DEAR CAROLYN: I’ve been dating a wonderful man, “Len,” for a few months now and it’s been really great. We have a lot in common — we’re both divorced, successful and have grown daughters.
I’m struggling with keeping an open mind about Len’s daughter, “Becca.” While Becca is beautiful and smart, she is also, for someone in her early 20s, opinionated, sarcastic, and very open about her sex life. She describes herself as “aromantic” (i.e., not interested in anything long-term with men), which I would find equally unacceptable if she were male. She couldn’t be more different from my daughters, and while I know that’s her right, I find myself silently judging her choices all of the time. She also engages in risky sports like rock- and ice-climbing, which worries Len a lot, but she doesn’t let that bother her at all.
I’m afraid my attitude is going to become evident, so I’d rather change how I feel about her rather than just keep hiding it. How do I do that?
DEAR JUDGING: Wait a minute. Fully grown Becca shouldn’t climb because her daddy doesn’t like it? She should commit to a man long-term even though she’s not interested (and these unions are wretched, regardless of whether a man or woman forces them)? She can be opinionated and sarcastic, but only if it stops by her early 20s?
I’d take a hundred Beccas over one more 1955.
You don’t have to love her or even enjoy her company, but please at least recognize:
How badly the world needs its Beccas and other characters. How your own daughters today reap the benefits of the fearless Beccas of yesterday. How boring the world would be if all the Beccas were shamed into hiding by people who think brassiness is just a failure of breeding and taste.
How unseemly it is to judge others, period, whose chief offense is to be different from you, as if the superiority of your way is a given.
Again — don’t like her? OK. Your prerogative. She may well have crossed the line anyway between being her badass self and seeking attention for it. But that’s not what you’ve cited here, and not what you’re judging.
What you find distasteful about Becca all sounds like a 2018 remix of, so help me, her not acting like a lady. And the remedy for judging is to internalize how wrong it is to judge.
So please reconsider.
DEAR CAROLYN: My 33-year-old son lives three hours away. He talks for six months about planning for major vacations in Iceland or Mexico, but I can’t get him to commit to holiday plans. If he doesn’t want us to travel to him for a visit or doesn’t want to travel here, I’m fine. If he wants to stay home with his girlfriend (she’s invited), I’m OK with that as well. I just want to know so I can make plans.
I’ve tried talking to him about it, but he puts me off with, “I’m not sure yet.”
Any idea why I can’t get a straight answer? It’s tough to plan around someone who can’t commit either way.
Loving but Frustrated Dad
DEAR DAD: Months of planning is how your son says “yes.”
Months of being noncommittal is how your son says “no.”
I’m sorry. It’s not his best trait I’m sure, but it’s also not just his — ask anyone who tries to entertain these days how many guests respond late to invitations — if they even respond at all.
It’s enough to kill some friendships but not, I believe, enough to split a family.
So suggest holiday plans to your son, allow him a limited time window to give you an answer, then, if he still refuses to commit by the end of it, proceed with your own plans and just say he’s welcome to join you (when feasible). That’s the most reasonable of the options he’s giving you.
It helps to be as flexible as you can, and as emotionally transparent: “We miss you. We hope you can join us for (holiday). If not, then maybe a long weekend in February?”
HI, CAROLYN: I have a friend who has been seeing someone for about a year, and she wants him to meet me. We don’t have any mutual friends and so this would almost certainly happen with just the three of us. To make matters worse, they have a somewhat unique situation that I don’t really think is great, to the point that she once considered breaking it off and I said I thought she should. It’s not the type of situation where she is in any danger, though, and since she chose to stay, I try to be supportive.
I simply don’t want to have a two-on-one coffee session with them. Is there any way I could tell her I’d rather not without hurting her feelings?
Squeaky Third Wheel
DEAR THIRD WHEEL: She’s your friend. It’s coffee. Just set low expectations and go.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.