Advice: Heart Problems Galore

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am a 22-year-old man and recently got dumped. Again. And this last one really hurt.

We were together for about a month, and I really liked this girl, “Sally”. One night, we got involved in a long conversation about family, and family history, and the kind of baggage we have. One of the things she told me about (along with her parents’ divorce and an estrangement with another sister) was she had a brother who was born with a congenital heart disease. I thought, FINALLY! Someone who might understand me. You see, I too was born with heart disease. I got all excited when I told her about my condition. I thought she would get it.

Instead, she bolted. First, she was slow to respond to texts and calls. Then she stopped replying altogether. When I went to her house to ask her what was wrong all she said was, “I am sorry, “Bob”, I just can’t do this.”

It’s really painful. I know my life isn’t going to be terribly long, but does that mean I am supposed to be alone for it? Sally should know that as much as her brother deserved to be loved, I do too. How can I help a girl get past my heart problem and see the real me?

–Heart Problems Galore

B: Oh, my dear young man. You have my compassion and my good will. You were born with a very tough row to hoe, and I admire and respect your desire to push it aside in the pursuit of a normal life for as long as it’s available to you.

But you need to understand that your conditions bring a special set of complications into any new relationship you want to start. Of course you deserve to be loved; we all do. But you need to find someone who’s willing to love extraordinarily.

The girl you talk about, “Sally”, has already been through an unenviable degree of pain in her life, and if you and she are contemporaries then she’s only 22. You said her parents have divorced, and she’s got an estrangement with her sister. You also talk about her brother—the one who shares your congenital heart problem—in the past tense. He had a heart problem, he deserved to be loved. Has he already passed away? That’s a whole lot of anguish for one young woman to handle in only 22 years. You’re asking for her compassion but not giving her any in return. She may be wounded, and wounded so deeply she can’t dig down any deeper to give you the sort of love you were hoping for from her.

P: Oh, I’m so sorry. As if your damaged heart was not enough, now you have a broken one. Whatever your heart’s condition, you, like all of us, are looking both to love and be loved.

Understanding what may be true about Sally isn’t going to make your heart hurt any less, but her reality seems as complicated as yours. We don’t know why her parents split up, but statistics tell us that it’s often about the death of a child. It seems that everyone in her family ran to different corners. She already feels alone. So your condition may well represent a loss of everything rather than the possibility of something beautiful and precious.

While it seems that the potential to understand your life may be there, it doesn’t seem like she’s made that leap. She may never make it. She may always choose safety. You may be a wonderful choice, and the fact is that none of us know how long we have, but you are not a choice she can make.

In life, in work, and in love, people are only capable of that of which they’re capable.

B: You need to understand that it’s not about you, even though it affects you profoundly. It’s about her, and her capacity to keep opening her heart. And it’s not that she’s wrong to draw in and protect herself. She may have reached her pain limit, and that needs to be respected, in everybody, at all times.

The unfortunate thing about relationships is you can’t make the object of your desire, desire you back. That’s the part that hurts.

You have a difficult task. When we start relationships that we think have staying power, we tend to project our cozy newfound couplehood into a gauzy ideal; we picture what our children would look like, we imagine long nights under the covers, we see Thanksgivings fifty years from now, with gaggles of squirrely, laughing grandkids around the table. What we don’t project into is widowhood at 40. We don’t imagine starting over. We don’t start relationships thinking, “What’s my next move when this relationship comes to an end?” And, unless you experience a medical revolution regarding your heart problems, that’s exactly what you’re asking your new love to ask herself. What will she do when you leave?

That’s a tough starting point.

P: There are so many myths out there about love, and most of them are fairytales. We choose to love people. And as painful as it is, we can, and sometimes must choose to unlove them. Because her choices, given her baggage, as you call it, are for safety. You’re not a safe choice, partially because your heart is damaged and partially because you’re willing to grab what life has to offer. That scares the hell out of a lot of people, and good for you!

B: You are digging into your life with both hands. You are not letting your condition best you, and you’re blazing forward with the intent to love, and do so wholly, for as long as you are able. It’s admirable, and it’s brave, and it’s intense, and it’s incredibly healthy. You just need to find someone willing to make that plunge with you, knowing the likely downside and deciding to go for it anyway.

But you can do it. The thing is, if you want to have an extraordinary love, you need to be extraordinary. And by default you are asking your intended to step outside the parameters of a “normal” relationship.

You’re allowed to be disappointed by the outcome of your attempted relationship with Sally, because you thought you had an “in”. But, as we all have to discover as we navigate every relationship we’re in, we can’t let other people’s baggage define us.

So no, Sally wasn’t capable of having a relationship with you.

P: As Terri says, you get to be extraordinary. Why not let your heart condition be part of what makes you that way? Not in a negative fashion, but in an aggressive, “one of the side effects of my congenital heart disease is that I live passionately and love deeply” kinda way.

Are you an activist for your disease? I know it’s not everyone’s dream to become an activist, but there’s something so exciting about bold people who tell you what their limitations are and then wow you with their strengths. If your heart problems are just another (out front) piece of you, then the people who come into your life come in knowing some of your weaknesses, they’re going to run away long before you fall in love…

Being part of a group these days almost always means you get a tee shirt. Get a bunch. Wear them! Go to conferences and meet ups, get to know other people who are living with your disease. Educate people. And do things you want to do. You know that the likelihood of a shortened life is your reality; what are you doing to ensure that the time you have is fascinating?

You deserve a fabulous life. (we all do) You got dealt a crummy card. (many people do). But that card isn’t all of who you are, by a long shot. Discover your passions, love yourself wildly and watch people line up — if you have time given that you’re busy having a good time.

And figuring out what groups to belong to will give you a chance to meet new people while your heart is healing. Because you cared a lot about Sally and you had high hopes. That leaves you with a very tender heart. The tenderness will heal. I think we can promise you that. (Because pssst: Both the Bartender and the Priestess have had their hearts bruised on more than one occasion. But bruises heal; yours will too.)

broken heart napkin

Pomegranate juice. For heart health.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Advertisements

Advice: Freeloading Downloaders

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am a small business owner. I provide Virtual Assistant services to other small business owners. I love my business and find it incredibly rewarding. I like my clients and the variety of work they offer me. As a support (and thank you) to my clients and as a marketing technique, I’ve written a number of small ebooks. Each one addresses an issue that people in business may encounter and offers a number of ways to deal with that issue.

