THE ART OF KEEPING EVERYTHING IN BALANCE
I just realized that my seventeen year old daughter has a sizeable tattoo of a dove on her back, just above her tail bone. The only reason I saw it was that I just happened to be in the laundry room where she was hunched into the dryer to get some of her clothes. She had low rise jeans (at least I think that’s what they are) and a short top that separated as she bent into the dryer.
Anyway, I’m shocked that she didn’t tell her father or me about it. I didn’t say anything to my daughter about the tattoo, just pretended like it wasn’t there or that I didn’t see it. My concern now is if she won’t talk to me about a tattoo what else is she keeping secret?
Debbie, Sevier Arkansas
Dear Worried About Nothing':
What else, indeed?
Now, before you dive off the deep end of parental paranoia and start envisioning drug induced ménage a trois with your daughter as the fluff and tango girl, let’s bring this ‘discovery’ down to size.
It’s just a tattoo – and of a dove, of all things! If your daughter had come to you and said, “Hey, I’m getting a tattoo,” would you have said, “You go, girl” and “let me drop you at the parlor” or would you have been one of these irate straight-laced prigs who equates a tattoo with hitting bongs and riding gunshot on a Harley Davidson with some three hundred pound hog named ‘Biff’?
Much as I hate tattoos for myself – but can appreciate them on somebody else - I cannot argue with the fact that a goodly percentage of the population enjoys adding ‘body art’ to their frames.
Aside: My predilection for a tattoo-free zone on my carcass stems from an innate and general fear of needles, as well as from the realization that if I live long enough I’m going to be the goofy looking old saggy guy with a skull and crossbones wrinkled up on that giggly lump that used to be a bicep. Remember, what looks sexy at 20 rarely gives off the same vibe at 85!
Breathe easier, Deb’.
I don’t think a dove on your daughter’s backside means she’s going to start turning tricks for the legislature anytime soon in a free-lovin’ retro-hippie sort of way.
Although, in Bill Clinton’s state anything’s possible.
Now, if you’re curious as to whom other than you, will be able to see that tattoo in such an obscure location – then, perhaps that’s a conversation you and your daughter ought to have about boys, sex and such. Arguably, any tattoo near one’s butt crack hasn’t been put there for the pleasure of the person wearing it.
The Crabby Critic
Dear Mr. Crabby:
My mom and dad are getting divorced I think. I mean they’ve been arguing for a couple of weeks about some woman my dad took to a restaurant last week that my mom says she didn’t know about but found out because my Aunt Sylvia was there and saw them. I don’t know much more because when things start getting spacey my mom tells me to go to my room. But they shout a lot at each other and my dad usually slams the door and goes out for a long time. I’m scared. What should I do?
Stacey in Alamosa, Colorado
Dear Tender Lonely Heart:
How I wish there were times when I could wipe out all adult stupidity some people subject their children to. From what you’ve told me, Stacey, I think it’s safe to assume that your father and the woman he took to the restaurant are more than just friends.
What can I say?
Just because some people are fully grown on the outside doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily mature enough to handle adult responsibilities.
There are a few things I’d like you to know.
First, you’re not to blame for anything that’s happening between your mom or dad. They both love you just as much as they did before all of this unhappiness.
So, you shouldn’t feel guilty – as though you think you might have done something wrong, or could have fixed things by changing something you did in the past. This situation – whatever it may be – has absolutely nothing to do with you.
Second, although it may seem as though one or both of your parents might be the ‘bad guy’ in what’s going on, I want you to keep an open mind. You’re young and, as strange as this may seem, one or both of your parents might start to rely on you for support. That’s okay.
However, you have every right and expectation not to be used as a go-between your mother and father. If one or the other or both starts telling you stuff – bad stuff, I mean – in the hopes that you’ll like one parent more than the other, you should just tell that parent that “I really don’t need to know this,” and then quietly walk away. I’m not suggesting that either your mom or dad is bad people. However, in getting back at one another, parents often forget that they hurt the one person who is a part of them both.
Third, I want you to find the very best friend or family member that you can trust. You know; someone who really thinks your good people and loves you just as much as you love yourself – which is a lot, right?
You have to be comfortable enough with this person to tell them everything that’s going on at home with the understanding that they won’t turn around and tell everyone else your story. Only tell this one person what you know and what you’re feeling. Then I want you to stay close to this person and rely on them when things get too crazy for you at home.
You’re going to be alright, Stacey.
I know it doesn’t seem so just now, but you’re going to have to take my word for it. Life will get better and so will you. Remember to smile, keep positive and always think the best of yourself. Confidence will see you through. And, if you ever need someone to talk too and no one else is around, at least you know you can write to me here and I’ll listen with an open mind and an understanding heart.
Thinking of you even as you read this with good thoughts and prayers.
The Crabby Critic
I’m seeing an ex of one of my friends. We started seeing each other two years after she and my friend broke up. Before I started going out with her I ran it by my friend who told me that he didn’t care at the time.
Only now when I hang out with him he treats me differently – not bad, but somehow as though I’m not quite his friend anymore. I know I’m not imagining this. It’s real. Any advice on how to get things back to where they were before?
