Dear Carolyn: My son is planning a small wedding for June. This will be his second marriage, and also his fiancee’s. They are planning a ceremony on the beach in California near where they will be joining a bike ride for AIDS. My husband does not like the idea of the wedding in California nor does he approve of the AIDS event. He also feels that our son has been disrespectful and he does not feel like supporting his choice of venue.
I know that his refusal to attend will hurt our son very much, but I don’t know what to do about it.
A: Step 1: Make sure you didn’t leave something out of your letter, because this seems like an extreme reaction to the state of California.
If your husband truly is harrumphant against beach ceremonies/AIDS rides/second weddings perhaps?, then, Step 2: Point out to your husband that sometimes all it takes is a single choice to cement one’s legacy as a complete jerk, and that he’d best recognize this wedding boycott as one of them.
Ask him if he believes his causes legitimately supersede his son’s. Ask if any of them is worth the damage, likely permanent, his boycott will do to his relationship with his son, daughter-in-law, and any children they have. And with you, no?
If his answer to these questions is yes, then there’s little I can advise you to do, except be darn sure your son knows that you deplore his father’s choice, and that you’ll be there with bells on yourself.
Flirting vs. charming
Dear Carolyn: Do you have a litmus test that can be applied to flirting versus just being charismatic and charming?
I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older and taken better care of myself – I was morbidly obese in high school and now am healthy! Yay! – I seem to be “accused” of flirting more, though I think I’ve tried to keep my personality the same.
– Anonymous 2
A: I can suggest two litmus tests.
(1) Do you behave the same way around everyone? Someone charismatic will “flirt” with people male and female, old and young, attractive and un-. They will “flirt” with cameras, mirrors and possibly house pets. Flirting, on the other hand, comes out around only one sex, or only attractive people, or only other people’s dates, etc.
(2) Are you flirtatious without knowing it, and only asking this because others have called you on it, or are you aware of yourself becoming flirtatious when there’s some hard-earned, naughty attention in it for you?
Both of these, unfortunately, are highly susceptible to rationalization, so here’s a litmus test for the utility of litmus tests: Are you one who sees other people as generally to blame for your problems, or are you one to identify and admit at least some element of your culpability in every problem you have?