I get great feedback from my clients about these booklets. It helps them think about what questions they want to ask me if I’m doing something for them, or simply offers them a way to think differently about something they’ve always done.

I’ve also gained several clients this way — often because they were talking to a client and their client said, hey, you know what, XYZ Virtual Assistants has a booklet on that very topic. You should pick it up. They do. They like it, and they will often work with me on a small project to test the working waters.

What’s the problem? Well not those people. What bugs me beyond belief is the people who, whether they’re surfing or have been directed to my site, hate the booklets. Not content to say, “wowza, XYZVA has nothing to offer me, what’s wrong with my friends that they work with her?” Instead they write to excoriate me on the fact that my booklet on something requires people to think for themselves and why yes, it’s true, often suggests that a well qualified Virtual Assistant may well be able to help. It contains contact information.

What galls me is that I’ve received more than one letter, email, phone call from a stranger, berating me, complaining that I didn’t give them enough information in the free download. When I politely (after all, part of my business includes responding to uncomfortable questions) remind them that this was a free booklet and intended to speak generally to a topic, they go nuts.

People persist. They’re rude. They’re demanding. I haven’t lost my cool yet, but I worry!

Do you have any thoughts about how to deal with people who, having gotten a very lovely piece of something for nothing, now insist on belittling the offering and demanding more?

Stupefied at the (Virtual) Office

Dear Stupefied,

BNP: Oh, we feel your pain!

P: What is it with people? You offer a gift (never mind that you have reasons for offering, of course you do), people take the gift and then spend time whining that the gift is not enough and being aghast that you would actually charge for your expertise if they wanted more information. Would that the Bartender and I had no experience of this.

And in between the acceptance of the gift and the complaint, there is never a passing glance at gratitude. Not even a tip-o-the-hat to common courtesy.

It’s really depressing. It’s well past time to bring back both common courtesy and common sense!

B: There’s an unfortunate truth to the notion that if you give a person an inch, they’ll go for a mile. I generally think it’s rooted in that person’s innate desire to have power. You just gave me something; now I am going to make you give me more, even if I have to bully and debase myself to do it. But that’s not your question. Your question skips the why (though sometimes, I can’t help playing the armchair psychologist) and goes straight to “How do I handle this?” Well.

P: I think most people know when they encounter a freebie whether you’re the expert to take them farther. If they didn’t want more, they wouldn’t be trying to get it from you. Why they think they’re entitled to more without paying for it is really beyond me.

My version is people’s being stunned that I charge for doing weddings. “But you work for a church. Why should I pay you? This is my wedding.” “Do you go to my church?” “No.” “Do you contribute to any church?” if “No,” then I don’t work for you, and I need to be paid an honest exchange for the very good work I do. If, “Yes,” perhaps you should have your minister marry you! I, however, still need to be compensated for my time and my expertise. I’m old, um, mature. I have years of experience. You don’t get that for free.

I’ve actually had people spending a whole lot of money on a wedding who think I should marry them for free because “You’ve taken a vow of poverty.” No. I didn’t. Did you take a vow of ripping people off? Sigh. No, I don’t say that, but oh, it rises to mind.

B: Ha ha. A vow of poverty. I wonder if anyone has ever asked that of the Joel Osteens of the world. I often find people are surprised that I want to charge them for writing projects. If they asked me to come to their house and plumb their sewer lines, they’d expect to be charged for my time and effort and expertise. What makes this different?

P: I really think that the only way to deal with these people is to have a set fee for different kinds of work and practiced responses. You may want to have them on your website or FB page. If you have those things set out, there’s no reason to take other people’s silliness seriously. You answer their questions about the information they want as by telling them what that will cost them. It’s perfectly logical that they want more (because your freebie was fabulous) but more must be fairly compensated.

And then I think you really need to hang up the phone or end the email.

B: Yes, you’re in customer service and I understand that you don’t want to fly off the handle, but it is still your business. Be in control of it. You can choose to engage with a problematic freeloader, or, you can end your communication. For the freeloader, they’ll only be happy if you give them something for free. You’re not really risking the loss of a potential customer because this person was never going to pay you anyway. It’s not about the quality of your service. It’s about the quality of the freeloader’s character.

P: Once you go beyond their statement of their wants, your explanation about the price of fulfilling those desires, you’ve begun haggling. You do not need to be defensive. You’re unlikely to convince them — and they’re unlikely to be satisfied customers if you do. There is nothing worse for your sense of humor or your business than an unsatisfied customer. And if they didn’t like what you gave them for free, they’re unlikely to be satisfied with what you’ll give them for money.

If, as they say, neither courtesy nor sense are common, then perhaps it’s always been people’s tendency to see what they can get away with. You, however, do not need to take that personally. You offer what you offer, you charge what you charge for more, and other than that, unless people need a reference to 911, you’re probably done.

B: Practice this phrase: This conversation is now over. That’s it. This conversation is now over. And when you say that, follow it up with, “I am hanging up now/ending this email thread now/asking you to leave my office now.” And stick to it. You don’t need to make that the first thing you say, but it needs to be in your arsenal. Because the thing is, someone who’s going to try and bully you into giving away a piece of your livelihood isn’t going to care about a well-reasoned argument. There’s no “good way” to interact with that person. They’re not calling you so they can hear you; they’re calling you so they can extort you. And you need to understand that difference.

So learn how to tell someone no, practice ending the conversation, draft a stock email or letter to keep on hand to send out politely stating your company’s agenda (Thank you for your interest in XYZVA! As you have seen from our selection of complimentary downloads, we are a full-service virtual assisting company. Our professional services begin at the low fee of $$.00 per month; please see our attached pricing sheet for more information). And then?  Call it a day. If someone persists in verbal or email abuse, make sure it’s documented so you can protect yourself. And continue to nurture the clients you do have and grow your clientele selectively. You’re not obligated to work with every single person who darkens your door, especially if they’ve shown their willingness to be irate and abusive.

P: Is it possible that there are not-for-profits that you might be willing to donate time to? Yes. Is a cold call with a demand for more of what you gave them likely to be the right charity for you to assist — I’d say the odds are small. I’ve created and celebrated rituals for people who have no resources, but they’ve been very special situations and very special people.

B: Remember, being in customer service doesn’t make you someone’s whipping boy, and you’re not in it to be taken advantage of. Be strong. Be firm. Be polite. Be unassailable. And be in charge. Good luck!

WP_20150128_22_03_27_Pro-008

Make ’em a (business) offer they can’t refuse.