Lester in Toronto, Canada
Dear Les’ is More:
You’re going to have to make a choice – your buddy or his ex-girl. Pick one and move on.
See, this is why I don’t encourage men or women to date their friends of friends who were once intimate partners with one another. It never works out in the end. Emotional baggage always gets in the way.
You did everything right.
You didn’t steal this babe from your bro and you gave his separation from her a reasonable cooling off period before you decided to take his playmate for a test drive.
Even though your best bud said he didn’t care about you horning in on his ex, clearly, he did and does! In his eyes you’re now the guy who’s getting his tune up at the fill station that only used to service one car under the hood. My advice to you would be to see less of him and more of his ex – that is, if you’re serious about her.
If he’s a real man, he’ll eventually come around, realize that his own happiness was never tied to hers, and, eventually respect the fact that even though it didn’t work out for them it’s managed to do wonders for someone he knows. Just be prepared; he might also be the petty sulking jealous type who decides he never wants to talk to either of you ever again. It happens.
All’s fair in love and war – except when it’s revolution!
The Crabby Critic
I’d like to divorce my husband and make a play for his brother. Let’s get something straight. My husband’s brother doesn’t know I’m alive. He’s married with two kids. My husband doesn’t know I like his brother. I don’t think he realizes much. He thinks just because he’s happy everyone else is. Well, I’m not. I haven’t been for some time. I don’t know when my life became such a drag but there it is. I’m not happy. What should I do?
Stevie in Hillsborough New Hampshire
You’re under the self delusion that your life will become the Garden of Eden, full of eternal hearts and flowers if you ditch your hubby and shack up with his married brother. Oh, wake up and take another bite out of the apple, dear. Not only will you be responsible for ruining your own marriage but you’ll also be that notorious ‘other woman’ who home-wrecked a happy life for two innocent kiddies.
Would you really be happy playing the part of the backstabbing bitch?
I don’t know anyone who would.
First of all, you haven’t given me any real quantification for your unhappiness. Your husband, although not as attentive as you might like, isn’t really out to make you miserable. If he were, you would have said as much in your email. So, let’s get down to basics. You’ve convinced yourself you’re unhappy when all you probably are is bored.
You’ve equated your own happiness to someone ‘making’ it for you. While we’re on the subject, let’s ditch the term ‘happiness’ because it’s utterly misleading. Happiness implies that you’re smiling 24/7 and floating on some love struck ether.
Let’s try being content instead of happy. It’s a much more level headed approach to finding true peace in this world.
Often in relationships it happens that when the bloom of initial excitement gives way to real time daily challenges either the husband or the wife begin to contemplate the life choices they’ve made. That isn’t to say either has made the wrong choice. However, once the mind has made itself up to find the flaws instead of the bright spots these imperfections tend to start popping out everywhere and gradually, to obliterate all that was good and worthwhile in the relationship.
You need to get back to that place where everything was good and worthwhile.
If you’re husband’s still contented with you, chances are he has good reason to be. This means you haven’t started playing the ‘bitch’ just yet – at least, not in his eyes.
To misquote Martha Stewart – “This is a good thing!”
Since you didn’t mention that you’re husband’s a nine hundred pound slob who doesn’t bathe regularly, slaps you around and farts on cue while his brother is a paragon of virile masculinity leads me to believe that your fleeting infatuation with your husband’s brother isn’t about trading up for a newer and more attractive model. You just see your life with your husband’s brother as different.
It would have to be. No relationship on earth is a duplicate of any other. And for a while, you would find excitement in the newness of that relationship – even under the most heart-wrenching of circumstances. You’d revel in his brother’s idiosyncrasies and think he was just the most incredible human being you’d ever known.
You might even find it in yourself to relish the role of weekend step-mama. Eventually, however, you’d awaken to the realization that you were once again ‘unhappy’ ergo ‘bored’ with your life, only now you’d have to start looking outside the family gene pool for the next diversion.
Bottom line, Stevie – the discontentment you currently feel isn’t with your husband; it’s within you and that inner boredom will follow you wherever you roam and with whomever you decide to take the journey.
My advice: go outside and pluck some dandelions.
Roses are for the idyllic romance. But dandelions are a reminder that no relationship is an Eden without a few weeds.
The Crabby Critic
I don’t think I’ll ever get married. I’d like to but it doesn’t seem to be happening. I’ve gone through it in my head a million times. I’m 35, reasonably attractive and quite successful but I don’t seem to attract the sort of women I’d like to settle down with. All of my guy friends are married except for one who is engaged. I’m going to be his best man at the wedding this Fall. Anyway, I feel like there’s something wrong with me. Is there?
Bruce in Houma Louisiana
Dear Forgotten Man:
As one single gent to another I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you. Frankly, I don’t think you think there’s anything wrong with you either.
More than likely you’ve been getting the “So, when are you going to get married?” pressure cooker treatment from friends and family who just assume from their own limited experience that marriage is the natural next step for you.
