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Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

In Response: Dear Abby -- Old People Issues

DEAR ABBY: I married my husband, "Ralph," two years ago. We moved from New York to Arizona after he retired, one month after the wedding. We both have grown children and grandchildren back east.

The issue is: I'm not allowed to hang pictures of my family in the new house. I'm allowed to have four pictures in the office, one picture in the den and one in the living room. If I receive a new picture in the mail, I must choose which of the old ones will be removed and replaced with the new one.

Ralph feels that only "old people" put pictures up all over the house. I requested that we come to some agreement on this. He said that as far as he's concerned, the issue has been resolved.

Abby, I can't tell you how much I miss my family back east. To display their pictures brings me so much joy. Because I feel like I am a child who can't make any decisions in "his" house, I refuse to buy anything for "his" house, and things are still in boxes after two years because I refuse to decorate "his" house. What do you think? -- STUCK IN ARIZONA

DEAR STUCK: These letters are always so fascinating, both for what they say clearly and what they gloss over. Allow me to summarize your life as you have described it: You married this "Ralph" character because you two deeply love each other, or at least want some companionship at this stage of your lives. Immediately after the wedding, you moved with him to Arizona, which cancels out the companionship thing because you left your entire family behind. As you were unpacking on your great Arizona adventure, you started to get a bunch of pictures out and hang them up. Ralph then told you no way, not in his home -- only old people put a bunch of pictures up. You had to admit he had a point, but you told him you needed those pictures to feel close to your family. He asked you why you were still flapping your gums since the issue was resolved. You decided that you were going to protest this by not unpacking anything else, and therefore nothing else has been unpacked. You two now live out your lives in a sort of picture/box cold war, with days going by without anyone saying anything about it.

My question is: How many pictures are we talkin' here? 20? 50? 500? Because this doesn't make any sense. Either Ralph is Hitler in disguise, or you're not telling me the whole story.

Here's my step-by-step advice to you. You're not going to like it.

1) Plan A: Wait until he's out of the house, then hang the pictures up anyway. If he comes home and tears them down, wait until he's gone again and put some more up. Eventually, a man who makes his wife unpack everything from their move is going to be too lazy to keep fighting this battle.

2) Plan B: If he continues to rip your stuff off the walls, superglue it. That will get the issues out in the open.

3) Plan C: If he somehow can get the superglued pictures off the wall, call your family, pack up your stuff, and go "back east" -- you two need to be separated before your drive each other crazy. Why did you get married in the first place? And why in the name of all that is holy did you move thousands of miles away from people you can't stand to not see on a daily basis? Unless...

I just thought of something. Perhaps "Ralph" isn't the thing we should be concentrating on. Perhaps the real issue is why you'd move so far away from your family with a man you clearly know nothing about. Was it just stupid romance (something you should have outgrown by now, btw), or was something far more insidious at work?

When you see those pictures, those idealized portraits of your family, what brings you "so much joy"? Do you only remember the good things? Do the people in the pictures smile at you constantly? Do those smiles allow you to forget that your children despise you and your grandchildren think you're mean and smell funny? Do they gloss over the time you and your brother sued each other over your parents' land, or that time your nephew stole your credit card and rang up $15,000 worth of debt? Do they cover up the fact that one entire side of the church at the Stuck/Ralph wedding was empty except for a few of your mutual friends who felt sorry for you? Am I on to something here?

Stuck, you have but one chance to have a happy end of your life. Ditch Arizona, go home, and start loving your real family. If Ralph loves you, he will come looking for you. If not, you're better off without him.


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