Dear Lisa,

My boyfriend of nearly a year talks to his ex-wife, Maureen, almost daily to schedule activities for their three children, but I've often heard them laughing together instead of arranging car pools. He also has dinner with her and the kids every Tuesday. I've asked to be included—I'm on good terms with the kids, and I've had several friendly exchanges with his ex—yet he's not comfortable with the idea. If he loves me, shouldn't I be part of the family by now?
—On the Outside Looking In

Dear Sad Little Nose Pressed Up Against the Windowpane,

I have only one child, yet it takes me approximately 77 calls to schedule a playdate, a flu shot, a basketball pickup, a guitar drop-off or a parent-teacher conference—all of which seem to be required every 15 minutes around the clock. Add two more kids to the equation, throw in Mandarin lessons and you're looking at pie charts and PowerPoint presentations. Invariably, one kid forgets a book at the other parent's house and another has pinkeye while the third swears that Dad thinks $265 boots are "totally fine." Meantime, the check for summer camp needs to be mailed, and a birthday party must be planned. I know somebody who developed carpal tunnel syndrome just from the volume of emails it took to set up a field trip to Disney on Ice.

Parents have to touch base with each other, and occasionally they have to laugh. So unless you actually hear the words "Dearest, this lice outbreak in Miss Grady's science class has made me realize that our divorce was the single greatest mistake of my entire life," I'd advise you to be cool. Repeat after me: A call announcing that the hamster has gout is not code for "Please, my darling, marry me all over again."

As for joining his family for dinner, what can I say that Bette Davis didn't say more poetically in Now, Voyager? "Don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars." Wait, strike that: Bette might not be the best role model; she smoked through that whole movie and went on to feed Joan Crawford her beloved bird in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? I'll quote Paul McCartney instead, responding to what I suspect is your unwarranted angst with three simple words of wisdom: Let it be.

Friendly as your boyfriend's former wife is, it could prove rather painful to have you at her table right now. A weekly family dinner might be sacred to the kids. Nearly a year may seem like a long time to you, but clearly your beau isn't ready to integrate you into Tuesdays with Maureen. And you know what? That's really okay. There are only four things to do here: Be delighted that you're with the kind of man who respects the mother of his children and takes his responsibilities as a father seriously; recognize and appreciate that he has chosen to be with you; enjoy having an evening to yourself and give everyone a little more time.

Dear Lisa,

My friend recently criticized me for giving a dollar to a homeless guy on the street. She said he'd only spend it on drugs and alcohol, and the world would be a better place if we'd all donate to a charity that feeds and shelters the homeless. Is she right?
—The Giver

My Donating Dear,

Your friend is absolutely right about the value of giving to charity. But that doesn't mean you're wrong. Baby, it's cold outside, and if you're in a position to share a kind word and a little spare change, I fail to see the harm. Frankly, if I were living in a cardboard box, I'd want a drink, too. If you're really concerned, duck into a diner and treat him to a cup of tea or soup or whatever feels doable. Writing a check to an organized charity, while deeply generous, shouldn't keep you from giving to a human being who is hungry and alone. That person may have fought in a war for you; that person may have been on the receiving end of some unimaginable cruelty; that person may be sick and scared; that person may be on the verge of losing his bid for the Republican nomination. We don't know. What we do know is that you have a choice: turn a blind eye or show some compassion. I say choose compassion.

Dear Lisa,

Where do you stand on genital piercing?
—A Hole New World


Having just Google image–searched those two words, I do not stand at all! I cross my legs, curl into a little ball and try like hell to focus on rainbows and unicorns until the worst of the nausea subsides. If you want to go for it, be my guest. I would rather remove my own spleen with a grapefruit spoon.

Lisa Kogan is O's writer at large and the author of Someone Will Be with You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life. To ask Lisa a question, email


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