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Feeling Like a Doormat? (11/15/06)

Dear Zelda,

I've been dating a gorgeous guy who everyone likes. He has lots of friends, but when we go out together he ignores me and treats me like a doormat. I feel like he is ashamed to be seen with me. However when we are alone he tells me how much he loves me. Is he two people? I think this isn't a good relationship, but there's no one else in my life. I'd rather have someone to be with. I don't want to be alone, so I don't want to tell him to go away. What's your advice?

The Doormat in Distress

Dear Doormat in Distress,

No one has ever referred to me as a "doormat," which is impressive considering I lay around for fourteen hours a day in front of the door and look like a bear rug with an under bite. (A Diva, yes, but never a doormat.) Anyone who refers to themselves as a "doormat" already has a problem, and you need to listen to me on this: Mr. "Everybody-Loves-Me" doesn't sound like the right guy for you. Love is supposed to be a two-way street, and this relationship sounds more like a one-way alley headed straight for a dead end. Your "gorgeous guy" is NOT long-term relationship material. But the worrisome part is that you already know this! I'm not too troubled by the studly dud himself. He sounds mindlessly selfish, but it's not like he's the first or last person you'll meet like that. What troubles me is your willingness to put up with him even though you KNOW the relationship is no good, just because you are desperate to have someone to be with. This is classic doormat behavior.

Doormats want the perfect relationship and often try to hide who they are and make themselves over to please their partners. Doormats often believe, FALSELY, that they have no identity or personality of their own...hence the appeal of a dynamic, charming date, even one who treats you like junk. If you want to go from doormat to dream girl, you need to listen to me carefully: GET YOUR OWN LIFE before going on to your next relationship. Move from a model of enabling him to a model empowering you. Force yourself to spend some time alone for a while and figure out what it is YOU'RE passionate about. Then, when you meet Mr. Right, suggest plans to do something you love: eat at your favorite restaurant, go to a concert, watch old horror movies, or take a trip to the beach.  It has been said that the longest journey in the world is the twelve-inch path between the head and the heart. Find your way down that road, and the rest of it will follow.

If you're not steering life, life will steer you and you might not like the destination. Take control of your destiny. The road to love may be full of pot holes and detours, but if you navigate carefully you'll find your way. As a first step, say goodbye to the gorgeous guy who can't manage to treat you right. More importantly, say good bye to the old doormat, and hello to the new dream girl.


Dear Zelda,

My mother-in-law uses me as her doormat. Maybe everyone needs a place to wipe their dirty feet, but I'm tired of being walked on. If she burns dinner, it's because I've let our children distract her. If she's late for our son's basketball game, it's because I told her the wrong time. Not once has she admitted it might be her fault. What am I to do to get out from under her feet?

Muddied by My Mother-In-Law

Dear Muddied,

Sounds like your mother-in-law is flying on a broom into every room of your life. Toil and trouble girl, she's giving it to you double! A good relationship with your mother-in-law needs rules, boundaries and communication. But right now you're letting her write the rules in your relationship, and it's long past time for you to establish your authority.

It may seem strange, but mothers-in-law are a lot like puppies. They want to test their boundaries and push your limits to find out who's the boss. Make no mistake, the household pecking order is just as important for moms as it is for puppies, and the struggles can be just as vicious. If you're firm and confident, and if you judiciously place an occasional bark here and there (but no bites!), your mother-in-law will learn quickly who's boss, and you'll be amazed how easily the relationship can smooth over. Don't believe me? Try it. It's time for you to face your enemy and this time, don't back down. When she blames you for her mistakes, call her on it: "No, I told you the game was at four o’clock, because I told you it was the same number, number four, as Jimmy’s jersey on the team." Be respectful, but look straight into the old bird's eyes and let her know she's no longer at the top of the pecking order. Just don't let firm resolve turn into a mudslinging contest that consumes your whole family. Soar like an eagle and you'll see a newfound respect coming from your mother-in-law (perhaps after a few less-than-respectful glares at first). When you're flying high again she won't have any more chances to walk all over you.

Easier said than done, right? Well, yes. But it can be accomplished. Let me finish by recommending a couple of good books that address these complex issues in greater depth. The first is Mothers-In-Law Do Everything Wrong (acronym: M.I.L.D.E.W.) by Rene Plastique and Liz Bluper (pseudonyms, for obvious reasons). This book uses humor to teach you how to side step your mother-in-law's one-two punch. It might also be a book you'll want to slip into her Christmas stocking. My second recommendation is The Daughter-In-Law's Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Relating to Your Mother-In-Law by Eden Unger Bowditch. This book offers creative solutions for handling boundary issues, criticism, child-rearing disputes and non-supportive partners. Good luck, and keep us posted!


Dear Zelda,

Christmas is just around the corner and every year we try to take a photo of our dog, Rufus, dressed for the holidays to use as our Christmas card. We have consistently failed and I'm wondering if you can give us some tips? How does your photographer get such amazing shots and how is it that you sit still and pose for your fabulous photos?

Picture Un-Perfect

Dear Picture Un-Perfect,

What would I do without my genius photographer, Shane Young? From the beginning Shane knew just how to capture my special moments. That's not to say he doesn't take a lot of shots before he nails my perfect look, but he does have some secrets that should help you snap the perfect Christmas card photo of Rufus.

According to Shane, the best time to take canine photographs is when there are no distractions. That means no ringing phones or doorbells, no noises like a television or pots and pans clanging in the kitchen. We schedule my photo shoots for 6 am... not easy since I'm only a morning person at noon... but it works.

A little practice and familiarity in the desired costume helps too. It took my owner a week of applying cold cream to my cheeks before we could capture the "What price beauty?" shot. My advice for you is to start with a simple costume, maybe just an antler headband.  First let Rufus sniff the antlers and then distract him with some tiny pieces of lean puperoni as you place the antlers on his head. Verbally reward him. Nothing works as well as praise in getting me to pose. My favorite costume is still my ruffled pink bikini because everyone told me how beautiful I looked parading around the set wiggling my tush and flaunting my flowered bikini bottoms. As Rufus gets accustomed to posing for pictures you can add more elaborate clothing. We have worked with four-week-old puppies in complicated cowboy costumes and they have posed like professionals.

Once Rufus is relaxed with his new set of antlers, sit him down in a comfortable location that has a plain background. Since you're going for the Christmas card look, you might want to use a large piece of plain green or red cardboard. Forget the Christmas tree, and don't even think of using your flowered couch as a background. Plain and simple works best. The focus should be a close-up on Rufus.

Now on to Shane's secret vocabulary. When Shane wants me to look my very best he will begin with "STAY," and then ask me a positive question that perks my interest like, "Want to go for a walk?" or "Want a treat?" These phrases make me sit up and look right into the camera. Another of Shane's tricks is to use the sound from a squeaky toy. If the sound is one I haven't heard before, I will cock my head, my ears will be at attention, and I'll be at my best (I know, I fall for it every time). Then it's time to start clicking that shutter. Take lots of shots and if Rufus moves from your desired position, just take him back, tell him how wonderful he is, and start over.  Sometimes having a second person work with you is helpful. Patience and puperoni work wonders.

So happy holidays and may your photos of Rufus be merry and bright! Please send us  copies of your perfect holiday pictures of Rufus and we'll post them on the Zelda's Friends section of my website to celebrate your success. Happy snapping,