November 02, 2010

Dear Delphi,

Having grown up a certain way with certain expectations, I am very concerned that my parents are spending my inheritance with great folly at an alarming rate. I fear that when they do finally go to meet their maker, I will not be left with sufficient funds to continue living in my accustomed manner. Any thoughts on how to stop Mummy & Daddy’s profligacy?

“€”Clinging to My Silver Spoon in Charleston

Dear Clinging to My Silver Spoon in Charleston,

You should be able to sue for crimes against humanity or child abuse, but unfortunately the only legal way to stop their spending habits is to have them declared incompetent. To accomplish this, you must be able to prove they are clinically insane, and even though they obviously are crazy because they think it is shabby chic to have nouveaux pauvres children, the court may not be so easily convinced.

If Mummy and Daddy are benevolent, I suggest you throw yourself at their mercy and ask them to give you, a sibling, or a very trusted family accountant power of attorney. Explain all your fears, doubts, and worries, and be sure to include some self-loathing”€”it is always a welcome guest. This has to be a well-scripted Oscar performance, building to tears, with very extreme comments painting a very bleak picture of the future tailor-made to scare and depress them: public buses, public beaches, and public schools, definitely no clubs, no Hermès, no business-class seats, and maybe not even a family pet. You may even want to throw in a suicide threat.

If that fails, you could try to funnel as much money away from them as possible without raising suspicion. Ask for help paying for things they will never check on, or, better yet, cannot check on: roof repairs, pipe repairs, mold removal, flood damage, dentist and doctor bills. If you have siblings working in tandem with you, it would help. This is not going to solve your problem, but maybe it will give you a little satisfaction to know that the $10,000 you received for the “€œroof”€ did not go to the nice old neighbor lady who needed new outfits for her dogs.

If Mummy and Daddy are not benevolent, think of corrupting the trusted family servant and threatening to blackmail.

Last option is to get a group of nouveaux pauvres or encore pauvres friends together and start a colony in Bali. You will need to assemble your own end-of-the-world ark with teachers, doctors, a dentist, a linguist, a farmer, some entertainers, maybe even a fashion designer, and some athletes.

Dear Delphi,

I am a 38-year-old first-time mom. Although my seven-month-old daughter is an easy, vibrant baby, my pregnancy was truly grueling and sometimes terrifying. I am only now starting to feel like my old, strong self, and yet people, loved and not-so-loved, keep inquiring as to when my husband and I will start working on a second child. I am lukewarm at best on the idea of a repeat delivery-room appearance, and I would love your thoughts on polite ways to discourage this line of questioning.

“€”Fed up in the French Quarter

Dear Fed up in the French Quarter,

First of all, if you are feeling lukewarm on the idea at seven months out, you are in great shape. You may not recover from the physical changes, the overwhelming emotional changes, and the grueling day-to-day routine until 18 months out.

“€œIf Mummy and Daddy are not benevolent, think of corrupting the trusted family servant and threatening to blackmail.”€

There are only two kinds of people who would try to have another baby at your stage: those who actually enjoy ripping Band-Aids off quickly and do so without hesitation, and prison inmates who welcome the coming body and lifestyle changes as a way to mark the passing days.

The people who ask about an alien being possessing your body and future can be categorized as follows: the absolutely clueless who have never had a child; family members who selfishly want another grandchild, niece, or nephew; or competitive mothers who are trying to gauge whether you are going to reemerge from early motherhood’s black hole and get a partial life back before they do.

Regardless of who is asking, I would give a straight-up, very strong “€œNO,”€ and maybe even add a facial expression to the tone of, “€œAre you mad? How could you ask such a thing?”€ This should leave no room for further inquiry. Trust me: Nobody who has ever had a child without the help of a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week staff in the ratio of at least one staff member per family member is going to judge you or think a “€œNo”€ is impolite. It is a very personal question. It is not a decision for village consensus, and there is definitely no need to share your true fears, concerns, or desires with anyone except your husband. Just say NO!


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