Family Fracas

article image

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 34 year old, divorced woman with no kids, living with and helping care for my parents in their 80’s who are fairly well off. I chose this arrangement and did not need to move back home. My father is doing well but has limited mobility, but my mother is terminally ill and will likely not be with us much longer. I am caring for them well enough, but my brother and sister are the problem. They come to visit about every two weeks for each of them, only staying a couple of hours and spending a good part of that time badgering my parents about making a will and who will get what. They pester my father about making a will, which he and my mother have not done, and even try to talk him into divvying up their belongings, assigning it to each of us so we will “know what we are entitled to,” and “what we can expect.” They are even picking things out and telling me to remember what they want! My sister had the nerve to ask me to start a running list of the items they have selected, “So there is no confusion,” and asked me to show them my parents’ financial statements! 

I am disgusted by all of them and my father and I have simply shut down, refusing to engage with these selfish pigs but they call and still come by, oblivious. When my mother became ill I envisioned that we would rally around my parents and be a strong family, but we don’t even act like one at all now. How do I get my parents prepared for the inevitable without sounding like one of those jerks? 

—Disillusioned Daughter

Hi Disillusioned,
What a terrible ordeal for you, to be the caregiver for your parents with the recent news compounding the stress, only to have more heaped upon you three by selfish siblings. It is unfortunate that during times of loss such as yours some folks misdirect their feelings about that loss and become obsessed with things instead of the people they call loved ones. Some others are just selfish, mean people already. It sounds like your siblings are so caught up in themselves that they do not appreciate still having living parents, and give little thought to how their comments must hurt them. Fortunately, this King Lear had the good sense to keep his Cordelia close to him, and your mother. 

I am no legal expert, but in general the grand sum the you and your adult siblings are entitled to is nothing. Parents have an obligation to leave their estate to spouses, but none whatsoever, in most cases, to their children. Anything children receive is a gift, and ought to be treated as such and accepted graciously, only after the benefactor has departed! Your mother is top priority now, but you can let your father know you are researching arrangements so that you can step in for him when the time comes and ease the burden. Then ask him to consult a real attorney about estate planning. It is his choice to generate whatever documents and instructions he chooses, but the choice should be an informed one, with the help of a professional.  

When that is settled, call a family meeting without the parents and let the jackals know they are owed nothing, that everything is in writing, and still none of their business. Your parents’ home is yours again, too. Be clear that any misconduct or insensitivity in the presence of your ailing mother or grief-stricken father will ensure that the offender is no longer welcome there. Because of the chronic stress you are under, please consider seeing a counselor—you can start here—and perhaps locate one for your father as well. I am sending you good thoughts.  

S’not Amused

Hi Tim,
I am a woman, age 31, dating the most perfect man for the last 6 months who you would think had nothing in the way of faults. However, there is definitely something. This charming and handsome guy has severe allergies, all year long, that he has tried to have treated by specialists with no luck. He is constantly hacking, sneezing, snorting, wiping or blowing his nose, sometimes with visible snot flying, and I know he can’t help it but he does this so often that he forgets and leaves his soggy tissues laying around! My home, his home, restaurants, movie theaters and anywhere else we go he litters the chairs, tables, and floor. I am a mother of two boys, 5 and 8, and sometimes when he blows out a tissue full and catches me looking he’ll say something like, “Well, you have two boys you know how it is,” and stuff it in his pocket! I am not a germaphobe, but I know this has to cross some kind of line. Could you please suggest a kind way to tell him to cork it up or find some privacy?

—S’not Amused 

Hi S’not,
Bless you! No pun intended, I meant only to acknowledge your six months of patience with this serial sinus offender whose tissue trail has you in a tizzy. Consider your concern validated; it is not okay to leave wads of mucous-filled tissues in your wake for others to discard. I can only imagine that, as you two have become more comfortable in your relationship, your beau has let his guard way down, and perhaps a bit prematurely. Allergies can be a nightmare for sufferers. However, there is no need to be gentle here; be direct and let him know that because you do have two boys, you are only considering a bonafide gentleman to be their role model. You would not tolerate such inconsiderate behavior from your sons, so likewise call him to the carpet, or wastebasket as it were, each time he tries to drop a snot bomb anywhere other than a trash receptacle. If necessary, have him carry around a little bucket until he gets the idea. If he still doesn’t get it, the referral he needs may not be for an allergist after all.

