Baggage Check Live: "Zenyatta Mondatta"

Apr 03, 2018

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior was online to take your comments about her advice column, Baggage Check, and any other questions you might have. These comments may appear in an upcoming column running in Express and online.

Want to read more? Read Baggage Check columns.

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Hi, everybody-- and welcome! I am so happy to be back in the swing of things today. Thanks for bearing with me with my slooooow connection last week. Anyone else go on Spring Break to a place a little disconnected? How was it?

Speaking of Spring, this very moment is one of my favorite times in DC-- because the saucer magnolias are about to burst open! (Why should the cherry blossoms get all the love?) Hope you get some time outdoors to enjoy the show.

Today's Baggage Check brings up some delicate issues. LW1 is wondering how to get their older mother off the roads now that she is no longer a safe driver. And LW2 reveals that she's jealous. Like, always. Of everyone.

Can anyone relate?

Let's begin!

(In response to last week's chat)

I totally get not wanting to be bombarded when you walk through the door. I was the husband in this scenario for a long time. That is, I wanted to talk to my SO right when he got home. If there was an issue, then I wanted to discuss it right then! Then, I turned into the last one home, after leaving the house at 6am and returning at 6pm, thanks to the commute. I didn't want to be spoken to more than "hey. How's it going?" until I'd made it to the bedroom and changed my clothes, or, if we had plans for that night, had a few minutes. Now, I know better than to want to talk right out of the gate. So I do the "hey, how was work?" and if he's up for taking then, great, if not, then we wait for a bit. Time before conversation: it's not a huge ask. Two hours is pushing it, but if she has the space and time (i.e. no kids waiting for dinner, etc.) then maybe take a shower right when she gets home. That is a solo activity, and can be very calming.

Yes, the wonders of a post-work shower! You're so right, it's all about balance.

I also find it really interesting that you changed when the logistics shifted. That maybe this isn't 100 percent personality and more about the circumstances of needing to decompress after certain commutes and certain workdays that take SO much out of us.

(In response to last week's chat)

When we first moved in together my guy expected me to be with him every minute we were home together. I was used to living alone & had a high stress job, so not gonna happen. After a few tough discussions – he needs lots of affection & feels rejection even when it’s not there – I knew something had to give. We came up with this game plan - and, no, 2 hours is not too much… From 6pm-8pm I retreat to our 3rd floor (master suite & utility room). I do some laundry, take a hot bath (Calgon take me away!), watch sitcoms he would never watch & even catnap when I need it. At 8pm I head down & meet him on the sofa. We chat & cuddle & sometimes we get frisky – yay! From 8pm on, it’s all about us & we crawl in to bed happy. At first he would tease me about it but I stood firm. I would remind him of “The Lady or The Tiger” & ask if he liked who came down at 8pm each night. He always confirmed he was happy with the 8pm me. It’s worked for us for almost 8 years. Recently it came up in a general conversation & he said he actually enjoys his time to himself now. He goes for a walk in good weather or naps on the sofa & he knows I won’t disappoint him. (We vary this as needed on vacations but he always understands I need some time to vedge-out each day.) Is it any wonder why I love him so much? Point being, sometimes we’re reluctant to say what we need, but if our partners are secure enough, we should be able to work something out. My guy was in a marriage with a woman who simply wasn’t affectionate for 37 years before we met. Now he tells me all the time he’s never been happier – me either, btw. By taking care of myself, we both win.

This is fantastic. And I think it's so interesting that your need for space actually gradually shifted something in him as well-- instead of him becoming MORE needy in terms of contact with you, he learned to appreciate his own space as well. A win-win, indeed. Thanks so much for this.

Can I say, I also feel like "The Lady or The Tiger" should be a movie!

Hi Dr. Andrea, Back on Feb 27, I wrote about life problems that my wife and I are facing. Turns out that the problem is greater than we first suspected! Further testing has determined that my wife will need much more extensive surgery than we first hoped or planned for. So much so that the surgery was put off for a while for various reasons. It will occur this month. As I wrote before sometimes we have to cross a different mountain to arrive at the valley of peace. In this case we have to travel a different mountain range altogether to find our valley. But, find it we will.

I am sorry to hear this latest news! But so glad that your perspective hasn't taken a hit. You two sound so supportive of each other. Sending all good thoughts for the surgery!

I am the person who submitted the original question regarding a boss who was a huge narcissistic showy flower and we were all relegated to tending to her every whim and follow her every utterance on all her social media platforms or else we were called out publicly! I decided to submit a transfer to a sister facility in another state. She spent the next few days denigrating everything about that city and state. When I was granted an interview, she suddenly fell silent and sullen, and when I was offered the job, she was gracious for about 24 hours until an exit date was negotiated, and then she informed me that my presence was no longer required and that I would be paid off for the next two weeks, as she didn't want information going to the "competition". It isn't the competition, though! They are similar facilities in different states, and in no way, shape or form, do they compete. Of course, the day I left, I was cut from her social media "friends" list. Just had to share!

