Advice Goddess from Aug. 24
STY’S THE LIMIT
I’m 28, and I’ve been dating my boyfriend, 41, for six months, and living with him for three. We split the rent. His daughter, 18, lives with us (she was to move in with her boyfriend, but they broke up, so she’s still here). She’s self-centered, spoiled, and incredibly messy. I clean frequently (I work from home), but she constantly makes messes, and scowls upon being told to pick up after herself. I’d ignore her messes, but I can’t bear her dad coming home to a dirty house. Meanwhile, I just bought a treadmill. Naturally, she uses it, which really irritates me. Can I ask my boyfriend to pay for half its warranty? And, ultimately, how do I keep my rage at becoming her cleaning lady from ruining my relationship?
‘— Unwilling Stepmother
Wow . . . an 18-year-old who isn’t a paragon of domesticity, personal responsibility, and concern for others? Getting all creased about that is like buying a house across from the Hells Angels and being shocked they aren’t in bed by 9 p.m. after a long day crocheting potholders.
Weren’t you ever 18? Or, did you shoot straight from training bra to treadmill-marching, dust bunny-vanquishing pillar of society? The average 18-year-old girl has a lot on her mind: Boys! Boys! Natalie Portman’s hair. More boys! Sale at Abercrombie. Should I get my tongue pierced? Boys! I look fat. I’m not fat! I should model. I should be famous. I should be dating Seth from ‘“The O.C.’”
This particular 18-year-old girl just broke up with her boyfriend, leaving her not only stuck at home, but stuck with you ‘— not even her official step-meanie, just some neat-freak chick her dad picked up and moved in three months later. Is it any surprise she literally lets the chips fall where they may ‘— along with the wet towels, the orphaned lip-gloss wands, and the week-old, half-eaten burritos ‘— and sees the entire house as her hamper? Her dad’s home-invasion girlfriend is much more fun to push around than the vacuum. Or, at least, much less work.
The real mess here wasn’t caused by this girl, but by the one thing you and she probably have in common ‘— a leap first, look later approach to relationships and housing. At least she gets a maid out of the deal. You just get angrier and angrier that you’ve yet to hear her say, ‘“No, Tiffany, I don’t think I’ll go tonight. I should really stay home and bleach the grout.’”
However did Dad manage before you stormed in like Martha Stewart with a Hitler mustache? Apparently, just fine, thanks ‘— just like he managed when his teenage daughter announced she was shacking up with her boyfriend. Daughter wants to move out, let her move out. Daughter wants to stay, let her stay. You want to move in, c’mon, join the party! Yes, Dad manages; you’re the one with the problem ‘— and it isn’t how you’re going to nickel-and-dime him for half the treadmill warranty. Fretting about that is like squabbling over what color to paint the bathroom while the house is burning down.
If you’d like to preserve this relationship, your immediate issue is hiring a Man With A Van who can haul a treadmill. Sooner or later, that last crumb will tumble from her lips, or that final droplet of catsup will fly off her fork and onto your white blouse. Go before you blow. Even a guy as blasÃ© as your boyfriend is sure to reevaluate your relationship while you’re forcing his daughter, at knifepoint, to admit that spilling an entire pot of glitter eyeshadow on the coffee table is not an acceptable form of dusting.
BRAT NEWS BARED
My old college roommate just had her first kid. Ever since, real conversation has been replaced by mass e-mails about junior’s every move, usually including numerous photos, choking my dial-up connection. How can I politely tell her to knock off the babyland updates, or at least supplement them with items of adult interest?
‘— Not A Kid Person
‘“It’s A Bore!’” . . . uh, boy. Advances in technology have made inflicting informational tedium on family, friends, and near strangers fast, easy, and practically free. When you’re on the receiving end, it’s tempting to give back in kind: ‘“Here I am brushing my teeth! Changing the lightbulb! Watering my plants!’” Instead, opt for an edited version of the truth: You prefer one-on-one contact, and photos jam your dial-up. Ask to be taken off the mailing list, but encourage her to write you personally when time permits. Set topical standards by writing first, focusing the conversation on the adults at hand. On the bright side, parental mass e-mail insanity is usually temporary. After all, can you imagine her photo-spamming you a few years down the road? ‘“Here’s Johnny getting tried as an adult. How quickly they grow up.’”
Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)
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