I have in years!

I am ready to go back to work and concerned about how I should address the above on my resume and in interviews, without going into the painful details. Thanks! — Me Again

Hi Me Again,
Thank you for bringing up the link between thyroid and mental health conditions. This article from the Wall Street Journal addresses medical conditions that mimic mental illness and references a helpful book. In some cases, these illnesses are quite treatable with minimal medication. Thyroid is a usual suspect but certainly not alone. Misdiagnoses like yours can have devastating and lasting negative effects on patients' lives. Thankfully, now you are newly and correctly diagnosed with a new bill of health and a new career ahead. I recommend making a new start altogether.

You owe no explanation to your prospective employers about your misdiagnosed mental health, unless there are serious details you have not shared such as significant disruption of work in the past, or some sort of legal trouble, like previous incarceration or probation. Hypothyroidism is quite unlikely to be excluded for most health insurance. My sincere congratulations to you on overcoming this adversity. There is no need to sound an alarm. Instead, use every inch of space on that resume and every minute of that interview to toot your horn!

Hiding on the Fence

Hi Tim,
I'm 18 and, for better or worse, a product of my very opinionated parents. I love them both. Unfortunately, their opinions are mostly on the opposite sides of one another. One's Democrat and the other Republican, and they usually go at it at the dinner table. They're civil, but passionate about their chosen party and full of lectures about why it's the superior one. I have mastered tuning them out years ago, but now that I have the right to vote I am being dragged into their debates to have my vote fought over by two crazy people, both of whom clearly want to win me over and I do not want to let one down. I am having trouble making decisions about voting because of their interference. I want to stay out of it, so please tell me how! — Hiding on the Fence

Hi Hiding,
You do not need to hide at all. You are an adult, and you may skip off to the voting booth without having to discuss your vote at all with any other adults; that includes your parents. There is a reason that religion and politics are banned from family dinner tables around the globe. You can put your own newly acquired adult card into play the next time you all assemble and announce your wish for all talk of politics to henceforth cease and desist.

With regard to your vote, you do not have to align with any particular party. You also do not have to waste your attention on smear ads and campaign television spots. Look up voting records for legislators; their actions speak volumes. Vote for what you support, not what you are against! Learn the issues and even when you make up your mind do not shut out the opposition altogether; you can still learn from their arguments. Avoid the hype and party people and vote with that newly informed mind of yours. Voting is personal, that is why we have the little curtains on the booths for privacy. No one needs access to what goes on behind your curtain unless you choose to talk about it.

Solitary Mate

Hi Tim,
I am a 33 year old guy married to a woman, 29 who used to be romantically adventurous, but after having twins that are now 4 years old, has become almost completely disinterested in sex. We've talked about this problem without any kind of resolution and we're approaching the 3 year mark without any type of sex at all. She was willing to consider some experimentation and I found a social group that meets regularly for open sexual contact, switching partners and multiple partner sexual experiences. These are very friendly, safe people, and some have been in the same boat and used these experiences to reconnect with their spouses. I think it would be therapeutic, but she heard the idea and immediately shut down, won't even try it and now the discussion is off-limits for who knows how long. How can I save my marriage to the woman I still love madly? — Solitary Mate

Hi Solitary Mate,
The proposal you made to your wife would be like telling a person with depression to go to a theme park! I sincerely hope there were a few milder suggestions before you sprang the current potential fix on your beloved. That group arrangement for carnal bliss you so eloquently unpacked with near acrobatic verbosity is commonly referred to as an orgy. They are a good fit for some folks, but I am certain that one of the major guidelines is that one should be enjoying oneself, as a consenting participant. A spouse under duress issuing eye rolls and heavy sighs while being pawed by strangers is not going to earn either of you any future invitations to one of these "group experiences."

However, three years without connubial comfort is a concern, at least for you. You did not mention depression, post-partum or otherwise, or sexual pain for your wife. But ruling this out is worth a trip to her doctor. If the reason is not medical, then the best remedy for ailing sexual partnerships is talking to each other about your preferences, fantasies and apprehensions. Shutting down and orgy offers are hinting to me that you both may not be able to connect on your own; if this is the case, marriage counseling should be your next step.


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/taka

Ups and Downs

Elevator buttons

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.

