I am an instructor at a local fitness center. I've been working here for several years. Our company is owned by a couple who live several states away. They come to town three or four times a year to see how things are going. About a week ago, the female member of this couple -- I'll call her Jane -- arrived for the quarterly visit, this time without her husband. As usual, the local manager and select members of staff got together that evening for dinner and drinks, which migrated to a club where Jane and I did quite a bit of dancing. As the evening turned to morning, we ended up in a taxi together headed back to her hotel.
Things would have gone further had she not passed out in my lap. I helped Jane to her room and left her on the bed and went home. The next day, she stopped by the center and pulled me aside, but not to apologize or ask me not to talk about what happened, as I was expecting. Instead she told me she was thinking about moving to Memphis.
She's convinced we had sex. In fact, she's convinced it was wonderful. How do you tell the person who signs your paycheck that you did not, in fact, have sex with her? How do tell her you don't want her to move to Memphis so you can move in with her, no matter how much it could potentially improve your career? Don't get me wrong. She's a fantastic lady, a few years older than me but she takes great care of herself. Thing is, I'm already in a relationship, and to be honest I'm just not that into Jane. I had fun dancing with her and maybe would have enjoyed a friendly roll in the hay, but I certainly don't want to be Mr. Jane. Neither do I want to be Mr. Unemployed.
Strangely enough, a similar thing happened to me once a time. There was this hot babe from work I had always wanted to go out with, but because of my job situation I didn't think it would ever happen. One afternoon at a company party my chance finally arrived, completely unlooked-for. Things were getting hot and heavy when she threw up in the floor of my car, then passed out in my lap.
Of course, we were drunk off beer we'd stolen from her dad's company picnic, she was my boss' daughter, and we were both sixteen. How old are you again? Seriously, haven't you learned by now that you don't get nasty with the boss? Or the boss' wife, daughter, cousin, sister, mother, brother, father, son, or husband? When that inevitable moment comes when you gaze into each other's eyes across the distance of your noses, you should politely but firmly peel yourself loose and seek safety in the company of others. Run, Forrest, run.
My advice to you is to lay low. Practice corporate invisibility. Next time the boss is coming to town, take the week off. Pray she forgets about you. My guess is she will. Jane probably has a guy like you in every town where they own a business. That bit about moving to Memphis was probably just her way of gauging your interest in becoming her regular port of call. But if she seeks you out, if she goes all Glenn Close and kills your bunny, then CYA. Get everything on tape.
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My husband and I like different types of music. He’s a jazz and blues guy, while I like jazz, rock, classical, metal, just about anything. We used to always have music on in the house, a mix of whatever we felt like. However, lately he’s been getting heavy into jazz. He listens to it all the time. He’s also somewhat musically gifted on the piano, and he’s been spending a lot of time learning to play the jazz he loves. But that’s not my problem.
My problem is he won’t let me listen to my music. If he’s home, it’s got to be jazz or nothing. If I try to listen to something different, he complains that he has a headache or can’t concentrate (or whatever) until I turn it off, then a few minutes later he’s playing his jazz.
It gets worse. Now if I’m listening to my music on my headphones while he’s listening to something else, he sulks. He tells me I need to stop listening to that crap, whatever it is. He wants me to listen to his music, wants to talk about his music, and if I’m not interested he gets all pissy about it. If he isn’t losing his mind, I know I am. However, I hate confrontation. All my girlfriends say I need to stand up for myself. That’s fine for them to say, but they don’t have to live with him. What do you think I should do?
Some guys have a mid-life crisis, go out and buy a sports car and trade in the wife. Some guys develop weird obsessions with things that used to be hobbies. Maybe he’s yearning for the life of the jazz musician he felt he missed out on. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. My guess is, he doesn’t know himself.
You should do what sensible women have been doing since the cave man era -- learn to ignore his tantrums. Men are like children. As long as you give his freaky little obsessions the attention he craves, he’s going to keep bothering you with them.
