Advice: Whose Wedding Is It, Anyway?

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

Please help me try and talk some sense into my son. He is 30 and recently got engaged to a wonderful young woman, who is 31. I want to make it clear that we are thrilled that she’s going to be a member of our family and welcome her with open arms. She’s a young professional, works as a buyer for a retail company, and has a good head on her shoulders. My son launched a landscaping business a few years ago and he works hard, so he’s had success building his business. Of course, they’re busy planning their wedding, spending their free time looking at catering halls and event menus. I keep trying to tell them they don’t need to do anything big. Honestly, I think they should just elope.

Her side of the family doesn’t have a lot of money, so expecting her parents to pay for some elaborate affair is unreasonable. My husband and I are willing to contribute some money toward their wedding but we certainly can’t foot the entire bill, either, so the kids would be paying for it primarily by themselves. It just seems like so much money to spend on one day. Who needs a big hall and matching napkins? When I got married, I had a traditional wedding and I couldn’t believe how much money it ended up costing my father. My son and his future wife already have a house and all the expenses of their lives that they have to account for. They’ve been living together for the past five years, too. Because they already live together, I don’t feel like they need some fussy transition to bring them to “the first day of the rest of their lives”, or something like that. They’ve already transitioned, she is already there.

How can I make them see reason? 


Worried Mother

Dear Mom,

B&P:  We can’t say we think it’s your kids who need to see reason. This is their wedding. Your letter makes us uneasy on a couple levels. We hope that you’re sharing your misgivings with the Bartender and the Priestess before sharing them with the couple. Because we think you have some work to do. This is such a common problem. Weddings are supposed to be joyous but instead, often bring out odd family dynamics. Ones that need to be dealt with so that when it comes to the Big Day, it’s all about the couple getting married. While we understand that you have hopes and dreams for your child, you have to understand that he’s the person who’s now making those hopes and dreams come true.

B:  Since Ann is, among her many talents, a wedding priestess, I’m going to let her take the point on this one. Go to it, Annie!

P:  First off, it’s their wedding. You have the right to decide whether you will give them money or not. You have the right to say if you’re going to give them money that they will use for their wedding or for their house.

It is not your decision whether or not they have a wedding. Presumably, you were around when your parents, not just your dad (unless your parents were divorced) were spending that money on your wedding. You could have called a halt to the spending at any time.

You have options for your generosity, but no options, really, to create financial leverage.

B: My question here is: how would you have felt, when you were planning your traditional wedding, if someone told you that for X reason (you’d already had sex with him so you can cut the white wedding act, or you were already a little *too* old to be the princess, or whatever) you probably ought not to have the wedding you wanted? Would you have thought that person had a point? Or would you have thought that he or she should butt out?

P: Secondly, it’s their money. You’ll give them a set amount (if you so decide) and then it’s up to them to figure out how to finance the rest of the event. You say they have a house and life, and you say they have the jobs that support that. No bank gave them money for a house if they didn’t have their finances in order. Hopefully you did a good job raising your son and he has solid financial values and isn’t going to endanger his future.

If they make some mistakes, hey, that’s part of their adulthood. All of us who have reached this stage have made some seriously bad investments in our time. And yet, here we are.

But he’s now out on his own; making his own decisions with his new family. She’s his primary family now. Your family and her family are the clan around the couple. You’re in a supporting rather than an organizing role. And by that I mean, it’s his checkbook not yours. If they want to get married, your gift or lack thereof will not be what determines their actions.

B: And not only is it your son and daughter-in-law’s money that you’re trying to manage, even though you make no mention of their actually asking you for any financial assistance. You’re also trying to dictate what’s to be done with her parents’ money too. I am often suspicious when someone employs a persuasive argument cloaked in, “It’s not just me. I’m also trying to be thoughtful of these other people who haven’t asked for my help in this.” Unless her parents called you up and personally asked you to mediate wedding plans on their behalf, then it feels like you’re trying to abdicate your responsibility for your feelings. For whatever reason, you don’t want to own up to why you want your son and daughter-in-law to keep their wedding small, so you’re putting the blame on her family. That’s dirty pool.

P: Thirdly, let the Priestess (aka the Wedding Priestess) assure you, people get married at all points in their relationship. Times have changed. You may or may not like that. But, you can’t as the song says, hold back time. Again, you can choose not to participate, but that won’t do much for your relationship with your son, your daughter-in-law or your some day grandchildren.

B: I am not “aka the Wedding Bartender”, but I’m no stranger to the industry, and I’ve even officiated a few myself. And what I’ve seen, over and over again, is that weddings aren’t necessarily about sending a blushing couple off into a new life together, no matter how much Jane Austen one watches. Instead, they are about two people choosing each other, and declaring in the way they deem most fitting for them, that they love one another more than anyone else. Do I think weddings are expensive? Yes. Do I think they’re often frivolous and overdone? Yes. Do I think that it is the decision of the bride and groom–and them alone–to determine what is the best way for them to celebrate and mark their feelings for their life partner? Yes. And there’s no right time, no external time frame, that decides what merits what level of ceremony. Some first-time young-marrieds want a simple legal ceremony performed by a JP, some fifth weddings want the whole shebang. And no one else has any say in the matter

P: And fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, what I hear in your statements is that you have no respect for your daughter-in-law. I’ll call her that rather than soon to be daughter-in-law, because as you say she’s already there. That’s a dangerous walk if you want a relationship with your son. He loves her. He has made his decisions. You need to find a way to love her too, because he loves her and he has made his decisions. I’m wishing them happiness. In the sad event that this relationship ever comes apart, remember you never get to say what it seems your truth is, if you never liked her anyway. He’s her choice, you’d better make ones that will get you what you want, which is ideally a great relationship with your son. So, again, my suggestion would be: find a way to love her.

B: There’s a symbolic line that gets crossed when two people marry, and that line involves the recognition that one’s children aren’t children any longer. They’re on their own, out in the world, ready to work and do chores and have babies of their own and enjoy all the ups and downs of a self-determined life. Traditionally, in the fables and the social rituals we base many of our marital practices on, this thinking dominates. It takes center stage even if it doesn’t resemble how the bride-and-groom-to-be actually live. You need to let them be the adults they are. Though they may have been on their own for years, you still call them “the kids”, and you’re still trying to maintain some kind of control over your son. And you need to trust that they’ll make decisions about their intended ceremony based on their needs, desires, and budget. Your son and daughter-in-law are not kids, and they’ve already established their own domain. He’s got his own household to manage, he is no longer a dependent of yours.

P: I’m sorry; this isn’t what you wanted to hear. The hardest part of raising children is keeping those hands open to let them go. Still, it’s probably the most important part. You and your husband, if he’s part of this decision, need to decide whether you’re going to give them money. You need to decide if you’ll participate in the preparations. But whether they have a wedding is–oh, I’ve avoided this, but here it is–none of your business.