Oh, wow. Thank you for this update! She showed her true colors right through the end, no? What a piece of work. But many heartfelt congratulations on breaking free, and no longer needing to be The Constant Gardener!

(In response to today's column)

I second the recommendation to get the doctor on board, but it also might not be a bad idea to touch base with the driver licensing agency in your state to get some general information. I worked a stint in the unit that did the medical reviews for a largely rural state, and I know we tried very hard to balance the safety of the community with the ability to preserve at least some independence for older drivers, because it often was the difference between them being able to stay in their home and needing to move into assisted living. It might well be possible to have restrictions added to her license that still give her leeway to do the day to day short drives she needs to get to doctors, grocery store, etc. - especially if she lives in an area lacking in public transportation options. I've seen everything from "no nighttime driving" to "only permitted to drive on roads with speed limits less than 45 mpg, limited to the area inside streets A, B, C, and D."

Another really helpful angle from someone in the know. Thank you!

Re: the article in today's Baggage Check from the reader concerned about a parent's bad driving. We were in a similar situation with our dad, and did try to talk to him but he just didn't see any problem (which was part of the problem). So we contacted the DMV in his state to report a potentially unsafe driver. He never knew we had done this, but he got a notice to report to the DMV for testing and he assumed it was just a routine request due to his age. Just another option in the event that the conversation doesn't go where you hope it does. Also love your suggestions about figuring out all the alternatives and ways to still get to the places the parent wants to go, before initiating the conversation. So important.

Thanks so much for this. I am glad that it worked out for your Dad; I can understand that it's very common (for multiple reasons) for people to be in denial about the declining safety of their driving as they age. I had seen in the comments about this anonymous reporting option-- like you mentioned-- and was curious about it. If the DMV makes it seem like a routine thing, then I think that is brilliant. Otherwise I wonder if it is obvious that someone reported them, whether some people would dig their heels in even more and get angry.

In any case, a very helpful possibility to consider. Thanks!

(In response to last week's column.)

That letter from the LW who has pretended to like cuddling for the past X years gave me chills. If my husband has been doing that our marriage is over. I would much prefer to find out he's been having an affair than faking the biggest way we show love for each other. No one should be forced into physical affection, but this may be a deal breaker for his wife. I would much rather be alone for the rest of my life than in a relationship where I only had physical closeness during sex. He's pulled a real bait and switch here, and should be prepared for her to feel hurt and blindsided.

Yeah, it's tricky, isn't it? I can imagine there's a range here, from all out faking happiness while actually miserable (which would feel rightfully like a betrayal) to sort of mindlessly tolerating the cuddling though not actively enjoying it. You raise some really good points about how serious the ramifications of his admission could be. I really am curious as to an update on this couple.

I also wonder about the no-physical-closeness-except-sex factor. I've seen in the comments some people really offended by this, feeling like it could very easily be objectifying, that he uses her for sex and has no interest in expressing affection otherwise. I had a slightly milder interpretation, as I know a lot of people really don't like close physical contact but would be horrified to imagine that it felt like they were manipulating/exploiting their partner. They just, say, would rather have their own space on the sofa because they get hot or prickly or claustrophobic or whatever.

Yeah, the cuddler-versus-non-cuddler debate is the conversational gift that keeps on giving! Thanks!

(In response to last week's chat)

for the OP... have you tried talking to him about how he is not respecting you and your wishes? Because while it is about you needing some peace and quite to decompress at the end of the day, I feel like the REAL issue here is that he is not respecting your expressed wishes. Re-framing the conversation as "Please respect me as your partner" as opposed to "I don't want you talking to me right when I get home" may help.

It's definitely possible! Thanks.

(In response to last week's chat)

That happened to me, in a much smaller way ("three of the bridesmaids"? how many are there?!). My best friend for years left her husband for a real jerk, and her husband was our wedding photographer (a mistake, but let that pass). I had to call her and tell her that she alone was invited, not the jerk (I didn't put it that way, of course). She thanked me for the information and said politely that in that case she wouldn't be attending. I didn't enjoy the conversation but it was necessary.

Good for you for standing up.

Did the friendship survive?

I am picturing the invites now-- in beautiful, formal calligraphy: "Ms. Sarah Jones, But Without The Jerk".....