Godfather Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces Scotch or bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce amaretto

Directions:

Fill a glass about two thirds full of ice. Add whiskey and amaretto. Stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into ice-filled rocks glass. Serve.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Advice: Promposal Problems

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am a senior in high school. Since the beginning of this year I’ve held a part-time job, and put most of my money into a savings account. I’m going away to college in the fall on a partial academic scholarship, and my parents and I decided it would make sense for me to work now and save everything so when I go to school I can focus on my studies, and still have some spending money. We don’t have a lot of money, so maintaining my scholarship is really important to me, and to my parents.

My problem is, there’s this girl I’ve been dating, and I really want to ask her to the prom. It’s a big deal in my school to do promposals, and I know some guys are planning big ways to ask girls on dates—taking them to a fancy restaurant for dinner, getting their girls specially embroidered his and hers running shoes (so they can be prom-body-ready). One guy got his girl a charm bracelet that spelled out “P-R-O-M” in the charms. Of course I want to make the girl I ask feel special. I’m already planning on the tux and flowers and prom tickets and dinner beforehand, and the limo. And that’s fine, I’m ready for it, I’ve been planning for it. But this seems like so much more extra money, and I know I can’t ask my parents to pitch in with this. They already do so much for me. How can I compete?

Thanks.

Prom-Plexed

Dear Prom-Plexed

BnP: First, kudos for the great signature! And your question succinctly nails an issue — a trend; perhaps even an obscene trend — that makes us ca-razy. Is it about the money? Or is it the fact that our young vibrant women feel like they need to be Disney princesses? They need public displays of desirability (and thus, validation)? And how romantic is it that boys are increasingly expected to be nothing but cash cows? (Can we even say how much we hate these two things?) Is it that nothing can simply be what it is? We’ve maxed out the stuff we can add onto the prom (What??? You’re not spending the week at the shore???), so we’ll invent this idea called “Promposal”. Let’s see if we can help. Prom-body ready, where’s the fainting couch.

B: Give me a minute to congratulate you on earning a scholarship! That’s no small feat. And, congratulations to you and your parents for taking your academic achievement and growth seriously, and making plans to preserve your scholarship eligibility. You’re just in high school, but you’re looking ahead and weighing the variables of your life with a maturity I don’t always see in adults three times your age.

As for your question…

I haaaaaaaaaaate promposals. It probably borders on the irrational, and if I were a judge I would in all likelihood have to recuse myself from this case if it came to my courtroom. Luckily, this is an advice column and I can rattle on at will.

I can just hear parents now: oh, come on, party pooper, they’re cute! They’re harmless! And who doesn’t want to see “PROM?” spelled out on their front lawn in sparklers? But negotiating the social strata of high school is tough enough without having to add in an extra layer of manufactured courtship. I *swear* this is an idea devised and perpetuated by the wedding industrial complex to train future brides and grooms to go big or not leave the yard.

P: Just thinking about this brings back the high school trauma. Yuck. And back then, there wasn’t dinner beforehand, or breakfast afterwards, let alone promposals. Yes Priestess is Ancient. There was just the wondering whether you’d be asked, the fumbling conversation in the hall by your locker and then the agonizing what-will-I-wear. Thank goodness my mother sewed! But a promposal? This is the wedding industry going amok, an extravagant marketing ploy. This is, how to say this delicately… hogwash.

That said, here you are. Living in this world.

You want to go to the prom. You want to have a good time. You want to go with someone interesting. You don’t want to break the bank. That pretty much it?

B: Going to prom can be fun. You get to wear fancy clothes, ride around in a nice car, sit at a big round table with all your friends and eat banquet food, do a little dancing. It’s a way to practice a ritual of adulthood, and fills the niche created by the (now largely abandoned except in certain circles) debutante ball. Prom-goers put themselves out there, displaying themselves as they get ready for adulthood.

Practicing at adulthood should also (theoretically, at least) contain an element of practicing what to look for in a desirable partner. Promposals can skew that. Yes, some promposals can be cute. It’s like a storybook, right? Awww. But what they tend to do is put a glossy sheen over the meaningful work of dating, which involves determining someone’s personality. It establishes an expectation that girls should expect to get treated like fairy princesses, and if Prince Charming isn’t riding in and saying he wants to take Terri to the prom with artfully strewn rose petals, then either the boy who’s simply asking (“Terri, would you go to the prom with me?”) isn’t worth Terri’s time, or Terri doesn’t merit a proper asking. Do we really need to reinforce the idea that our sense of self depends on the value placed on how much of a public spectacle we are made by other people?

P: Hopefully the girl your dating will be able to appreciate your opinion, if not have the same abhorrence that you do for the crass commercialism. The prom is really about having a fun evening, or should be, and not an opportunity to worry first if your promposal is sufficient and then if your prom-date is sufficient. 

I hope she’s a wonderful, independent, non-drama princess kinda young woman. I’m sure she’s someone interesting that you’d like to spend a fun evening with, someone you’d like to know for a long time, whether it’s as a girlfriend or as a great friend.

B: You said the girl you want to ask is someone you’ve been had some dates with. More than one date. There’s some reason to believe you’re at the very least compatible and share some of the same values. So it seems like you’re looking in the right direction.

P: It’s important for you to remember that you have great values. You’re working hard for your future. You’re considerate of your parents. You’ve thought about making it a fun date. Someone’s really going to want to go to the prom with you. Let’s not think about this as a lack in you but rather a positive. You’ve got goals. You’ve got principles. And you’re trying to figure something out. You’re interesting! If your date, who knows you, tells you she don’t want to go to the prom with you because you’re falling down on the promposing, it’s going to be hard on the ego but really, this is likely not someone you want to know really well.

If you have to, go ahead and think about this invitation as a promposal, but why not just think about it’s being asking the girl you’re dating to the prom? Let it be about the two of you. Why not make your invitation one more opportunity to get to know one another better? You’re going to have to talk to one another a long time at the prom. It’s a good idea to keep building common ground. You can be very romantic without spending beaucoup bucks.

Do you two share an interest? (hint: it’ll be more fun at the prom if you have things in common).  A little research and you can figure something out. This is getting to know someone. This is effort that will not be wasted and will stand you in good stead your entire life. Truth to tell, I find someone’s interest in me far more romantic than someone who throws cash because it’s the thing to do — something that has noting to do with me.

