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What Would Janet Do?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Hello Out There In Cyberspace!

Yes, I am still doing my advice column. So if you have any personal problems you want aired in public, I’m your gal! Feel free to ask me anything about love, sex or marriage and I’ll try my best not to humiliate you!

Dear Janet:

I’m a 37-year-old male. I just completed a Ph.D. in History. When I told my parents, my father questioned why I’d get a degree in something that “didn’t matter.” He wanted to know when I was going to grow up and get a real job again (I was in corporate finance for ten years). Ever since I left my job to pursue my true passion, he thinks I’ve lost my mind. How can I get him to see that I’m happier now and that this is a good thing for me?


El Granada

Dear Ted:

You can’t. Only he has the power to accept you. Your job is to learn how not to care what he thinks of you. Sorry. I know it won’t be easy, but it may be your only choice. Apparently, you never saw this side of your father, but it was always there. This issue hasn’t come up before because you were doing what he wanted you to do. You probably made your choice to be in corporate finance, not because you were particularly interested in it, but because you wanted his approval. Which is normal, we all want our parents’ approval. What your father doesn’t understand is that you are a separate person. He doesn’t understand you or your passion. Nor has he apparently taken the time to learn who you are. He sounds pretty closed off. For some reason, he thinks that you won’t be able to take care of yourself in your new path. Since he hasn’t separated from you, it really means that he doesn’t have much faith in himself. Your choices challenge his belief in his own limitations. He might have had a dream once upon a time and didn’t believe in himself enough to pursue it. Or his parents didn’t believe in him. Lucky for you, you’re finding out this new information about your father when you’re 37. Thankfully, your father believed in you for most of your life. Which gave you the strength to get that Ph.D. Which is clearly better than his parents did for him.

You need to learn to get your approval from yourself. And your colleagues. And all the other people in your life who believe in you. You may never get it from your father. But you don’t have to take his crap, either. When he attacks you, stand up for yourself. Tell him to back off. That you’re a man and it’s your life now and you don’t need his negative input. If he continues the battle, leave. If he won’t back down, then release yourself from your expectations of his behavior and accept the loss. Learn to accept your father for who he is, blindness and all, and try to love him anyway. If you have the fortitude and tenacity to achieve a Ph.D., you can handle your father. Believe in yourself, stand up for yourself, continue to pursue your dreams and everything will be fine. Oh, and congratulations on the Ph.D.

Dear Janet:

I’ve been dating a great guy. We’ve been together about six months. Only problem is, he left about a month ago on a sales trip and I’ve only heard from him about once a week. We saw each other every day for six months and now he’s only calling me once a week and the calls are rushed. When I asked him if it was over between us, he nearly lost his mind. I got two bouquets of flowers and candy and he even sent me a really nice necklace. But since he’s been having all this trouble with his cell phone company and doesn’t have a cell phone and I don’t know where he’s staying, I can’t reach him if I need to. Do you really think he loves me and is serious about me?

Missing Him

Letter to website

Dear Missing Him:

Yes, I think he loves you. No, I don’t think he’s serious about you. Your “great guy” is married. Yak herders in remote villages in Asia have cell phones. Seven-year-olds have cell phones. Sales people can’t do their jobs without cells. He doesn’t want you calling because he doesn’t want his wife to get suspicious. Sorry. Hire a private detective and find out who he really is. Even if he’s not married, he’s up to something. You don’t need drama, suspicion and trust issues. And definitely not six months into a relationship. But you need to know the truth. Think Tiger Woods. You might be one of many. Or maybe he’s got a legitimate excuse. But I doubt it. Good luck, honey.

Dear Janet:

My neighbors used to keep their yard up and their lawn mowed, but about six months ago, they started getting sloppy. The lawn wouldn’t be mowed for weeks, their recycling would spill and they wouldn’t clean it up right away. Their place is really looking trashy. I’ve talked to the city and they said they have no jurisdiction if the yard isn’t a health hazard. I want to sell soon and these people are bringing my property values down. I saw the woman who lives there and tried to talk to her, but she waved me off and rushed away. How do I get through to them?

