Dear Lisa: Should I Bring A Selfie Stick to a Funeral?
Is it okay to bring a selfie stick to a funeral?
Dear Ready for Your Close-Up,
You passed the "Is it okay?" exit about 18 miles back.
My husband and I met in 1996 and married seven months later. He was smart, charming and a great skier, and our life together was fantastic. But over time, his drinking has increased along with his temper—he's gotten three DUIs, wrecked my car and nearly burned down our home. Twice. He's threatened by my friends, rude to my colleagues, MIA for family occasions and can't keep a job. I left him once, but he showed real remorse and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Things were good; however, I now suspect he's drinking again. Still, he's trying his best, and if I end it, I worry I'll be alone the rest of my life.
—Tormented in Tucson
Darling Cactus Flower,
Sometimes the best way to move forward is to step back, so hop into my time machine and buckle up—we're going for a spin.
Welcome to the 1990s: The O.J. Simpson trial has hit the networks; mad cow disease has hit England; a Starbucks has hit every other street corner. And you and I are sitting down in our baggy jeans and "Rachel" haircuts to hunt through a little something called the personals. Check this one out:
"Good-looking, witty, athletic, chronically unemployed, supremely manipulative, sociopathic alcoholic with anger issues seeks mother figure for mentally abusive roller-coaster ride of a relationship. Must be financially successful, as you will need to post bail for me when I'm arrested for driving (your car) under the influence. I'll embarrass you in front of your coworkers, wreak havoc with your friends, skip your cousin's Bar Mitzvah and accidentally set your kitchen on fire. Twice. Forgiving nature and low self-esteem a plus."
Sound good? Because that's the ad you answered. If you'd known then what you know now, it would be different, but nobody knew anything in those days. Hell, even Jennifer Aniston got the Rachel haircut. The good news is that this man has shown you exactly who he is. Now that you know, here's what you do:
Find a very wise shrink who will help you understand why you've spent 19 years with—how to put this delicately?—a gravy-sucking weasel. "Wait! Wait!" I hear you protest. "He loves me, and love doesn't come easy in this world." You know what? I won't argue the point. For all I know, O.J. loved Nicole. But here's the thing: It's not whether somebody loves you that matters—it's how he treats you.
What would you say to somebody if you watched her devote nearly two decades to a man who squanders every chance he's given? You'd say, "Even though it's impossible to fathom right now, there's a healthier situation waiting for you." You might also point out that fear of being alone is not a terrific reason to be together and that alcoholism isn't a golden opportunity to take advantage of someone—it's a disease that requires treatment. You'd offer an assortment of high-quality caramels and a few thoughts on how integrity trumps charm every time. You'd explain that trust is an offering every bit as sacred as love.
Show yourself the same candor and compassion you'd show any friend. Cut the codependency cord, get some help, wish him well, accept that you're going to spend some time being lonely and disoriented and heartsick, know that the pain will slowly subside and move forward with your life. Because if you stay, it seems to me that regret is about the best you can hope for.
After nearly a year of harmonious dating, I finally met my boyfriend's 16-year-old daughter, and I was so nervous that I just kept asking her how she likes school. It was your basic disaster. Now what?
My Speechless Sister,
You are not an idiot, you're just somebody who really wants a 16-year-old girl to like her. Consider a philosophy espoused by the late great Miles Davis: If you hit a wrong note, it's the next one you play that makes it good or bad. Ask for a do-over. Be honest, be laid-back, be yourself and find an activity that you, your sweetheart and his daughter can all get into: a movie, a trip to the dog park, cooking dinner together, whatever might lead to unpressured conversation. If that doesn't work, try buying her a car. Kids love it when you do that.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.