B: Again, being willing and able to talk to someone you’re interested in—making the effort to get to know your future date, and not just want someone who looks good on your arm—is a sign of maturity. Of *course* we all want to be attracted, and attractive, to the person we date, but a date can go sideways pretty quickly if all you have is the pleasure of looking at one another. If you wanted that, you could take a picture of that person and put it in your wallet. But your date moves and breathes and talks, so find out what interests her and go from there.

P: Looking for ideas? Do you hike? Go some place special, take a picnic. Look for a heart shaped rock. There are loads. Start collecting them. When you’ve got enough hand them to her and say, be my prom date! Take car drives, go see something special. Find two animals in the field together. Ask her to go with you to the prom. Live in a city near a favorite museum? Go see a painting, ask her to the prom. Use your bus passes and spend the day hopping on and off the bus. Go on a picnic. Play a game. Learn to make an origami flower, get really good at it. Do it in front of her, ask her to the prom.

Be creative, interested and hopeful. And the origami thing? You’ll always be able to use that!

B: I want to take a moment to beg the parents who encourage these sorts of displays, or smile benignly upon them as they’re happening…please stop. Your son is not a gesture-generating ATM, your daughter is not a princess, and we should be working toward raising young adults who are independent, not codependent. There are so many wrong messages attached to the idea of a promposal.

As for you, Promplexed, remember, when you go forward into your life, that relationships do not thrive on flashy gestures alone. Be true to yourself, your goals, and your personal value system, and don’t EVER feel like you’ve got less to offer than anyone else because you don’t put bling before substance. Have fun at the prom, and best of luck to you in your future.

NAPKIN TEMPLATE-006

Prom objective: Don’t get too stressed. Have fun. That is all.

Ombré Grapefruit Cocktail
Ingredients 
  • 1/2 c. grapefruit juice, chilled
  • 1/4 can Sprite or 7Up, chilled
  • 2 Tbsp simple syrup
  • 1 tsp grenadine
  • sugar to rim the glass
  • Use champagne flutes for a pretty presentation
Instructions
  1. Pour a very small amount of grapefruit juice/grenadine/simple syrup onto one plate, and a layer of garnishing sugar on another 
  2. Dip the rim of the glass in grapefruit juice, and then into the sugar so it coats the rim of the glass
  3. Carefully pour grapefruit juice into glass
  4. Add simple syrup
  5. Top off the glass with soda and drop in the grenadine
  6. You can add a stir stick or straw, but don’t stir it until after it’s served or else it will no longer be ombré

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Advice: Partisan Politics at Home

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am a second-semester sophomore at college. To save money and make life easier for my parents, I am attending the college in our town and living at home. It’s been a lot of fun and with one exception has worked very well.

My parents are Democrats. They’re not just great-hearted policy liberals they are staunch, wild, my way or the highway kind of Democrats. My older brothers, who all live in the area, are exactly the same. Nothing’s more fun than casting stones at the opposition! So what’s the problem, you ask?

Well, my boyfriend is a Republican. They “tease” me unmercifully and call him names when he’s not there. If I have him over for dinner, they mock him to his face. It hurts him, and it certainly doesn’t give him a great opinion of Democrats. “See,” he says, “See, that’s what they’re all like.”

The other thing? I’ve been taking nothing but finance and poli-sci courses since I got to campus. I’m a Republican too. And now I have this amazing opportunity this summer to work for a state senator. It’s a dream job. My parents would think it’s a dream job too, except that it’s for a Republican. He’s a good man! But that won’t matter to them.

I’ve avoided bringing up my newly-embraced party affiliation to them. I know it’s cowardly, but I have to live here. I can’t afford to go to school if I don’t live at home. I don’t like living with all the shouting and ugliness. So…Help! Where do I go from here?

Signed,

Stealth Republican

Dear Stealth,

P: Oh, dear… This is going to be a challenge, isn’t it? First and foremost, and easiest, I think you should stop asking your BF to dinner. Although you should be able to invite your friends over and have them be welcomed, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Make clear to him that you’re doing this because you care for him and not because you’re giving up on the relationship.

If one of your brothers is an easier touch for you, you might be able to say to him, not when you’re being what they probably think of as “teased,” but when you’re alone, “I don’t know whether you understand exactly how much it hurts me when you name call and humiliate this guy I care about. I don’t feel safe and I don’t feel that my friends are welcome in my home.”

Maybe he can hear the pain and stop because he loves you. He might then be able to de-escalate what goes on with other brothers.

B: You’re nicer than me. I really want her to confront her parents. I get that it’s a difficult thing to do, but they—and the messages they’ve sent to their other children—are causing our letter writer pain. I don’t think she will make any progress trying to back-door-wrangle this situation. Her entire family is causing her anguish and behaving in an insulting and derogatory manner towards someone she brought to them. Someone has to start acting like an adult here and instill manners. I’m afraid that’s up to the letter writer.

P: I want her to confront her parents; I just want her to develop an ally at home FIRST, if possible. If you can talk to either or both of your parents, you might mention in a non-confrontational way, that you’re confused. Supposedly, they taught you to be open and welcoming of everyone. What does it mean that they’re willing to accept immigrants but not their neighbors? You might lay it on heavily and say that you’re sorry, but you hadn’t realized that you wouldn’t be able to bring people to the house who were different from the family. And say something along the lines, “I’ve told him, that it’s not fair to him to ask him to come to a home where people are mean and hostile towards him.” Tell them the truth, that you respect this guy too much to allow anyone to bully him and that it hurts too much to see the parents who talked to you about inclusivity be so mean.

B: Where does the letter writer say that her parents talked to her about inclusivity, or taught her to be open and accepting? She doesn’t say that anywhere. In fact, she said they’re “My way or the highway” as far as politics are concerned. Which is inherently exclusive. And damaging. As we have proof, written above.

P: I’m holding fast there, Terri. I’m sure they talk easily about accepting all sorts of people. It’s part of the party platform. My guess is if she came home and said she were gay, they’d be all, oh, wow, look now you can get married. They’re not willing to accept anyone outside their norms — but things are hard because they probably actually think the ARE inclusive.

Now you knew that we would get to this — the boyfriend, while his presence in your life exposes uncomfortable truths about people you love, is really only a sign of what the deeper problem is. It seems that you don’t live in a house that accepts you. That’s a crying shame.