You need to do what you need to do to deal with this. Therapy, conversations with your husband, conversations with your friend, just plain ol’ soul searching.

I can say that I believe that choosing generosity is always our best investment in the future. There’s an old adage that says the groom’s mother should wear beige and be quiet. I don’t believe that. I would say: Wear something wildly flattering and be the warm, loving, encouraging mother-in-law that your new daughter is going to want to come home to with her husband.

B: And look at the son and daughter-in-law you have before you. You raised a boy who became a man who started a successful business before he was 30. This man was thoughtful in his choice of life partner, and chose a woman who is smart and capable and building her own career, successfully. Let their actions be your guide. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know what’s best for them; your role as mother-oracle is over now. Instead, love them as the adults they are, and believe they’re able to decide what’s best for themselves.

Let go and enjoy a loving, expanding family.

Let go and enjoy a loving, expanding family.

Drink: The Mother-In-Law

  • 2-1/2 ounces Bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon Cointreau
  • 1 teaspoon Maraschino
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes Amer Picon
  • Stemless cherry to garnish


  1. Place all of the ingredients, except for the garnish, into a cocktail shaker.
  2. Fill the shaker with cracked ice and then stir the mixture for 40 seconds to chill.
  3. Strain the mixture into a cocktail glass, garnish with the cherry, and then serve immediately.

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: Fraught Family Visits

Dear Bartender and Priestess:

My husband’s sister and brother-in-law stay at our house occasionally for overnights, in order to visit my mother-in-law. How can I best put this? They are annoying house guests.

I’ve never seen them lift a finger to make dinner or help with the clean up afterwards. My brother-in-law, “Bob”, drinks a ton of coffee but has never made himself a pot. He speaks loudly, and mostly about himself. My sister-in-law, “Betty”, is sweet but talks incessantly, so much so that she’ll even distract herself from what little help she offers me at cleanup. They’ve never offered to take us out to dinner, or order us some Chinese, or (Heaven forbid!) cook us something.

Usually they visit at our house, but we also have a vacation cabin. When my family visits the cabin it’s for two nights each summer, and we’re never expected to host them over the holidays, because we select a hotel that’s convenient for all of us. Bob and Betty often come for a few nights at Christmas. This year, my husband has invited them to come for two weeks. Two weeks! And he did this without consulting me first. When I asked him why he would invite them for an extended stay without talking to me he said it’s because I would never agree to host his sister. I want to show respect to my in-laws and make my husband happy, but hosting them is so difficult. I literally cannot handle them in my home for two weeks.  What can I do?

—Just Can’t Do This

Dear Can’t,

B&P: Oh, so many things, so many things. The first thing we want to do is ask you: what are your choices? Because you’re either going to have to find a way to handle your in-laws being at your house for two weeks, or…what? You can leave your husband, I suppose. Or you can check into a spa and take a solo vacation during their visit, thereby nakedly displaying to your in-laws just how much you don’t like them and, by default, how little respect you have for your husband and your chosen family.

That’s not an option? OK, then you have to deal. Our take on this is not as seamless as it often is, and we’re reminded we’re not one brain but two — often contrary ones…

B: Often, a letter writer will state the real issue that’s the root of their problem, but cloak it in distracting-but-not-overly-relevant details. Your in-laws, especially the chatty sis, are annoying, I get it. Jeff never makes a pot of coffee, the brute. And two weeks is a mighty long time to host guests, even ones that you like. But then you say this: [My husband’s] retort is that I would never agree to host his sister.

Let me repeat that: I would never agree to host his sister.

Your husband felt that the only way he could have his family in for an extended visit was to go behind your back and make plans without you, because you would never.

Hey, so…how’s your marriage? Because it seems like you have limited tolerance for the family you married into, which will, with time, have its effect on your husband and your relationship. It already has, since he’s acting out in such a way as to exclude you from input.

P: So Terri and I listened to your silence and came to some slightly different conclusions (which is the problem with silence), although this first one we shared: Sounds like there’s a whole lot of history of people’s not talking to one another. Sadly, it sounds like it starts with you and your husband. You’ve not really discussed who stays and how long, what the house rules are and if they’re different for people who stay two days and people who stay a week, who handles what chores.

And I’m not sure how his retort silenced you. According to what you said, your siblings’s stays are brief and infrequent, and his family stops in during the year, comes for several days during Christmas and is now coming for two weeks. So, “you’d never agree to host them,” is untrue and unfair. And that’s dirty pool. Unless of course, Terri’s on the money here, and you begrudge what’s happening. 

B: My guess is, you’re seeing Bob and Betty exactly as they are at home. He probably never makes a pot of coffee in his own kitchen, either, and I’d bet she never stops talking, but for them it’s how it’s done, and they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. My (further) guess is, and neither does your husband, really, though he may nod his head in mute agreement whenever you voice your displeasure with your family by marriage. It’s who they are. And the thing is, if you take the examples you gave us, yourself, then they seem…ok, annoying, but they’re not committing crimes. You don’t say that Bob gets falling-down drunk and hits on you, you don’t say that you’ve caught Betty kicking your dog. Instead, you say he drinks a lot of coffee and talks about himself, and she carries on. Nobody’s picking fights or creating backstabby, noxious family relations. Except you. After they leave. With your husband.

You say you’d like to show respect to your in-laws. I’d like to see you start, too.

P: You haven’t mentioned it, so we don’t have any real information about how your husband participates in your visits. Although, since we know what’s wrong with your in-laws, you probably wouldn’t be too shy about telling us what the hubster’s up to.

I must say, however, that whether or not they’re perfect guests, that’s a lot of time to have people in your house. Are you retired and able to spend the whole summer there or is this your entire vacation?

How much time do you normally spend hosting? And does that interrupt your lazing around doing whatever you normally do while vacating?

B: You mention your own family’s visits, which last for two days and are over. How do you manage to regulate their visits? Are they just better behaved? Or have you taken the time to instill some boundaries with them? Maybe now that you’re going to have them for two weeks (because oh yes, sister, they’re coming), you can start to change some of the rules of their visits to make their behavior less irritating. Overnights, or a few nights in a row are one thing. Two weeks’ worth of visiting, though, that’s living together, and living together requires boundaries.

P: Independent of them, I would certainly be talking about rules for long-term house-guests. But if people are coming for two weeks, will you set up a schedule and make up a list of stuff and ask them to bring that? You haven’t said they’re poor. And even if people have fewer resources, presumably they have some. They can always bring the potatoes, whole and chips. Most people are happy to participate if they know what the expectations are. It might take a while and plenty of snack items to get them trained, but it helps to be direct with people.

You don’t say, but what is your husband’s idea of hosting? What are his jobs for their stay? I can’t believe it, I almost found myself writing, what does he do to help… but in fact, they’re your shared guests, maybe even his guests… His guests require his doing his part and your doing yours… because in a marriage, you get to have a guest in your own house!