Perhaps it is, but I doubt it. You say you want to marry but something’s been holding you back. I don’t believe that. I don’t think you do either. Anyone can find a mate. It’s simple and if you’re smart, fun to be with, reasonably attractive and financial sound you’ve probably had your pick of woman who desperately wants to be the one on your arm.
That none of these gals have made a successful impression on you thus far means you’ve been discerning in your options. I salute that. After all, there’s a distinct difference between settling down and just settling!
I used to get asked this same annoying question all the time. “Why aren’t you married?” When it first started to happen my replies were tart, as in “None of your business” or “When you get divorced, I’ll get married.”
Evidently, I misperceived the question as prying and thought I’d fix all that probing by clobbering the asker with a what for and what not. Now, I realize that some people – under the rubric of ‘misery loves company’ - will always be fascinated by those of us who refuse to take the plunge.
Don’t take it to heart, Bruce.
Some people were born to marry and others weren’t. I’d rather be a single contented man than someone who popped the question to a girl I sort of liked just because my years on this planet had gained momentum onto middle age.
Remember that life’s too short, but with the wrong person at your side it can be an eternity - and not one by Calvin Klein!
The Crabby Critic
Sex just isn’t any fun anymore. Let me explain. I married my high school sweetheart when the two of us were finishing college. The next year I had our first son. We have two boys and one girl. Our oldest is getting ready to go to college. Lately, I find I just don’t want to have sex with my husband. I’m still crazy about the guy and cherish our times spent together – we do practically everything as one – but intimacy just doesn’t seem to be on my ‘to do’ list these days. Am I weird or what?
Francis, Janesville Wisconsin
No. You’re not weird.
Things change. I used to make the Band-Aid comment – with regards to young couples making bad romantic choices – that, it was a genuine pity genitalia matured faster than intellect. I am now willing to concede – at least in some cases - that hormonal spark is absolutely necessary to launch most people into connubial orbit so that life as we know it can grow and move on.
Besides, in your case you didn’t make a bad choice. You made a life one! If your husband is running a parallel course with your decision there’s no reason why you two won’t be happy in the future. The fact that you didn’t mention him as the kind who’s pressuring for more than you’re willing to give leads me to think the two of you are exactly where you should be – in each others hearts – even if things have become sporadic in each other’s arms.
You’ve entered a new phase in your relationship and it doesn’t place so much emphasis on sexual intimacy. That’s inevitable in most partnerships. But you’ve realized a fundamental more important than shared bodily fluids; shared mindset, likened goals and personal interests outside the bedroom. That makes you and your husband ‘genuine soul mates.’ Congrats’, Fran’. You’re one in a million!
The Crabby Critic
I don’t think you’re crabby at all. In fact, I think you’ve gone soft in the head. I used to like it when you slammed people for their behavior but lately all I get is some candy ass feel good from your column. What gives? Where’s the old ‘hell fire’ kind’a guy I used to look up to?
Dave in Doaktown New Brunswick
Dear Boondocks Fluff-Muffin:
First of all, I think it should be pointed out that I have never ‘slammed people for their behavior’ – only for behavior that, in my not so humble opinion I felt was unbecoming of the human animal at its most enlightened;
ergo – ‘bad’ behavior!
While it’s probably true that I’ve mellowed somewhat since I first started this column I have to say that listening in on other people’s problems has provided me with a new perspective on people in general. So permit me to enlighten you on the prospects of your fellow man and/or woman…at least, as I’ve come to see them.
People are just people. To be certain, there are psychopathic individuals among us – people who derive great strength and pleasure from other people’s pain, misfortune, suffering and mistakes. I suspect you’ve guess by now that I’m not one of these.
And, although I’ve no hard data to back up this claim, I suspect that most people who are currently suffering – either by their own hand or at someone else’s – are not psychopathic, but just generally very unhappy individuals. To those who fall into this latter category and who write in to this column I reserve the right to listen with an open mind and unbiased heart. After all, I’ve no personal stake in what happens to my readership.
Sure, I still come across the arrogant twitter-head or numb nut who thinks nothing of simultaneously impregnating three women with his demon seed, then wonders why I want to bash him in his badoobies with a baseball bat or recommend chemical castration.
However, such morons are few and far between. Most of the people who write to me are just looking for sincere advice. I’m not entirely certain why they’ve chosen me. Perhaps I’ll never understand it. However, if the question is legitimate I don’t see why my response to it should be anything but!
You’ve decided that I should hate the world or at least the people who write to me. That my desire in operating this column is as a sort of psychopathic figure who shouldn’t seek to diffuse the problem but amplify it – even blow it out of proportion so that others such as yourself can read on and laugh at someone’s expense.
Sorry, can’t do it!
How sad is it that you would prefer a critic who would urinate all over someone else’s misfortunes rather than try to provide them with a blueprint that might help fix their problems? Perhaps you should start your own blog…something petty along the lines of ‘if you haven’t anything nice to say, come sit next to me.’
Or simply continue to read me herein and feel as though I’ve let you down. Either way, you’ll never convince me that selfish arrogance and miserly condemnation are the great pacifiers to human suffrage.
The Crabby Critic
@The Crabby Critic 2008 (all rights reserved).