Upset Neighbor

Letter to website

Dear Upset Neighbor:

Has it ever occurred to you that they may have experienced a family tragedy? Sounds to me like something happened to them six months ago. I understand you’re concerned about your property values, but if only one house on the block looks bad, it shouldn’t affect you. Have some compassion. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Since you obviously don’t know them well, you don’t know what’s going on. Someone could have cancer. A child could be sick. They may be losing the house. These are difficult economic times. Now, more than ever, we need the support and kindness of our neighbors.

©2010, Janet Periat

Wisdom At Fifty

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I recently celebrated my half-century birthday. I have learned much in my time here. I’m starting to forget most of it, so I’m going to write down the salient points for future reference.

Number One: When you turn fifty, you don’t have to dress like your mother. My mom always dressed cool, but ultra feminine. And very adult. So do all my girlfriends. I dress like a teenage boy. I had this idea in the back of my mind that someday I would wake up and be a grown up and suddenly understand the need for high heels and dresses and scarves. You know, like, at fifty. Now that I’m fifty I’ve come to a realization: I will always dress like a nineteen-year-old boy. At ninety-five, I’m gonna look like the Mummy in jeans and a t-shirt. Which is actually fine because of Number Two.

Number Two: No one cares what old people do. Basically, you go from being “the” age in all TV dramas, the center of the universe of fashion, on the forefront of new trends, straight into the vast wasteland of The Great Ignored. Your age group is no longer represented on TV, except in embarrassing denture commercials. No one asks you what you’re doing anymore because they assume you’re not doing anything new or different or interesting. Which means you can finally get away with whatever you want. I rented a bounce house for my adults-only fiftieth birthday and had a blast jumping in the stupid thing. I kept expecting the Age Police to show up and ticket me. But no one gave a damn. I’m thinking of pushing this whole Ignoring of the Old People phenomenon and starting a life of crime.

Number Three: Sex is as good at fifty as it was at twenty. Even better because I’m not as self-conscious, nor am I worried about unintended consequences. Like children. The only difference is I’m not into all that freakin’ Cirque Du Soleil stuff because I’m as flexible as a two by four with as much stamina as an emphysema patient on oxygen. Which brings me to Number Four.

Number Four: Aging hurts. You can still do much of what you did in your youth, you’re just gonna pay a price for it. Sure you can have sex all night or jump in a bounce house. You’ll just be in traction for the following week. Getting out of bed requires not only more effort, but a large grunt, too. There is a direct relationship between age and the amount of noise you make when getting up. I used to think my parents were having brain aneurysms every time they got out of a chair. Now I get it. If you sit too long, everything solidifies. Kind of like pre-rigor mortis. I think my body assumes that since I’ve sat for so long, I’ve actually died. So it stiffens up like a corpse and gets ready for embalming. All that pain is from my body reanimating as I force it to move. Kind of like Frankenstein being shocked into life. My mom says it gets worse and this is the only thing she’s ever told me that’s turned out to be true.

Number Five: Your parents were wrong about almost everything. Problem with parents is that they give you advice from their parents, who got it from their parents and pretty soon, the advice sounds like it came from the Pilgrims just getting off the Mayflower. In every generation, all the rules change, yet parents’ advice stays the same. Get a good job. Stay there forever. Pay them with your loyalty and they’ll pay you with theirs. Banks are the safest place to put your money. Mom told me the other day, “Don’t worry about planning for your future, it will all work out by itself. That’s what we did.” Riiiggghhht. My parents’ generation lucked out. They bought their homes for a dime and sold them for a million. They got GI loans, health insurance, pensions and could support a family of six on one salary. They got Social Security. Basically, their generation spent all the money and left nothing for us. Of course, if they told us the truth, we wouldn’t be helping them pay for that nice cushy retirement home.