B: Much of the time—not all, but much—children continue the affiliations they were raised with. They keep the same religion, the same political ideology, the same diet, even. It’s what people know, and it’s an easy way to define one’s world. The problem comes in when a kid rejects an affiliation. Think about what the gay kid coming out to her or his parents goes through. I mean…I’ve seen fights break out over an adult child’s decision to embrace vegetarianism (Parents: But what will you EAT?  Kid: My vegetables.) I had my own moment with my family when they realized I had given up the religion I was born into. And for you, your decision to switch political parties—it feels right to you, doesn’t it? For you, it makes sense. But for your parents…if it’s how they define their world then it’s also partly how they define themselves. Your defection to the other side is also a rejection of them and who they are. I’m not saying this perspective is the correct one to have, because you’re not rejecting them. But a lot of people take this sort of thing incredibly personally, which is why I think they’re so hostile towards your beau from the very beginning.

P: Presumably you’ve tried the yelling back thing and that hasn’t worked too well. It never does. It just gets everyone all roiled up. If you want change, you’re going to have to be the one who changes. You’ve got things you want to do; you don’t want to spend college simply reacting to their judgmentalism. And you don’t want to become judgmental from the other side. Nothing good comes of that.

However, now you’re going to have to make some hard decisions. Are you willing to live in a house where you’re not accepted? Your quick response might be, “but they’re paying for my school and I can’t afford it any other way.” That translates to “Yes, I’m willing to live with this.”

B: And in your case, that’s a bitter pill and hard to not take personally. Because being made fun of, and having your boyfriend mocked, around the dinner table? That IS personal. Sometimes, people see things upside down. They think if you reject a value system that they believe in, you’re issuing a personal attack. But if they behave antagonistically toward you and someone you love, and make you want to leave the house, somehow, you’re not supposed to take that personally?

P: Some people aren’t willing to put up with this, and they will find a way to pay their own way through school. Sometimes they quit and find a full time job, and live incredibly frugally and skimp and save and get it done. How much do both your education and your self respect mean to you? You can’t have a conversation with your parents, if you don’t know what you’re willing to put on the line. Well, you can, but they don’t usually go well.

B: To be fair, and practical, the idea of the self-supporting college student is increasingly a myth. And even if she strikes out on her own and is fully independent, the way the student loan laws are written, she still needs to access her parents’ income tax records in order to get federal funding, until she is 24 or married.

P: There’s all of that, so if you can’t get an education appropriate for what you want to do without them, can you get some counseling for coping strategies? Because this isn’t going to work forever. Consider your options. Think about coping strategies; think about an exit strategy. Then talk to your parents, who actually may just be clueless about how hurtful they’re being with the boyfriend and with you. It’s not good to live where you’re completely disregarded.

Be prepared. They’ll tell you it’s your boyfriend. They’ll tell you it’s a phase. Even if those things were true, you don’t feel welcome or safe to explore who you can become. My guess is they told you, you can be anything you want to be, and guess what, you want to be a Republican. So did they mean it?

Here’s the thing. Conversations like the one I’m suggesting take a lot of preparation and an absolute dedication to being calm and deliberate. This may be a series of conversations. It’s going to be a lot for them. I just Googled: How to tell your parents you’re a Republican! Of course there was stuff. If you let them see how you feel, let it be the pain, not the anger. Give them space to maneuver a bit. In your home, the anger is a tried and true tool for getting away from the point. Clarify what you want. Practice what you want to say. Start little. Don’t close any doors. But hold fast to your vision for yourself and what you’re willing to do to make your dreams come true. Don’t threaten them; just focus on your dreams.

B: And write a list of topics to cover. Don’t let the anger or pain or arguments or tears or name-calling get in the way of you making your point. If you’re going to intern for a politician, you may as well get acquainted with the idea of sticking to the determined talking points. This? Is what they are. Stay on point. Make your case.

P: You want your parents to support and love you. Even more than that, you need to love and respect yourself first.

Oh I hope this goes well, however rockily. Families are meant to keep growing. The chances are pretty good that they love you and want the best from you. It’s just that your best and theirs are a bit different. And good luck with the internship.

Prepare carefully. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Prepare carefully. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Elephant Cocktail

  • 1  Ounce pomegranate liqeur
  • 1  Ounce  black cherry rum
  • 1 1/2  Ounce pomegranate juice
  • 1 1/2  Ounce  fresh sour mix (2 parts simple syrup, 2 parts lemon juice, 1 part lime juice)
  • Blueberries as garnish

Combine all ingredients (except blueberries) in a cocktail shaker, shake, and strain into a rocks glass. Add garnish.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Advice: Father, Dead or Alive?

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am concerned about my 80 year old father. He’s a widower, and the last of his siblings. When he was younger he was a force to be reckoned with—one of those strong, confident Mad Men sort of businessmen—but he’s been retired for a while, and has lost touch with a lot of his old contacts thanks to time or their passing. He doesn’t go out much, and so he doesn’t really take care of himself. He never shaves, he has crazy-man hair, his clothes don’t fit and he’s got dirt caked under his fingernails. I feel like he’s just not concerned about his appearance any more.

What I’m really worried about is what to do about his appearance once he dies. Does a funeral home handle things like a shave and a haircut? His scraggly look doesn’t really represent the man he is. Part of me wants to ask him about this, but I’ve never been able to talk to my father man-to-man. I worry that I’ll get tongue-tied, or end up hurting his feelings. Can you give me some feedback?

Signed,

Worried About the Future

 

Dear Worried,

B: It can be extraordinarily difficult to manage the demands of an aging parent. Interpersonal dynamics can get twisted when the traditional roles associated with parent and child (caregiver and dependent) flip-flop. Fortunately for you, you’ve turned a blind eye to all of that.

P: In today’s world, we’ve allowed ourselves to be so disconnected from life that we don’t know a lot about what can happen as we age. There’s actually a lot of info around about the life cycle, but it seems enough of us aren’t taking advantage. What you’re seeing is your father’s deterioration. Handsome, snappily-dressed men don’t suddenly stop caring, something happens — disease, depression, addiction, stroke, who knows — that makes them unable to care for themselves.

What’s sad is that you’ve let your father wander down this road without stepping in. What’s great is that you’re now ready. Before you do anything, I suggest you spend an evening with your computer googling. Google really is your friend.

Doctors are also your friends. Do you have a family doctor? Make an appointment to talk to her. Find out what you should do for your dad. Call your dad’s doctor. Or call up your local Area Agency on Aging and tell them your father’s in trouble and you need some help. Because, and you need to understand this, your dad’s in trouble…

And then try real friends. If you don’t have siblings, do you have friends your own age who have aging parents? Or friends that are Social workers?

I’m guessing that if you ask in the break room you’ll find someone who knows something and that you’re not the only person trying to figure out what happened to your formerly strong and stylish parent.