I'm single and in my early 40s and always wanted to have kids, but my life ended up not taking that path and I've (mostly) accepted that. A dear friend is pregnant and there's casual talk among other friends about a baby shower. I'm at the point where I just can't handle them any more. It's a great celebration for the mother-to-be, but I feel like the ultimate outsider at them, especially as I've gotten older and it trends towards non-moms being the minority with little to contribute to a event where conversation tends to focus on how x gift was something y mom couldn't have survived without. I won't go to this shower, and I'm torn between a "sorry, I have a conflict" (because it's my baggage that's keeping me away from the celebration) and letting mom-to-be know why I can't attend (because they make me miserable, but that shouldn't take away from her joy). Suggestions on ways to handle this - both within my own head, and how to decline the invite?

First, in your own head: forgive yourself. You are a human being. You are allowed to have feelings. The path your life is taken has sensitized you to certain things, and that is as valid as anyone else's path and their own reaction to it. Your friendship will survive.

You say you are "close." That's the key factor for me here: is she close enough (and an empathetic enough person) that she can hear the truth and handle it in a way that helps you both, rather than getting defensive or feeling so guilty about it that it changes things? I can see some moms-to-be being great about this, and I can see others being nightmares. What's your take on her?

Anyone else successfully skip a shower and be honest that this was the reason?

(In response to last week's chat)

He says he doesn’t want to start something and then not finish it because that will be “another failure” (ie something to be ashamed of). I never nag and am never his accountability partner because of this: he would feel ashamed if he disappointed me. For the record, all I have ever done is tell him I want him to be happy with himself and occasionally gently point out things which are not normal (eg frequent intrusive thoughts of shame are not everyone’s internal experience) and therefore could be improved. (It sounds like you feel this way often. I know I’ve had flashbacks of times when I was embarrassed or ashamed, but that happens rarely for me. I’d think there would be ways to make that happen less often for you. Would you like to explore any of those options?) I also have explicitly told him in multiple contexts that he has never and basically could never disappoint me. He says he’s doing better than he was when he was before (obvs no longer having suicidal ideation). His only objection to a therapist is that discussing things of which he feels ashamed is a mortifying idea. Not sure there’s any way around that.

Got it. Man, you sound like a very, very supportive partner, showing empathy and patience and understanding in ways we don't always see around these parts. Well done!

Yeah, there's no way around the "mortifying idea" of discussing stuff with a therapist when you already feel so mortified by these things that that's the whole problem. But here's the beauty of it-- though there's no way around it, the effort of it (and even the nausea of it) is actually part of the solution. It's part of how therapy can work. Just like people getting treated for spider phobias eventually have to face a spider, it's sort of the whole point, and part of the how and why of therapy helping you get better.  

The underlying thread I'm seeing here is that his shame is so "normal" for him ("ego-syntonic," as those of us with bad shoes and too many candles in our offices would call it) that he probably doesn't really imagine that it could get better, and it feels surreal for him to really get what that would feel like. So he's not nearly as motivated to seek help as someone, say, who always felt great, but then suddenly developed severe emotional symptoms, and was therefore desperate to go back to feeling great again. 

I think you are on the right path with him, truly. If he can see better how you are able to live without the types of burdens he has, it might make it more accessible as a possibility to him. And the more that you can emphasize that with therapy, once it's out there, it will likely get much easier-- and quickly-- that is good too. And that it will start to have ripple effects in his life overall too.

Keep at it!

That's me! And a woman to boot, but I was still horrified that he had lied to her about it for so long.

You can see both sides, then! I like it!

I need help with finding a way to deal with my mother in law. She is a lovely person and we do love her a lot, but some of her ways are very frustrating, annoying and sometime quite unsettling and hurtful. She can be very selfish and very unreliable and when you try to confront her about how her not being true to her words or being there for her children hurts the rest of the family, she always tries to get out of looking at herself and finds excuses. I have been able to get through to her at times and make her see how her behaviour hurts her family, and she has changed for that moment, but it's very exhausting to do that with her, as it's like trying to hold a slippery fish that wants out, but the change lasts a few weeks and she gets back to her old self. I know we cannot change her, but how do we learn to deal with her so we don't end up always being hurt and frustrated?


So, the "lovely" parts are.... where, exactly?

I say that not to be snarky (okay, not JUST to be snarky), but to genuinely see what can be helpful in dealing with this. If she overall is a good person, then that means that she should CARE that she is affecting you negatively, correct? So you need to find a way to appeal to that. You can ask her what would be most helpful. "I know we've talked about this and I know you don't like it when we are hurt over something you've done. We want to help break this pattern-- how can we help? We love you so much and don't want this stuff to keep getting in the way."