B: You want to be gracious, be gracious, and remember, the only behavior you ultimately have control over is your own. Have you ever thought about making Bob’s coffee drinking a bit of a joke? Buy him his own mug and set up a station for him. When he comes in, present it with a flourish. Say, “Bob, you’re here for two weeks, and I know how much you like coffee. Here is your own mug, and here are the filters, the spoons, the sugar, the coffee.” Offer to show him how to work your coffee maker. And then go about your day without worrying over his coffee habit. Clear out a space for them in your fridge and tell them they’re welcome to stock up on groceries. Let them know (ahead of time) that you never cook on Wednesdays so everyone is on their own that night. I’m afraid you won’t be able to put Betty on mute, so maybe you can find some interests you share. See if she wants day passes to your local gym, or take her to something you would like to do, too. A talk at a library, a sewing bee, something. If she’s going to talk, then perhaps you can turn her chatter into something you want to hear. Also, give them a key to the cabin to use while they’re there, and let them know they’re more than welcome to come and go as they please. They might not want to be around you 24/7 for two weeks, too, particularly as you tend to sit in judgment of them.

P: Because you’ll have to answer this, how long are you willing to have Betty and Bob at your house? Terri points out your in-laws are coffee guzzlers (good save, Terri, I was for more passive aggressively removing coffee from the house. But she’s right, get him his own miniature coffee maker with a gold basket that he can refill. Save the landfill, save your sanity.)  and loud (well Terri and I have a certain fondness for loud-mouthed women) Neither of these are egregious faults.

And when I hear the words vacation cabin, I think vacation. For me, that would be feet up on the screened in porch reading, floating in the lake/pool/body of water maybe reading. Oh, and napping. Rummaging in the fridge. Maybe burgers on the grill. Terri’s idea might include fewer burgers and more cooking… but what do you want for this time? Simply not having these guests is not an option.

Before you deal with the in-laws, I think you and your hubster might want to talk about one another’s goals for the vacation. (PS, yours count as much as his.)

Once you have a list of how you want to spend your time, you can talk about how it fits to have guests and what you’re willing to do to entertain people. And if he’s not willing to take up a lot of the slack, because you both know how they are, ask him how he thinks the two of you should solve this problem. Because it’s not your problem or even, really, simply his. They are his family. As Terri points out, you married him. And he comes equipped with family. And he loves them. And that means he knows how to love people. That’s something you want in a partner!

B: And now, more than ever, at last, finally! It’s time to talk to your husband. Not at him, to him. You can start by acknowledging you’ve put your husband in the middle between yourself and his sister and brother-in-law, and that’s not fair of you. Two weeks with them, without his discussing it with you beforehand…yes, he was terribly unfair and dropped a bit of a bomb shell on you, but it’s also a wake-up call that perhaps your own behavior hasn’t invited his conversation in the first place.

You’ve let them come and stay with you in order to see Mom, but has it always been through gritted teeth? Your own family seems less mashed up with each other than your husband’s family; they stay in a hotel over the holidays, they are in for two days and done at your cabin. This may be how you want families to act, but it’s not the family you married into. Ask your husband whether or not he finds his sis & BIL’s behavior difficult to manage, too, or if you’ve just made him feel bad about having a sibling. Ask how you can work together as a unit to not have this sort of difficult rift in the future. Be quiet, and let him answer you. Active listening can be extraordinarily difficult; what I am going to ask of you is that you don’t answer until he is done speaking. Don’t talk over him, don’t start formulating a response. Just let your husband speak about this situation with his sister. He ought to do the same with you and I’m going to ask you again: when it’s your turn to speak, talk to the things that really upset you in this. It’s not Bob’s coffee habit or Betty’s chatter, it’s that your husband made these extended plans without consulting you. The solid frame of a really large wall is going up between the two of you. Work to dismantle it before you’re divided for a lifetime.

P: And what’s your goal? Their personalities are not going to change, she’ll always talk too loudly and he’ll drink too much coffee, but you can take your book and go sit on the porch.

And, worth your while, you need to think a little about how they’ll respond — because even if they are selfish, you don’t ever want them to seize on this as an opportunity to stop seeing Mom. And that’s a real consideration for as long as Mom’s alive. That’s another gift you get from your loving husband, another Mom.

I don’t know that I was quite as worried as Terri that this was a game changer for you, but I do know it seems like an awfully big hill to put up in your own back yard. You have a husband with a family. And presumably a lovely cabin. Enjoy that!

Let me repeat: Be kind.

Let me repeat: Be kind.

Two Sisters Toddy

  • ½ oz strawberry liqueur
  • ½ oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz bourbon
  • crushed ice
  • lemon twist garnish

Blend all ingredients (except lemon) in a blender until smooth. Serve in a champagne glass with lemon twist.

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: Tiny Home, Big Problem

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I think I am in over my head and I am not sure what to do.  I have been married for 8 years and have two children, ages 6 and 2.  My husband and I have always been environmentally and socially conscious, and recently decided to try “simple living”.  Against the cautions of some of our family members, we decided to downsize from a 2500 sq ft suburban home to a 650 sq ft “tiny house” that we had custom built for our family.   It is super cute and we were pretty mindful in our planning, carefully considering what we thought we could live with. But now that we have been living in it for a month, I hate it!  There is no room to do anything!  I feel like I am constantly tripping over stuff, there is NO privacy, and I feel terribly confined.  I am often grumpy and find myself snapping at my husband and kids over the smallest things.  I feel this way now, in the summer, when we have been able to spend lots of time outside…how am I ever going to get through a winter like this?    I had NO idea that I would find this so difficult.  While I am struggling with our new home, my husband seems to think it’s all great.  He is constantly sharing the “joys of simple living” with everyone we meet.  We have invested a lot of time and money in this “new way of life”, and I feel like a schmuck for wanting to bail on it so soon.  I don’t want to let my husband down, nor do I really want to hear “I told you so’s” from our families.   But really….I feel like I am going to go insane if we don’t do something different soon. I don’t know what to do.

-Missing My Space

Dear Missing Your Space,

P: Ah, my dear, I’m sure you thought the honeymoon would last a little longer… This is/was a huge undertaking, and however carefully you plan about the space, I’m not sure there’s any way you can plan about the realities of so much less space. This is something you need to learn to live with, something that will take discipline to make work for you.

I suspect that anyone can learn to thrive in a smaller space although not everyone will choose to. But it’s only in the last couple generations that most people had large spaces to live in. We’ve developed notions of privacy and privilege that go along with that space.

