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Dear Gabby, 

Every time my wife yells at me during quarantine (which is hourly) I develop Covid symptoms. What to do?? There aren’t enough Covid tests to keep up…she’s nicer to our new dog than to me and our son, how can I change this???

Signed, 

Should I grow fur??

Dear Should I,

If only we all could grow fur! Think how much better off we’d be! So much more cuddly, more adorable, more stinky after it rains. But alas, unless you happen to be Professor Lupin from Harry Potter, no one around here is growing fur (although, given my hirsute heritage, I’ll just say that I come very, very close). 

Having dispensed with the fur issue, I must now reveal to you one of the secrets of the universe: no one can compete with a new dog. No one! I mean, do you lick your wife’s shins everytime she comes in from a run? Does your son heel while walking down the street? Do either of you curl up at the end of the bed, never to be heard from til morning? Didn’t think so. I’m afraid, Should I Grow Fur, that you must lower your bar. 

To your larger point, however, I get it. Who needs aches and pains, literal or existential? We are all short-tempered and stir-crazy in this spirit-crushing Covid hell. From the dishes that need to be done to the planet’s potential demise, there is no shortage of worries and tasks that preoccupy our thoughts, to say nothing of deadlines, aging parents or unemployment. As a friend of mine recently put it, “I want to divorce my kids and my husband after homeschooling and sheltering with them through a pandemic, but I can’t because there is literally nowhere to go and I am trapped in a living hell that is sucking my soul out slowly.” 

I believe that about sums it up.

So, here’s the thing. It sounds like you are walking on eggshells because your wife is so touchy at the moment. My guess? Pent-up frustration. And the way to address that, as my wise friend says, is to strike while the iron’s cold. Do not approach her when she is in a pissy mood at the end of a long day or when either of you are loaded for bear. Wait til you both are chill (say, in the car on the way to Lemoi) and then talk to her about what she is frustrated about. See if you can find ways to alleviate the situation together. A lot of times just being heard goes a hell of a long way. Getting it out in the open is like losing 25 pounds in a sitting. You’ll both feel so much better. Be brave. Be bold. Bring bon bons. And if that doesn’t work, don’t forget that a few sessions with a good teletherapist is far, far cheaper than rehab.


Dear Gabby,

I hate my next-door neighbors. They play loud music, and their kids skateboard on the sidewalk right in front of my house. They think I’m a hateful single woman who hates kids. How can we resolve this?

Signed,
Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,

Since you don’t include any information about talking to your neighbors regarding your frustration, I am going to assume that you are suffering in silence. But taking on the mantle of a martyr is never a good look, unless you are Mother Theresa, and I ask you, who among us is?

I have a radical suggestion that you might not like. Invite the family over for a meal (masked, in the backyard, and socially distanced, of course). You may want to put away all the breakables first! I can hear you thinking, “Great! Now I have to cook, too!” Not so. There is nothing kids like more than McDonalds! My point is that it’s easy to hate people when you have no connection to them. Hello, road rage. But, with little effort, you can get to know these neighbors. You may find, for instance, that their kids, when not skateboarding in front of your house, are hilarious and delightful. One of them might be the next flying tomato! Or maybe the mom is distantly related to your uncle’s second wife’s nephew.  Even if you find that their favorite pastime is waving a Trump flag the size of Rhode Island on the corner of Dempster and McCormick, you will have opened the door through which civility can travel. Then, the next time the music is too loud and you kindly ask them to turn it down, my guess is that they will be much more likely to do so. But don’t be a stickler about the skateboarding unless the kids are leaving candy wrappers or beer cans all over your lawn. They’re just kids. And besides, you don’t wanna be cleaning eggs off your window or toilet paper off your tree.


Dear Gabby,

How often should I be changing my sheets?

Signed,
Linen Lady

Dear Linen Lady,

More often than you celebrate your birthday.


In response to a previous column:

Dear Gabby,

I’ve been out of the dating pool for a while, but when did the rule become “after two dates I owe you an ‘honest’ appraisal of your faults?!” In romance, in individual friendship, in couples’ friendships, things sometimes just naturally fall off. And sometimes it doesn’t feel mutual. Or feels bad. But wouldn’t it be worse to hear WHY they don’t want to hang out? Longtime besties even fade over distance, divergence, politics, etc. and sometimes just inattention. It’s life.

Without trashing the other/s after a slight connection, it seems to me not calling, or replying curtly, are the “nice” ways to say “I thought I might be interested but I’m not.”  When did this change?

Kathy Reyen Judd

Dear Kathy,

We are in agreement – mostly. I do think that telling someone, “I thought I might be interested but I’m not,” or “this has been fun but romance isn’t in the cards for me,” is better than being ghosted. You don’t have to go into a long list of why you’re not interested, that is never a great idea….but clarifying that you’re not interested is a lot more polite than dropping off the face of the earth, leaving people to fill in the absence of sound with their worst fears and insecurities. There may be some of that anyway, but less if someone just has the courtesy to say, “No, thanks.” I agree that of course friendships sometimes naturally fall off. And it sucks when it is not mutual. But when the premise of a relationship starts with the possibility of romance, I think that people and their feelings are a little more vulnerable and need an extra dollop of courtesy. 


Dear Gabby appears in the RoundTable every Friday. Yes, Gabby is an advice columnist – but not just any advice columnist. Because that would be boring! Gabby combines wisdom with wit. And a pinch of snark. She is not a trained therapist by any means, but has seen and loved many in her day. Her aim is to make you think while she makes you laugh. Gabby welcomes all questions and queries and is only too happy to hear your opinion, no matter how much it may diverge from hers. Write to Gabby here.

 

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