DEAR AMY: I am divorced from my ex-husband, “Barry,” but he and I remain friends. He is very open with me.
He has been dating a nice woman for about a year now. She has some serious health issues, which I can sympathize with because I also have serious health issues.
Barry has been complaining about his girlfriend and the problems she has. He makes remarks about finding “a healthy woman.” He told me that a woman he has had a “crush” on for several years has asked him out.
Barry says he is planning on “hanging out” with his crush.
I’m angry that he would even consider doing this! His girlfriend deserves so much better. I think his girlfriend should be made aware of this, but I’m torn. She is preparing to have major surgery soon. The last thing she needs is a boyfriend that is not there for her and who is out with someone else.
What are your thoughts?
DEAR ANNOYED: One advantage of moving a spouse into the “ex-files” is that you don’t necessarily have to engage with them when they are displaying their less attractive qualities.
Your being divorced doesn’t give your ex license to display his awfulness to you without consequence. Furthermore, his choice to complain about his current partner and about their relationship means that he is being more emotionally intimate with you than he is with her.
No, I don’t think you should warn his girlfriend about him. Unless you and she are close friends, your warning would likely be dismissed by her — and dismantled by him.
If you and Barry are truly friends, then as his friend you get to deliver an occasional challenging truth. You could start with, “Barry, you are acting like a low-life. If we weren’t already divorced, I’d divorce you all over again.”
DEAR AMY: I have five young sons. Everywhere I go, people ask me if I’m “done having kids” or if I’m “going to try for a girl.” I get these questions from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers.
I feel that the topic of future reproductive plans is a personal one. But I am a friendly person, and I end up answering some pretty personal questions, so as not to hurt the feelings of the person asking. Honestly, I would rather steer clear of the matter entirely!
Sometimes I just say, “We love boys!” when people ask if I’m going to try for a girl, especially when my kids are listening. People still like to push the question further. I know I’ve hurt at least one person’s feelings by trying to change the subject at that point.
I understand that people are curious about our family, but I would rather not discuss whether or not I’m done having kids unless I choose to bring it up, myself. What is a friendly way I can steer the conversation?
DEAR MOM: You sound quite patient and understanding — great qualities in a mom of five young boys. (“We love boys!” is a fantastic answer when this intrusive question is raised in front of your children, by the way.)
I’m trying to comprehend how a person asking you about your reproductive plans – in front of your kids – could possibly have their feelings hurt when you deftly try to change the subject, but I take it as a given that sometimes people who are insensitive (or merely thoughtless) toward others are extra-sensitive about themselves.
One way to respond to this sort of query would be to say, “Ha, ha – aren’t you sweet?” This is sort of a catch-all (Southern-born) phrase that you can plug into almost any awkward conversational gap. Think of it as conversational caulk.
You could put the inquisitor a little more on the spot by saying (with a smile), “Well, that’s a pretty personal question, don’t you think?”
DEAR AMY: I was deeply offended by your response to “No Thanks.” This was a woman who didn’t want to date men of different races. You called her a racist. That’s not being racist.
DEAR OFFENDED: It would have been very easy for this woman to simply tell any man who approached her, “No thank you,” or “I’m not interested.”
According to her question, she was only looking for a response to repel men of other races.
I don’t know the racial identity of the woman who asked this question, but “I stick to my own kind” is a racist trope, at least in my opinion.
You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.