If she is truly incapable or unmotivated to change, though, then you have to start adjusting your reactions. Her unreliability doesn't hurt you as much because you stop relying on her, for instance. Her selfishness doesn't sting as badly because you never expected her to be able to think of others in the first place. Rinse and repeat. And perhaps add a mental asterisk to the "lovely," so that your expectations won't screw you by making you believe that she has the potential to turn into a different person than the one she actually is.

After she left the guy she left her husband for, and married someone else, and moved several states away, we drifted apart, after a few years of writing increasingly infrequent letters to each other (this was obviously before e-mail). I realized that we didn't have that much in common any more.

Gotcha. A friendship that died a natural death, without drama, even after a wedding confrontation. Who could have seen it?

(The mind reels over whether Guy Number 3 was even more of a jerk?)

They had just bloomed last Friday when I walked through the Enid A. Haupt garden by the Smithsonian Castle and their scent filled the entire garden. It was heavenly! Every day on my walk from the train to the office I check to see how the buds on the trees are doing, thinking c'mon spring, let's go! There is just nothing as relaxing and invigorating as taking a brisk walk outside.

Yes, yes, yes!! A fellow devotee of these amazing trees. Cheers to that!

Now if only we didn't have to bundle up in our Arctic gear for these Springtime walks.

and send a small gift. Explaining why to a mom-to-be will inevitably cause hurt. You don't have to explain. The more notice you have, the easier it is to make up a conflict event.

I agree in theory, but if they are close friends, isn't it possible that this will continue to be an issue, and that if she gradually distances herself without more nuanced explanation, it might hurt her friend further (and deny her friend the opportunity to be sensitive about it?)

This made me laugh. Thank you for the refreshing honesty and joking about it.

Glad you appreciated it! I've got as big a treasure trove of therapist jokes as anyone.....

Sheesh, people - there's a huge range between "only uses him/her for sex" and "glommed on like a remora".

hahahah! And those hereby become my favorite labels of two sides of a spectrum, ever.

It's true. I think a lot of people seem to be doing some black-and-white thinking here. Thanks.

Hello, I'm the LW from the Wedding Woes question last week. I wanted to thank you for taking my question- I really appreciated your advice and liked seeing people's different perspectives on the situation. Since it's my first time being a bridesmaid ever, I wasn't too familiar with the dynamics of the wedding party and what to expect. For the time being I'm focusing on the here and now- like getting my dress hemmed since I finally got my shoes yesterday. Thanks again.

You are very welcome! We do have a great community here, don't we?

Someone probably even has advice on the hemming!

I grew up in a large, working class family in a very rural area. I now live in suburbia halfway across the country, have a white collar job, am married to a man whose parents are both doctors. You can see where this is going, right? I'm close to my family. I'm not ashamed of my background and am very open about it with friends and colleagues. But I have worked hard to remove many of the markers of class and region from my behaviors and speech and have educated myself on the topics middle class and upper middle class people talk about that working class people don't. My family hasn't, and, when we travel together or when they visit me, I can't help but be embarrassed by some of what they do. And I don't want to be. I really, really don't want to be. Normally I'm able to reason myself out of negative thoughts, but no matter how much I remind myself that 1) these are terrible criteria by which to judge anyone's value and 2) I am not my family, I just can't get clear of this, and it makes me feel like a really shallow, bad daughter/sister. Do you have any advice?

The fact that you are bothered by this says a lot about you, truly.

I would first start by identifying when it is at its worst, and what factors there are that can be adjusted. For instance, is it really bad at certain types of restaurants? Do they seem more out of their element in certain high-density public, urban places? Or-- this is kind of the elephant in the room-- do you feel more ashamed of them in your husband's presence?

Yup, you don't mention whether Hubster is a supportive influence for helping you with this or whether his judgment (real or imagined) is actually a big part of the problem. But either way, I think one of the first things that you have to do is identify a heirarchy of when you are most uncomfortable. And then, instead of flooding yourself with those situations on any given trip (making you even more sensitized to it, then guilty, then overall miserable), you can sort of do those things in smaller doses, and build up to them over time.

It is true that you can gradually desensitize yourself to this, just through repetition. But again, you have to be careful about the dosage.

It also might help to refocus on the things you love most about them, and try to think of ways to spend time together when those things shine. That will increase your overall warm fuzzies toward them-- warm fuzzies that will go a long way in staving off some of your unease.

Good luck. I am guessing other chatters may have dealt with this?

sounds like OCD. Cognitive behavioral therapy, some meds, and emotional freedom therapies (like Tapping, Trauma Release Exercises(R)) may help.

Yeah, you are good to pick up on that. It definitely has an intrusive/obsessive quality to it. I'd be curious to see how limited the thought content was to the shame theme. Thanks.