B: Americans like space. We’ve been culturally ingrained with romantic ideals of wide open spaces and big skies. Large cars. Ample personal space. Certainly, most of us don’t even consider what it would be like to live in the stackable apartments they have in Japan. I have a friend who is planning a move into a tiny house with her husband, this very spring. She said, “Space is difficult. I think it is both the most overrated and underrated commodity we have.”

I get that you’re environmentally conscious and want to reduce your carbon footprint. And I’m glad that you care enough about the state of our planet to want to pass that caring on to your children. But you  made a tremendous leap into a new extreme, and now, it seems like you’ve found yourself stuck. We presume you can’t move back to your old home, or that moving at all isn’t really an option you’ll willingly entertain. Now what?

P: The tiny house movement is new, so I looked around the interwebs for discussion boards concerning the transition to a small home, and couldn’t really find anything. As I looked I realized, oh, right, people live in apartments with their families that are this small and manage not to ruin their lives or their children. I suspect you need to change the rules — and it make take some time to figure out what the new normal for simple living is. It may take some iterations before you finally settle on what works for everyone. Because of course it doesn’t work if everyone else is happy and you aren’t.

B: My initial instinct is to remind you to take a breath, take a walk outside for five minutes–alone, of course!–and calm down. You’ve only been in that house for a month, and you may be going through growing…shrinking?…pangs. You’ve lost roughly 75% of your former living space, so you need to allow for an adjustment period. It’s a different way to live. Energy gathers in a home differently in a space that small, especially when there are four people contributing to it. One toy left in the middle of the living room floor creates a sense of clutter, one heap of socks looks like a mountain of laundry. It’s entirely possible that once you adapt–once your vision adjusts to your new surroundings, once you learn how to manage your family’s presences, once you create house rules that reflect where you live now–you’ll breathe a little easier.

But the important thing to remember in all this is that you aren’t managing that household alone. You have a husband with you, a life partner, who should ostensibly help you with how your home flows. He may be telling everyone how much he loves tiny-house living. Have you ever told him how YOU feel?

P: Your discomfort is the whole family’s problem. And they need to recognize that. ‘Cause as the T-shirt says, “If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

How do you blend privacy, play, work, studies and remember, romance!

B: It’s all well and good that your husband is busily extolling the virtues of tiny living, and I understand that his apparent enthusiasm would dampen your desire to tell him how unhappy you are in your new home. How can you tell him you’re unhappy with something in which he’s clearly delighted? What you need to bear in mind is, this is your life. This isn’t some temporary inconvenience, like getting a new roof put on or having every window in the house replaced. Tiny house living may have been an idealized projection of your vis a vis green-living, Little House on the Prairie-esque romantic notion, but the functional part of you that dislikes your living situation is your real self. It’s uncomfortable to realize your ideal and your real selves are in conflict, but you need to honor who you are and what you want. It’s time for you to take what you have and make the best of it.

P: Idealism is amazing. But reality takes getting used to. You are not practiced at this. Some of the family living skills you had from living in your house that was 4x your beautiful, new, little one will not transfer to living in a much smaller space.

So do some good research and then some thinking. Plan as carefully for your day-to-day family life as you did for space. Could you have done this before? Sure! Did you? No. So what? Now’s the time to look at things. Talk about it. Start a blog about it. 

B: Talk to your husband about how you feel, and tell him you want to institute some changes as to  how you all operate in your new space. You may want to institute new clutter rules, which could make a difference as to how you perceive the open space you have. You may want to try and institute a quiet time, to mellow out the collective energy in your smaller space.

P: In small space you have to work as a unit. Individualism takes a back seat to the family, although everyone needs to be acknowledged. The balance of privilege and family priorities needs to be built to fit the home you have. Teach your kids to be productive members of the family. Make them responsible for chores and living skills. They’ll still be kids, but we need to learn to be aware of others; it’s not inborn.

I remember that growing up, we all used to sit in the living room and read quietly. TV was a communal activity. Pretty much everyone watched. If we didn’t have TV we wanted to see, we played games. We had a big house, but we did things together in the evenings. And we learned to like quiet activities. Turn off the noise; if there’s music on, consider sitting and listening to it. Or make it a treat that gets turned up to dance music when there are chores to be done.

Remember, you are creative, you figured out what to do with stuff, now you have to build a family that fits in your little home.

We forget that we can go out in the winter as well. It’s not as easy if we’re in the country as it might be in the city, but kids used to spend hours playing outside in all kinds of weather. Time outside in fresh air makes you lots less rammy. Build a play house, hang a swing. Learn to snow shoe or ice skate or cross country ski. Do it with the kids. You’ll feel better too.

B: I’d advise that you and your husband set a deadline for you to see how you feel after new house rules and activities and spatial negotiations are implemented. If, at the end of it, you still think you need more space, then give yourself the respect you deserve and act on that. Build on an extension to the house. Or put up a she-shed. If you end up expanding your living space yet again, remember, there are ways to be environmentally mindful without confining your living space to 650 square feet. Create a personal food garden. Keep bees. Create a protected wildlife space on your property; there are ways to do that even if you live in town. Look into solar paneling and ease your burden on the national power grid. You don’t have to upheave your life–again–in order to change it. You just need to be respectful and honest toward everything you already have.

P: You’ve got this. You just need to reconsider what works. And if in a couple years, yep, keep trying, it doesn’t work, then find something that’ll make mama happy. But no sense leaving before you’ve really done your homework.

Et voila!

Et voila!

The “Home Sweet Home”:

  • 60 ml vodka
  • 140 ml lemonade
  • spearmint sprig
  • dash of orange bitters
  • lemon peel

Put sprig in glass. Fill with ice, top with vodka and lemonade. Stir. Top with bitters, garnish with lemon peel. Kick back and relax!

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}}}

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fruit

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa has selected “fruit” as her travel theme. Allrighty then. I’m in.

Some interpretations of fruit may be a little bit loose. But what the hey, we have fun.

First up: my kitchen! I was making a lemon-caper vinaigrette to have with our dinner salad one night. As the Lord sayeth, verily, it was good.



Next up: on a chilly morning wandering the grounds of the Essex Resort in Vermont, I stumbled upon a planting of frosty ground cherries.

And then I ate one.

And then I ate one.

I like grapes. I like how they prepare them at the Ravines Wine Cellar at Keuka Lake (bonus: they do wine and chocolate pairing tastings…hell yes!). Imma leave this right here.

Super-yummy. I love a good tasting room.

Super-yummy. I love a good tasting room. Did I mention they do chocolate pairings? 🙂

Close to my home: I spotted this dwarf pomegranate blooming along the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail one fine late-summer day.

I really need to take another bike ride down the Rail Trail soon.

I really need to take another bike ride down the Rail Trail soon.

And finally. One night while visiting my mother, la momma asked me if I wanted anything fruity after dinner. Sure, I replied. What have you got?


Health, darlings. Health.

Mmmm hmmm. Apple pie, strawberry ice cream. I’m not sure if she and I define “fruit” the same way. Nevertheless, it was very good indeed.

