I had a daughter when I was 13. It was a bad and scary situation at the time, but my parents helped me raise her, and she is a great girl who just turned 21.
Sometimes people ask questions as we are getting to know each other, such as, “Do you have any children? How old are they?” When I tell them about my daughter, they are shocked. Some seem embarrassed for me. Some want to know the details of how it happened. I have no interest in sharing those details with someone I just met. I don’t know a good way to handle this.
Hold your head high! It takes an enormous amount of strength and fortitude to raise a child at any age, let alone at 13. You don’t owe these people dookey! If you want to, you can come up with a pat response like, “Yes, I had a child young and she’s an amazing young woman now,” or the less revealing, “I know, crazy, right?” Or even, “I like to keep my personal information just that, thanks!”
Of course, I think you would also be justified in lying about it, and either making your daughter’s age artificially lower or yours artificially higher, just to avoid the subject. Why invite an uncomfortable intrusion that you would prefer to avoid? Pat yourself on the back, soak in a bubble bath while enjoying a glass of wine and a quart of cookies and cream, or do something else that floats your boat. You deserve it, girl!
True story: I really like my new neighbors. They’ve only lived next door for six months, and already we are on better terms than we ever were with our previous neighbors (who “kept to themselves”). They say hello whenever we see them, and frequently stop and chat. They re-painted the house, fixed the windows and roof, and have created a pleasant order to what had previously been a chaotic front-and-back yard.
So why do they have to ruin everything by hanging their wet laundry all over their back porch? I know, I know, it’s in their backyard and not in my backyard. And I know they are environmentally more correct than I am by not using their hot-air dryer. But damn it, Gabby, why do they have to make their yard look like an alleyway? Do I really need to see their underwear (even though it’s clean underwear) flapping in the breeze? Will they next move their refrigerator onto their front porch?
Can I say anything (to anybody other than you)?
No, you may not say anything to anyone other than me! And by the end of this column, you may regret even that. If this is your biggest problem with your neighbors, consider yourself a lottery winner. Laundry hanging on the line in the yard is not an indication of a garbage-strewn alleyway, and even if you see it that way, so what? A pair of dungarees on the line is not going to single handedly lower your precious property value!
As you so smartly point out, none of us should have dryers in the house for environmental reasons and really, you balk at the idea of seeing clean underwear? What do you do when you are in Target and have to see all those bras just hanging out in the open like that? Or here’s a newsflash – they even have clean underwear on display at Saks and Bloomies. Also, laundry smells great when it’s dried on the line. You should try it. It’s underwear. We all wear it. Relaaaaaaaax.
As for the frig on the porch, sounds heavenly! Don’t have to walk too far to crack open an icy cold Diet Coke, which I, for one, am all for. Your neighbors sound wonderful. Enjoy your good fortune and think about all the late night parties you are not hearing, the constantly barking dog in the yard you’re not annoyed by, the property-line disputes you are not having, the trees they are not cutting down….you get the idea. Take it easy and don’t get your machine-dried knickers in a twist.
My sister-in-law asked me if my 5-year-old daughter wanted hand-me-downs. I said sure, because I’ve seen photos of her kids, and they were always beautifully dressed. She showed up at my house with a HUGE bag of clothes. As soon as she left, my daughter and I were excited and started looking through the bag.
After pulling out a couple items, it became clear that every piece was damaged in some way, as if these were the clothes that she could not sell on eBay or even bring to a used-clothing store. So, she gave them to us – or so I thought. But I soon learned differently when I received a bill for the clothing.
What should I do – pay the bill, talk to my brother, or never talk to this woman again?
So, let me get this straight, your brother’s wife asked you if you wanted hand-me-downs, which by definition are used clothing, and upon receipt you found them all damaged, and then got a bill from her for the damaged goods? This is unconscionable, to say nothing of a little nutso. WTF?
I would call your sister-in-law immediately and ask her directly, “That box of clothes was absolutely enormous and thank you for dropping it off. But I’m a bit confused. Is the bill you sent me for that box? If so, we can’t use them, and I will drop them back at your house.” And then just sit tight and see what she says. Do not fill in the silence with anything, just let her explain herself. Should be interesting!
As the youngest, I also got a gigantic box of hand-me-downs when I had kids and many of the items were stained or otherwise unusable. I get that. People just want to unload their crap. I tossed some and used some (I am not above wearing things with holes in them or dressing a newborn in less than pristine things). But sending you a bill? I really can’t get over that. I hope this is a misunderstanding of some sort. Try and sort it out without involving your brother. Get back to me cause Gabby really has to hear what this gal has to say for herself!
Dear Gabby appears in the RoundTable every Monday. 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org.