This means there will be a hard freeze and those lovely blooms will turn brown. Like thunderstorms in June, the minute the peonies are in full bloom. Not a pessimist, just a realist. Enjoy those blooms while you can.

This is what happened last year! I was so bummed. We had like 47 hours of the magnolia magic, and then it was over.

You are certainly allowed feelings. But these seem quite intense and could end up hurting your friendships too. Perhaps you could do some therapy to gain peace with the way you life is unfolding?

I really felt like she was very well on the road to peace, though.

I think you may be surprised by how many people find baby showers difficult, for a variety of reasons!

But we're just talking about the shower here, aren't we, not about distancing herself from her friend because the friend is having a baby? If the latter, well, OK, but just skipping a shower really shouldn't require a blow-by-blow.

It shouldn't, you're right.

But if she pretends that it's only because she, say, has to deep condition her hair, then it might set up unrealistic expectations about whether she's totally hunky-dory with all things baby-related (which she might not be.) I mean, they're close friends after all-- this isn't her coworker's cousin!

Am I off-base here?

Let's be honest, many friendships don't survive (or at least not in the same way) when one person has a baby and the other is childless/childfree. This is another one of those natural progressions in life where people who are friends based on common interests & activities, similar stages of life, proximity via school, work, neighborhood, etc. find they no longer have much in common nor wish to devote the time to nurturing a friendship due to other priorities. The mom-to-be may not even notice an eventual fade.

This is very true (in fact, someone I know well may have even written a book on it! ;-) ) But if it's a close friend and they're in their 40s, I'd hate to think that they'd count on it fading if neither of them want it to.


It was a weird pairing but he wasn't a jerk. Just old enough to be her father. She was an odd person with an odd notion of what marriage should be,thanks to her parents' bad marriage. Example: "At least I can't walk all over #2 like I could #1." Scratching my head. Who wants to be able to walk all over a spouse?

Ugh. Yeah, you can imagine how she spent a lifetime suffering from the messages she absorbed.

Maybe she finally turned things around with Mr. Older Man!

Late 40s single childless here. Just politely decline. If you like, have coffee with mom-to-be one on one.

Another vote for simply declining.

I guess the million dollar question here is what "close" means in terms of the friendship.

Yes! I enjoy them when they don't involve playing stupid cutesy games.

What, no "identify which melted chocolate bar is in this diaper" for you?

I dated a guy who was a cheater. I finally walked away from the relationship, but we work together -- fortunately, I relationship was not shared amongst our co-workers. What can I do to help with the healing process?

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.

And then put boundaries around those boundaries.

Seriously, I am sorry that it had to end this badly, as you are seeing firsthand how difficult it can be when a relationship with a coworker doesn't work out. How closely do you work together? I think it's really a matter of re-setting yourself for every interaction, treating it like a clean slate. What can you do to get in the mindset- physically and emotionally-- of treating him like only a coworker, baggage be darned? Can you "fake it 'til you make it" in terms of your demeanor? Can you maneuver things so that you get a little space?

Because I think that's the key here-- what kind of spaces you can carve out for yourself. Even something as simple as five minutes of meditation, brisk walks outside, or lunch with a friend? You've got to identify some areas in the workday that are yours and yours alone, time-wise and physically. I don't know if you have had any conversations about work conduct with him-- or whether that would even be wise-- but the more that you can clearly define boundaries, the less steamrolled you'll feel by him, say, suddenly popping in on you and throwing you for a loop.

And the more you can spend time outside of work restoring yourself with hobbies, other friends and family, exercise, new interests and goals, the better.

Hang in there.

My parents were immigrants and my mom looked like a working class person who didn't tend to her appearance (not talking about basic grooming, just not super well dressed and made up), and spoke with a strong accent. One day we were in a grocery store and ran into a friend who was with another friend of hers. As we introduced ourselves, the most repulsive look of sort of a humorous condescension came over this second woman's face. If I had ever felt the least bit uncomfortable about who my parents were before, it was gone after I saw that look and realized who should be feeling uncomfortable about who they were.

Yes, this is fantastic. Thank you.

It really behooves OP to think about who or what might be driving her embarrassment, and whether the tables could be turned for her to change her perspective on those individuals.

on whether the OP is just interested in skipping the shower, and doesn't resent the fact that the friendship will be interrupted by preoccupation with baby. Skipping the shower is just not a big deal. IF there's more to the OP's feelings, we need to know that before advising her to bring it up with the mom.

Well said! We need more. More, I say!!!