If he gets mad at you for listening to different music, let him be mad. He’ll get over it. The only reason he hasn’t got over it already is because you keep trying to make peace. Listen to your girlfriends and stand up for yourself. I’m not saying you need to confront him. You just need to nod your head, put on your headphones and go back to your tunes. He’ll be mad for a while and stomp around the house. But the next time, he won’t get as mad about it and pretty soon it’s not even an issue anymore. Not because he’s not mad about it, but because he will have changed again. Either the jazz will no longer consume him, or he’ll have realized what a stupid, selfish twit he was being. Time is your friend.
Alas, those years when you used to share music are probably gone. Be happy that’s all it is. We have to choose our battles. Some people would end a marriage over such matters, but you don’t have to let it go that far.
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The other day I got into an altercation with a guy in a parking lot. It was stupid, but it was also really scary because he was so much bigger than me. I got through it ok because somebody called the cops and they showed up before anything could happen.
Now I'm scared. I know people who have been robbed. A friend of mine surprised some burglars. A guy I work with had a home invasion. This dude in the parking lot was completely nuts, working himself up to something violent. If he had really come after me, he would have squashed me like a bug.
I don't like guns, so I was thinking about taking martial arts – Krav Maga or Aikido or MMA - something like that. What do you think is the best system for self-defense?
A long time ago in a lifetime far far away, I was a young man driving home late one night from a visit with a lady friend. There was a car behind me as I pulled onto my street. It looked a lot like one of my friend's cars, so when it followed me into the driveway I didn't think anything about it. I got out of my car and walked up to the gate to pet my dog – the sweetest, biggest, goofiest Alaskan Malemute you ever saw. His name was Doofus.
Looking back, I saw two guys I had never seen before getting out of this car. As they walked toward me, Doofus hit the gate so hard it almost came off its hinges. These two gentlemen quietly got back in their car and drove away.
I've trained in the martial arts, but I doubt I could have held off two determined attackers. If they had had guns, no level of martial arts training and no dog no matter how big could have stopped them. If I had had a gun, one or more of us probably would have ended up shot or dead.
It takes years of martial arts training to reach a level where your natural reaction to an attack allows you to defeat your opponent. If you have to think about what to do, you've already lost. A seminar or even a few months of study won't get it done. If you don't practice those reactions on an almost daily basis, your skills will fade.
What you should do is live your life. If learning a martial art allows you to live without fear, then go for it, but don't expect to learn to defend yourself. Train for personal improvement. The best martial art system is the one that works best for you. Most schools have trial periods, so try them until you find one that fits. When you find one, stick with it. The confidence you gain will probably remove that Victim sign from your back, reducing your chances of being attacked in the first place.
Or you could buy a dog, but if you do, buy a dog for a companion, not protection. It's his bark, not his bite, that keeps the bad guys away.
The thing is, you can't prepare for everything life throws your way. You’ve gone your whole life and this is the first time you've ever been in a tense situation, yet now you're scared. Chances are you will never be in this situation again. Chances are the next situation will be completely different. You can't change your fate. You can only change who you are.
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"Ryan" and I started dating several months ago. Recently, his roommate had to transfer out of town for his job, so rather than look for a new roommate, we decided Ryan should move into my apartment. He's a great guy and we have a great time together, but he does one thing that drives me nuts.
It always happens when he's occupied with something else, like doing his laundry or cooking or whatever. That's why I didn't know about it before he moved in. He doesn't hum a recognizable song. I think I could live with that. Mostly it's just a few notes, bits and pieces of whatever song is playing in his head. I've talked to him about it and he says he doesn't know he's doing it. He says his old roommate never mentioned it.
It's like its part of his breathing. Every exhale comes out as a piece of a song. He's not a musician or anything, and he does it whether he's listening to music or not. He even does it when he's falling asleep. At least he doesn't do it in his sleep.
It doesn't sound like a big problem but it's really driving me nuts. Try living with this day in and day out and you'd see what I mean. I'm about ready to call it quits and ask him to move out. Do you think I should?
I have a bum knee that sometimes clicks when I walk. On really cold days, it can be quite loud. People have accused me of snapping my fingers and asked me to stop. I try to explain that it's not my fingers, it's my knee, but it's the sort of thing you can do on command, like trying to make a chair produce that rude noise it made last time you moved it. My knee is the singing frog that refuses to perform on cue. Very annoying.
