Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bianca Knows Best ... and Helps a Chick Get Over a Jerky Ex

Posted By on Tue, Apr 20, 2010 at 12:51 PM

Dear Bianca,

I just broke up with my boyfriend of six months. When we met, I really felt like he was “the one.” I’ve had a string of bad relationships over the past few years, and I’m fed up with dating crappy men.

This last boyfriend was perfect at first. He surprised me with romantic dates, bought me gifts, opened doors … all that stuff. But about two months into the relationship, he became verbally abusive. When we fought (which was often), he’d call me “whore” or “bitch” or other terms that I won’t repeat here.

I put up with this for too long, but I finally broke things off a few days ago. Though I know I should be happy to be free of that asshole, I’ve fallen into a deep depression. I can’t eat. I’m not sleeping well, and I have no interest in going out with my girlfriends (even though I know that’s what I should be doing).

How do get out of this funk? Even though I’ve been through numerous break-ups, I’ve never felt this sad about it. Considering how he treated me toward the end of the relationship, I really should feel liberated. But I don’t. What’s wrong with me?

— Only Dates Douchebags

Dear Only Dates,

Feeling depressed after a break-up is normal. Despite the fact that your ex was a real jerk, it sounds like you might have been in love with some idea of who you wanted him to be.

The key to moving past this is to convince yourself that, despite his initial attempts at romance, this guy is not who you thought — or hoped — he was. As a relationship progresses, true colors shine through. His true colors were ugly. Remember that for now, and try not to dwell on any good memories you had with him.

Even though you don’t feel like going out, a few nights out with the girls would be most helpful. Friends are great for re-enforcing the reasons why you left a man. I’m sure your buds will be more than happy to talk dirt about the guy, and if they’re good friends, they’ll certainly let you gab on and on about how sad you are.

Eventually, you will eat again. And you will start to sleep better, and then you’ll feel better. Moving on takes time. If you’re an artist (or a writer or a musician), this is a wonderful opportunity to use your sadness to your advantage. Some of the best art is created by tortured souls.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

BIanca Knows Best ... and Helps With a School Decision

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 12:31 PM

Dear Bianca,

My husband and I have a 4-year-old son, and we live in an area of town near inner-city public schools. I love our home with its big backyard, and our neighbors are wonderful. But my husband has mentioned that we should move to DeSoto County before our kid starts school.

Some of my friends have accused him of resorting to “white flight” but I don’t think his motives are racist. He says our child will get a better education elsewhere. As an alternative, he’s suggested home-schooling or private schools. But I attended Memphis City Schools as a kid, and I received a fine education. I’d prefer that my son grow up around more diversity, and I’d really love to stay in the house we’re in.

How can I convince my husband to give the urban school system a chance? I really don’t want my kid growing up without exposure to diversity, and I certainly don’t want him to live the sheltered life of a home-schooled kid.

— Confused Parent

Dear Confused,

These are tough decisions. I’m not a parent, so I’ll simply offer my inexperienced opinion: First, you should consult with your friends or others who have kids in Memphis public schools.

I grew up in a medium-sized town in Arkansas. We had four public school districts (which sounds crazy considering that my hometown is way smaller than Memphis, but that’s how Arkansas schools are set up). I went to a school in the smaller, more rural area, based on where I lived. I got a fine education there, graduating as Valedictorian in 1998. I had good friends, but there were only a handful of non-white people enrolled in my school. I always wished I’d been able to attend the larger city school district, which had more diversity.

I’m a big proponent of public schools. Interaction with people from all classes and races is crucial to shaping how your child will view others later in life. As for Memphis versus DeSoto County, I think my advice would depend what school your child attends.

Just this week, Memphis Police were called to break up fights at Northside and East high schools. You certainly don’t want your child to attend a violent school. But there are a number of excellent schools in the Memphis system. Research your options and make your decision based on safety, test scores, and conversations with teachers, and other parents in the schools you're considering. If the school you want is not in your area, you'll have to sign up for early registration and wait in line. But a free, diverse, quality public education is worth it, and probably easier than moving to DeSoto County.