Enjoy the rest of the fruity offerings on Ailsa’s photo challenge! See you ’round the interwebs.

Advice: When Divorcing Parents Stop Parenting

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I don’t know if you answer questions from teenagers, but I hope you do. Here’s my problem: My parents are in the middle of getting a divorce. I don’t think they have been happy for a while (my dad has slept on the couch a lot and my mom is always “working late”, yeahhhh, I bet), but it wasn’t until this summer that they decided to split up.  I don’t really mind that they are splitting up since we haven’t done “family things” much since I was little. What does bug me is that they are always trying to put me in the middle by wanting me to choose sides. My dad tells me bad things about my mom, my mom tells me bad things about my dad, and they both want me to choose them. To be honest, I couldn’t pick a side even if I wanted to – I think they are both acting stupid!  I mean I want them to be happy and all, and I love them both, but this is their problem and I just don’t want to have to deal with it all. Sometimes the pressure from it all is just too much.  When I get really overwhelmed, I sometimes cut myself to take some of the pressure off.  My parents don’t know that I’m a cutter (and I am scared to tell them), but sometimes I just don’t know what else to do. I am not, you know, suicidal or anything, and I don’t cut very deep. I just want my parents to chill out and stop asking me to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. I want to go to college some day, so I just want to worry about things like my grades, or things the other kids in my class are worrying about, like who to ask to Homecoming. Is that too much to ask?

– Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck:

B & P: Oh, our dear, No. It is not too much to ask. Let’s see if we can’t help you get out of the middle. Because you do NOT deserve to be there. And as you’re noticing, it’s a destructive place to be.

P: I’m sorry your parents are being so incredibly selfish. I’m sorry they’ve overlooked the fact that you’re their kid not a pawn in this game of one-upsmanship.

Because you still are a kid, I want to help you find some support. You should not be in this alone. You sound really capable. But you need to be a capable kid, not a capable adult for your parents.

Do your grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, minister, coach — someone/anyone know what’s happening to you? Is there someone in your life who’s willing to be an adult?

I’m going to stay on this who’s your adult, Terri’s going to talk about keeping you healthy, but let me tell you, we’re on your side. We’re adults and we want to help you stay concentrated on the things that are appropriate for you to be concentrated on. We want to help you stay safe.

B: Thanks to my own ride on my own emotional roller coaster, I have a deep and abiding compassion for self-destructive behavior. There’s something going on in your world that makes you want to escape, makes you want to throw your attention somewhere else. Some people drink. Some people develop eating disorders. And some people cut themselves.

None of these responses are acceptable in the face of life’s stresses, though they are understandable. You want some kind of release. Cutting gives you some kind of control over the crazy-making degree of bad you’re feeling (because at least you have something to feel bad about, amirite?). Because in a lot of ways, making yourself feel actual physical pain is a lot easier than facing the spiritual pain that arises from the fact that the people in your life who are supposed to protect you are, instead, tearing you apart.

You’re talking about grades and Homecoming, so you’re still very young. But you’re also developing a growing awareness of the world around you, and are recognizing inappropriate behavior, particularly on the behalf of your parents. You’re right; they are acting stupid. Please don’t compound their negative behavior by engaging in your own.

P: Through this debacle, your job is to be the kid: to think about your grades and your dates and the things going on in your life. It is also your job to be sad about the break up in your family — because let’s face it, it’s always easier if our parents love each other.

So, how do you go about being a kid when the world around you is falling apart?

I’ll keep saying, you have to find some adults. It’s lousy that you’re the one that has to find the adults, but clearly your parents aren’t going to either be them or find them for you.

I’m really glad you told us about your cutting because, however controlled you are, this is a dangerous precedent. This says you need and want help. Cutting holes in your skin doesn’t mend the holes in your heart even if it feels as if it provides vent holes from time to time.

If your grandparents aren’t available or capable of stepping up, then stop and think about who in your life could be your advocate. Who will help you get the support you need?

I’d like you to have a counselor. You really deserve help. There’s an old myth about doing this stuff alone, but some stuff you shouldn’t have to do alone. Even if you can, it’s easier if you have support. Therapists are trained to help you think through things. This is the first time this has happened to you, but sadly, it has happened to lots of other people. Your therapist can offer you wisdom, support and suggestions. If you think your parents can’t afford it, your guidance counselor at school can help you get to the school therapist. If your parents can afford to send you to counseling, your guidance counselor will have references for you. Because sadly, you’re not the only kid in your school with problematic parents.

B: I need to echo Ann here. Please, please, please: STOP. Stop hurting yourself, stop clouding your thoughts with physical pain, stop amplifying the bad juju, stop doing something that is potentially addictive and unquestionably damaging. I get that asking someone who’s engaging in self-destructive behavior often falls on deaf ears (if only I had listened when that first person told me to stop smoking!). I get that you’re not suicidal, and this is an expression of your severe emotional distress. You’re also cutting yourself and more than that, you’re weakening yourself, making this spiral of emotional turmoil a thing from which it is progressively more difficult to free yourself.

You’re hacking away at your getaway car and not doing anything about the robbery.

Because let me make this clear: your parents are robbing from you. They’re stealing your sense of security. They’re taking your safe home away from you. They’ve plundered your adolescence. And what’s worse is they’re asking you to be complicit as they take these things away. They’re asking you to be an accomplice in their emotional assaults on one another. It might not be technically criminal, but it should be. Abandonment. Jerkitude. Your parents are so caught up in their spite games that they’ve abdicated their roles as parents and are leaving their child-rearing duties up to you. Welcome to early adulthood, and I’m sorry. You’ve got to be the person to find your own way out of this. For that, you need strength, not self-induced bloodletting.

Please start to look for help. You’re self-aware enough to know that all of these behaviors swirling around in your life are not OK; you know your parents aren’t OK, you know cutting isn’t OK. You wrote this letter, so you’ve got the fortitude to look for exits, and have already made the first step toward reaching out. Take Ann’s advice and go to a trusted adult. A professional at school, a savvy aunt/uncle/grandparent that you can trust, someone who you know has your best interests at heart and will stand beside you as you make your parents aware of how you’ve reacted to their petty self-interest.

Let’s face it. Your parents should take some ownership of those cuts.

P: You might want to do this next within the context of your therapy, or with your best friend’s parents, but consider writing a letter to your parents. I’d want you to have your advocate stand with you as you write this. I’d suggest ccing the judge if there is one and your parents’ lawyers. Sadly, I’m sure you know who they are.

Dear Mom and Dad, your asking me to choose sides leaves me angry and scared. I need someone to think about me, because I’m still a kid. I’ve got to get good grades and graduate and get into a good school so that I can be an effective, happy grown up. I know you love me. I’m sad you love fighting more. I’m sad you don’t realize I need parents.