B: What you’re missing is his specious hygiene represents exactly who he is now. It doesn’t represent who you want him to be, but it’s who he is. And you know, I get it. You’re thinking of your dad when he was young. Mad-Men-esque. Suave, glib, handsome, right? Dirty fingernails and wild hair is so not that guy. But he’s so not that guy any longer, so you need to stop looking backwards and bring your vision into the future. Coming to grips with an aging parent is difficult. Understanding your father’s mortality means you get a glimpse into your own mortality. Who wants to think about their own Big Sleep? Or, the process that takes you to the end, with the myriad physical and mental issues that accompany the aging process? It’s not pretty, but if we get old we go through it. We can only hope we will go through it with someone who cares enough to ask the right questions if our personal aging process becomes burdensome.

P: In addition to whatever is wrong with your father, his lack of cleanliness is not healthy for him. What’s his refrigerator look like? What’s he eating? Is he capable of feeding himself? You haven’t exhibited a lot of concern for your father other than wanting things to look good when he dies, but my guess is, from the little story you’re telling, that it’s not a warm relationship. Even if that’s the case, you do yourself no favor by not trying to fix things. You can do this from a distance. If there’s no money, social services doesn’t like to let human beings dissolve and die, call them and let them get involved. Don’t want to do it for your dad? Think about doing it for another human being — any human being — and take care of it that way.

B: The likelihood is very high that your father is unwell and needs to see a doctor. The only way you’ll know if he just doesn’t care, or if he’s got deeper problems to manage, is by checking it out. And if you want to actually do something that can further your understanding of where he is mentally and physically, you need to go with him when he goes to the doctor. Get over your discomfort and talk to him. Any relationship issues you may have with your dad stopped being relevant when your father stopped cleaning himself properly. It’s how we adult. It can be hard to take on that mantle when you’re dealing with your own adults, but compassion should point us in the direction of caring, and the reach for understanding.

Of course, if all you want to do is mark time until he dies, then by all means, just worry about the shave and a haircut.

I hope you choose adult compassion. Your father deserves it.

P: Who you are as an individual and what you expect out of life is as much at stake here as your father’s health. Old age can include disease. It always includes deterioration. In our society, we all want to pretend that we will always be strong and vital. We turn our children into tiny sex objects and pretend that 60 is the new 20. It’s not.

We come into being; we grow up; we mature; we age. Each and every one of us. We all need help in each and every one of these stages. And we all need to be helpers. All of us need to be helpers.

I’m trying really hard here not to jump up and down and ask you, “where is your humanity?” Because really, even if you have a lousy relationship with him, have you no feeling for another person? You don’t say that he’s a horrible person; but your disregard for him doesn’t say he’s beloved. I’m not asking you to mend your relationship with this man, even though, trust me, it needs mending! Among the things your father suffers from is neglect — not his neglecting his hygiene, your neglect of him. Please, help him. And then, this is not what you want to take forward with you into the future. This is not who you want to be as a man. No one wants to be the person who doesn’t see another’s suffering.

Unless of course you do. And then, there’s not much that Terri or I can say.

But even if you do, pick up a phone and call social services. Someone needs to take care of this man while he’s alive. Because there is no reason for him to live like this, other than you don’t care to care for him. Before you wrote to us, you could plead ignorance. Now you’re done.

And after you get the life part figured out, here’s some information from an expert. Because they will care for your dad… Actually it seems they’ll care for him whether or not you do. I’m going to trust that you will however do what is right.

This just in from Patti Fitchett, friend of BnP and a professional undertaker: I don’t know anything about while he is alive, but once this person’s father dies, I have some words of advice from a funeral director. First of all, every person who will have any kind of public viewing (such as a wake or visitation with the body lying in state) or even a private viewing (a few family members come into the funeral home to say their goodbyes before cremation takes place) will be thoroughly washed, shampooed and given a shave. Even women are shaved, (and not just those in the hot-flash years) because it helps the cosmetics that are used to look better.

For any viewing, attention will be paid to the person’s fingernails, hair and the fit of their clothing. Funeral directors have tricks to make baggy clothes lay more naturally and to help tight clothing not appear uncomfortable. A public viewing of this kind can be very healing to a family. Sometimes when a loved one is decimated by disease or the ravages of aging, a talented funeral director can give the family a beautiful memory of peace and grace. As far as clothing, new clothing can be purchased, or the person’s own clothes can be cleaned and used. (Nobody HAS to wear a suit!)

A good funeral director will never be judgmental about your loved one. So even if your dad has a scraggly beard and crazy old man hair, we will know that he is your dad and that you love him. That is the spirit of the trade.

Celebrity advisor bio: Patti Fitchett is a licensed funeral director in Kenosha, Wisconsin. She writes a monthly column in her local paper titled “Matters of Life & Death”. In her spare time, she loves to laugh.

aging father napkin

If nothing else, as a fellow human, your father’s well-being should merit some legitimate concern.

THE GIBSON COCKTAIL

2.5 oz Gin (or vodka)

.5 oz Dry vermouth

Garnish: 1 Cocktail onion

Glass:  Cocktail

HOW TO MAKE THE GIBSON COCKTAIL

Add both ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice.

Stir, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a whole cocktail onion.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Advice: The Real Work of Parenting

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am struggling to manage my household, and feel like I am failing miserably.

Recently, I lost my job, so the all the financial burdens of our home are falling on my husband’s shoulders. I am looking, but haven’t found anything yet, since I’m a little older and it’s harder for me to find work. My husband is a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of guy and he hasn’t so much as said one angry thing to me, but I know the bills are piling up and he’s under a lot of stress. I hate it.

We have three kids living with us, and two of them are adults. One of the older kids is in college but the oldest one works. We also have one son’s girlfriend living with us, and two of their friends. They’re all employed but it’s part-time and they don’t make much money. Nobody contributes to the household.

I want to be a good mom, but I also feel like maybe these kids are taking advantage of me and my husband. What should I do? I’m really worried about how the financial stresses we’re under will affect my husband.

Signed, Worried about the Future

 

Dear Worried,

P: Oh, we are so sorry you lost your job. It is hard to find work as you age. There’s no question but that the market place isn’t forgiving of age. Check with all the local help sites and see if there’s support in getting a job. Don’t hesitate to call every single friend you have. You need every piece of help you can get.