As for convincing your husband, ask if he’ll at least consider starting your son out at a public school. Gauge how your son is doing after a couple of years, and if you both feel his education is inferior, then you can move to another district.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bianca Knows Best ... and Helps With an Ex's Jealous Girlfriend

Posted By on Tue, Apr 6, 2010 at 1:13 PM

Dear Bianca,

Last weekend, I celebrated my 26th birthday at a local restaurant. I invited about 20 of my friends, and most of them showed up, including an ex-boyfriend who I’m still friends with. He brought along his new girlfriend.

This guy and I have been apart for a couple of years, and we only dated about two months. We were never very serious, and we ended up breaking things off when we realized the romantic spark just wasn’t there. After the break-up, our relationship naturally shifted into a friendly one.

Things have been fine between us ever since, but he must have told his new girlfriend that I was an ex. Even though she showed up at my birthday party, she gave me the stink-eye all night. Her only words to me were a curt, “Nice to meet you.” Every time I tried to talk to her boyfriend, she shot me the death stare.

I’d like to remain friends with my ex, since he’s a pretty fun guy. But I’m not sure his new lady will allow that. He’s tried to call me a few times over the past week, and I’ve missed his calls. When I’ve called back, he doesn’t answer but I get a text saying he can’t talk while his girlfriend is around.

Should I just write my friend off and hope his new relationship ends soon? Or should I persist despite his bitchy girlfriend? After all, he was my friend first.

— The Old Flame

Dear Old Flame,

It sounds like this new girlfriend has your old buddy whipped. Unfortunately, some women can’t stand the idea of their partners being friends with the opposite sex, especially when those friends are exes.

It’s possible that your friend’s girlfriend has been cheated on in the past, and she’s dealing with serious trust issues. But since this relationship is new, she really should give him some slack and see if he’s trustworthy before she starts controlling who he can talk to.

If you can ever get your friend alone, you should let him know how his girlfriend treated you at your birthday party. Explain that you don’t want to lose him as a friend, but you’re not willing to put up with his girlfriend’s attitude. From there, the ball is in his court. He needs to tell his girlfriend to back off. If she continues to control his friendships, the relationship probably won’t last long anyhow.

If she agrees to give him some space, you should try to arrange a lunch or go out for drinks with her. Let her know that you have absolutely no romantic interest in her boyfriend. She’ll probably appreciate a one-on-one talk, and might learn to trust you.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bianca Knows Best ... And Helps An Atheist Deal with In-Laws

Posted By on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 2:06 PM

Dear Bianca,

I married into a very conservative Christian family earlier this year. My wife calls herself a Christian, but she’s much more liberal in her beliefs. I’m an atheist. We don’t spend much time discussing religion, and so our beliefs rarely conflict.

However, her mother, father, and two siblings attend a large, fundamentalist church every Sunday, and they expect the entire family, including me, to attend Easter services this weekend.

I probably wouldn’t be opposed to attending a liberal church one day a year with the family, but I’m very uncomfortable spending even a minute at the church my in-laws attend. They don’t know I’m an atheist, as that would certainly cause them to lose respect for me as their son-in-law, so we’ve stayed mum about that.

But now that I’m expected to go against my values in attending an evangelical church this Sunday, I’m considering “coming out” and refusing to go. My wife has advised against this. she would prefer that I join her family in the pew. Should I follow my heart or suck it up and pretend to praise Jesus?

— Anxious Atheist

Dear Anxious,

If I were forced at attend a Christian church (which I do not), I would certainly choose one of the more open-minded, gay-affirming churches like First Congo or Holy Trinity. Like you, I also would be opposed to waking up early on Easter morning to hear the sermon of a right-leaning, evangelical minister. But if I had to do so for the sake of family, I think I’d suck it up and don an Easter dress -- but probably a black one to go against the grain.