How would you judge these people if they weren't your family? Yes, you may notice some status defining characteristics, but I would hope you wouldn't think less of them. I am also very self-conscious about how I, and those close to me, appear to the outside world. But, then I realize 1) In my day to day life, no one cares about me as much as I do (in a good way) 2) Most people look for the best in people, which they would see in your family. Finally, my favorite axiom, "Everyone has their crazy." Just because your parents may be uncouth, your fancy friends or in-laws are likely dealing with issues that they would happily trade for a family "from a lower class".

It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it?

And it's so true that we typically notice what we're embarrassed about so much more than others are prone to.

Thanks for this!

Hello! My boyfriend is a teacher at a pretty progressive Catholic high school. He's very handsome and his students tend to develop feelings for him. He also ends up assuming a sort of therapist role with some of them as he has a background in mental health so he tends to develop close relationships with some of his kids. Anywho, I'm a musician and playing a concert this week with a really exciting organization, and he invited one of his students to attend with him. While this would normally be ok, she's 17, and almost definitely has feelings for him, which he doesn't seem to be at all aware of. He's also offered to give her a ride home after the concert, which makes sense from a safety perspective, I worry it could raise eyebrows if he's driving a young woman home at night alone. I've brought this up and he said he hadn't considered that people may think this is inappropriate. Your thoughts would be much appreciated!!

Yup, right or wrong, it's likely that some people would consider this inappropriate. Wise to be cautious.

How is she getting to the event, teleportation? Can't she use that same method to make her way home? (Or is she somehow going directly from school?)

I am feeling very relieved that your boyfriend has you for on objective perspective. He sounds like he could be an amazing teacher, but he does need to be very, very cognizant of the potential for inadvertently raising eyebrows (or breaking hearts.)

Chatters, am I being paranoid here? Perhaps I've listened to too much of The Police's Zenyatta Mondatta album?

One of my coworkers keeps taking credit for the things that I do. Like, for example, she'll say things like "I put this into the system" when she definitely did not put that thing into the system, I put it into the system, she doesn't even know how to put things into the system. Or she'll say "I set up a meeting" when she never sets up meetings, I always do it for her. She doesn't just do it to me, she bragged about how a client that we've been working with for nearly six months now, just sings her praises all the time, when it's the team that's been doing all of the work. And I guess it shouldn't bother me so much but it does because it feels like she's erasing me and my other coworkers from the process. Should I just get over it or should I bring it up to her? And what would be a good way to broach the subject?

Of course it should bother you. She's lying and in doing so, putting down and erasing the contributions of others-- you included. You have a reaction to that because you are a human being.

The trickier question, though, is whether she is capable of change. I would test the waters with lower-level interventions than a big, general conversation about it. What about in the moment? When she claims something, you say sweetly, "Actually, I set that meeting up, but...." and move on? I feel here like a mantra could be helpful. A way of rebutting her that is respectful and to-the-point and does not invite any big dramatic confrontation, but also gets you on record of having disagreed.

How she responds to that could be very telling, I think.

My parents are very comfortable in retirement but they started out blue collar and raised me that way. I listen exclusively to classical music—I was raised by a dad who loved Loretta Lynn. We ate dinner as a family and it was primarily “country food.” I didn’t have Chinese food until I was 16. We never went to Europe because they did not (and still don’t) have any interest in leaving the U.S. unless it is to visit Canada. I’m not “how I was raised” but I appreciate my parents as they are, since I love them.

Yup, keeping the love good and strong helps, no doubt. Your relationship with your family sounds marvelous.

I think that's part of why OP's guilt is so strong, though-- she DOES clearly love them, and wishes she didn't have these reactions. If she didn't love them, she probably wouldn't care.

He needs not to do this. This is what would raise eyebrows: the invitation. He can act as a sort of therapist in other not-such-date-like places.

So maybe even the invitation itself-- even without a ride-- might raise some eyebrows. Thanks.

Many organizations, from schools to sports teams to scouts to youth groups have rules about no adult ever being alone with a student. This is to protect the student from predators and protect the teacher/coach from false accusations. The teacher BF should really review the school's policy handbook before driving a student, and may want to rethink the "counseling."

A great point, thanks. There might be black-and-white rules here, even at a "progressive" school (where maybe they're even more needed, if students and faculty tend to be more informal with each other!)

Teachers should never be alone with a student. This is for the protection of the student and the teacher. Plus I don't think it's appropriate for teachers to socialize with their students. He definitely needs to put up appropriate boundaries. He can do this and still be a warm and supportive teacher

We won't need a recount on these votes, apparently! Thanks!

Absolutely not acceptable for a teacher to go to a concert with one student. Why isn't a group going and the teacher can say hi to them all at the concert.

And they keep coming!


do the girl's parents have ANY idea what the HECK is going on here? Because they should. It doesn't matter if this girl has feelings for him or not. She is 17 and he is her teacher. This situation makes me very uncomfortable.

