Short Answers

By Jeff Johnson and Paula Forman


Dear Short Answers:
My mother claims to have fallen in love with an elderly gentleman (they are both in the 70s) who she met socially at a party. Both of them lost their spouses within the last year and both seem genuinely happy to be together. Even though they’ve only known each other for about three months, they are planning to get married! I got a little suspicious and investigated this guy and it turns out he has NEVER worked, NEVER had a job and NEVER earned a dime in his life. He has lived off two women (his first and second wives) and now, it seems, he is planning to live off a third (my mother is pretty well off). I’ve tried to talk her into not getting married but only “living together” but she says that she’s much too old-fashioned for that. How do I stop her from making a big and permanent mistake?
Dubious Daughter

Dear DD:
People in their 70s can match, mate, and marry on whatever terms seem appropriate to them. In our experience, adult children tend to be suspicious of these liaisons and often non-supportive. You may be right that he is a serial gold digger but he obviously has other redeeming characteristics. You might suggest a prenuptial agreement which is not unusual in these circumstances. Your mom is then free to enjoy her new husband and pay for all the trips, gifts and lifestyle enhancements she desires — but she maintains the control. If she agrees, and even if she doesn’t, you have done all you can do. Try to celebrate her happiness.


Dear Short Answers:
My husband has started to take this whole environmental consciousness thing too far. He refuses to use plastic wrap. He saves every scrap of aluminum foil and reuses it dozens of times (until I throw it out because it’s gotten go gross). He flushes the toilet ONCE A DAY (it’s disgusting). He shuts off every light in the house except one — but I still feel like I’m sitting in the dark. I don’t want to discourage his good intentions — but enough is enough!!!
Help Me

Dear Help:
These decisions can’t be unilateral – on either side. Sit down and have a respectful negotiation.


Dear Short Answers:
I have a neighbor who is way too encroaching. He stops by all the time and now he says he’d like to start going to the gym with me. I want to be on good terms, but I’m not interested in this. I’d also like more privacy whenever I’m outside just going to and from my car. This is a tricky situation. How do I avoid causing a problem?
Not that Social

Dear Not:
Tell your neighbor in the nicest possible way that you would like a bit more “space.” Explain that it isn’t personal but you are not the buddy type. When in transit, wave and keep walking.


Dear Short Answers:
How do I know if I am poor mother? Someone sarcastically told me I was running for “Mother of the Year.”

Dear Discouraged:
Do the best you can, like all the rest of us. Tell your sarcastic friend to stuff it.

Life is complicated.  “Short Answers” isn’t.

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