In all seriousness, one day in church won’t kill you. You certainly don’t have to bow your head and participate in singing hymns. But at some point, you really ought to remain true to your beliefs and let your in-laws know that you’re an atheist. Staying in the closet -- whether it’s a gay closet, a religious closet, or whatever -- is never good for one’s soul.

As a compromise (and to keep them from freaking out), you can offer to attend Easter services with them. That should make them feel a little better, since evangelicals believe they’re supposed to be spreading the gospel. Whether you believe the stuff the pastor is saying or not, you’ll only have to deal with him for an hour or so. Then maybe the in-laws will take the family out for Easter brunch, and you can forget all that religious talk over a big stack of pancakes.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bianca Knows Best ...

Posted By on Tue, Mar 23, 2010 at 12:46 PM

Dear Bianca,

I’m not sure what I’ve done to accrue so much bad karma, but I was robbed twice in one day recently. When I walked out of my Midtown apartment on a Sunday morning, I noticed the rear passenger-side window of my car had been smashed in. My iPod, backpack, and some CDs were taken.

I went outside later that day to tape a plastic trash bag over the broken window. While I was taping, I noticed a strange man loitering on the sidewalk about a block away. He kept looking at me, and though I felt a little weirded out, I chose to ignore him.

When I finished taping up the window, the man ran up behind me, pulled out a gun, and held it to my head. He demanded money, and said not to call police. My neighbors witnessed the crime and called police anyway. But the man got away before the cops arrived.

Immediately afterward, I went to my parents’ house across town. I was -- and still am -- scared to be at my house alone. Over a week has gone by, and I’m still paranoid. I keep seeing cars around town that seem to be following me. Will these feelings of paranoia end? Should I just move? I feel like moving is letting the bad guys win, but I don't want to live at my parents’ house.

— Paranoid Victim

Dear Paranoid,

I can’t even imagine how violated you must feel. Knock on wood, but I’ve never been mugged. I have had things stolen from my car, but only when I’d stupidly left it unlocked.

If the mugging hadn’t happened, you’d probably have gotten past the car break-in fairly quickly. But having a gun pointed at your head will haunt you for a while. Being afraid to go back home seems perfectly normal.

Last year, my home was broken into twice in the span of a couple of months. Both instances occurred when I wasn’t home, but I went through a period of being afraid to leave the house. That’s sort of the reverse of your issue, but it did take months for me to move past that paranoia. I still carry my valuables — camera and laptop — everywhere I go, for fear of having them taken from my home.

In your case, I’d suggest first giving the Shelby County Crime Victims Center a call at 545-HELP. They provide various services for victims of crime, and they can help refer you to other agencies and support groups.

If you stay put, you’ll probably start to feel less paranoid over time, but you may always be worried. If moving is an option, it wouldn’t be a bad idea, both for your safety and your mental well-being. But keep in mind that violent crime happens all over. Moving isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be escaping the problem.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bianca Knows Best ...

and Helps a Guy Move On

Posted By on Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 1:05 PM

Dear Bianca,

I broke up with my girlfriend of a couple years a few months ago. We’d grown apart and both seemed interested in moving in a new direction. But the sexual attraction is still there. So after a month of being apart, we started sleeping together again.

She’s told me she’s only sticking around for the sex, and I’m certainly not interested in getting back together. But I’m beginning to think she’s actually not really over me. We were both at a house party last weekend (not together, but we still have the same mutual friends). I was a little drunk, so I made out with some random girl that I’d just met. My ex witnessed the act and freaked the hell out. She threw a beer at me and left the party.

Does this act mean she isn’t really over me? Is the sex thing making this worse? Should I stop sleeping with her? I’d rather not since I’m not getting it anywhere else right now.

— Confused Ex

Dear Confused,

I’ve never understood why people continue to sleep with their exes. I understand that you may not have another source for sex right now, but will it really kill you to be celibate for a while? Besides, if you’re making out with strangers at parties, I’m sure getting laid with someone other than your ex won’t that hard to do. Although your ex says she’s over you, her behavior at the party tells another story. Continuing to sleep with you is probably her desperate attempt to hang on to the relationship.

