June 15, 2011
Dear Friendless Wife in Bordeaux,
Leave it alone. If she is not complaining and is not causing undue stress in your marriage, leave…it…alone! Trust me when I say that unhappy women are very hard to ignore and nine times out of ten they will let you know in painstaking detail why they’re unhappy.
Instead of asking her to always go out with you and your friends, why not ask her out for a tête-à-tête? Try to do more of the things she likes to do. If she likes going to the movies, the opera, cooking classes, or museums, do the right thing—pretend you’re interested and go with her. Her social life is not your problem, so don’t make it your problem. What is important is that she gets to see you away from your friends. If the only time she gets to have fun with you is when you are having fun with Tom, Dick, and Harry, you will run into some real problems.
So if she’s content with the current arrangement, count your lucky stars. You should only start worrying if she starts making friends.
My grandmother is old and no one wants to help her. I don’t think she is getting the care she needs, but nobody says a damn thing! Yes she is stubborn, and yes she is too old to be told what to do, and yes she definitely gets angry at even the mere suggestion that she change her ways, but she really should not be going up and down the stairs anymore, she really should have a “nanny,” and she shouldn’t even be allowed to drive the car out of the driveway. She’s too old to be doing any of these things herself. Do you think I should say something to her or do something about it, especially considering my father and his two brothers seemed to have washed their hands of the matter and would not mind finding her dead at the foot of the stairs someday soon?
—Granddaughter Duties? in Dartmouth
Dear Granddaughter Duties? in Dartmouth,
Yes, you should say something. Try approaching your father and your uncles with a plan. Draw it up as if you were writing a business plan for investors that includes costs, logistics, short-term and long-term benefits—especially things that will benefit her three sons directly. Maybe they don’t know how to go about helping, and their lack of a strategy looks like disinterest when it may simply be laziness.
If they are unreceptive to your suggestions then maybe they really don’t care if she winds up dead at the bottom of the stairs only to be discovered days later. Maybe she was a better grandmother than she was a mother. If she is an average crotchety old person you can try to go to her directly and explain your concerns and hope she will be reasonable. If she is an above-average crotchety old person you may want to put your plan into effect like making her a bedroom downstairs without telling her and hope she adapts. If she is the crotchetiest of the crotchety, she might not even notice you’ve moved the furniture.