Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why Not Get Married?

Posted By on Sun, Jul 31, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Dear Jack,

My long time, long-time unemployed boyfriend has finally found a job – in Minneapolis. It’s a great job that actually pays him more than he used to make at his old job. He moved up there a couple of weeks ago and has found an apartment. I’ve notified our landlord that I’ll be moving out and have started packing.

I’m what you might call a country girl. I grew up in a little town up around Dyersburg, moved to Memphis after I graduated to go to college here, and have lived here ever since. Some of my family lives in Memphis, but most of them, including my parents, still live back home, where I grew up. We’re very close.

I’m also very close to my boyfriend. We’ve been living together since college. I hate to even call him my boyfriend because that sounds so junior high, but if I call him my partner people think the wrong thing. This job is a once in a lifetime opportunity for him. In my line of work, I can find a job almost anywhere, so this move is no real hardship for me, other than the pain of moving. To be honest, it is a little intimidating, but we’ll be making enough so that we can fly home two or three times a year.

Here’s my problem. My family is utterly opposed to it. My mom, especially, is about ready to lock me up. She thinks I’m making a huge mistake. She says this is where my home is, this is where my family is, and I’d be a fool to leave my family and run off to Minneapolis. It’s not my boyfriend. We’ve been together so long, he’s practically one of the family. I think my mom is just afraid of letting go, but she’s being completely unreasonable. How can I get her to understand? I’m leaving. I’ve already quit my job.

Bon Voyage

Dear Bonnie,

I may be completely off here, but all things being equal, I’d say the problem is your boyfriend. Allow me to say what I think your mother would say if she weren’t too polite to say it.

“It’s not that he’s your boyfriend, it’s that he’s not your husband. You’re moving halfway across the country to be with somebody who can’t even put a ring on your finger. He may be practically one of the family, but until he’s family in the eyes of the law and the Lord, he’s not family, especially if he’s going to take you away from us. He’s been on probation this whole time, with the hope that he’ll make an honest woman of you one day. Now that you’re following him off into the blue, he’s on the shit list. If he had any consideration for you at all, he’d at least have the decency to set a wedding date.”

Do I agree with this sentiment? Not entirely, though I might if you were my daughter.

Is there any way you can change her? Not a chance, not with words, anyway. All you can do is live your life the way you think is best and not screw it up. Don’t put yourself in a situation in which they have to pay for your sorry ass to come home and move into the spare bedroom. Success and the passage of time will lead to true acceptance.

However, I do have one more thing to say, and not in your mother’s voice. If you might as well be married, you might as well get married.

Got a problem? Let Jack Waggon set you straight: jack.wagg@gmail.com

Monday, July 25, 2011

Problems With an Aging — and Angry — Parent

Posted By on Mon, Jul 25, 2011 at 9:12 AM

Dear Jack,

I am the youngest of three kids. My mom died several years ago and my dad has been living on his own. As the only child still living in Memphis, it was up to me to keep tabs on him, but that was pretty easy. He stayed active, involved in his church, had many friends, walked every day at the gym, worked in his garden. He was happy.

Then he injured his back while cutting some tree limbs. Early into the physical therapy after the surgery, he blew out his knee and had to have a knee replacement. He’s been in an assisted living place ever since.

The other day I went to see him. He begged me to take him home. He said he couldn’t live there anymore, he wanted to go home and die. When I refused, he ordered me out. Then my brother calls me and asks me why I’m forcing Dad to live in a place where they mistreat him. My sister calls and asks if she is going to have to come back and take care of Dad since I clearly seem incapable of handling it.

I tried to explain to them that Dad can’t even get out of bed, and his doctor says he isn’t ready to come home. He has not recovered and is not recovering because he isn’t trying to recover. He won’t do the basic physical therapy that would get him back on his feet.

Of course they don’t believe me, I think because I am the youngest and have a history of being nearly useless. I’m not that kid anymore, but they can’t see it. I don’t know what Dad has told them about me and about the place where he’s living, but it’s pretty clear he’s trying to guilt them into coming back to Memphis to take care of him. The things he has said to me have been hateful. He used to not be this way. He used to be a man I admired, but now he has turned into this shrieking creature who won’t even let me visit unless I promise to take him home. What can I do?

Unfortunate Son

Dear Whipping Boy,

Pain changes people. Your father is probably scared to death by what he has gone through and his inability to easily bounce back from injury, maybe for the first time in his life. He feels helpless, so he lashes out. Your brother and sister feel helpless to help him, so they lash out. All these blows land on you. You must bear them.

You’re going to have to be the grownup in the family now. Are you over the age of eighteen? Then he can’t order you from his room. Step number one to resolving this situation is to stop letting your dad and your older siblings push you around.

You have to be strong for your father. Do you have kids? Right now, your Dad is your child. He’s your responsibility and you have to be the one who makes him do what is good for him, no matter how much he whines or cries or complains. You can help ease his acceptance of your dominance (to be perfectly blunt) by making sure the grass gets cut and the garden weeded. The next time your sister calls, tell her, fine, come on home – the yard needs mowing.

At the same time, you can’t treat your dad like a child, because that’s what he wants. He’s hurting and he wants someone to make it go away. That’s why he wants to go home, to the place where he’s always felt safe and in control. He’s not in control in the hospital. He’s scared, and he’ll do whatever it takes to escape. The lashing out is not personal. He’s just human.