Here’s the thing: you and the ex started sleeping together one month after the break-up. That’s hardly enough time to move on, even if both parties are convinced they’re over one another. I recommend a blackout period of two to three months before former partners even speak to one another. After both have truly moved on, they can be friends. But sleeping with exes is always, always, always a bad idea. So, stop sleeping with your ex, and avoid social interaction with her for at least a month or so.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bianca Knows Best and Helps a Clingy Friend

Posted By on Tue, Mar 9, 2010 at 2:38 PM

Dear Bianca,

I’m an independent person who values a few precious moments of alone time every day. Yet somehow I’ve attracted the attention of a very, very needy friend.

I met “Jennifer” through a mutual friend, who moved out of state a couple of months ago. Ever since our friend left, Jennifer has latched onto me with a BFF death-grip. She calls me every single day, just to chat about how her day went, and wants to stay on the phone forever. She tries to make plans to go out for drinks every weekend, sometimes twice in one weekend. She comments on every post I make on Facebook, and she even sends me instant messages all day while I’m at work.

Jennifer is a nice person, and I enjoyed her company, at first. But I’m beginning to feel smothered. Unfortunately, I’m way too nice to her face. I have a hard time telling anyone “no,’ and I’m probably sending her the wrong signals. Not to mention that Jennifer is newly single after a harsh break-up, and I think her clinginess may be her way of coping. How can push Jennifer away without hurting her?

— Smothered Friend

Dear Smothered,

We’ve all had a friend or two with no concept of boundaries. A clingy friend, especially one that you don’t want to hurt, can be a tough person to shake. But for your own happiness, you’ve got to pry this woman away.

Though I’d feel sorry for any guy she may date, getting Jennifer a new beau may be the answer. If she hasn’t started dating again, you should try and push her in that direction. Boost her confidence with compliments, and take out her out on the prowl. Or help Jennifer get started with an online dating service. If you manage to help her nab a man, perhaps she’ll divert all that overwhelming attention his way instead of yours.

Then again, if you don’t find Jennifer a guy, this plan could backfire, leaving her even more attached to you. She may view your desire to help her as some kind of best friend move. You may need a plan B.

That’s where the old “I have to stay home and wash my hair” excuse comes in (remember when Kelly always used that line on Saved By the Bell?). The next time Jennifer invites you out for drinks, tell her you’re planning a quiet night at home alone. Explain that just as she needs lots of friend time, you must have some private time to maintain sanity. Learning to say “no” will be an important lesson for you anyway.

When she instant messages you, just ignore it. If she asks later why you haven’t been responding, explain that you were taking a work call or in a meeting. Finally, when you do go out on the town with Jennifer, bring a group of other women along. Maybe she’ll find another lady in your posse to cling to, and then she can become someone else’s problem.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bianca Knows Best ... And Helps a Conflicted Lover

Posted By on Tue, Mar 2, 2010 at 2:07 PM

Dear Bianca,

I have been friends with “Kelly” for five years. Although there has always been great chemistry between us, the timing has never quite worked. Anytime one of us was getting out of a serious relationship, the other would always be in a relationship, so we never dated.  

Last year, she had an unplanned pregnancy. Now she’s with the guy, because she feels her daughter needs a father, but he is horrible to her. He constantly belittles her, has a bad temper, and does drugs and drinks around the child. She is miserable, but feels she is supposed to stay.  

Several months back, we were hanging out and ended up sleeping together. It was an incredible night, and has been repeated several times. She says she loves me and has cared about me for years. She wants to be with me but says she can’t right now because she has to stay with her boyfriend for her daughter’s sake.

I don’t know what to do. I love her. Honestly, I’ve had feelings for her for years. I love her child too and spend lots of time with her. It’s hard to be only sort-of with Kelly, but I don’t want to give her up. Should I end this to save us both more heartache down the road? Should I stop sleeping with her but wait around to see if she leaves him? Should I continue things as they are?   

