Is her writing a train wreck? Do your parents want to arrange your marriage? Is he always going to be a slob? Dear John to the rescue.
I am a woman in my mid-20s. I have been dating a guy for a year now, we’re very much in love, and shortly I will be traveling to the West Coast to introduce him to my parents. And I have every reason to believe they will loathe him.
My parents came to the U.S. shortly before they started a family and they are, by American standards, extremely old-fashioned, rigid, and closed-minded. In the culture from which they came, arranged marriages are very common. I think they decided to forgo this approach as a concession to the ways of their adopted country, but they have assumed—it’s more than an assumption; it’s inconceivable to them I would do anything else—that I would marry a man of my faith and cultural background. Another aspect of our culture is to defer unquestioningly to one’s parents in matters like this. It will be the very height of shame that I am marrying a man who is basically the opposite of whom I “should” marry, and they are powerless to persuade me to do otherwise. The fact that he is a loving, kind, loyal, thoughtful, and gentle partner and friend will mean nothing to them. I am not exaggerating in saying this may lead to a permanent, irreparable rift between us.
I cannot tell you how much I dread this trip. Any words of encouragement?
Daughter, For Now
In deciding how best to live your life, you’re doing exactly what you should be doing. Your parents are wrong, not because they want to preserve their culture, but because they are not respecting your decision about what’s best for you. They’re not respecting your autonomy, and they’re placing conditions on their love for you. This is simply unacceptable. Without getting into a discussion about the wisdom of the cultural insularity they desire, suffice it to say there are other ways to honor their heritage than by deciding whom you should marry.
I think you should give them an opportunity to rise to the occasion. Perhaps they’ll surprise you. A week or two before your trip, write to them and tell them about your boyfriend. This will give them time to grow used to the idea before your arrival. Then go and hope for the best, but don’t allow them to undermine your resolve. Don’t feel like you have to convince them or offer proof that your boyfriend is worthy. You don’t, and it wouldn’t accomplish anything anyway. Describe what it is you love about him and be done with it. Remind them you love them, too, but you’re an adult now and you are completely free to make these kinds of decisions for yourself.
They may well grow to accept your boyfriend in time, but there’s an excellent chance they will rebuff the two of you for a while. If so, they will probably come around eventually. This will undoubtedly be hard for them, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It’s their expectations that are wrong.
It’s difficult to stand up to domineering parents, but it isn’t as difficult in reality as it is when you imagine it right now. Fortunately, it sounds like you have a solid guy to support you in what may be a trying time.
I have a problem I’m kind of ashamed to admit I even have. I guess the easiest way to describe it is that I’m embarrassed by my wife. Even writing that makes me feel really bad, but there you have it.
Our social circle consists of brainy, witty, very verbal people. My wife has a lot of wonderful attributes and I absolutely adore her, but her writing is a total train wreck. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, you name it, it’s like she shook a lot of words and symbols together and poured them out on the page.
The funny thing is, she’s aware of how poor her writing is, and she just doesn’t care. Facebook, email threads, Internet forums, you name it—she weighs in on everything with reckless abandon.
I hate to think of people reading what she writes and rolling their eyes and making fun of her. I thought maybe we could take some kind of course together on writing basics, but she said she couldn’t bear the thought of spending precious time on something so boring. Any other ideas?
You should spend less time worrying about what other people think and more time exploring why you care so much.
So your wife is a bad writer. It sounds like she expresses herself with enthusiasm and has no trouble getting her point across. If she wanted to write for publication or to address a general readership, her lack of skill would be an impediment, but she’s writing emails to friends. Who cares?
I doubt any of them are rolling their eyes—your wife is hardly alone in having a fairly ramshackle style—but even if they were, again, who cares? Why are you so concerned with what people think about your wife’s writing ability? Do you, perhaps, think this is somehow a reflection on you?
Let this go. Stop trying to fix her. If she asks you to help her, that’s a different story, but unless she does, forget it. If you truly want to pursue this further, direct your attention inward and try to get a little insight as to why it bothers you so much.
I have a new boyfriend, nice guy, everything’s great. We’ve been seeing each other for a month or so and I was finally allowed into his apartment. All I could say was, “Wow.”
He warned me that he’s a slob, but this was beyond anything I expected. It was shocking, gross, maybe even a little bit disturbing. About the most positive thing I can say is that he doesn’t own any pets so there was no animal waste or carcasses. Beyond that, there was a little bit of everything.
He is a nice, responsible, successful young man in every way. We’re in our late 20s and he’s a new lawyer! But slob doesn’t begin to describe it.
What do you think? Is this a “phase” some men go through, or what? Our relationship is really new, but I like him a lot. Can I envision a future that doesn’t involve wading through drifts of newspapers, laundry (dirty and clean), and magazines, which, by the way, he sleeps atop?
Yes, you can. I know this first-hand. I don’t know if it’s a male thing (that’s a little disingenuous: I suspect it is), but the conditions you describe would not have been unfamiliar or particularly revolting to my younger, single self. It took the love of a good woman to make me realize, among other things, that dishes are best washed within hours of a meal, not days.
So yeah, a slovenly bachelor can indeed mature into a fastidious housekeeper, if he’s motivated to do so. What was your boyfriend’s attitude when he brought you into his home? Was he apologetic for the state it was in, or was he oblivious? That may reveal how receptive he will be to cleaning up his act a bit. I think a lot of guys would like to live in a neat environment, but without someone to provide a little gentle prodding, it’s just not a priority. (Then again, some guys, as well as some women, are just inveterate slobs.) This is something you should talk with him about.
Something else to consider is the fact that the conditions you describe can be a sign of a mental illness that makes it exceedingly difficult for people to part with things the rest of us throw away. I really don’t get the impression that describes your boyfriend, but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind as you discuss this with him. To me, he just sounds messy. His current living conditions by no means preclude a neater future, though.
What’s your problem? Write to John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—photo by JDHancock/Flickr