However — about your home life! I worry that in your worry, you’ve lost your balance as well as your job. You’re allowing people to leech off you. Young adults whose parents don’t choose to do the same are living with you. Why would you allow them to drive you into poverty or bankruptcy? It’s not smart. It’s not kind. To you or them. Do not allow them to make your life more difficult. Your relationship with your husband is precious, you need to protect that.

B: Way back in the dawn of time, as human civilization developed and we gathered in communal caves and humans developed the traits associated with our sort of community-mindedness, rituals emerged that helped members of a family/clan/unit cross from youthful dependency to adulthood. These coming-of-age rituals were often dangerous (or at the very least emotionally trying) tests of strength or quests for survival. The participant had to manage on their own in the wild, or fight a bear, or walk through fire. And so on, and so on. The rituals served an important purpose, though, and they marked an important, life-affirming transition. The child left the hut, but then returned as a man.

Sometimes, I think it’s too bad we’ve gotten away from this sort of traditional journey into adulthood. Because your son and his friends and girlfriend could really use a “kick ‘em out the door and let ‘em fight the bear” kind of moment. It’s time they all grew up.

P: If there are people in your house who are earning but not contributing, they need either to pay or leave. If they’re making enough to buy gas to get to work and have clothes, then they can contribute from what’s left over. No one owes them beers, vids or tats. Especially people with money problems.

You’re not really being generous, you’re being taken advantage of.

B: By my count, there are eight people living in your house, including you and your husband, and only one person supports the entire lot of you. That, Momma, ain’t right. We will give a pass to the youngest child, who I assume is still somewhere in the K-12 range, and the older son who’s in college; for all intents and purposes, their schoolwork is their job right now, so we will leave them alone so they can focus.

Now. As for the rest of them…

Your son, his girlfriend, and two other friends all live under your roof—eat your food, make use of your facilities (shower, laundry, etc)—and don’t contribute a thing? Oh, Momma, you are being taken for a ride. With adulthood comes responsibilities, and one of those responsibilities is participating in the upkeep of the roof over one’s own head. There is nothing about adulthood that entails living off the sweat of your parents while you behave like a high schooler who works at the mall for mad money.

P: Figure out what base costs are for you and your younger child to live there. Is your college kid working? Is his/her grade average high? Have you always paid for a child in school?

I know I’m old fashioned. I was brought up to participate. Are you doing laundry? Supplying food? Electricity? Sheets? Living space? All of these cost money. Put a price on it. And then set a date.

B: I’m not necessarily advocating that you throw your brood out into the street. I don’t know where you live, housing may be difficult to come by or prohibitively expensive to rent if you don’t have any savings for security deposits, etc.  But allowing them to live responsibility-free in your home does no one any favors. You and your husband are stressed out. Your youngest and the one in college are getting the message (loud and clear!) that in a few years they can live off your largesse, no matter what. And the oldest son and his crew are living an extended adolescence, which doesn’t help anyone. It’s time they take on the mantle of adulthood.

P: Set a schedule: As of a certain date, each of them will owe you $X per month (or week). Establish chores, as well… You might allow those who refuse to pay to sleep there an two extra weeks while they make arrangements, but there will be no food, no laundry, no wifi, no tv. If you have to, take those things out of their rooms. You take that tv out of their room, they’ll move really quickly. Or their devices, or, or, or.  Changing passwords is not all that difficult.

You do these young adults a disservice when you make them believe the world owes them a living. When will they be responsible? I’d want to be darned sure that son and girlfriend were using birth control as well. (when did I get this suspicious?) Because wouldn’t it be lovely for them, now when they have no responsibilities to have a baby you can support and babysit. Yikes. I mean really: Holy Moley!

B: Parents are afraid to seem “mean”. But do you know what’s more cruel than forcing your kids to grow up? Not preparing them for the realities of how the world works, so when they go out into it they can’t function. You can’t coddle them forever. You may think you’re showing love, but you’re emotionally crippling them all.

P: You need to protect your husband. You also need not to be so busy taking care of the house and the freeloaders that you can’t get a job or can’t find the energy to look for one. You also need to be a good role model for your kids and the neighbor kids.. And you owe your youngest a safe place to grow up. The older ones had it; if you can, you want to give the same stability to him/her. What you don’t want is a child that is seeing other people take advantage of you and then beginning to think that she/he can take advantage of you and of people in the future.

B: Long ago, living in the caves or the huts, once people crossed into what was determined to be “adulthood” for their era, they were expected to behave accordingly. Imagine an able-bodied young caveman saying, “I’m hungry…Dad, go out and bag us another caribou, will you? Me and Becky will be snuggling under our fur blanket while you and Mom kill and clean it. K? Thanks.” It sounds ridiculous, right? That’s because it IS ridiculous. Of course you’re worried, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. There’s no better time than the present to take control of this situation.

Taking care of someone doesn't necessarily mean coddling them. Remember that.

Taking care of someone doesn’t necessarily mean coddling them. Remember that.

The Stiff Upper Lip:

  • 3oz Gin
  • 3oz Apple Cider
  • 1/2 oz Triple Sec
  • Lemon Slices
  • Sliced Apples
    Preparation: 
  • Combine all ingredients into a shaker glass and shake well. Pour into a highball glass and garnish with apple slices and a lemon.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

My sister, “Cindy” is driving me out of my mind. She is so irresponsible.

A year and a half ago we celebrated my father’s 90th birthday. My sister lived in another part of the country, so she took some time off work and came home, staying at our parents’ house as she always does. The day before she was ready to leave, Daddy died of a heart attack.

She called work and took a leave of absence, telling them she was staying with our mom to help her get settled. At first we thought it was great that she was there. It meant Mom had a chance to get used to Dad’s being gone and would have some help downsizing.

But, Cindy’s been home with her now for about a year and a half. It’s way past time for Mom to move into assisted living and for Baby Sister to go home. Mom isn’t getting the socialization she needs. Mom says she isn’t interested in moving out of her house; she wants to live there with Cindy. Cindy always takes her side. She also keeps insisting on being included in Mom’s healthcare decisions. The thing is, I’m a nurse. She’s not. I have her medical power of attorney.

I pay Cindy a salary out of mother’s pocket and we’re giving her room and board. She gets two days off most weeks, but complains if the other three of us can’t fill in on the times the nurses can’t be there on the weekend.

Last week Cindy’s former partner died. I’m sure she’s sad, but she hasn’t been with this woman for about 2 years, and it’s not like they were married. Hell, she doesn’t even believe in marriage. I can’t plan a schedule for the next month because Cindy doesn’t know when things are going to happen in Houston. Why can’t these people make a plan and just stick with it?