— Looking for the Right Thing

Dear Looking,

It’s a shame you can’t make “Kelly” leave her baby’s lousy daddy. It sounds like he's not exactly the sort of man who should be raising a child. However, if she decides to come around it has to be totally up to her. If I were a gamblin’ woman, I’d bet that someday she will grow tired of her boyfriend’s drinking and drugging and finally leave his sorry ass.

But it’s really not fair for you to have to sit around and wait for that day. Some women stay with horrible men for their entire lives. If Kelly is one of them, you’ll be old and wrinkled by the time you figure it out.

Have you talked to Kelly about your desire for a real relationship with her? Something beyond sex? If not, you need to let her know that if she’s willing to leave her man, you’d gladly scoop her up.

Help her to realize how great a relationship with you would be by going out of your way to do nice things for her, but let her know that you can’t wait around forever.

You should also assure her that you’d make a better dad than the baby’s biological father, since she might be concerned that you wouldn’t want to help raise her child.

Once you’ve expressed how you feel, the ball is totally in her court. Set a timeline in your own mind — a few months, perhaps. If Kelly hasn’t come around by the end of the deadline, it’s time for you to move on. And by move on, I mean, stop sleeping with her. Having sex is doing nothing but keeping both of you emotionally engaged in a situation that’s unhealthy.

I hope things work out in your favor. But if they don’t (warning: cliché coming up) there are certainly other fish in the sea.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bianca Knows Best ... and Helps a Woman Deal with a Racist In-law

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 2:39 PM

Dear Bianca,

My husband’s mother is a racist. Every time I join his family for a holiday get-together or Sunday night dinner (a regular ritual in his family), his mom can’t refrain from making some comment against black people.

Granted, she’s from a generation that grew up when racism was more acceptable, but this is 2010. I thought people of every age had moved past making blatant racist remarks in front of others. Guess I was just naive.

For the past few years, I’ve just put up with her ignorant comments. I quietly fume and wait until my husband and I get into our car to say anything. My husband isn’t pleased with his mother’s behavior either, but he’s learned to tolerate it. I really want to tell the woman that she’s an ignorant redneck bigot the next time she makes an inappropriate comment. My husband’s sister has impressionable young kids.

Should I speak up or let this woman continue to make racist remarks?

— Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,

I grew up in a smallish Arkansas town with a majority white population. Though many residents wouldn’t consider themselves racist, it wasn’t at all unusual to hear someone throw the n-word around or blame the town’s tiny crime problem on the few black people who lived there.

Such sentiments were so ingrained — especially in my parents’ generation and older generations — that people often didn’t even realize they were being racist. Your mother-in-law may have been raised in a similar environment, but that’s no excuse for her behavior.

It's possible that no one in her family has ever spoken up about her comments. It sounds like your husband and his siblings have simply learned to tolerate it. I think you have a responsibility to let her know that you won’t stand for such remarks in your presence.

Be gentle. She is your mother-in-law, and you’re stuck with her for a while, so don’t call her out at the family dinner table. Pull her aside and calmly tell her that you don’t feel comfortable when she makes insulting comments about people of other races. Explain that you fear perpetuating such sentiment might influence her grandchildren. You probably won't change her beliefs, but maybe you can get her to shut her trap in front of others. Maybe.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bianca Knows Best ...

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 at 2:59 PM

Dear Bianca,

I moved to Memphis over a year ago, and I’ve yet to make any real lasting friendships. I moved here with my boyfriend, and he’s made a few friends through his job. But I don’t really have girlfriends of my own. I work from home, and that’s part of the problem. I’m sure I’d at least make some friendly associations with co-workers if I had them. In fact, I rarely leave the house except to run errands or get groceries.

My boyfriend works a night shift, so there’s rarely an opportunity for us to go out and meet people together. I certainly don’t want to go to social functions alone since, I’m a little shy. Any suggestions?

