Questionable Advice: September 2020

My fiancé proposed last week, and we’re getting married in two years’ time. My family was ecstatic, but I’ve run into a small snag. My biological father is looking forward to walking me down the aisle, but I feel much closer to my stepfather, who raised me. How can I let my father down gently?

–Sasha

Always a tough one, but let’s face it, while biological dads matter because without them there would be no us, they don’t get a vote if they weren’t around for the diapers, all night vomits, tantrums, braces, and 3 AM ice hockey games at the local rink. They also don’t get a vote on aisle walking. You could have both fathers strolling up to the altar with you. (“Giving the bride away” isn’t done anymore because females aren’t traded off like bolts of calico, sides of pork, or sacks of seeds as they were way back.) You and two fathers can be cumbersome, especially if the altar area is small, but it’s an option if the two fathers can be cordial to one another. Or the bride could sashay down the aisle solo toward her intended, which is done a lot these days and is rather cool IMO. Does biological father have to be “let down gently”? Seriously? To whom do you owe this aisle honor? I know. You know. Give the job to step-dad who’s earned it, give bio dad a double boutonniere, a nice father/daughter dance, and let him be in 50 percent of the family photos, which is a really generous gesture because apparently he wasn’t with you for 50 percent of your growing-up.

I’m divorced, with three children. My husband and I share custody, but we aren’t on the best of terms. When the kids get back from a stay at my ex’s house, I’ve noticed they’re often short or even rude with me. I think my sour relationship with my ex-husband is hurting my relationship with my kids. Is there any way to repair this?

–Tiffany

Yeah, there is. First you tell your beloved progeny to knock it off. They do not get to be short with or rude to you. Ever. If they refuse to stop, steal their smart phones while they’re asleep. Nothing straightens up a kid quicker than to take his phone away and I mean really away, hidden where they can’t just call it on another phone and find it, like under the piles of their dirty clothes they shove in their closets. They get them back after a strong, convincing apology to you from them, a sworn promise they’ll never do it again, and a second sworn promise that they tell their father there will no longer be any negative tirades where your name is invoked. Your ex, by the way, is being a jerkazoid of the first order because everyone knows the granite-clad rule is that divorced spouses never, never, never bad-mouth each other.

My friend and I were on a long drive and played music to pass the time. Normally, we have a rule: whoever drives gets to choose the songs. We don’t share taste in music, but it’s usually fine because we take turns driving. This time, though, she refused to let me take a turn at the wheel, so I had to listen to her music for four straight hours! That doesn’t feel fair to me. What do you think?

–Wendy

You “had” to listen to her music? Why? If your “friend” (that’s a friend?) forces you to listen to her music because she won’t give up driving, then be prepared next time. Bring a huge supply of your favorite music, a good set of earphones, and a battery-driven gizmo to play them on. Zone out to your own tunes, making sure you do not “hear” her when she says it’s time to split lunch or the gas bills, or that she’s queasy and has to let you finally drive, or that she is hopelessly lost and forgot to install her new GPS. Your response? ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

I’m a recent graduate with a degree in history. My mother was introducing me to some new friends of hers, and she called my degree “underwater basket weaving,” like it’s useless. I feel so invalidated, like all my hard work for the past four years was for nothing. What can I do to show her how hurtful that is?

–Clair

You can’t “show” her. You have to tell her, loudly and clearly. One wonders why she would do such a thing to you, unless she maybe flunked out of 9th grade for never even being able to master stupid and could not manage to get back into any version of academia ever again. If that’s the case, then you get to pay for her underachievement issues. If however, you’ve requested she not do that and yet she continues to dismiss you with her nasty faux “joke” about your rather impressive creds when other people are around (so much more fun to injure/humiliate someone with a handy audience close by), you can sink to her level and advise her that her mothering skills suck. But don’t ever say that unless you first assemble your own audience. Let her be the injured one for a sweet change. Will she get it? Probably not. Find a new mother.

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