Q: Two years ago, after dating a wonderful lady for a year, I married her and moved in with her. The problem is her 23-year-old son. He lives with us, has never held a job, doesn’t go to school, and does nothing but eat, sleep, and poop. I’ve worked since I was 14, my wife and I both work hard now, and it’s grating to have such laziness always in my face. My wife knows this and says he’s been trying to get a job for more than two years. (He shows no signs he’s looking.) I’m starting to feel played by my wife. How long should I put up with this?
— Thinning Patience
A: Of course it grates on you, providing free room and board to an adult man whose main source of income is birthday cards from grandma.
And yes, you’ve been played — not by your wife, but by what economists call “optimism bias.” This is the human predisposition to believe things will work out for the best and to gloss over worrisome details, like how your wife’s layabout son would suddenly become industrious at something besides being a role model for moss.
Your wife has confused coddling with love — maybe for 23 years or maybe since feeling guilty about getting a divorce. After years of go-right-ahead mommying, it’s no small task to inspire your step-slug to expand his life goals beyond napping more, watching more interesting porn, and trying all the varieties of Doritos. (The guy standing in the traffic median holding a sign asking for spare change shows more autonomy and dignity. At least he wrote a message on a piece of cardboard and is ambulatory.)
Give your wife props for trying to be a good mother, but explain that by supporting the kid as she has been, she’s actually holding him back. He may not get his ideal job (video game tester or human slipcover), but he’ll get on the road to self-sufficiency by flipping burgers or bagging groceries if it’s either that or sleeping in a doorway. Propose that she gives him 30 days to get a roommate situation and tells him she’ll pay two months of his rent while he job-hunts and gets working, and then he’s on his own. Propose that she also acts like she means it, but be prepared for him to test her and for her to cave. Ultimately, you need to decide whether you’d rather live with La-Z-Boy than without your wife. If push comes to nap, it may come to that — assuming you’re unsuccessful with various passive-aggressive measures, like installing a coin slot on the bathroom, refrigerator, and cable TV.
Q: I’m a woman just back in the dating game. I’d like to hold off on first date sex and get to know a guy before I sleep with him. But what are some deflector lines? “Not tonight, I have a headache”? “Sorry, but I'm storming the beaches of Normandy tomorrow”? I suppose a good line should come to mind, but I really can’t think of anything to say beyond “Hey, what am I, your booty call?”
A: First date sex doesn’t just happen, like, one minute you’re looking for a little dish for the olive pit from your appetizer, and the next, you’re in the guy’s bed staring at the water stain on his ceiling. Intermediate steps include inviting your date up for a nightcap (which, to many men, loosely translates to “Would you like to come in and remove your pants?”).
Resolve beforehand how far you’ll go, and if the goodnight kiss at your door starts to turn into a goodnight grope, say something like “Hey, I’d rather take things a little slower.” Although this remark lacks wit and historical references, it also lacks ambiguity and it’ll get the job done far better than the strident “Hey, what am I, your booty call?” — assuming your goal isn’t making a man long to never call you again.
If you’re among the weak-willed, it’s a good idea to wear protection, like 4,000 pounds of steel, rubber, and glass around you in the form of the car you drive to meet the guy for drinks. It’s also wise to have something to do afterward so you only stay for an hour or two. Of course, meeting for a late-afternoon coffee may be wisest if drinking alcohol tends to correlate with your bra and panties flying off. Ideally, on the first date, if you find yourself sputtering “Really, I never do this…” it should be because the guy’s overheard you asking the barista to violate your latte with two pumps of pumpkin.