Hi Tim,
I am a single mum, 30’s, raising a 14 year old boy who’s well behaved and makes good grades. For the past 2 years, he’s also been an elevator enthusiast, meaning people who ride all types of lifts round-trip, document or videotape the experience and then share later online with like-minded people. He has a good friend, a girl who shares this passion and somehow they managed to find each other in this big world. Now they explore the city in their free time, always collecting lifts. I try to be cheery about his hobby, watch his videos and thumb through his massive scrapbook with him, but his fascination does not seem to be waning and I’m wondering if this is normal? — Let Me Off Here

Hi Let Me Off Here,
You must surely be grateful that your little darling did not become an Urban Explorer or a Chernobyl Stalker. Elevator enthusiasts have become a full-fledged subculture through online videos, and there are thousands out there to watch. The movement even inspired a documentary titled Elevated: An Uplifting Community (2011). Apparently, these folks have a keen appreciation for every detail of the machines: buttons, lights, doors, décor and views. We would likely not question a stamp collector or model vehicle enthusiast, and certainly not the avid birdwatcher. They do no harm by celebrating the craftsmanship and iconic functionality of these vertical transporters; you really have to admire this quirky community for pursuing what they truly enjoy.

Torn Over Telling

Hi Tim,
I think my best friend’s Dad is cheating on his wife. I am an intern at the office where my friend’s father works. He is very close to his female coworker, and she calls him her "work husband." They go to lunch together a lot. I have heard about and witnessed this, and recently I found out they have gone to a spa on their lunch hours and gotten massages together! As far as any of us can tell, they go to their respective homes separately, but they could easily be meeting somewhere so of course we are expecting to catch them leaving together. Should I mention something to my friend so that she can talk to him? — Torn Over Telling

Hi Torn Over Telling,
There is nothing to tell your friend. You all have seen nothing other than a couple of coworkers getting on like peas and carrots, joking and — gasp — eating and heard about them getting individual rubdowns. Typically, spa patrons do not massage each other! Whoever else is included in “us,” meaning the office gawkers who gather to track every movement of these seemingly innocent coworkers, you must call a Meeting of the Snoops immediately, and henceforth disengage from one another. Get back to work!

Stuffed Piggy

Hi Tim,
I’m a woman, 29 years old, married for 4 years and I blew my very healthy co-diet of 46 days with my husband. He was out of town for work that week, I had a very stressful work deadline, very little sleep, and I just went crazy with take-out and ice cream and "treated myself" for meeting the deadline. My husband would never understand and would be so critical, shame me for cheating and never let me forget it. I was back on track the next day and never told him. Thankfully, there is no way to find out what happened because I paid cash for everything. But technically, I cheated and I should own up to it, or what kind of partner am I? — Stuffed Piggy

Hi Stuffed Piggy,
A better question is, "What kind of partner is he?" The kind who shames his spouse for the most minor mistakes, and reviews her receipts? Forty-six days of success and a rapid return to restraint ought not to be erased by one indiscretion. Your mini binge is hardly shame-worthy, and you are an autonomous adult.  Dieting is ultimately personal, and just because your husband has committed to being your partner in diet as well as life, that should not mean you must report every single calorie. I hope you decide to congratulate yourself for the progress you made and let this trifle go, which is what he had better do if you still feel obliged to tell him.


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/xy

Less is More

Family in car

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.

Hi Tim,
I'm 33, married with 2 children, 5 and 6. We are all in good health. I'm finished with graduate school and 5 years into a successful career with a good salary. My wife has a successful career too and we have both worked hard to get here. But none of it seems to mean anything. We're about to move to a bigger house in a showier neighborhood. We each just bought new luxury cars. We will be taking the family to Disney World soon. Family and friends say we look perfect.

It isn't all perfect. We all have our faces buried in screens most of the time we're at home or in the car and barely talk to each other. My kids are spoiled and tend to throw tantrums when they don't get something they want. None of what we acquire feels like it means anything. But we don't seem like we want to change, either. How does one know when one is happy and successful? — Full of Empty

Hi Full of Empty,
It is promising that you are questioning your motivations. You have not exactly been shopping this whole time, either. At least, you did not mention a trust fund, lottery ticket or other windfall. While busy finishing graduate school, working and raising kids, it might be perfectly normal to double-down when looking for security, safety, comfort and even leisure, and miss the exact moment when we began to self-treat excessively, confuse necessities with luxuries and get carried away. Conspicuous consumption can give way to or be passed on as invidious consumption, where the purpose of flaunting wealth means nothing more than provoking envy. You do not want your children to grow up identifying themselves this way and this is good insight on your part.