Cindy’s an artist and calls herself an “activist.” She’s almost 60. It’s time for her to get something steady in her life and stop leeching off the family. It’s also time for her to stop filling Mom with the notion that she can live at home. Mom doesn’t have a lot of time left I want her to be safe and not constantly reminded that Daddy isn’t here any more. We all live outside Boston (except of course for Cindy) and would make sure that someone visited Mom a couple times a week. There’s plenty of money to make sure she can be somewhere nice. And I’ll never need to worry about the scheduling.

Signed,

Tired of her interfering.

 

Dear Tired,

P: Wow, it must be tiring, being in charge of everything, including a few things you might not need to be. And even the things you’d like to have well organized are not necessarily going to fall into place.

I understand that you would like your Mom to feel better. You don’t say how old she is, but if she was happily married to your father a long time, grieving becomes a life-long process.

I’m not sure why you want to move her out of her home. I understand that it requires more maintenance, although there are programs that help with that, particularly in large cities. You say that there is plenty of money, so why not throw home-health aides at the problem?

I’ll admit I’m biased. Although my mom was in assisted living and then a nursing home, I spent (and was paid by my parents) a lot of time with Mom. I fed her twice a day five or six days a week. It was only later that I realized there was someone in my hometown that I could have had manage their care. I could have moved into their home and had support.

Mom had dementia and was moved a lot. Every single move was a very hard adjustment and she lost ground. You have a sister who is willing to be home and that’s what your mom wants. Why don’t you want that? You don’t say that Cindy’s not taking care of her.

B: I’m concerned about the idea of “downsizing”. Your father’s been gone for not that long of a time, really. He was 90 when he passed away, and I’m going to presume your parents married in their early-to-mid 20s. They have 60+ years of living put into their home. Why the rush to “downsize”? What’s the hurry? I’ve lost my father, too, and don’t feel any need to downsize my mother and distill the entirety of their lives together into…what would make you happy? One room? Two? I’ve watched it happen to other people, who have watched their belongings get carted out the door around them. And I remember one of them saying, “I can’t believe my daughter is doing this. I’m not even dead yet.”

P: Why don’t your Mother’s wishes carry any weight? Why can’t she have what she wants, especially if Cindy wants to give her that? My sister also had medical power, but because I saw Mom every day, and took her to the docs and to the emergency room — oh, yes, there are lots of emergency room visits with aging parents — she didn’t dream of making decisions without my input. Because I saw her every day.

B: Agreed. Your desire to leave your sister out of your mother’s medical conversations is, quite frankly, alarming. If you’re a nurse, then you know that communication and information are paramount in providing medical care. What do you gain by not having your mother’s primary caregiver as up to speed on her medical information as possible? Other than some odd sort of gloating right that you know more than Cindy, so ha ha Cindy. I am not sorry that I don’t understand this.

And what’s with the question of socialization? Does Cindy lock your mother in her room and never talk to her? Because your mom saying, “No, I don’t want to move, I want to stay here with her” tells me she likes the arrangement. Do you think Mom needs bingo night? Does your mom even like bingo? It feels like your idea of socialization is more “put her with people her own age (who she neither knows nor cares about) so she can mark time until the big sleep” and less “leave her with one of her children, who she loves, and who is offering her services as an end-of-life caregiver”. If you think Mom needs a bingo night…offer to take her to bingo. See how it goes.

P: This feels a lot like sibling rivalry here. Make sure that in your fight you leave enough room for your Mom’s well being. And I can say with assurance that 1-2 visits a week will not compensate for the comfort of her daily interaction with your sister. And as fine a home as you find, they will not love your mother the way your family does. If Cindy’s willing to do this work of love, give thanks and pamper her.

And really, what is it about your sister that you don’t like? I’m presuming her name is Cindy for a reason. Is Cinderella a family name or just a position? Her estranged partner dies and you need to know when the funeral is rather than asking her if she needs some time off and does she want to come to dinner? (And oh, btw, activist is a real word and doesn’t need the quotes around it.)

B: Your reaction to the death of Cindy’s partner (former partner, someone who was clearly very important to her) saddens and upsets me. It’s really too bad that she couldn’t die according to a more convenient timetable. For you. Though that seems to be at the core of your issues in this question. Your mother isn’t finished mourning quickly enough. Your sister hasn’t moved out in a timely fashion and is, furthermore, delaying your mother’s resigned exit out to pasture. And now, with Cindy’s partner up and dying on you, you may have to muddle through a few days that are loose and unscripted. Normally, I would sarcastically state that that was unfair of her to do that to you, but I wouldn’t want you to think I was serious.

P: Cindy works five days and has to cover the couple of hours that you guys can’t make work during the week? Are you kidding me? What makes you think you’ll all make time to see Mom when she’s in the home and you’ve packed Cindy back to Houston? If Cindy’s staying there — oh right, living at home with your mother — do you pay her for eight hours or round the clock care? If it’s only eight hours, you’re getting a steal.

B: Ann, it can be difficult to have someone you treat as an indentured servant, when you actually sort of don’t want that servant around.

P: However much we love our parents, it’s exhausting to be present. Recognize that. Support her as she does this very hard work. And you need to work on getting over the sibling thing, as it’s really unattractive.

B: Again, we agree. If your baby sister is 60, then you’re…pushing 70? Isn’t it time to put down whatever burdened you with all this anger? For your mother’s sake, if for nothing else. You’ve put her in the middle of your personal feud with Cindy. Why do you think it’s OK to use your mother as a chew toy as you rehash some lost but not quite forgotten rivalry?

P: Look, I have to believe you want the best for your mom and you’re worried. But you can’t control people’s aging process. You put her in a home and they’ll keep her alive, but not necessarily living. Stuff and familiarity is so important. She keeps her rhythm and not the institutions rhythm. She has someone who loves her living there all the time.

She has you who must love her, although, you might want to put more of that in the way you talk about this. If managing your mom is too hard, pass it on. Hire someone. Or let Cindy do it. Put your Mom and Dad’s money to good use. Let her live as large as she can in her home. Everyone wants to die at home. Sounds like your mom’s got the resources she needs to manage that. Why not make that dream come true? Certainly she helped you realize your dreams.

And whatever you’ve got going about your sister, you’re old enough to get over it.

Repeat after me: Relax. Have a nice glass of warm milk. Easy, now.

Repeat after me: Relax. Have a nice glass of warm milk. Easy, now.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential. 

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

No more posts.