Women have left me for any number of good reasons, but my knee wasn't one of them. However, I can well understand your frustration. I used to have a dog that would sit on the floor beside my bed and lick himself once the lights were out. I couldn't go to sleep until he stopped. It drove me bonkers. But I didn't get rid of him.
Sounds to me like you've already made up your mind and are just looking for an excuse to get rid of Ryan. The two of you didn't move in together because you were in love. He needed a place to flop and you had the room. You had fun when you were dating, but now that you know him better, his habitual humming makes you want to stab yourself in the ear.
Be thankful you didn't find this out until after you got married. Part as friends and go your merry way. In the future, make sure all flops are understood to be temporary and reviewable after 90 days.
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Occasionally, I receive letters from lovely young people seeking guidance on their future life choices. As a successful father, more or less, to a number of children of my own (more than a six-pack, less than a case), I try to help them out as best I can. -- JW
I'm about to graduate from high school and was thinking about going into medicine. My dad says once Obamacare goes into effect, doctors will be paid less than teachers. Do you think doctor will still be a good career choice by the time I graduate?
-- Looking Ahead
Medicine was one of my career choices. After spending seven years obtaining my bachelor's degree in the liberal arts, I decided to apply for medical school. I sorted through the pile of polite but firm responses, selected the only positive one, and shipped off to a wonderful little Caribbean island coincidentally named after a local fishing Mecca.
My studies were going well until one day the US Marines kicked in the door and ruined any hope I had of an eventual career in the medical arts. You see, our president at the time had recently pulled a Vietnam in Lebanon and needed a little state-sponsored violence to redeem his Commander-in-Chief bonafides. I happened to be entertaining a group of visitors from a neighboring Caribbean island. They were spending a few months at my place doing research. I had decided to do my thesis on the effects of prolonged exposure to tobacco, rum, plastic poker chips, and women. I had received a grant to conduct my research, along with a number of test subjects who, it turned out, were somehow involved with the military and political operations of that neighboring island government.
Tell your dad to stop watching Fox News. No one other than my dear sainted mother can predict the future. She always pointed me toward the recession-proof professions -- doctor, lawyer, mortician. You can't go wrong with one of those. No matter what the economy is like, there will always be a demand for someone to fix my ticker, post my bail, and bury my worthless in-laws.
If you do become a doctor, please don't schedule eight patients for the same time. Believe it or not, some people have a problem with that.
I'm in love with my physics teacher. She's really hot, plus she's only like six years older than me. Do you think we could have a future together? Should I tell her how I feel?
I'm an out gay male in a stable relationship with another out guy, who I'll call Dave. We've been together nine months. Dave comes from a big family (three sisters, one brother) who are accepting and loving. I've been in relationships where I had to pretend to be a roommate. This is so much better, so much more liberating. I can actually enjoy being with Dave's family. My family is a different story. My father has never accepted the way I am. I hate going home, and I can't take Dave with me on those rare occasions when I do go home.
The other day, his brother texted me. I'll call him Todd. Todd asked me to come over because he had a surprise. Dave's birthday was coming up, so I thought it had something to do with that. It didn't.
Todd and I ended up having sex. He's in his early twenties and way hot, but I never thought he was anything but totally straight. He's got a girlfriend and he's always flirting with girls. I never got a vibe from him at all until his hands were all over me. Then I couldn't stop myself.
Now I feel horrible. I'm so ashamed. Todd is fine with it (he says he's been bi for years), but I've got this crushing guilt. I can't think straight. It's depressing the hell out of me. Dave has noticed, of course, and he wants to know what's wrong. I've got to confess, but I know it will ruin everything when I do.
Tearing My Hair Out
Boy, you really put your foot in it. Not only did you cheat, you cheated with your lover's younger brother. That's just low. Well, we're all human. Some of us are more human than others, but everybody makes mistakes. Some mistakes are honest mistakes and some are stupid mistakes. You made an honest mistake.
So don't make it worse by making a stupid mistake. You want to confess to make yourself feel better. In my opinion, that's more selfish and inconsiderate than screwing Dave's little brother. Not only will confession destroy your relationship with Dave, you destroy his relationship with his brother, and quite possibly ruin the entire family. You should have kept it in your pants in the first place. Now you want to take it out and wave it around for everybody to see.
Don't. Just don't.
