Allow niece to find her own path

Published3/15/2008 12:33 AM

Q. I was checking out my 12-year-old daughter's MySpace (she knows I do this as a condition of her having it) and found my 14-year-old niece's MySpace (that my brother and sister-in-law do not know she has), where she alluded to having a "relationship" with a lesbian friend.

The last time we spoke, my sister-in-law said she was wary of this girl, so I don't know whether I should tell her what I found. They live several states away, and we only see each other a few times a year. Their daughter is a good kid, and I don't want to cause problems, especially if my niece learns how her parents found out.


If it were my daughter, I'd want to know so I could at least talk to her about it. This kid is barely 14 years old.

-- Wavering Auntie

A. I suggest you say nothing. Assuming the "relationship" is sexual (and it may not be), the youngster is experimenting and should be allowed to do so without parental input, which would not change the outcome, by the way.

It's not as though your niece is robbing banks and popping Quaaludes, dangerous behavior requiring intervention. She is figuring out her sexuality, and parents trying to steer a child away from a natural inclination are not going to be successful.

When next you talk to your s-i-l, you might ask what she dislikes about this friend, since she told you she is wary of her. If there are complaints about the girl that are valid, they should be the reason to put the kibosh on the friendship, not that she is a lesbian.

Q. I am in my early 20s but always seemed older. I graduated high school very early, went to college and, before I was old enough to vote, took on more responsibilities than people twice my age.

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The reason I'm writing is because I am engaged to a man I love and who makes me happy. My problem is not with him, but with the people around us who view our relationship as doomed. The reason? He does not work but stays home and takes care of the house. He also doesn't have as much education as I do, but is smart in his own right.

People keep telling me it is wrong for me to be working hard while he is at home "doing nothing," and that I should be home raising a family. How can I tell them to back off without losing them as friends? I've tried to defend our relationship, stating that if the roles were reversed, no one would say a word. I'm worried that all this stress is not doing me any good.

-- Melinda

A. Guess what? You don't have to defend anything. This is a choice the two of you have made, and it works for you. The designation "househusband" is becoming much more common than it used to be.

To close down the "friends" who are offering unasked-for opinions, mention that the former head of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina, could only have had her career because her husband chose to be a househusband. There are countless other women who are very happy with this arrangement. Cooking, cleaning and looking after children are very satisfying to some men, just as these same activities do not thrill some women.

Gender roles are changing rapidly, though your friends seem to be unaware of this. Tune out the Greek chorus and learn not to care so much about what is coming at you from others. If you're feeling really feisty, you might respond by saying you don't recall asking them what they thought of the way you're living your life.

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