We do not need the latest, most popular gadgets and technologies or a certain brand of car, home, clothes or vacation. If you feel the need to double down, invest in something like retirement or college funds. Explore the functionality of the items you purchase and you will see that far less will be more than enough for just as long. The less importance you place on material things and mere amusements, the more likely it is that you will have increasingly meaningful time and experiences with the people you love, learn more and experience less stress. Your body and mind will eventually thank you.

Try reading this list with many sub references for tips on how to simplify your life. You can also explore a different kind of vacation by providing work in exchange for room and board, while you learn about another culture or language. Voluntourism is a growing travel field accessible through Holidays for Humanity or Govoluntouring, and many other agencies. Make a plan to live with less and follow through. Teach your children simply by example and they will remember how your family explored this rewarding path together.

The Constant Gardner

Hi Tim,
My neighbors in the house next door all like to play rough and yell at each other. They yell at each other even more when their doors are closed. I have a vegetable garden and do a lot of work out there in the afternoon and evening hours. I have heard the couple yelling at their 4 kids and putting them down, calling them names, etc. One of those children, a young girl in first or second grade, comes over and talks to me sometimes while I'm working. She has bruises on her arms and face, but of course she plays so roughly with her brothers, 2 of who are older, and this could easily be from playing. I've tried to draw information out of her by asking if there is anything she needs to tell me, or tell me if you are in any kind of trouble. She doesn't seem willing to talk about her home life and shuts down if I mention her bruises. Should I report this to the authorities or just assume she is telling me the truth and mind my own business? I know those investigations can cause a lot of trouble for people who've done nothing wrong. — The Constant Gardner

Hi Constant Gardner,
I saw the film; I know what Ralph Fiennes would do. But he tends to get a lot of work, so he will not be available. Next, I would try the Marvel Comics superheroes: Spiderman, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor, etc. But they will likely be at a convention or making another movie. Likewise, the DC Comics superheroes: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc. are almost certainly otherwise engaged. So, if a fictional superhero is not available to swoop in and do what you are too uncomfortable to do, perhaps you could take a step or two out of your comfort zone and be the hero for these helpless children?

Yes, sometimes the routine of innocent parents is disturbed when an investigation of child abuse is initiated. Maybe the parents — or siblings — are guilty of abuse but they will not be charged and get away with it. Maybe they are even falsely accused. Guess what is worse? Getting beaten and verbally abused every night by the people you are supposed to be able to trust the most. If you need me to tell you, go ahead and err on the side of caution, for the sake of a child's safety. Call and consult this hotline; they will listen to your assessment and even help you make the anonymous report to your local child protective services agency. What will happen? I do not know. What I do know is that you will have taken action to help a child in your community and the intervention you initiate may save their life or at least improve it. If you spend hours every day nurturing and protecting potatoes and cabbage, you can do this for a child.

Crossed Not Out

Hi Tim,
I am a guy in my 40's, recently divorced with a habit of cross-dressing. I'm not transsexual, and only interested in women. However, I also happen to enjoy having a very small frame with androgynous features. I enjoy getting dressed up and going out to eat by myself, to the movies or the bookstore or coffee house, sitting alone but getting a lot of stares for my face and body. My greatest satisfaction comes from passing as a woman, when men and women notice me. Sex feelings have never been a part of it; the recognition alone is enough. My problem is that this is what broke up my marriage, and my ex-wife has custody of our 4-year-old girl. She comes to visit me on weekends and of course goes exploring. I have tried to keep the closet locked up but she manages to go everywhere. I am afraid she will find my female clothes or make-up and be confused. How can I be myself without my family finding out? — Crossed Not Out

Hi Crossed,
I am certain you can establish a routine for visitation that incorporates a locking closet doorknob or wardrobe, boxes on the top shelf and you were married to a woman so I am sure her things were visible when you lived together. Your daughter will probably never notice. Oh, and she is 4 years old. Little minds are not cluttered with all the trappings that fill ours. She will be fine.

I am not as certain about you. If this harmless habit broke up your marriage as you say, I believe some details may be missing from your letter. You are excited on these outings but not aroused sexually. If your habit is confined to solitary outings for the purpose of collecting stares, it is simple enough to take the aforementioned precautions. But if this is something that you feel is so central to your identity that it should be integrated into your everyday life, then counseling may be necessary. No, not to cure your inclination; rather to help you decide what it means to you.