Number Six: As they age, most men turn into Dick Cheney. Remember how cute Richard Dreyfus was? What about that hot guy in high school? What the hell happened to these guys? They all got fat, bald and whiter. They all morphed into the same man. They started off as adorable men, then they went through the Dick-Cheney-Izer. They lost their hair, acquired a paunch, started wearing glasses, dressed in old man clothes and now resemble human maggots. Their wives look twenty years younger even if they’re the same age. The weird thing is, the guys still think they’re hot. Frightening.

Number Seven: If it tastes good or makes you feel good, it’s bad for you. Beer, chocolate, caffeine, doughnuts, hamburgers, French fries, cigarettes, butter, salt and Pringles. That was my breakfast. The doctor keeps telling me it’s all gonna kill me, but since I’m old now and no one cares what I do, I figure to hell with it. Which brings me to Number Eight.

Number Eight: When you get older, you realize that no one knows anything. Especially doctors. Three years ago, my doctor told me I should be on Hormone Replacement Therapy because it would help prevent certain illnesses. A year ago, she told me I shouldn’t because HRT causes more illnesses than it was supposed to cure. I could name five hundred other things my doctor was wrong about. So now I don’t listen to her. Or anyone else for that matter. Of course, that could be my hearing.

Stay tuned, I have much more wisdom to impart—if I could only remember it.

©2009, Janet Periat

What Would Janet Do?

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

READERS: Here is my proof that I still actually write my advice column. Since CoastViews doesn’t publish both of my columns any longer, I’ve gotten sort of lax on WWJD. But for your reading pleasure, here it is, back by popular demand. If any of you have questions for me, please feel free to use my WWJD contact.

Dear Janet:

My husband of twenty-five years got laid off nine months ago from his job in high-tech. All he does is sit on the couch watching TV and feeling sorry for himself. Meanwhile, I’ve had to take on two more jobs (giving me four total) to cover our basic expenses. Not only isn’t he looking for work, he barely lifts a finger around the house. He says he’s depressed. He looks for work, but only on the Internet and only for an hour or two a day. I snuck up on him yesterday when he was on the computer to see what he was looking at and just as I thought, he was surfing some site on fishing. We got into a huge fight and now we’re not speaking. Before this, he worked solid for ten years at the same company and did loads of unpaid overtime. I don’t understand what happened to my very responsible man. If he doesn’t get a job soon, our kids will have to stop going to college. Not even this will motivate him. What do I do?

Desperate in Belmont
Letter by email

Dear Desperate:

I can’t tell you how many of my friends have come to me with this same story about their newly unemployed husbands. All of the guys are in their fifties and are now depressed couch-potatoes. I think our society does a disservice to men. They’re raised as princes, used to having people work for them, take care of them. Used to having things go their way. So when they run into difficult situations, they have no tools to deal with them. A friend of mine described her unemployed husband as a “princess”. She said he sailed through school, got the jobs he wanted and only now in his late fifties is he dealing with unemployment. He’s gotten job offers but won’t take them because he wants exactly what he had before: the corner office, the great job, great pay and a huge staff. I think your husband may be in the same boat. Basically, your husband doesn’t have the tools he needs to deal with the situation. And he’s afraid. He’s feeling emasculated and lost. He needs to reinvent himself, but simply has no idea how to approach the problem. So he retreats within himself. Which is clearly not the answer.

I suggest couples therapy to deal with your (rightful) anger and his lack of support. I also suggest individual therapy for him to learn how to deal with his fears. In conjunction with therapy, you need to set some limits with him. While his reticence to look for work is understandable, it is not logical. He needs to set his emotions aside for the good of the family. He’s acting like a self-indulgent child, not an adult. Hand him this article.