— The Loner

Dear Loner,

Making friends in a new city is tough, especially for shy folks. I was painfully shy as a kid, so I understand your plight. I overcame my shyness through theater and modeling school. But before you go auditioning for the next Theatre Memphis production, here are a few tips for making friends and overcoming shyness:

You need to find an excuse to get out of the house more often. Volunteering is a wonderful way to get out, meet new people, and help make someone else's day brighter. If you like animals, volunteer to walk dogs at the animal shelter or the Humane Society. Help feed the homeless with Food Not Bombs, or unleash your inner handy-woman with Habitat for Humanity.

Be sure to pick a volunteer group activity that genuinely interests you. That way, the people you meet will share common interests and goals. Volunteering can also help you overcome your shy tendencies, since you’ll be dealing with strangers. If interacting with the public makes you nervous, suck it up. Over time, you will shed the shyness, I promise. My friends today would have never guessed I was once a shy kid, since now I can’t keep my mouth shut.

You should also try seeking out workshops, classes, or social groups geared toward your interests. Knitting classes, gardening lessons, political clubs, leadership groups, you name it, they're out there. For example, I met many of my buds through my involvement in a local vegetarian society.

Whatever you do, don’t rely on your boyfriends’ co-workers to make up your base of friends. If you ever break up, he’ll get custody of those folks, and then you’ll be without a man or a friend.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bianca Knows Best ...

... and Helps a Ladies' Man

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2010 at 1:55 PM

Dear Bianca,

I’m a middle-aged man and never been married. Over the years, through work connections and other areas of my life, I’ve made many female friends. I’ve dated a few of them, but most are simply friends. I’ve been told I flirt with all of them, but there really isn’t any attraction there. Flirting is just my nature.

Last year, I met the woman I consider to be my soul-mate. She says she feels the same way about me. We share the same interests and hobbies. We’re both at the same stage in our lives, though she’s been through one divorce. Everything about our relationship is wonderful except for my girlfriend’s insane jealousy.

She can’t stand the fact that many of my close friends are women. When I tell her there’s no attraction there, she doesn’t believe me. Occasionally, I like to meet up with my old female friends for coffee or dinner (typically always in a group setting with other men present), but my girlfriend gets mad. I’ve tried inviting her, but she refuses to come along. I can’t seem to win. How should I resolve this?

— The Ladies’ Man

Dear Ladies’ Man,

Like you, most of my friends are of the opposite sex. I have a few close girlfriends, but the majority of my pals are guys. Thankfully, my boyfriend doesn’t have a problem with that. If he did, however, I think I’d be reconsidering my relationship. Excuse the bluntness, but there is some wisdom in the old line, “bros before ‘hos.” (in your case, the “bros” are, in fact, women … but you know what I mean).

Jealousy can destroy a relationship quicker than anything. You say this woman is your soul-mate, but she doesn’t trust you not to cheat on her. It’s possible that she’s been burned by cheating men in her past. But holding that against you isn’t fair.

Of course, there is the issue of flirting. Perhaps you should knock that off. Flirting with people you aren’t attracted to is kind of creepy. Your female friends may actually read more into that than you think, and your girlfriend might be picking up on those signals.

Ask your girlfriend why she gets so jealous — specifically. If she blames the way you act around your female friends, perhaps you need to re-think your flirty nature. If your girlfriend is carrying baggage from some past hurt, you may need to find a new soul-mate. Trust is key for a successful relationship.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bianca Knows Best … And Helps an Adult with Divorcing Parents

Posted on Tue, Feb 2, 2010 at 3:01 PM

Dear Bianca,

My parents are growing further and further apart as they age. They’re both in their mid-60s now, and I’ve determined that they pretty much hate one another. Since they’ve retired, I think they’re just together too often.

I’m in my early 30s now, but I grew up in a very close-knit, loving home. Back then, my parents were best friends, completely inseparable. We went on family trips with my brother and sister. We never, ever imagined our parents could split.

Now, divorce seems inevitable. I’m grateful that they waited to grow apart after the kids were out of the house. But it still makes me sad to think of my parents going their separate ways. Not to mention that it will certainly be hard on my sister and brother’s kids. I don’t have any kids yet. Also, my mom has had some health problems, and she’ll likely need someone to care for her in a few years. If my dad’s not around, the responsibility will certainly fall to one of the siblings.