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/Max Topchii

For Whom the Ding Tolls

ding

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

Hi Tim,
I am 23, a male college student and I share an apartment with another guy. We get along and he is considerate and responsible. I'm the problem. He went out of town with his family a few weeks ago. He told me I could use his car, a brand new one that he worked long hours to afford. I take the shuttle or my bike everywhere, but I did borrow it a couple of times when I was pressed for time. One of those times, I noticed when I came back home that there's a fairly noticeable ding near the fender. This must have happened while it was parked somewhere, but I don't know how or where. He's been back over two weeks and never noticed! By now he'll probably assume it happened while he was driving it. I could say nothing and be in the clear, but my conscience is eating me alive! I'm losing sleep over this and he even notices my odd behavior because I can't relax around him at all! Should I tell him or just shut up and let him find out in due time? - Guilty Party

Hi Guilty,
This is one ding, right? Your description of being utterly consumed by gnawing guilt sounds too agonizing to bear any longer. Yes, you were responsible for the car and of course you should tell your roommate; it is the right thing to do and besides, I do not think your blood pressure can afford to fret much more about it. Tell him and remember someone else damaged his car, not you. It could have gotten bumped just as easily when he parked it, and those dings are often impossible to trace when one has been zipping around town. You should offer to pay half the cost if he even fixes it, and either way I would stick to the shuttle or bike in the future; it is not worth riling those jangled nerves.

Generosity Reconsidered

Hi Tim,
I am a mother, 30's with a 16-year-old daughter. My husband and I are affluent, but we worked very hard to get there. When my daughter passed her driving test we went overboard and bought her a new BMW. She deserves it; she has always excelled in school and never gotten into any trouble. But, since she got into the driver's seat of that car she has become the most vain, self-centered airhead that I’ve ever known. Now all she cares about is flaunting our good fortune and hanging around with a bunch of thankless brats who watch celebrities like the Kardashians or Paris Hilton and try to emulate them. My husband and I aren’t classist or materialistic, we give back to our community, and we raised our girl to be polite. Now she puts others down and makes rude remarks about people who have less. How can I undo what this silly car seems to have done? - Generosity Reconsidered


Hi Generosity,
A family meeting appears to be in order. Your daughter should know that you do not approve of her disparaging the less fortunate and demonstrating a class order you never taught to her. At least, not directly.

When we give children too much and protect them from all hardship, even with the best intentions we can deny them experiences that build strong character. Resilience does not come from parents' money; it grows out of consequences and setbacks, empowering youngsters to become independent and develop their emotional intelligence. Her shift in values may also reflect an overwhelming pressure to succeed and meet only the highest standards. Maybe you did not even enforce perfection as the solitary goal; perhaps it started as innocently as praising hard work and quietly gathered momentum.

You can make your little diva pay the bills that come with her luxury car, such as fuel, repairs, registration, and any tickets she may acquire. If the immediate gainful employment necessary to maintain a luxury sports car is not an option, you can simply trade the car for a nice, used hatchback and still require that she pay the costs for the new (old) car. If this is a change that cannot be initiated without a significant disruption of school and family life, counseling would be the next step.

Notsogassed

Hi Tim,
College guy, 20s, my bro goes home to see his family 400 miles away in the same town where mine lives. He offers me a ride home with him because I don't have a car. Two days before the trip, he tells me what my share of the gas will cost! Rude much? He's going there anyway, should I figure what the gas is from his family's doorstep to mine just to make a point? -Notsogassed

Hi Notsogassed,
How dare that vile ingrate make such an affront to your sensibilities! No doubt, you promised this bro your effervescent conversation and wit to deliver him constant merriment for the duration of this journey, and what thanks do you get? Normally I am loathe to use crude language, but in this case I feel strongly that it fits. The only party that should share travel expenses is the ass that is planted in the free seat, enjoying that free ride home to be with its loved ones, in a car that must be financially acquired, maintained and cleaned by the driver who is also charged with the safety of his or her precious cargo. Now, if the ass happens to be attached to your body, then you are its owner and would be obligated to cover its expenses if it turns out to be arrogant and entitled and is not possessive of at least a basic ethical code. The moral of the story; only a cheap ass would not offer to share fuel expenses when a friend provides a road trip.

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 courtesy Nate Grigg, licensed under Creative Commons








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