Yes-- I am guessing (hoping?) the parents would be the first to raise eyebrows!

Ugh. This one is hitting me hard. I am in a similar life situation as the writer. And I also am still grieving a lost pregnancy a little over a year ago. Next week at work we have a joint baby shower for three members of my department. One of them is on my team of three people and I will carry some of her workload while she is on leave. I should go, but I can't. Emotionally I can not handle it (I am in therapy). I am trying to be kind to myself and give myself permission to just not go. Probably no one will even notice. I also don't feel like I want to talk about it with her or anyone else at work. And I feel like I might have to leave early so I'm not around when people trickle back with their cake.

You are not alone. I really hope you can be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to take care of yourself by skipping this.

I'm also really, really sorry for your loss. Hang in there and treat yourself well. I am glad you are getting some support.

This might be true but it shouldn't just be a truth universally acknowledged. I grew up with all sorts of adults in my life - my parents have diverse friends. I hugely benefited from them.I don't have kids but I have a lot of friends with kids. Some have gone on a different path from me but many are still close friends. I also have friends who don't have kids and from whom I've drifted apart.

1000 percent.

I really worry that when we assume that people can only remain close if their life circumstances are the same, we really cut ourselves off from some pretty amazing friendships, of which no two are ever exactly the same.

Thank you.

My husband is extremely kind generally and has a warm relationship with my family, I'm happy to say. I wouldn't tolerate any kind of condescension toward my family by others, and, especially post-Trump, speak out whenever people malign rural or working class people. But I just walk around with a lot of "it's pronounced keen-wah" secondary embarrassment anyway. Because I'm so ashamed of these feelings that are so contrary to both my personal values and my great love for my family, I've been reluctant to dig in much. But the idea of ranking situations and controlling and increasing exposure is a really helpful one. Thanks!

Glad it was helpful!

Yup, I totally hear you. You can love someone and not judge them negatively yourself but still bristle a little about how they are coming across to others. Good luck!

(I myself may have said "quin-OH-uh" for a time until a kind and pitying friend corrected me.)

Yes, that was my first thought. BF is either very, very naive or up to no good. I'm shocked the school doesn't have a policy against this kind of thing.

It may very well have a policy, I'm guessing! And now that others have brought that up, perhaps OP will help BF figure that out!

I'm going to assume he is just very naive and that this isn't part of a long con of being up to no good.


OMG! The first & (thankfully) only time I encountered that game at a baby shower I thought it was a joke made up to see how gullible I was because surely no one would do anything that tasteless. It was not a joke. When the diaper was passed to me, the combination of the very distinctive smell of a disposable diaper (even a clean one) and a brown smear triggered the daylights out of my gag reflex. Suppressing the urge to vomit is not my idea of fun times. Dudes are so lucky.

haha! I know. I've seen it more times than I would care to admit.

(Ironically, I think it would KILL at preschooler birthday parties! Seems people just need to wait a few years!)

This is another question where we need more information. For example, is the embarrassment because the in-law family says something about preferring "Giselle" to "Swan Lake" and the FOO doesn't have anything to say about that? Or is it because their response is something like "ballet is for sissies." Have they not had an opportunity for further education or are they openly disdainful of "east coast liberal elites"?

Great question.

I will NEVER say no to more information!

This is how it worked with my mother. One day I got a nasty letter from my sister which made it clear just how deliberately and expertly Mom has used lies and bribery to turn her against me. I finally (finally!) realized that Mom wasn't being merely rude/thoughtless/selfish all those many years. She was purposely, intentionally, and calculatedly trying to hurt me and those dear to me. And that's when I decided that she would never get another chance.

Sometimes those moments of clarity are so freeing, aren't they?

Glad you had yours. Thanks for writing.

Same here. And each parenting situation is different -- one couple we would never have dreamed of distancing ourselves from has become a "see you in 18 years" couple because their kids run roughshod over them. Other couples are always welcome to bring their kids to our house. It varies with each couple.

Yes! This is such a good point-- the type of parents your friends end up being probably makes a big difference in how friendly you can stay with them.

I obviously don't know the school policies but the OP's BF could actually be dismissed for fraternizing with students like this. Not only is this creepy and inappropriate but he could also LOSE. HIS. JOB.

So, I'm getting a little bit of a "no" vibe on the concert, then?


Re: the baby shower. Mom-to-be and I have kept the friendship after her first child, but the friendship has definitely changed. I'm one of the only one of that friend circle without kids, and our social dynamic has definitely changed. Their social lives revolve much more around the kids, and instead of weekend hikes and dinners out, we're cobbling together coffees and lunches. We make it work, but the shower is a reminder of how much I'm now on the outside of what used to be my core friends group. One person mentioned "The mom-to-be may not even notice an eventual fade." But us non-moms definitely notice the fade.