Here’s my direct message to him: Dude, man up. You want to feel powerful again? Put your family first and your depression last. Step up to the plate and get some money in there. Only six percent of jobs are advertised. You need to talk to everyone you’ve ever met. Find out about the projects the businesses in your field are working on, find out if you know anyone in the company and get an informational interview. You need to talk to people face-to-face. Getting a job is a full-time job. And don’t beat yourself up if you can’t find work right away. As long as you’re doing everything in your power to find work, that’s the best you can do. Ask yourself at the end of the day this question: Did I do everything I could to try to get work today? If you did, relax and give yourself a pat on the back. Then get up tomorrow and get back at it. Just because you’re unemployed doesn’t mean you’re less of a man. If you’re doing all you can, then you have nothing to be ashamed about. Being unemployed doesn’t mean you’re a loser. Only quitters are losers.

And don’t be afraid to take on some part-time work. Whatever helps your family is what you need to do. Good luck, honey. There is a job out there for you. You only have to find it.

Dear Janet:

My teenage son won’t listen to me. He leaves his clothes all over, tracks mud in the house and won’t clean up after himself. He demands I cook special meals for him, but refuses to do anything I ask of him. He plays sports and is getting good grades, which is why I don’t push him. But I’m still sick of being treated like his maid. His father is no help and always takes his side and tells me “to leave the boy alone.” I have a full-time job of my own and don’t get to bed much before midnight these days while my men sit on the couch and watch TV. I’m tired of being a doormat. How can I get them to listen to me?

Maid Not Mom
Letter by email

Dear Maid Not Mom:

The only reason your men take advantage of you is because you let them. No one is putting a gun to your head, forcing you to cook and clean. The reason they don’t respect you is because you won’t stand up for yourself. Call a family meeting. Tell your men what you need. If they don’t listen, stop doing the shopping. Stop cooking for them. Stop cleaning. Take yourself out to dinner. Join a women’s group. Get out of there. You aren’t helping your son by letting him take advantage of you; you’re just screwing over his future wife. You aren’t helping your marriage by taking crap; all you’re doing is building resentment which undermines the bond with your husband. Only you can fix this. Empower yourself. Get in your corner and fight. After the dust settles, I think you’ll finally gain that respect you so crave.

©2009, Janet Periat

What Would Janet Do? 3/08

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Dear Janet:

I am raising my 2 grandkids and my daughter, the mom, won’t get it together and stay out of trouble, off of crack, etc. Do I disown, or hang in?

No Name
Letter to Janet’s website

Dear Grandmother:

First of all, bless you for being there for your grandkids. Your sacrifice is admirable and will ensure that the children have a decent chance for a future. I wish there were more people like you in the world. As for your daughter, you need to set some strict boundaries with her. Tell her what you want her to do. Tell her what she needs to do to stay in her kids’ life. Be very clear, put it in writing if need be. She needs to clean up her act, get into rehabilitation, stop doing drugs, get a job, get an apartment and get her life together. If she cannot do these things or refuses, you will have no choice but to put some distance on the relationship. I do not recommend “disowning” her. Always leave the door open for her to recover. But this does not mean you need to have anything to do with her now. Do not let her stay at your home, do not give her money or help her in any way other than raising her children. She needs tough love from you and professional help from a doctor and therapist. Call the county social services and see what is available to your daughter. Take down phone numbers and give them to her. Then let go of her and concentrate on the children. Don’t let the daughter see the children unless she is cleaned up. They need safety and routine. At this point in time, your daughter cares more about herself than her children. She is a danger to them. You need to concentrate on the welfare of the children. I would get legal custody of the children if you don’t already have it. Your daughter needs to have some consequences for her actions or she may never wake up. Shutting the door on her when she is drugged out will be heart-wrenching, but without a strong message, she may never get it together. I wish you the best of luck, my dear.

Dear Janet:

My grown son moved back in with me after his divorce. He promised to help around the house and with the bills. I am working hard to save money because I want to retire soon. He’s been living with me now for eight months, but I have yet to see a penny. He has been non-stop on his computer on dating sites and is going out about twice a week. I want him to find a nice girl, but he must be spending money on those dates. He says he is short of cash and thanks me for my patience. I don’t want to nag, but he eats a lot and he is a very messy kid. I want him to feel at home here, but last night he brought a woman home. They went into his room and he turned up his music and I heard some noises I wish I hadn’t coming from his room. He’s such a nice boy, I hate complaining. Help!