You’re both asking me to love only you and forget that your former partner is my other parent. It makes me crazy… like literally crazy. So crazy that I’ve started cutting myself. And you don’t even notice.

If you won’t give up give up the horrible fighting, and resolve your differences like grown ups as you divorce, would you at least help me find somewhere to live where I wouldn’t be in the midst of a war zone. I want to finish high school here and think about what’s ahead for me. I don’t want to flunk out because you’re not caring about me.

I can’t be your marital/divorce counselor. And you won’t get one. What am I supposed to do? It’s not my business what’s wrong with your relationship. I’m your kid. I’m your business. Will you at least get me a counselor so I have some support as I go through this?

You say you love me. Please help.

Refusing to play the game, love, your son.

Good luck in your attempt to be a teen again.

Good luck in your attempt to be a teen again.

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: Boyfriend vs. Woman-Brain

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

My sister (who is 27) and her boyfriend (25) have been together for a little over six years now. They enjoy the same things, share a lot of the same views, and enjoy each other’s company. They have one major issue, though, that threatens their relationship. To sum him up, he is a chauvinist, and his attitude has caused an emotional block between them.

When they argue, and I mean really argue, it’s because of his inability to show affection in public and in private and his inability to even try to understand her feelings. He says her “woman emotions” are caused by her “woman brain”. I am not making those words up. He feels that when she comes to him about things that upset her about their relationship, he doesn’t have to acknowledge it or sympathize with her because she is a woman. Women are born to be over-emotional about little things, so he shrugs off her problems and chalks them up to the “woman brain”. They recently had a two-hour argument about how he has a man brain and she has a woman brain and how they are both “made to only care about what their brains tell them to care about”. She has mentioned going to therapy; he won’t entertain the idea even for a second.

When my sister got involved with him six years ago, she made the classic mistake and thought that he would change with time. Now they live together and are seriously considering buying a house together. My sister has, generally, chosen to ignore how she felt about his unresponsiveness to her feelings. But now that they are looking to do something huge, she’s thinking about their relationship more and more. She is envisioning their future in a more realistic way and asking herself: Am I ok with him not treating me as an equal? Am I ok with his lack of affection? Can I see myself marrying him regardless of all these issues we have? Her answer as of late is no. No I can’t. No I’m not ok with these feelings.

On the other hand, she thinks of how many wonderful times they’ve had together. She knows that aside from these issues, he truly does love her. He’s done things for her that he wouldn’t consider doing for anyone else. He goes out of his way to do things that he thinks will make her happy. They’ve been through a lot over their six-plus years together. She loves him just as much. In his mind, their relationship is rock solid. In her mind, he needs to take her feelings more seriously and better try to understand and try work through their issues instead of dismiss them.

At this point she feels like she’s ready to tap out of this relationship. She’s tried and failed so many times to try to get him to understand her point of view. She is afraid that his “always right” mentality is too deeply ingrained in him, and that change isn’t possible. She worries that if she leaves him, he will be alone because no one else will put up with him. She is scared to think of how her leaving will affect him emotionally. She’s been crying herself to sleep wondering what else she can do to salvage this relationship.


Worried Sister

Dear Worried and your Sister,

B & P: What’s the first rule of Relationship Club? Don’t do anything permanent with a partner if you think you’re ready to tap out.

What’s the second rule of Relationship Club? Don’t do anything permanent with a partner if you think you’re ready to tap out.

No houses, no babies, no joint checking accounts. Got it? Please, tell me you’ve got it. Tell me your sister gets it. If she’s thinking about leaving, then having to extricate herself from a 30-year mortgage isn’t going to make anything easier.

B: There’s so much to talk about here. What I want to start with is: What your sister is responsible for, vs. what she is not responsible for.

What she is responsible for: Being true to herself and to her heart. Making sure her needs are met. Creating a home that is a safe haven.

What she is not responsible for: Whether or not her boyfriend will find anyone to put up with him if she leaves. This sounds like she’s trying to talk herself into staying.

P: Good one, Terri. Here’s the deal. In some ways the important question has been asked and answered. As is so often the case, we ask the first part of the question. And we don’t admit even to ourselves that there was a second part to the question. When the young woman asked her boyfriend, in the face of his hurtful denigration of her feelings, if he would see a counselor with her, there was an attached phrase that she had in her heart: if you want this relationship to survive. She may have been afraid to admit that’s what she were saying (she may not have known it was lurking below the surface), but it was there. He knew what the repercussions of saying no were, as well. So she’s asked, and he’s answered, the question she wasn’t quite willing to say out loud.

Does he want to be in relationship with her? With all of her, with all those lovely messy emotions that make her a joy and a delight (and ok, sure, since none of us is perfect, probably occasionally irritation) to be around? He has said he wants only a part of her. After this investment of time, it’s hard to hear. And they know each other so well; they grew up together. But let’s be clear… This will not be about her breaking up with him. He has already said he doesn’t want to be in relationship with her. Because she has emotions. This is a very important thing to remember.

B: Regarding the idea of a “woman brain”, I will say this: women are taught, early on, to be nurturers and caregivers, so it doesn’t surprise me that as your sister projects into her life she would also project into his, and worries about him as a result. This is the only allowance I will make. Caring about him is one thing. Making his asocial personal habits her own problem is entirely another.

Mostly, talk of a “woman brain” gives me an eye twitch. It’s dismissive. It’s hurtful. And as you’ve rightly pointed out, it puts up barriers in a relationship, where there ought to be free flowing communication.

P: Now it may be that this guy really doesn’t have relationship skills. There are people who don’t. And I’m very sorry for him. And I hope that there is a wonderful woman who has no expectations whatsoever from the man with whom she is in relationship. Sadly, there seem to be many women totally willing to accept whatever can be given — or who have the same way of relating.

Sister, if you stay with this man, you are going to have children together. (Let’s just skip the fact that you’d have a wedding he’d be totally uninterested in.) What would it feel like to have a young son look at you and dismiss you with “oh, that’s just Mom’s woman’s brain talking…”  That’s not what you want to hear from your children, nor is it a model to be celebrated in raising a male child.

And what happens when your blindingly bright and happy little girl gets shrunken into a shadow of herself because her father (and her brother) disrespects not only the mother but also the baby girl? You owe your future children a bigger chance than this.