This is something you've got to learn to live with. This is something you have to take to your grave. You're miserable now, but that feeling will pass in time and eventually you'll get over it. If guilt is still consuming you a month from today, then go talk to a priest. Meanwhile, steer clear of Todd.
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Me and my old lady moved in together about a year ago, a nice little two-bedroom in midtown. She's from Maryland and has a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Lady. I have an English bull terrier named Henry, so we split the pet deposit. We both love dogs, so everything was cool.
Then she brings home another Chessie, as they call these dogs, named Sprocket. He'd been rescued from the pound and she'd taken him in because she's a member of one of these rescue organizations dedicated to a single breed. Sprocket's gone now, because she found a home for him, but now we have three more Chessies.
These are four big, energetic, overgrown puppies in our little bitty apartment. They're tearing the place to pieces and freaking my dog out. Henry shakes all the time now because he's scared one of them horses is about to jump on him again. Every time she finds somebody to adopt one of these dogs, something always falls through. They don't have enough room or they work all the time or something. Her problem is, she don't want to give them up. When she gave up Sprocket, it almost killed her. She didn't go to work for a week.
Yesterday she called me and said she's bringing home another one. I lost my cool and went off on her over the phone. She said some stuff to me, too. We're ok now, but I still feel bad. I love her dogs. They're just too many of them and she won't get rid of any. Honest to God, I'm about to the point where I change the locks while she's taking her dogs for a walk.
In the Dog House
I'm a cat man, myself. Dogs are like children – nice to visit and play with, as long as you can go home when you've got them bouncing off the walls. Better to be an uncle than a daddy, if you know what I mean. I prefer both my human and animal companions to be fully capable of taking care of their own business. But I had dogs when I was a kid, so I'm not a cat snob. They just fit my lifestyle.
By my count you now have six medium-to-large size dogs living in your two-bedroom apartment. My guess is you're already in violation of your lease. If you don't do something, somebody else is going to change the locks while you're out for a walk. Either that or they're going to hit you with a pet fee that's going to price you right out of the place.
Your old lady sounds like her heart's in the right place. She just needs to get her head on straight. Talk some sense to her. Don't get mad about it, just lay out the facts. Sooner or later your landlord is going to get wind of your situation and boot your asses out. Y'all either need to get rid of some dogs or find a bigger place. Like, out in Marshall County somewhere.
In any case, if she can't give up her foster dogs, she needs to stop fostering dogs. She's living a lie. Tell her I said so.
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My husband and I have been together for six years, four of them married. I have a son who is 11, my husband has two daughters, one in college and the other one college age but living at home and working. I always thought we were happily married until last Saturday.
I was folding laundry when I came across a pair of panties that didn't belong to me. They don't match anything in my stepdaughter's dresser, either. They might belong to the stepdaughter who is at college, but as I do most of her laundry when she is home, I don't think they belong to her, either. I've already eliminated every possible reasonable explanation (no overnight female visitors, no switching of clothes at the beach, etc.).
I really don't know what to do. I haven't spoken to anyone about this. If there is a reasonable explanation, I will look like a jealous, suspicious shrew. If there isn't a reasonable explanation, our home is wrecked, our marriage ruined. I hate to be this way, but I am the woman he cheated with during his previous marriage. My mother tried to warn me — once a cheater, always a cheater. — Panties in a Wad
An almost identical event nearly ruined my third marriage. It turned out that my daughter had been babysitting and, in the process of snooping around her employer's house, had taken a fancy to some Victoria Secrets and 'borrowed' them. They got mixed in with her stepmother's laundry (the woman didn't know how to sort), and subsequently found during the folding process. It was impossible for me to explain to her in a way that she would believe that the panties didn't come off anyone I knew.
Eventually, my daughter admitted to the theft and saved our marriage (albeit temporarily), but not before the damage of trust had been done. Her suspicions aroused, my wife eventually realized that I was telling the truth when she discovered that my girlfriend didn't wear panties. Until that moment, she thought I had bribed my daughter to take the blame. I wish I had thought of that.