Frustrated Mom
Letter by email

Dear Frustrated Mom:

I’ll bet you’re frustrated. And ewwww, who wants to listen to a close relative have sex? Well, Bank of Mom, it’s time to put your foot down. You need to have a nice sit-down with your son and hand him this letter. If he’s a nice guy, he’ll probably be fine with your demands. But one point: he is not a “kid”, he is a grown man. You aren’t doing him any favors by letting him take advantage of you and yes, he’s taking advantage of you. It’s time he moved out and found his own place. It’s okay to claim your space and money. You won’t lose his love. Initially, he may get a bit angry, but he’ll get over it. Good luck, honey.

Dear Janet:

You’re going to probably think this is silly, but I’m going to ask the question, anyway. My boyfriend thinks that I’m not being open enough about food. He likes all kinds of weird food: foreign dishes, ethnic dishes and I’m a meat and potatoes kind of a girl. He thinks I’m narrow-minded. I just know what I like to eat and it isn’t what he likes to eat. Am I close-minded? By the way, we just moved in together and are planning to get married soon and we’re already arguing about the menu. I think this is his problem, he thinks it’s my problem. And other than this one issue, we get along great.

Picky Eater
Letter by email

Dear Picky Eater:

We don’t choose what we like to eat. We either like it or we don’t. I, personally, would love to like Indian food, but I can’t stand it. This is not my fault and I am not close-minded, I just don’t freakin’ like the taste. Tell the BF to stop the name-calling. In order to go the long haul, you two will have to accept many things about the other person you may not like. It doesn’t mean BF can’t have what he wants, it just means you may be fixing two meals at night instead of one. This is what my husband and I do. Sometimes he’s craving something I think should be served to the cat. And vice versa. As for the wedding? How about if you pick half the foods and he picks the other half? Compromise is the key to a successful relationship. And congratulations on the upcoming wedding.

Dear Janet:

I’m a fourteen-year-old girl and a freshman in high school. I have a boyfriend and I love him a lot. He’s older than me and a senior. I told him I was a virgin when I met him and he loved that I was. We make out, but I don’t let him go too far because I don’t feel ready. But just last night, when were out parked in his truck, he showed me a condom he keeps in his ashtray and he told me it was for “Just in case.” He also said that his doctor told him that his acne would clear up more if he had sex regularly. I want to help him and I don’t want him to leave me, but I feel mixed up. I’m afraid of I don’t do what he wants that he’ll leave me. A bunch of my friends are hooking up, they say it’s no big deal. Am I making too much out of this sex thing?

A Virgin In Love
Letter by email

Dear Virgin:

No, you are definitely not making too much out of the “sex thing”. No matter what your friends say, sex is a HUGE deal. Especially for girls. You say you’re not ready, which means you aren’t. You will know when you are. If your boyfriend loved you the way you deserve to be loved, he wouldn’t pressure you. He is only thinking of himself right now, not you. You wouldn’t pressure him to do something he didn’t want to do, would you?

By the way, acne and regular sex have no relationship. That is a LIE. He is not only pressuring you to have sex, he is lying to you in order to get it. This is not a good sign for a healthy relationship. This boy believes that his needs outweigh yours. Which is just wrong. Besides, do you want to lose your virginity to someone who is only thinking of himself? If he does leave you because you won’t sleep with him, you’ll be better off in the long run. I’m sure you’ve heard that a million times from old people, but it is true. A break up is a wound like any other. It hurts like the dickens, but eventually you heal. Good for you for having such strong convictions. You’ll do well in life if you learn to stick to your guns and not bow to peer pressure. It isn’t easy, but the rewards are great.

©2008, Janet Periat

What Would Janet Do? 2/08

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Here is my advice column for the month of February. If you want to ask me a question, just go to my WWJD webpage. There’s a form there so you can submit a question to me.