B: There are three components to a healthy relationship. There’s Partner 1, and Partner 2. And there’s a separate entity that is the relationship, which needs to be its own thing and should be a harmonious blend of Partners 1 and 2. This is also important to remember, because it means that each partner is a whole, distinct, functioning individual that exists independently of his or her relationship; what they are not is subsumed by it. If they start to diminish or lose themselves inside the relationship, it goes out of whack. Your sister can’t point out the lack of harmony any more plainly than by saying, “I think we need counseling”. By not “entertaining the idea” of counseling—or more plainly, by not responding when she asks for help—your sister’s boyfriend changes the dynamic of the “relationship” entity. By disregarding her request for harmony, by choosing his own status quo over her needs, he effectively makes the relationship all about him. That can happen on occasion; we are selfish creatures and can’t always respond nobly to every request put upon us. But always? Every time? And for something this big? So that she lives in a home where the votes are, basically, always, two against one? No. That’s not a partnership. That’s having a roommate with benefits. We’ve come a long way from the idea that “he doesn’t drink, and he doesn’t hit you” are parameters by which to judge a relationship. That doesn’t mean indifference is acceptable.

When your sister’s boyfriend says her feelings come from her “woman brain”, it’s…well, it’s probably technically true, as she is a woman, and she has a brain, and she’s using it to analyze her world and determine what is acceptable and what is lacking. It’s lazy, at best. It’s manipulative, in that it’s a statement engineered to make her think her concerns aren’t real but rather, childish ones generated from her gooey, emotional girly-center. As I am working on limited information I will refrain from saying that it’s emotionally abusive. But it’s uncomfortably close, in that it’s belittling. Would you remain friends with someone who belittles you? Why give someone who does that access to your heart?

(P: And body. Why let him in your body?)

B: Amen, Ann. As all evidence has pointed in this direction for the past six years, we can reasonably assume that the idea that he will change is little more than a fantasy. Imagine yourself with him in five years, or ten. Or twenty. Imagine the children Ann talked about before. Would you be willing to handle his dismissiveness if you had a problem regarding one of your children? Are you willing to carry all the emotional weight of the relationship alone? Because he’s not participating in it and he’s made it clear he’s not interested in learning how to do so. Her choices are: stay, and accept the status quo, and develop more fulfilling emotional relationships elsewhere. Stay, and continue to beat her head against the brick wall. Or go, and find someone new.

P: We all have this hazy, fluffy idea about “Love” and what it means to be in relationship. But real love is neither hazy nor fluffy, and requires work and communication between the participants. Even when we’re with our soul-mates—should there be such a thing, and that’s another question—we’re not just loving the other, we’re learning about the ways in which we are capable of loving. Your sister and this guy learned a lot together. She may have learned all she can learn from him. That’s not a horrible thing, that’s just a thing. Your sister deserves to be loved for who she is, by her partner. She also deserved to love herself, because right now she’s shoving herself into an awfully tiny box. And the current beau should be loved for who he is… since he’s not willing to change. She can love him for who he is — but she can’t have an intimate relationship with him, because he’s not interested in or capable of having one with her. She may think she’ll crush him if she leaves him. And I know it’s scary to be on one’s own. It takes a while to learn the joys of singledom. But she’s doing him no favors by living with him out of pity and fear. That’s soul crushing for both of them and not worthy of her gifts. She needs to honor herself. She needs to be honest, with herself and with him. She needs to keep growing. Twenty-seven is way too early for her to stop her growth process.

B: Your sister and her boyfriend have both grown up within the parameters of this relationship (it look like it started when they were 21 and 19, respectively). It can be exceedingly difficult to learn (or un-learn) behaviors when they’re mostly all you’ve known in your adult life. Difficult, maybe. But not impossible. And learning requires the desire to change and the willingness to listen, neither of which has been demonstrated by your sister’s boyfriend. I understand not wanting to start over, not wanting to “waste” six years, but that idea of wasted time is just an imaginary construct. Consider it a six-year-long educational process into how she does and does not want to be treated by a life partner. Since change is unlikely and the only reaction your sister can govern is her own, then she needs to start asking herself if she’s really ready to make big life decisions with this guy. Will she be more, “it’s OK, I have my friends and my life”, or will she be gritting her teeth internally and saying, “So…this is my life now. I can do this.” If she looks into her future and sees Option B, then she might want to consider an exit strategy.

P: The notion that you’ve wasted time here is silly. Our twenties are when we practice relationship. We try things on. We try things out. They fit. Or even after years of trying, they don’t. At a certain point in your life, you no longer want to wear the jeans that you have to lie on the bed to zip up. The relationships of our young adulthood are a lot like that. They’ve both learned a lot. They’ve loved each other as best they were able. That’s not nothing! But that’s not necessarily enough to build a life on. She now knows she knows how to love people. She even knows how to love people who are difficult to love. But no one needs to embrace an empty future and yoke very different lives together forever. Life’s about keeping growing and keeping going. He’s already told her he doesn’t want to be in THIS relationship with her. She has to hear that that’s what he said. Will he deny it? You betcha! Why take responsibility for his life when there’s her silly “woman’s brain” at work? Terri and I will probably both need to get new enamel for our teeth about that one. I think she needs to thank him for their time together and for all they’ve shared and let him know that she’s accepted his decree that he doesn’t want a future with her.

B & P: And for God’s sake, don’t buy that house!

bnp napkin sisters boyfriend

Seriously. Make no couples-only life-decisions (house, baby, etc) until all this is resolved.

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

Have a question for us? Send us an email at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces and include proper email punctuation.

Thank you for reading! Now go tell all your friends about us!

Advice: Everyday Struggles of my Mixed-Race Relationship

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I have been with my boyfriend for two years. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we love each other and are committed to our relationship. We have one major stumbling block, though.

We are a couple of mixed race. He is a white man in his late 30s, who has not had a ton of experience trying to understand a life outside of the one he was born into. I am a black woman in the city, and I feel like my identity is tightly wound around my culture, race, and politics. The fact that we hold such different views that stem from our racial backgrounds has caused a lot of fights between us. As a result, we don’t really talk about…well…me. My background. My experiences. He doesn’t give himself a chance to get to know this part of me and what I am about. And he’ll say things occasionally—generalizations in response to a news event, for example—that I think are problematic and even insulting. It’s ignorance on his part, not racism, mind you. He likes to say that race isn’t an issue because we’re all one race, which is nice but not how it is in reality.

Otherwise, he is a fine man. He’s smart, and thoughtful, and a positive force in my life. But I feel like I am at odds with my politics and my personal background. I understand that he doesn’t want to talk about it, particularly because we fight so much as a result. But I am torn. Can you please help me?

–Rock and a Hard Place

P: Oh, how hard. On the one hand you really have so much to celebrate and on the other hand, you’re not being recognized and supported. No wonder you’re confused and a bit, if not betrayed, at least let down. I wish the solutions were quick and easy, but you know in asking that they’re not. What’s great is that you have a clear idea what’s right and strong about your relationship… that’s going to help!

So what’s first? The dynamic may be the most fixable thing. You know a lot about how you feel, although I think you could know more about what you want and need. But there are ways to get to that. I hope you live in a large city where you can find a therapist who knows these issues. If you can say what you want and need without the drama, he’ll either have to listen, or you’ll have to realize that you are not getting everything you need in relationship and then explore your options.