Is there anything my siblings and I could do to help them heal their marriage? Or should we let them slowly drift away from each other?

— Grown Kid from a Soon-to-Be Broken Home

Dear Grown Kid,

If your parents are falling out of love with one another, there’s really not much you can do. But if they’re just growing tired of spending too much time together, maybe there’s hope.

I’ve heard from people who work together and live together that spending all day and night with one another can be taxing on a relationship. I know I wouldn’t want to spend all my time with my boyfriend (sorry, Paul!). In order for relationships to thrive, people need space and it sounds like your parents aren’t getting any.

Sit down with your siblings and make out a list of all your mom’s hobbies and dad’s hobbies. Pick out a few that they don’t have in common, and offer to take up those hobbies with both parents separately. For example, if your mom loves film, take her to the movies sans dad. If dad likes football, arrange a guy’s night with your brother and your pop’s friends. Take mom out to dinner while the game is on.

It doesn’t matter what you choose to do. Just get them away from one another for a few hours a week.

If that doesn’t help, you’ll have to step back and let live. People do change over the years, and it’s possible that your parents have grown to be incompatible. They may be happier living on their own. Just be thankful they stuck together while you were a kid.

If divorce happens, you may have to step in and help your mother as her health fails, but she raised you for at least 18 years. You owe her. Don’t bitch.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bianca Knows Best ... and Helps an Overly Protective Sister

Posted By on Tue, Jan 26, 2010 at 12:57 PM

Dear Bianca,

My little brother recently divorced his crazy wife. He’s 24 and he got married very young. He has three kids by his ex, and he’s never really had a chance to sow his wild oats, so to speak.

Since his divorce, he’s enlisted my help in finding him dates. He’s a little socially awkward, so he’s had trouble meeting women on his own. In the past few weeks, he’s developed a Facebook crush on one of my old roommates. He friended her and they’ve been talking, mostly just conversation through status updates.

The old roommate just got divorced as well, but she’s four years older than my brother. And I seriously doubt she’s into him like he’s into her. I suspect she’s only chatting with my brother to be nice. However, my brother has asked me to attempt to set up a date with the old roommate. I don’t have the heart to tell him she would likely find him way too dorky. Should I break the truth to him now? Or should I let him approach her on his own and see what happens?

— The Protective Sister

Dear Protective,

Your brother is a grown man. Part of sowing wild oats involves heartbreak, and if this little Facebook crush doesn’t work out, he’ll just have to move on. What happens (or doesn’t happen) between your old roommate and your bro is out of your control, so don’t waste your time fretting about it.

You mentioned that your brother is socially awkward. Socially awkward people have often led sheltered lives, surrounded by overly protective parents and siblings. The fact that you’re still trying to manage his love life tells me that you’ve probably always had a hand in his relationships. In order for your brother to develop social skills and meet people on his own, you’re going to have to let go.

As for your roommate, you might want to let her know that your brother is interested. That way, if she isn’t, she can stop leading him on. She might not realize that her simple Facebook conversations mean more to him than they do to her. Then again, maybe she is interested in him. If so, she can make the first move if you let her know what’s up.

Either your brother will be forced to move on or he won’t. Whatever the case, try to let the man live his own life. It’s fine to play matchmaker when a potential partner enters the picture, but then you have to stand back and let the chips fall where they may.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bianca Knows Best … And Helps a Polyamorous Woman

Posted By on Tue, Jan 19, 2010 at 1:59 PM

Dear Bianca,

My husband and I started dating "Jenny" nine years ago, and she's been a central part of our lives since then. Two years ago, she moved in with us, although to all but a few of our closest friends, she's a roommate. She doesn't have any family of her own nearby, so she's been coming to our family holidays as a "friend" since we met. Everyone loves her, and we have been thinking about coming out to them.  

I don't have the foggiest idea how they'll react. Most of them are religious, but not the arch-conservative type. I'd like to be able to be able to be truthful with my family, but I'm also the type who tends to avoid drama and blow-ups like the plague.  