You may think you have eliminated every possible reasonable explanation, but I assure you that you haven't. There are any number of possibilities, some of them good, some not so good. For example, have you considered that your husband may be a crossdresser? It could be that they belong to one of your stepdaughters, and the reason you have never seen them until now is that she's been hiding them from you. Let's hope they don't belong to your son. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The only way you will ever know is to ask, but there are ways of asking that won't generate the confrontation you fear. You might ask your stepdaughter to fold some laundry and let her discover them. If they disappear, you'll know they belong to her. If she brings them to you, you'll know she is innocent. She might even ask the other daughter about them and save you the trouble. Your husband will eventually be drawn into the discussion, and it will all come about without you looking like the bad guy.
I hope it ends well for you, but chances are, your fears are well-founded. Thankfully for men, women don't often listen to their mothers.
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My boyfriend is a professional photographer. His work is just amazing and is the reason I originally fell in love with him. We met at a gallery showing of his work and he asked me to model for him. I know, it sounds like a come-on, but honestly, I really did model for him (non-nude) for about a year before we went on our first date. Now we're living together and things are really, truly wonderful, in every way, including the bedroom.
Or, they were. Since the economy went to hell, he's been having a hard time finding work. He's even done a few weddings just to make ends meet. You have no idea how soul-crushing that can be for an artist like him. But he did the work, and I'm proud of him, plus the pay was good.
That's not my problem. Or maybe it is. Because of lack of work, he's been spending a lot of time at home. I have a regular 8-5 job. The other day, they closed the office early because of the snow, and when I got home, he was asleep on the couch. His laptop was open, so I sat down to check my Facebook and found his Photoshop program open with a picture of a nude guy. There were lots of pictures of this nude guy, and as I found out, lots of pictures of lots of different nude guys. They're really cute and Oh My Lord, but that's totally beside the point.
My boyfriend says that he has been shooting soft porn on the side. He says didn't want to tell me about it because he's embarrassed. But I can't help thinking if that's what he's really doing, he should have some pictures of naked women, too. Honestly, it wouldn't bother me at all if that was what he was really doing, but I don't know when he's been going on these shoots. He's always home when I call. And if he's been making extra money, I haven't seen any of it.
I'm afraid my boyfriend is gay and downloading gay porn. I don't know what to do.
—Heartbroke in Hickory Hill
Be at ease in your heart. I don't think your boyfriend is gay. He probably just has latent bisexual feelings that he's been exploring in his abundance of boredom and free time. Chances are, he will never act on them. But he may. That's a risk we all take, no matter who we're with – straight, gay, or bi. By making it unsafe for him to look at pictures of nude men at home, you might force him out of the house and into the very thing you most want to avoid.
I'm going to offer something a little radical here. First of all, does his attraction to the male nude form make you uncomfortable? If this is something you can live with (provided he doesn't act on it), maybe you should invite him to share his fantasies with you, instead of hiding them. You said the photos were hot. Maybe the two of you could get off together. Crazy, I know.
And maybe, just maybe, with your blessing he could actually do some male model photography and start earning money. Idle hands, as they say, will find something to play with.
I am having an affair with my neighbor. She is 20 years younger than me and is also married. We are desperately in love and have decided to blow up our lives and be together. I know it sounds like I am "that guy" but it's not like that. I've never felt this happy in my whole life, now that we have decided to do this. She is amazing on every level.
My problem is that my wife is a good person and will be devastated when I tell her. Is there a good way to handle this? My mind is made up.
-- Living the Dream
An acquaintance of mine, who I'll call Mack, was in your boat a while back. Married to the same woman for 25 years, he met a much younger woman and decided to chuck it all – wife, kids, house, even his job – so he could be with her. He said he had found his soulmate. I thought he just found someone who blew his mind in a way he'd never been blown before, if you know what I mean. In honor of the place they met, we'll call her by her World of Warcraft name - Tonguestud.
Desperately in love, Mack leaves his wife, apologizes to the kids, and moves three states away. A year later he sends me some pictures - of his wedding, Mack and Tonguestud on the beach on their honeymoon, etc. This was the first time I'd ever seen a picture of Tonguestud. When Mack told me he was running off with a 24-year-old woman, I figured he was trading up for a newer and sportier model. Middle aged guy grabs the trophy wife, that sort of thing. Boy, was I wrong. She looked like Shrek on steroids, at least a foot taller than Mack and shading him a good hundred pounds. It still pains me to think of it.