Dear Janet:

I am a widow with five grown children and they never come and see me. When I talk to them on the phone, I ask them to come see me, but they say they are busy. When I do see them, they stay about an hour but can’t wait to get away it seems. I tell them I need them, that I worked hard my whole life for them, I cooked and cleaned for them, I took care of their father until he died (God rest his soul) and now I’m all alone and that is wrong. I offered my daughter five thousand dollars a month to come live with me and she said she had a job with the FBI and that it was important. I said the FBI is more important than your mother? She hung up on me. What is wrong with children taking care of their mother? I think they owe me at least that! Now all I have is the church and my dog. How do I get them to come see me and take care of me?

Abandoned Mother

Dear Abandoned Mother:

Your children didn’t abandon you. You pushed them out of your life. Your kids don’t care about you because you don’t care about them. You treat them like they are possessions, instead of people. I didn’t read anywhere in your letter where you were interested in your kids’ lives, their goals, their dreams. You aren’t proud your daughter works for the FBI, you wanted her to quit so she could come listen to you bitch about the other four kids. Nowhere in the letter did you talk about anything good about your kids. You only wrote about yourself.

Not only are you unrealistic about what your children owe you, you have invested no time putting yourself in their shoes. You have no idea how difficult it is to make it in the world these days. The pressure on working adults is insane. Houses in our area cost 800 grand for a fixer-upper, a million for decent lodgings. Your children are working sixty to seventy hours a week, have children to feed, baseball games to attend, dishes to do, bills to pay, repairs on the house, oil changes on the cars, people today have no spare time. And in your kids’ precious spare moments, they finally carve out some time for you and what do you do? You tell them they aren’t measuring up. They aren’t making you happy. All you do is complain. I don’t blame them for avoiding you, I would, too. Life is too short to spend in the company of people who treat you like crap. If I were you, I’d pray to God to give you compassion for your children. If you start respecting them, maybe they’ll come around more often.

Dear Janet:

My neighbor is driving me crazy. I’ve done some favors for her from time to time, but now she treats me like her personal slave. Every week she has some chore she wants me to do. She is in her eighties and can’t get around well, has plenty of money to hire someone to do her repairs, but all she does is complain when she has to hire someone. When I can’t do something or refuse or am busy, she clucks and pouts and then works on my wife, who then works on me. I worked hard my whole life to afford my retirement and I didn’t envision spending all my time helping some burdensome neighbor. How do I get her to leave me alone without causing a huge fuss?

Tired and Retired
Half Moon Bay

Dear Tired and Retired:

First of all, I commend you on your kindness. There aren’t enough people in the world like you. Secondly, I am firing you from your job of personal slave. You are free. You are no longer obligated to take care of anyone but you and your wife. And you are only allowed to help your wife directly, not her friends. Refuse to do anything for the neighbor again. Nothing. Ever. She doesn’t appreciate you. She expects someone to take care of her. Kind of like the woman in the previous letter. You aren’t helping her by helping her. All you’re doing is making yourself miserable and reinforcing the neighbor’s belief that she deserves people taking care of her for free. This woman doesn’t care about you. Once you stop, she’ll bitch for about a half a day and then move on to using someone else. Users are users. They don’t care who they use, they just want to use someone. And right now, that someone is you. You are retired. So retire. Stay strong. Fight for your time. And don’t feel guilty. You don’t owe that woman anything.

Dear Janet:

I know etiquette is not your forte, but I thought I’d ask you this question, anyway. When one is at a dinner party and the hostess starts playing footsie with you, what is the polite way to let her know that you’re not interested? I moved my foot away and she placed her hand on my knee. I moved my knee and she got angry and made some rather disparaging remarks, not directly at me, but it was clear to my wife and I that the comments were directed my way. By the way, the hostess was the spouse of my wife’s boss.
How could I have handled the situation differently?

Monogamous Male
Letter by email

You handled it perfectly. That was a no-win situation. At first, I was going to tell you to dump these “friends” but then you revealed that the Hostess Masher was Mrs. Boss. Sticky, sticky, sticky. But you handled it admirably. But I do think it’s time your wife found a new job.

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