Fag Hagatha 

Hi Tim,
I hope you can help me. I am a girl, 29, who has been a fag hag for most of my teens and adulthood. I was ushered into the life by my gay brother and his friends. I love it and would not want to change for anything or anybody. However, my “comic relief buddy” status has become tiresome for me. I was overweight most of that adulthood, too, and I have recently lost a lot of weight, gotten a fitness routine and I am trying to put myself out there for the men. The straight ones! My brother and a couple of his friends and I have hung out regularly for many years, but suddenly when I have an occasional date, no one is interested in meeting or hearing about him. I can’t remember how many first dates I have chaperoned, how many times I served as wing-man, celebrated anniversaries, commitment ceremonies, coming outs, pride parades, or how many broken-hearted boys have cried on my shoulder and they always came first while I went home alone. But now that I actually have some heterosexual male company, I am a leper. Even my own brother has lost interest in me, and none of my boys are calling, returning my calls or willing to meet my dates. How do I get them to see how insensitive they are being? 

—Fag Hagatha

Hi Hagatha,
I would be shocked if you told me you have not seen Violet Tendencies featuring the—no joke here— extremely talented and under-appreciated Mindy Cohn, a hilarious comedy that just about spot-on matches what you just described. However, I appreciate that there is nothing hilarious about your own version of this tale. You sound like you have been a good friend and a generous soul to others, so I am hoping you focus on yourself for a while. Go ahead, you deserve it.

Gay or straight, selfish is as selfish does. It sounds like your new social life deserves a lot more attention than any fairy-weather friends. I am not generalizing or speaking directly of these lads, but it is worth mentioning that some folks are in a rut themselves, like you were once upon a time, and feel uncomfortable coming out of the restricted social circles to which they are accustomed. They may also be feeling a loss, and upset that they have less of your quality time. However, if they do not eventually come around on their own, would you really want any of them back? Your brother does not count, of course. You are stuck with him for life. But if friendships are primarily take-and-take in one direction, they sometimes run their course and it is probably healthier to let them fizzle out. 

No to Toe No-No’s

Hi Tim,
41-year-old, married woman, here. My sister and her husband have been staying with us while their house is being renovated. They are staying in the guest room and we keep an extra laptop in there. I told them of course to make themselves to home and that included the computer; whatever they needed. My son was using my computer so I went to their room while they were both out. I feel terrible, but just out of curiosity glanced at the history and found foot fetish porn! All legal I suppose, but “foot worship” nonetheless, with countless images of women’s feet, people being stepped on and toe licking that I find disgusting! I would want to know if my husband were looking at things like that. Should I tell my sister or just keep my mouth shut? 

—No To Toe No-No’s

Hi Toes,
If we put our heads together maybe we can solve the riddle of why you feel bad about your “innocent” curiosity. There is no such thing as innocent snooping and spying. What makes you so sure this perusal of piggy porn is not being perpetrated by another family member? Why not your sister herself, or your son with whom you already occasionally share computers? If there are any other kids in the picture or significant others, throw them all in the suspect pool! With so many to choose from, I wonder how you singled out this one individual. I would do a bit of contemplating on your relationship with this in-law first, and then regardless of the outcome, drop the other matter entirely. 

You put those images into your own subconscious by snooping, now the burden is upon you to purge them. I would put a foot fetish on the low end of the kink spectrum anyway. Few among us would want to know every single secret desire of a romantic partner, much less any other relatives … oh, the horror! Think about your own, and how far you would want the broadcast on that topic to reach. Then pledge to stop snooping, switch to flats or clogs for a while if it eases your discomfort, forego any fancy pedicures in the near future or other activities that lure your mind that far south, and let time erode this ill-gotten memory.

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 Penny Blankenship, licensed under Creative Commons

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.