The thing is, Mack really had found his soulmate. I never believed him until that moment.
Is there a good way to handle this? Tell her you've found your soulmate and her lawyer will only smile and whet his knives, knowing you will do anything and give up everything to get out of your marriage to the old ball and chain.
The answer is – no, there's no good way to sugarcoat your betrayal. If it's really over, don't try to spare her feelings by being anything less than completely honest, because all you will do is create doubt about your commitment to your decision. Don't hang around forever. Don't try to soften the blow by letting her talk you into counseling. It won't soften the blow. It will only drag out the inevitable.
At the same time, don't be a dick. Don't just up and leave. Don't send her a text or an email. Be a man and face her. Quietly suffer everything she throws at you, because you deserve it. When she's taken out her fury and the ice cold hate starts to settle in her heart, then you can pick up your suitcase and make yourself scarce.
You say you are desperately in love. If I may offer a small piece of advice – never do anything permanent out of desperation. Divorce lawyers buy their trophy wives with the money of desperate men.
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My boyfriend and I have been together for three years. I have a five-year-old son from a previous relationship. My boyfriend recently started going to church and now he wants me and my son to go with him, even though he knows I'm not a religious person. I'm not exactly an atheist. I just don't know, and really, I don't care to know. It's not that important to me.
I've told my boyfriend how I feel about this. I liked our old Sunday mornings together, sitting around the house in our pajamas, but I didn't get upset when he started going to church. He's disappointed that I won't go to church with him, but he still wants to take my son. He thinks it's important that my son receive a sound moral base on which to build his life. As if he needs a church for that.
My boyfriend is really good with my son. I totally trust them together. I'm just not sure about sending him off to church. I mean, what's the point? And what if he comes back one of these little brainwashed zombie Jesus kids you see on Youtube?
--Having Zombie Nightmares
If my sainted mother were here, God rest her soul, she would say, "He wants the boy to have a sound moral base? Then tell the fornicating SOB to marry the boy's mother instead of living in sin for three years!"
You don't sound like you feel strongly one way or another about religion. You're just a little nervous about letting go of your son.
In my opinion, a five-year-old has no concept of church and isn't going to obtain any kind of moral base, zombified or otherwise, on which to build his life by squatting behind a high church pew scribbling pictures of dinosaurs on the back of donation envelopes. Unless the church in question has an advanced zombification program (and some do), your son should be safe from their clutches until the age of eight or nine, at which point you can revisit this issue.
If, at that point, your boyfriend is still your boyfriend, I suggest listening to my mother's advice, to be sure.
Bottom line - you're the boy's mother. If you don't want him in church, don't let your boyfriend take him. A kid's moral base is built upon the daily living example of his parent or parents, not the sermons that put his parents to sleep once a week.
But if it were me, I'd seize the opportunity to have an hour or two alone on Sunday morning. This could be a blessing.
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I'm a senior in high school. My girlfriend, who is also a senior, goes to the same school. We've been together for almost a year now and we really love each other. We've even talked about getting married some day.
This year, my uncle gave me and my mom a wonderful Christmas present — a two-week trip with him to France and Switzerland. This will be my senior trip after I graduate this May. This is like a dream come true for both of us. Mom always said, if she ever won the lottery, we'd go to France. That seemed like the only way we'd ever get there. She is so excited, she can't stand it.
My girlfriend isn't so excited. See, before this happened, we were planning to go on our senior trip together to Florida. We've been working and saving up for it. My girlfriend says that if I go to Europe, she will go to Florida with someone else. I'm pretty sure she means another guy, and believe me when I say she would have no trouble finding one. Although this is a trip of a lifetime, I would give it up for her, except for one thing: I'm planning to go to college in California. She's set on attending the University of Memphis. If I get an offer from USC, as I hope and believe will happen, is she going to threaten to break up with me if I leave Memphis to go to school?
I don't want to give up my trip or my dream of USC, but I don't want to lose her, either.
-- Lost and In Love
Do I even have to answer this question? Of course, she's going to leave you if you go to USC. You are in love with a manipulator, and I seriously doubt she is in love with you. She's in love with controlling you. Five-to-one you never know if you're going to see her until right before you see her. How many weekends has she left you hanging while she tried to make up her mind who will be more fun — you or her friends?