Finally, he needs a good talking to, almost an intervention. I’d try to get the help of one or two of his friends, maybe his pastor or priest, and his doctor and nurses. This intervention absolutely must be led by you – the friends, doctors, and priests are there for backup. Let it be known that he can go home when his doctor says he is ready, and not one day sooner. That means weeks of painful physical therapy, but his doctor can help him manage the pain. If he does the work, he’ll get to go home, but if he doesn’t, if he stays in that bed, he may never get out of it.

With physical therapy, he will start to regain control of his body and his situation. He’ll feel strong again, master of his own destiny. He’ll have something to work toward, a goal to motivate him. This will restore his confidence and ease his fears. In time, you’ll see him transform back into the man you used to know.

Got a problem? Jack Waggon will set you straight: jack.wagg@gmail.com

Monday, July 11, 2011

Should He Take His Old Job Back?

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 8:57 AM

Dear Jack,

About seven weeks ago, I lost my job of sixteen years. Sixteen years of dedication and loyalty and service and support. Sixteen years of doing the right thing without having to be told to, working late hours while my family sat at home waiting for me, and always going the extra mile for the company. Gone. Worthless in today’s economy. I’ve never felt more betrayed.

I’ve been unemployed ever since. It’s been so long since I looked for a job, I almost didn’t even know how. It’s a different world out there now. I haven’t had much luck, to say the least.

Then a few days ago I finally got a call – from my old boss. A position has opened up and they immediately thought of me. I would be perfect for it because it’s almost exactly like what I was doing before. Could I come in for an interview?

I still have friends working at this company and this is what they told me – I’m not the first person to be offered their old job back. The company has a policy where if you leave and come back within six weeks, you get to keep your seniority and vacation accrual. Which is why they wait seven weeks to rehire people into their previous jobs – starting all over at new hire pay, 90-day probationary period before any benefits start, two weeks of vacation after the first year. Also, I’ll be doing my old job plus the job of someone who isn’t going to be hired back.

Having been betrayed and cast aside by this company, and then offered my old job back at less pay with fewer benefits, I am reluctant to return. But I badly need a job, not just for the money but also the health insurance. There just isn’t anything else out there for me. Should I wait, or go back?

Torn in Two

Dear Mr. Twain,

As someone famous once said, “I feel your pain.” I thought of him when I read your letter because, no matter what you think of his presidency, he did preside over a fantastic economy. Between 1994 and 2001, the longest I was ever out of work was two days. One time I found a job while driving home from the bastards who had just fired me. The proverbial pink slip was still in my pocket.

Like you say, it’s a different world out there today. One of the biggest differences is the number of places that will not consider you for a job if you are unemployed. It’s an automatic no call back.

So yes, you need to take that job if you hope to find a different one. You’re going to have to swallow your pride and bend over. But don’t let them welcome you home and suck you back into your old habits of company loyalty and dedication. Just do your job, punch that clock, and go home. You owe them nothing.

Meanwhile, renew your job search. As an employed person, you will be considered employable. Don’t get lazy or complacent. Don’t worry about leaving unfinished work on your desk as you take a long lunch to go to an interview. Keep hacking away at it until you find a better position. The bastards have done you the favor of making you a new hire, so becoming a new hire somewhere else won’t stop you from leaving.

Got a problem? Jack Waggon will set you straight: jack.wagg@gmail.com

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What Goes Around ...

Posted on Thu, Jul 7, 2011 at 8:40 AM

Dear Jack,

I recently found out that my longtime boyfriend has been cheating on me. I won’t go into the details of how I found out, because it’s rather pathetic. I know he’s not in love with her without even having to ask. She’s the proverbial low-hanging fruit that only a saint or a eunuch could pass up. I was, however, surprised how well I took it. Though I was angry, after about three days my anger just seemed to pass, leaving me shrugging.

Being somewhat attractive, I have never had a shortage of men expressing interest in me. Lately I have considered whether I should see what life has to offer. However, I have no interest at all in trying to do this on the sly. I’m not a very good liar and I hate the thought of sneaking around. I’ve been thinking about proposing an open relationship with my boyfriend. He can date who he likes, while I date who I like.

I still love him dearly, but if he’s going to raid the neighbor’s orchard, there’s no reason why I can’t take a walk through the vegetable patch. Right?

Signed,

Hungry for Something Different

Dear Hungry,

I had a similar arrangement with one of my wives – I don’t remember which. One day I caught her taking flute lessons from a man who wasn’t a flutist. When I dared to protest, she proceeded to explain that what was good for the gander was good enough for the goose.

She had known all along about my marital infidelities and had thus engaged in a series of her own, but I was so self-absorbed and, frankly, clueless, I didn’t notice. If not for a power outage at work, I would never have found out what she was up to.

We agreed to give the swinger lifestyle a try, dating whomever we wanted, as long as we always put each other first – no bailing out on nights or weekends together to be with someone else. It worked wonderfully, until one day she said she wanted to go back to a monogamous marriage – only not with me.

If you want my advice, and obviously you do, I’d skip the open relationship. Nothing easy is worth doing. When you make the initial offer of an open relationship, he’s going to say yes. Hell yes, in fact, followed by a fist pump. Then he’s going to tell his friends. Then his friends are going to call you up, and everything will proceed to fall apart.

Be an honest sneak, or just leave him and find someone new. How many times a day do you have to remind yourself that you still love him? Maybe it’s time to move on.

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