Any advice on how I could ease into this before the next family get-together? Or should we leave a good thing just the way it is?

— Nervous Polyamorous Girl

Dear Nervous,

First, I’d like to congratulate you for making a polyamorous relationship last as long as you have. I’ve had friends who experimented with multiple partners, but I only know of one couple (or should I say triple?) that’s managed to make it work for longer than a few months.

As for your quandary, I’d say if Jenny has been coming to your family gatherings for nine years, she’s probably considered a part of the family by now. And that means your family members will likely be more accepting of her position in your life than if she was a new addition. Not to mention that Jenny’s long-term place in your life must mean you three are pretty serious.

I’d advise coming out slowly, and certainly to do so before the next big family gathering. A Christmas dinner or family reunion is no place for that kind of drama. You could start by telling a few of your more open-minded family members (whom you think can keep a secret). Ask them to help you gauge how other family members might react. For the more conservative members of the family, you may want to break the news in the company of those who are in on your secret. It’s always good to have supporters in these situations.

Polyamory is even less understood than gay relationships, so prepare for a little backlash. In fact, some people may even write you off. But if they love you (and your husband and Jenny), they’ll come around in time.

If after testing the waters with open-minded members of the family, you decide that some family members just won’t get it, it’s okay to keep a secret. Just come out to as many people as you feel you safely can.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bianca Knows Best ... and Helps a Questioning Vegan

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2010 at 12:21 PM

Dear Bianca,

In the South, people look at you funny when you politely decline a slab of ribs or a chicken sandwich. I think this is one reason why I didn't completely stop eating meat until August 2007. I've been a vegetarian for 2 years now and strictly vegan for slightly less time than that and I'm still going strong. My eating habits were quickly established within the first few months of being vegan, but after about a year or so of my new diet, I’m beginning to question where the rational thinker ends and the self-righteous asshole begins?

Do I feel good because I think I'm doing the right thing by abstaining from this kind of food, or do I feel bad as a guest because I didn't try out the host's Triple-Layer Chocolate Chunk Masterpiece because the recipe called for a tablespoon of butter?

Is it worth it to go through the motions of promoting higher thinking through your actions, even when your actions are viewed simply as rude?

— The Questioning Vegan

Dear Questioning,

As a fellow vegan, I feel pretty qualified to answer this one. I’ve been vegan for five years and vegetarian for 15 years. Both dietary shifts were made for ethical reasons, though the health benefits are a nice bonus.

When I went vegetarian at age 14, I remember feeling a little awkward going through the Burger King drive-thru to order a Whopper with no meat (yes, I actually did that). But after going vegan, I realized it was much harder to make some party hosts and servers understand my dietary concerns.

A couple of years ago, I visited a very sweet Indian woman’s home to shoot some photos of her artwork for a story. She was ridiculously gracious, insisting that I stay for dinner. I attempted to politely decline, but she wasn’t having it. She said she was a vegetarian, and so I thought, “What the heck?”

Big mistake. At the time, I didn’t realize Indian food often contains ghee (butter) and some other dairy products. When she served me a hot cup of chai with milk (that she’d made just for me), I knew it’d break her heart if I turned it down. So I drank it, silently cringing about my ethics going down the drain. That chai was followed by a whole meal filled with butter and other dairy products. And I ate it all.

Later, my stomach started cramping and I knew it was due to the reintroduction of dairy. I was paying for falling back on my personal ethics. After that day, I decided that, no matter what the situation, I would always tell a host that I simply cannot eat animal products. If I’m viewed as rude for that, that’s the host’s problem — not mine. What I choose to put into my body is my decision.

I think most people understand the importance of maintaining one's personal ethics. And veganism is becoming more and more mainstream. The best way to avoid seeming rude or being tempted by that Triple-Layer Chocolate Chunk Masterpiece is to bring your own delicious vegan dessert to the party.

The moral to this long response? Don’t forgo your personal ethics to please someone else.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

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