I really hope your friendship can survive this, truly. And I do think that leveling with her on a more intimate emotional level-- whether now or in time-- could help keep you from fading.

A very good point, that even if the parent doesn't notice the fade, the non-parent very well might-- and it can stink!

Good luck on this. I hope you'll keep us posted.

Ms. Manners says declining invitations should never come with a reason. "Gratitude for the invitation and regret at not being able to accept are all that need be expressed" - yesterday's column. And I hate them, I will send a nice gift and my regrets.

Yes, but I think when you have a close friend that is celebrating something huge, what etiquette says you HAVE to do and what reality says might help you stay emotionally close to the person may be two different things, right?

But your point is well-taken-- she doesn't OWE an explanation. Thanks.

OP said: he invited one of his students to attend with him. While this would normally be ok, she's 17, and almost definitely has feelings for him, which he doesn't seem to be at all aware of. He's also offered to give her a ride home after the concert " Another poster said this; the BF Teacher is encouraging this behavior; he's not naive, but wants to play with fire. I think.

I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that your hunch is overreacting (with all due respect!) But of course, we don't know for sure.

Unfortunately too many parents don't think about what their kids are/or could get up to and others are too quick to go negative. Years ago my brother offered to give music lessons to one of his better students. He immediately rescinded this when the mother contacted the principal to ask about him before even meeting with my brother. And my children's school sports programs always required 2 coaches and if one was missing a parent had to stay for the practice. That was usually me as an amazing number of parents just leave their kids at the curb without even checking if there are any adults there yet.

Yup, it seems to be the outlier parents on both sides that can cause problems for the rest of us, no?


If the girl is using the teacher as a therapist then the parents might be the problem, though.

Good catch.

You said - "I also wonder about the no-physical-closeness-except-sex factor. I've seen in the comments some people really offended by this, feeling like it could very easily be objectifying, that he uses her for sex and has no interest in expressing affection otherwise." My wife (menopause on Premarin) gives "compliance sex." She otherwise won't initiate physical contact or sex. She enjoys orgasms, but they self administered. I was put off her "compliance sex" label, but it works for me. And we (mostly) get along on other things. She was quite sexual until menopause; she also says 20 lbs over her "normal weight" makes her feel less attractive. Ultimately, couples have to find places for both.

Now, this feels like dropping a bomb into the chat at this late hour!!!

I can't argue with the fact that it seems to be working for you, though?

After his elderly mother ran a stop sign and a couple of stop lights, clipped two cars' bumpers, and slaughtered an inoffensive mail box, her son just plain stole her car. "Mama, let me have your car keys for a minute, I have to run to the store." She handed over the keys, and he absconded with the car. Parked it miles away in a friend's garage. She was forgetful -- did I mention she'd go out on an errand and forget where she was going and why? -- and didn't notice that her car was missing for a couple of days. When she asked her son, he told her that she'd given it to him. When she insisted that she needed it and that he was to bring it back, he refused. "But I'll take you wherever you need to go, or you can call a cab. Here, I'll put the number right by the phone, and they'll be right over, whenever you want." She was upset, but he refused to return the car. "Mama, I love you, and I don't want you to get hurt." It had been tough on him to do that, but the conditions were such that he didn't have much choice. She went into a memory care center some months later, and her desire to drive faded, but their mutual love never did.

I found this really moving.

Even if it did start with grand theft auto.

Definitely another tactic to consider-- I appreciate your writing!

If she is a super-close friend, then I get the point that it might be a good idea to talk to her--but I would argue that it doesn't have to be in the context of leading up to the shower. Decline the invitation, maybe a send a present, and then go out for coffee post-shower and pre-birth and steer the conversation that direction.

Very reasonable, yes-- as this could be a pretty overwhelming time for the mom-to-be as it is.


I mean, as terrible as that moniker sounds...if it works...who cares? I am years away from menopause but sometimes just giving my husband something he really enjoys without getting any pleasure out of it personally (because I'm just "not feeling it") is good enough. Isn't that just how married couples have to negotiate sometimes?

It may very well be!

Clearly, "compliance" can mean many things to different people, but it seems to be working in this case!

As always, the time here flew.

Thank you all so much for so many responses, and for helping each other. I think people are really feeling the love!

In the meantime, I'll see you in the column comments, the Facebook page, and of course here next week.

Viva la Saucer Magnolias!

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Dr. Andrea Bonior
Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist and the voice behind Baggage Check since its start in 2005. She serves on the faculty of Georgetown University and is the author of the Publisher's Weekly best-seller "Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World" and "The Friendship Fix.”
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