B: My initial reaction—and I think I would have this reaction regardless of the other problems you’ve presented in this letter—is please please please, stop justifying your partner’s terrible behavior. He’s not a racist, he’s just… I can understand why he doesn’t want to talk about it, because… Remove the justifications. He is ignorant. He won’t talk about your life experiences with you. Period.

These are problems.

P: Now, Terri and I, loud women ourselves, don’t ever expect to be limited to a genteel “Oh, my” when egregious and outrageous events happen in the world. Nor should your anger be limited—or worse, squelched—as truths are finally being exposed regarding race and American society, truths that you live every day, and are callous and painful.

It pushes your face, your heart, your very being into realities you may otherwise be able to look away from. Anger, Rage and Fear seem like fairly straightforward responses…

B: One of the things we tend to forget in the day-to-day of a relationship is that we need to be able to talk. Safely. I don’t mean without threat of physical violence (well, of course I do, but I always mean that. If there’s threat of physical violence get out now, because that’s an entirely different letter) but rather, with the intent to be heard and recognized. You and your partner don’t always have to agree on the topic of conversation and you don’t always have to end up with consensus at the end. But you need to be able to feel safe enough, with your partner, in your home, to make yourself heard, particularly about difficult topics that form and inform you as a person. Unfortunately, difficult talks are often overlooked in favor of general companionship (if you don’t talk about THESE THINGS, you get along just fine) or the sense of security a (generally) stable home life provides. And—we’re being honest here, so I’ll say it—dating suuuuuucks. Sometimes it seems easier to stay with the (mostly) nice person in order to not have to start all over again in the squicky waters of the dating pool.


P: I think you need to make sure you have a good support network. Get some clarity about your needs, and remember, you and he are breaking ground. You deserve for him to understand that you carry an unfair and un-asked-for burden as a result of your color and our institutionalized racism. He needs to hear you, that’s true, but you deserve to process this with someone who understands only too well.

B: It doesn’t sound to me like he is allowing you the latitude to speak safely to him in your own home. This is infuriating for several reasons, not the least of which is it’s invalidating. If he shouts you down over your statement that the black community faces different challenges than the white community, and that there’s a systemic problem, he’s part of the problem. The argument CAN be made that for him, his culture and background is important, too, so you need to make sure you celebrate that. Which is great. But he’s not allowing you to incorporate your life into his. Which is not great at all.

He can’t remove the reality of your life because he doesn’t like it, and putting his hands over his ears to “La la la I can’t hear you” into silence doesn’t change your history and experiences. And “We are all one color”, while groovy-sounding on its face, often strikes me as an irresponsible approach to the social problems that affect our communities of color. There IS  a difference that people see, and react to, and make assumptions over, and kill people because of, and that hasn’t gone away. If only we were a post-racial society, then he could say that all he wants and he’d be right. And on a cosmic level, he is right. But on a practical, when-you-take-social-attitudes-and-demographics-into-consideration level, “we’re all the same” is myopic, dismissive, and not terribly helpful, at best.

P: How’s that old chant go? If you’re not outraged, you’re part of the problem. To be joined to that other old chant: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

It’s great that people are increasingly willing to engage in mixed race relationships. It’s a sign that things are changing. Life is different. Love does matter. And/but/however, if your beloved is not going to be part of the outrage and the solution, he’s part of the problem that oppresses and outrages you.

You can’t expect mixed race relationships to thrive without acknowledging the realities of this society/country/world. Just because you’re with him doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work harder at work to prove yourself or that you’ll automatically get a cab when you’re alone in the city. It’s no news to you that, as a black woman, you’re endangered.

B: I don’t want you to think we think he’s a bad person, or that he doesn’t love you. I’m sure he’s (generally) very good to you. But he may only ever think in terms of individuals and not be capable of looking at the big picture. It may be all he’s got. What are you prepared to do, if that’s the case?

P: He needs to start reading. And I think you should be able to ask him to go to a workshop like The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond’s “Undoing Racism.” He needs to go, not with you, but on his own, as a man who wants to understand and support your life and your struggles, personal and political. As a man who wants to make the world better. He’ll hear things differently there.

And I think you deserve a partner that recognizes both how threatened you are and how wonderfully, ragingly powerful — and who works to change the threat and support your power.

In fact, you get to make demands not just of your partner but also of your friends.  And here’s the deal, if you have kids, your kids are going to be mixed race and that means they’re going to have a rougher road than white kids. He needs to do it for any future kids as well. A quick check of stats makes that only too clear.

B: Try and imagine yourself another two years down the line. Two years of not speaking with your partner about what’s in your heart, or of hearing him make statements that are “worrying and insulting”, and swallowing the rebuttal. And another five years, and another ten. Can this status quo continue? Or will something have to give?

You’re writing a letter in search of advice, so my bet is, something’s gotta give. Not speaking to one’s truth, and swallowing responses, causes people to wither. Ann is right; you deserve to thrive. As do we all. The best relationships give us space to grow and express ourselves, not stifle who we are as we justify our partner’s inflexibility.

P: Dominant society’s not excited about shaking white privilege loose. But love demands more. I’d say I think decency demands more, but at the moment we’re looking at your relationship. Love demands your asking. Love demands his going to work.

You say he’s a wonderful man. That ought to help him let go his fears about recognizing his own racism and start dealing with it. It’s a lot to ask you to understand he’s probably afraid of confronting this, but he probably is. But if your relationship is going to thrive, if you’re going to have a chance to thrive in this relationship, if he’s going to love the powerful, angry woman that you are, he has work to do. And you are well within your bounds to ask for that work.

B: I need to say this, because it’s something that we’ve danced around during the course of this letter but haven’t said out loud yet. One of the most difficult things about love and relationships is, sometimes, love isn’t enough. Sometimes, you may love someone, and she or he may be a wonderful person in all these ways, but for whatever reasons, you can’t make it work. That may happen here. He may not be capable of meeting you where you emotionally live, you may not be capable of always having to live according to his rules. It’s heartbreaking and too bad but ultimately, that’s OK. Someone being worthy of love, and someone being worthy of your love (when taking all of you into account) can be two very different things.

P: He fell in love with you. That means he gets all of you, and doesn’t get to pick and choose which parts of you he wants to know about, or not. This is a time of turmoil and change and, hopefully, progress. I hope he wants to be part of the change. You have great faith in him. I hope he can trust that enough to do the work.

Good luck. And may the upheaval you’re experiencing in your relationship lead to something better, safer, saner, and infinitely more satisfying.

bnp 13 napkin

Home is no place to feel like you have to walk on eggshells or be anything less than yourself.

If you want to learn more about The Bartender and The Priestess, go here!

If you have a question for The Bartender and The Priestess, email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces and insert proper punctuation.

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us!

No more posts.