Take the trip. While you're there, meet new people. Fall in love. Expand your horizons. Learn something new. You'll come back older and wiser than just two weeks, and that probably scares her to death. She won't be able to control you anymore. When you come home, she'll either be there or she won't. If she's still there, enjoy your summer together, then go to USC and meet someone new. Don't let anyone hold you back. There's a million girls out there.
If you give up your trip, if you stay home for this girl, if you end up marrying her, you're going to be divorced in five years. Guaran-damn-teed. Either she will leave you for someone more exciting, or you'll get fed up with her games. At the end of those five years, you'll have nothing but heartbreak and regret, and maybe even the crushing financial burden of child support payments. If you go on this trip, and if you go on to USC, five years from now you'll have a degree and your whole life ahead of you.
And when you're my age, you can hook back up with her on Facebook, or whatever they have by then, and thank your lucky stars (and your uncle, and maybe even old Jack here) that you got out while you still could. Trust me. Now go have fun. I wish I were you. Got a problem? Jack Waggon will set you straight: email@example.com
I've known you for many years and I'm hoping my daughter will see this, recognize herself, and do something about her life. She hasn't worked in two years, her worthless husband hasn't had a job in over three years. Neither one of them is even trying to find work, nor do they have any marketable skills thanks to their decision to quit school and have babies. I've offered to hire them both to work at my business, but neither one of them even want to work. They'd rather live off unemployment and food stamps while mooching off my wife, who gives them money behind my back.
I know how hard it can be for young people, but to be perfectly honest, it isn't that frigging hard. I managed to make something of my life without a college education, and you have to admit I'm a pretty successful guy. There are places to work for those willing to knuckle down and to what it takes. I've told them both that if they want to keep receiving help from us, they are going to at least have to try to find a job, somewhere, anywhere, but it's killing me inside to cut them off because then what will happen to my grandchildren? I don't want to take custody of them because I've already raised my children. What can I do?
— At My Wit's End
This is going to piss you off, but here goes. You have zero idea what it's really like in the world. You see yourself as some kind of bootstrapping hero of capitalism, a self-made man who lifted himself up from nothing to become the successful businessman you are today. Don't get me wrong. You've done well. But the man you think you are is really your father.
You've only ever had one job in your life, when you went to work for your old man straight out of high school. He'd built a modestly successful business and you worked like a slave for him, but you did it knowing you were going to inherit the business one day. He was already on his second heart attack before you were 18, so you knew you wouldn't have long to wait. And you didn't, did you? So there you were, not even 30, and in charge of the business your father built, living in the paid-for house he left you in his will. You've never had to find a job on your own. You've never been without work or without means. You've never had to make a mortgage payment. You tell your daughter to find a job – any job, but just any old job won't even pay the daycare bills. You never had to pay for health insurance, either, much less go without it. Your biggest expense is taxes. Taxes are the least of your daughter's worries.
Now you're middle-aged, healthy as a horse with a good 20 or 25 years before you retire. That's 25 years before your daughter and her husband can even begin to hope to inherit the family business, years they'll have to slave for you, and slave for you they will, I have no doubt. I wouldn't work for you, either, pal.
There's no good solution here, but don't make it worse by cutting her off. The two of you are going to have to work together to find a way out. She's needs to do some growing up, but you need to open your eyes to the reality of her world. It's much, much harder than anything you've ever known. If you can see things from her point of view, she might surprise you by growing up right before your eyes. Keep treating her like a spoiled and ignorant child and that's all she will ever be.
Got a problem? Jack Waggon will set you straight: firstname.lastname@example.org
I've been dating a great woman for about three years. She's starting to talk about getting married and having children. I've been ignoring those comments because she knows I'm not going down that road. I told her up front I'm not the marrying kind and I don't like kids. Why do women not believe me when I say this? Why do they think I'm kidding or not telling the whole story or afraid or (this one is the worst) I haven't met the right woman?
Next she'll give me an ultimatum, because all her girlfriends have told her she should do that. And then, I'll have to cut her loose, and I don't want to lose her.
Do you have any suggestions for how to make things MORE clear?
