February 02, 2011

Dear Delphi,

I am an American married to an American, and we live in the countryside just outside of Rome. The problem is that directly in front of our gate we have two to three prostitutes working all day, dressed scantily to say the least. My children”€”thank God they are boys”€”are starting to ask me what these curiously clad women are doing. We are furious. My husband has repeatedly called the police, but nothing changes. There is a carpet of used condoms and trash in the hookers”€™ “€œoffice,”€ and I can”€™t bear it anymore. What can I do if the police won”€™t help? What am I supposed to tell the kids? I can”€™t very well tell my eight-year-old and six-year-old boys that these are women whom men pay for sex, can I?

“€”Enraged in Rome

Dear Enraged in Rome,

The police are obviously the first and only real solution. However, it sounds like the police are probably getting perks, whether in the form of “€œfavors”€ from these girls or payouts from their pimp. As unsavory as it might sound, if you can”€™t beat them, I suggest you join them. I do not mean become a prostitute and work your street. Try being friendly and then request a common courtesy such as cleaning up and see what happens. Avoid lectures, speeches, or hidden insults; the last thing you want is to anger them. Start by bringing them some hot coffee or hot chocolate on cold days and see if kindness can get you somewhere. If you see fewer condoms and less trash on the ground, keep going. Bring brownies, cookies, cakes, even birthday and Christmas presents if it will get you the desired result. Treat them better than you would if they were your neighbors in American suburbia. Maybe in time they will return the courtesy and hide behind a tree when they see you coming with the kids. If killing them with kindness does not work, the only other option is an armed turf war with the pimp.

“€œIf killing them with kindness does not work, the only other option is an armed turf war with the pimp.”€

Tell the kids these ladies are circus people waiting for the bus. (Hopefully you have a bus stop close enough.) Say they are Russian acrobats who never get cold. They are there all the time because the bus to the circus doesn”€™t pass very frequently. Convince yourself they are circus people and answer all inquiries accordingly.


Dear Delphi,

My daughter is graduating from high school this spring, and her best friend’s mother has already announced that as a gift she will be renting the girls a house at the beach for a month. Either this mother is stupid, or she’s crazy and downright dangerous! What can I do? I fear this house means a free-for-all on parties, drinking, and boys, and I feel the nutcase mom has boxed me into not being able to forbid it. Who can forbid an 18-year-old anything anymore, anyway?

“€”Distressed Mom in Charlottesville

Dear Distressed Mom in Charlottesville,

This mother is out of her mind because obviously it means boys, parties, more boys, more parties, and hopefully just drinking. I don”€™t think you are going to get anywhere with the crazy mom, but you may as well try. Call her and find out as much as you can about the summer rental. Talk about realities such as drunk driving, pregnancy, a misguided drunken orgy, drug overdoses, date rape”€”something, anything to make her renege.

Otherwise, start thinking of something to distract your daughter. Does she enjoy shopping or any particular sport? Does she like to travel? Has she always wanted to see Italy? Offer her whatever you think could tear her away willingly from this opportunity of total freedom. Yes, it is a bribe, but a teenager can be much like a baby; it is a much better strategy to try to distract them with something sparkly rather than to dig in your heels and fight.


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