Tough Decisions (10/5/05)

Dear Zelda

I have a problem that I feel horrible for even mentioning. My best friend and I do everything together. We go to movies, go to lunch and meet up for an occasional cocktail in the evenings. The problem is her appearance. She is desperately stuck in the 80's. Everything from her Dorothy Hamill haircut to her stirrup pants and long sweaters featuring barnyard animals! The holidays are especially painful because soon she will be sporting her black stretch pants, bright orange socks, long pumpkin sweater and candy corn earrings. She is a beautiful girl who would look amazing with just a few minor changes. How do I broach this subject without hurting her feelings?

Signed - Friend of a Fashion Nightmare!

Dear Friend of a Fashion Nightmare-

This certainly is a dilemma! On one hand you have your best friend, with whom you share everything. And on the other, a Halloween float that looks like she can ice skate. This is a TOUGH one, and unfortunately, as usual, I have some good news...and some bad news.

The bad news first: One side of me says being embarrassed of the way your best friend dresses is a little bit middle-school for a mature relationship between close friends, particularly as we get older. Look past the superficial, this side of me says, and learn to take your best friend at face value.

Now the good news: My inner DIVA side is a liiiiiiiiiiiiittle bit stronger than my other side, and it’s screaming at me as I write: WHERE THE HECK DO YOU GET CANDY CORN EARRINGS? AAAAAAAAGH! This is an outrage to fashionistas all over the world. Every time a pair of these is flushed down the toilet, a supermodel gets her wings. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about a little holiday cheer, but dressing up like the great pumpkin from Charlie Brown takes it to a whole new level. You’re not a bad friend for wanting to help, you’re a GREAT friend. Yeah, I’m sure everyone knows about her great personality, and of course she probably has an amazing sense of humor, but those can only take you so far in a conversation when the bald truth is that people want to eat your earrings and carve a happy face into your bright-orange, oversized, 50/50 cotton/poly blend mu-mu (I’m not even going to touch the black stretchy pants). Of course, all of us are familiar with the saying “beauty is only skin deep” but if they can’t see your skin behind your walking holiday “extravaganza,” the inner beauty may end up buried without anyone being the wiser.

So, the way I see it you have two options.

One: Take the chance and give subtle hints that encourage branching out in a new, improved and fashion-a-bull direction. Try a few shopping trips together that let her know what pieces you think would look “absolutely darling” on her, and when she picks up the reindeer sweatshirt with real bells that jingle all the way, grinch that thing right back into the sale pile and give nothing but your honest opinion (for all our sakes). If you already do this stuff together (like shopping, or going to get your hair cut), you can subtly suggest changes or styles that you and she might try together without singling out her shortcomings in these areas.

One thing you do need to take into consideration before wading in like this is her financial situation. Sometimes we have to make do with what our budget allows, and bringing attention to her lack of fashion sense could make her feel even worse if she is already self-conscious about not being able to afford certain things. That said, we all have tight budgets at one time or another, and most of us don’t come out looking like the Ice Capades.

Or Two: Leave her be, and in about ten to fifteen years she may become somewhat stylishly “retro.” (FYI: not the best option. Long sweaters featuring barnyard animals, by current estimates, are not expected to become cool and retro until the middle of the next century.)

I say wade in! As all good Divas know...nothing says “I sincerely care” like a fabulous make-over. Even if it’s a little bit awkward at first, your best friend will thank you in the end.



Dear Zelda,

My wife and I have been married over 20 years. Our two children are in college. The other day I was in a book store and saw a title that stopped me in my tracks. It said, "Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay." I immediately thought of my marriage. My wife and I live under the same roof, but don't share the same interests anymore. She likes to stay home, watch television, and visit with her friends on the phone. Now that the children aren't home, I'd like to travel and see a lot of the world we couldn't afford to see when the children were little. We don't seem to want to spend time together and the children are the only things we share. Am I being selfish to think that maybe we should separate and find new friends and/or partner or should we stay married and keep the family together?

Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay

Dear Too Good to Leave, Too Bad To Stay,

Selfish? Absolutely not. At what age, and after how many years, do we stop, take a deep breath, look around and say, “Is this it? Is this really the rest of my life?”

Empty nest syndrome is something that many people experience once the kids are gone. After standing at the doorway waving goodbye to that last child, wishing them well and nurturing their life-long ambitions to explore the world, many people shut the door and turn around to face the person they’ve been living with for twenty or twenty-five years, only to realize they have no idea who he or she is. Your last child left all right, and it feels like they took with them every last drop of glue that was keeping the family together.