-- Wondering in West Memphis
After a lengthy and bitter third divorce, I went back home to Memphis to seek solace and a fourth wife. Eventually I found a lovely young woman hawking pronto pups at the Mid South Fair. She was perfect in every way – gorgeous, generous, adventurous, gainfully employed, and possessing a full set of teeth. She was open and loving and forgiving, completely understanding of the difficulties presented by monogamy to a virile young man in the prime of life.
Her only fault was her relentlessly primal desire to breed. And not just to breed, but to breed prodigiously – to fill the house with such pitter-patter of tiny feet as to drown out the thunderous ticking of her biological clock. As I already had more wives, lawyers, and progeny than I could afford, I found myself, for the first time in my life, seeking excuses to avoid premarital sex with a beautiful and eager woman.
Man is not meant for such trials. For that reason alone, you have my deepest sympathy.
After three years, this woman is only now starting to talk about marriage and kids? Pal, you've got it better than you know. Let's be honest with ourselves. The only reason you don't want to get married is so you can fool around. However, if she ever caught you shagging her friends, you would lose this otherwise excellent relationship of three years. So in what practical way are you not already married?
Of course, that excuse won't fly with her either. You're going to have to do something or you'll lose her. Time to man up. Marriage ain't all bad, and it has some definite advantages, but you need to protect yourself. I suggest two things – vasectomy, followed by a prenup. If she's willing to marry you on those terms, then by all means go for it. You'll save a fortune on your taxes.
But let me just say this. You are happy with things the way they are, but you can't know if you would be more happy with the way things could be. As much as I complain about paying child support, I wouldn't trade any of my children, not even for a winning Powerball ticket. Well, maybe one kid, but only because he's so much like his father when I was his age. And I was a lot like you are – a self-absorbed dick. Don't knock fatherhood until you've tried it. It might just make you a better person. Look what it did for me.
Confused? Let Jack Waggon set you straight. Jack.email@example.com
Help, I'm buried in toys! I love the Christmas season but now I've started to dread Christmas Day, because my family won't stop giving toys to my children. Every aunt, uncle, grandmother, and grandfather insists on giving each of my children three or four presents each. And not small things, either. Sprawling race tracks and boxes with hundreds of tiny Legos. I'm already up to my ears in Barbie accessories and Christmas is almost upon us once again.
They have six living grandparents, four uncles, and five aunts. If each of those gives just two presents, that plus presents from Santa, Mom, Dad, friends and cousins, usually puts the total at over 30 presents per child. Sometimes well over 30. Multiply that by three children and every Christmas my house is invaded by more than a hundred new toys!
This can't go on. I wanted to place a one-toy limit on the family but my wife is afraid we'll hurt everybody's feelings. Last Christmas we had a huge fight about it after I confronted my mother-in-law without permission, and I don't want a repeat of that. But I am sick of living this way. My house is starting to look like one of those houses on those hoarding television shows. You can't walk across the den without stepping on something.
My old man came from a huge family — 10 brothers and sisters, and my mom had a brother and sister as well, so there never was a shortage of uncles and aunts cluttering up the corners on Christmas Day. They didn't make enough toys back then for every relative to buy me something, though God knows they tried — and who could blame them? The day after Christmas was our traditional day to trade in the duplicates for enough boxes of Sears brand laundry detergent to get us through the year.
One Christmas, the old man tried to put a lid on the toy giving. All I got that year was clothes, and that was a Christmas he lived to regret, because I was at that age when I was beginning to realize how far a well-dressed man could go with the ladies. In fact, I already had my eye on the first Mrs. Waggon. Years later, as he sat weeping over the Goldsmith's bill I had run up, he dreamed of those halcyon days when all he had to worry about was stepping on Legos in the dark.
Your children will solve this problem for you by growing up. All too quickly, my friend. In a few years, your relatives won't be able to afford the kind of toys your kids want. Do you want everyone to remember you as the bastard who ruined Christmas? I suggest you shut your cake hole and polish up your hopscotch skills.
P.S. Ask the kids and their aunts and uncles to give up some of their abundance of toys to kids who don't have any. You get your house back and everybody gets a better Christmas. Hallelujah!
Got a problem? Jack will set you straight: firstname.lastname@example.org