Q. I know this is going to sound SO DUMB.
My boyfriend participates in the Renaissance Faire. He enjoys this greatly, and doing so has greatly enhanced his self-esteem.
However, what this means for me is that from October to April, his life is pretty much that. It's all he talks about. It's all he cares about. He is gone every weekend from February to April.
At first I was very supportive. I said, "If our relationship is meant to last, then this will be but a drop in the bucket ..." Now that I've gone through the first year of it, I feel very differently.
I work a very stressful job, and weekends were pretty much when we were spending our quality time. Now it feels like we've been apart forever, and I feel as though our relationship has suffered.
I really want to talk to him about this, but I am also averse to being a controlling girlfriend. I thought about asking him to compromise and only work part time at the Faire next year, so no overnights, but I don't know if that's asking too much or if I'm being selfish.
I thought about joining myself, but I don't want my life to be taken over the way his has.
A. The specter of control is so controlling.
You are entitled to have needs and desires. You are entitled to express needs and desires. You are simply not entitled to bully or manipulate someone into serving your needs and desires.
Saying, "I am torn -- I see how much you love the Faire and I am happy for you, but I don't like essentially losing you to the Faire from October to April," does not make you a control freak, or a manipulator, or a nagging girlfriend. It makes you a SO NORMAL human being who has the capacity and sense to articulate your needs and desires.
Two people on equal footing in a relationship do this for each other: When their feelings are strong enough to be significant, they share those feelings and give the other person a chance to respond. The alternative is to be quietly unhappy and leave your partner to either divine your unhappiness or miss it entirely -- at least, until it spills over as a much bigger, more consequential issue than it ever had to be.
As long as you recognize that what each of you does with the information is up to you, to share is to show respect.
Q. Both of my kids (under 7) participate in activities requiring a different parent to bring snacks each week. Inevitably, some other parent will send around an email saying that it's best if the kiddos eat something with whole grains and no food coloring and please no juice because it has so much sugar in it and it would be best if you just brought apple slices. Because the obesity crisis is so, so very dire. The kids, Carolyn. Won't someone please think of the kids?
And it just shuts the rest of us parents up. And then at the soccer practice we all snicker about the busybody's emails behind her back, and then we all dutifully bring grapes instead of Oreos.
I mean, these are healthy, skinny kids. There is surely an obesity crisis in this country, but you'd never know it to look at my 5-year-old's soccer team.
What is the best way to tell these people to stuff a high-fructose sock in it?
A. Surely a syndicated advice columnist would be too shrewd to allow you to hijack her platform to serve your so-cool anti-purpose ...
Oh, cane-sugar fudge. You got me.
There are food zealots, yes. There are also stuff-your-food-zealotry zealots, and when you've all moved past the parenthood phase of life, one of two things will be true: You'll recall these child-rearing dogmas and anti-dogmas and find them silly, or you'll be convinced your preferred (anti-) dogma is the very reason your children turned out so successfully compared with everyone else's botched science experiments.
If you envision yourself as the former, then just bring the (allergy-dodging) snack you want your kid to eat x 20 because that's the only sure way not to escalate a snack into a Statement. If you envision yourself as the latter, then by all means obey the snack police publicly and privately snicker like middle-schoolers.
If you want to go completely radical, then question the snack itself: Since when is it a collective truth that kids can't make it through an hour -- right? -- of swarm-soccer without organized caloric intervention?
Perhaps if the snack orthodoxy in schools and playgrounds and outside activities didn't lead to a potential, cumulative haul of a dozen sandwich-creme binges a week, those erstwhile food zealots would leave you to your corn syrup en route to other battles.
Bad dogma, bad.
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