This is a time of enormous change in all your lives, a time when people often find themselves reevaluating their goals, wishes, and relationships, and senses of identity. I’m not here to give you any easy answers about whether to separate or to stay together, because there aren’t any. Often we feel oppressed by the weight of others’ expectations, that we are supposed to love someone, or that we have to stay together for the family, and these kind of pressures can sink even the most seaworthy of relationships. The truth is, particularly at this stage of your lives, you really don’t have to do these things any more. But before you run off with your dental hygienist in your new Porsche, let me try and introduce you to someone you might find very special.

Allow me to introduce...your wife.

If you haven’t met her recently, she’s the woman that once made your heart ache at the very thought she might not be yours. She was the face you couldn’t forget, and the love you would never regret. You were soul mates. In fact, she was so perfect, you just had to marry her.

Although I’m a firm believer that we can’t help who we fall in—or out—of love with, you didn't state anywhere in your letter that you didn’t still love her. (That's the good news.) But staying married for the sake of the kids isn’t emotionally healthy for any of you. (That's the bad news.) Think it over long and hard, and be firmly prepared for the decision you make, even if it’s not the easy one. Look at the rest of your life and who you envision sharing it with. But before you do anything, take the time and make an honest effort to get re-acquainted; it’s obviously been awhile. She’s probably fallen into the same rut as you, forgetting all the wonderful qualities that first brought the two of you together. If one of you takes the first step and really makes an effort, who knows what might happen?

Start off simple, and don’t underestimate the power of your memories—they can help ignite the flames that warmed your hearts and fueled your fires. But make sure when you take that first step, you step outside the box… try something fun and away from home (and TV and phone), like a date night. Propose a late-night drive on a warm sultry evening, or a sweet dessert and warm coffee at your old favorite haunt, and see where it leads.

We all have a tendency to take for granted those things that are right before us, yet once gone, they may forever be unretrieve-a-bull.


Dear Zelda,

I've heard it said, "Love me, love my dog," but what happens when you love a man who doesn't love your dog? Charlie, my sweeter-than-sweet 5-year-old Labrador retriever has been my best friend and confidant. Then along came my boyfriend who doesn't like dogs. I can't imagine not having Charlie in my life and I can't imagine not having my boyfriend. The latter says that if we are to be together Charlie has to go. I don't know what to do. My boyfriend says Charlie "ties us down." I trust your advice.

Please help.

Heart Like a Pretzel

Dear Heart Like a Pretzel,

Who doesn’t love dogs? Puhleeze.

It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that we’re loving, attentive, nurturing, non-argumentative, never-tell-a-secret, always-excited-to-see-you, snuggly, prefect cuddlers who will respectfully take our “business” outside when nature calls, now would it? Or that we threaten some people who are nervous about the comparison to their own traits? Not that I’m biased.

I don’t think tossing Charlie out on his keester is a viable option here. Caring for a pet is a responsibility no one should take lightly, and that includes making a commitment to care for the animal once the two of you have formed that incredible bond. And if you think you would be sad to lose Charlie, think how distraught Charlie would be without you! “Tied down?” Maybe to some. Personally, I opt for “responsible and caring pet owner.” At the same time, you are crazy about the guy, so what’s a girl to do? You’re stuck between a dog and a hard place!

Since we’ve decided that you are unwilling to give up either the dog or the man, all we need to do now is find a way for you to have your cake and eat it too! First, let your boyfriend know that you are unwilling to give up Charlie, that you made a commitment to him by raising him and you are sticking to it. But to keep this from turning into an all-out “dog fight,” also let him know that you might also be willing to compromise on just how big a slice of your life Charlie occupies. If time is the big issue, you might try something like this: once a week, sweet-talk your best friend or a trusted family member into doing some dog-sitting, while you and the gentleman enjoy a night of rest, relaxation, and a little less slobber (from the dog at least!). Or, if space is the big issue, and Charlie commands a lot of real estate in the house (e.g. has free roam of the place, has chew toys strewn everywhere, or sleeps in the bed with you), you might propose curtailing his territory a bit to give you and your boyfriend some extra personal space.

Who knows, maybe with Charlie being absent every once in a while, the old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” will unleash a newfound companionship between the boyfriend and ol' Chuck. (Okay, I agree, that one was a long shot.)

You may feel like you’re forced to make this enormous choice, but what you need to realize, and to make your boyfriend realize, is that as long as you both care for each other and are willing to compromise, there are acres and acres of middle ground. If he holds to his “me or the dog” hard-line stance, you have to wonder how much he really values the things that are important to you, and what other parts of your life he might not be willing to prioritize!

Listen to your heart, be sensitive to his needs, and be willing to compromise, but stick to your guns, sister! We dogs are worth the fight.