Ask Amy

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 7:15pm
Amy Dickinson

DEAR AMY: I have been happily divorced for more than 20 years.

My former husband quit his job, his marriage and all responsibility for his children.

I was able, on my own, to put my kids through college with no child support. He didn't even visit the children for a number of years (he moved to another state), nor did he attend high school or college graduations.

Now that my ex is "retired," he has moved back to the area.

I have no respect for this man. I do not like him, but one of my married sons has welcomed him back with wide-open arms.

He and his wife say that my ex-husband should be included in family celebrations.

I do not wish to associate with my ex and do not feel that I should be guilt-tripped into hosting him at my home.

At my granddaughter's softball games, my ex will move from his seat to sit next to me. I do not like this.

My son's wife thinks that it is wonderful for the "family" to be all together again.

I have been cordial. If they want him in their lives, that's fine but I shouldn't have to deal with him.

I have tried to explain my feelings but they don't "get it."

What to do?

— Tired of Smiling

DEAR TIRED: I commend you for being cordial. As long as you are cordial, you have the advantage of behaving well.

Your children have a right to have their father in their lives if they choose, and that is something you'll simply have to tolerate.

However, you don't have to sit next to your ex-husband if you don't want to.

You should clear this up with him, without involving other family members. Tell him that you are happily divorced, that you will always be cordial to him for the sake of your kids and grandchildren, but that you really don't want to spend time in proximity to him. Ask him to sit elsewhere.

Speak to your son privately and explain that you are willing to tolerate your ex, but that you want to minimize the time you spend with him. Say, "I'm sorry if this is hard for you to hear, but there are good reasons I don't want to spend time with your dad. I won't invite him to my home, but if you want to spend time with him elsewhere, I understand."

DEAR AMY: I'm a vegetarian. My question is about how to handle a recent situation while traveling.

I was with colleagues. We were in a large city and had planned to eat at a deli and then go on to the theater.

As we were walking to the deli, however, they noticed a restaurant and suggested we go there. I didn't want to be difficult and agreed to go. It turned out that I could only order a huge salad ($18!), which I ended up paying for and sharing with the other three because it was far more than I could eat.

I had to wait through their long meal, see and smell the offensive meat dish they ordered and pay for an unsatisfying meal.

How could I have graciously excused myself before ordering and met them at the theater without making them feel as if they needed to ditch their dream dinner?

I would have been happy eating a slice of pizza or a croissant and then joining them for the play.

— Confused Colleague

DEAR CONFUSED: The fact is that sometimes when you're with a group, you end up burying your own preferences because of the will of the majority. However, it is acceptable to assert your preferences.

It would have been fine for you to say, "I'm a vegetarian and don't think I can eat here, but you all go ahead. I'll be very happy to catch a good slice of pizza and then meet you at the theater."

Your colleagues might have swooped in and strong-armed you to join them, but the ideal would have been for you to assert yourself in a low-key way and for them to accept your choice.

DEAR AMY: I'd like to offer a simple solution for "Too Many Groomsmen," who was considering having women she barely knew stand up with her at her wedding because she was worried that she had more groomsmen than bridesmaids.

The answer is to have each bridesmaid escorted by two groomsmen. See? Problem solved and no strangers involved.

— Angela

DEAR ANGELA: Your solution is simple, elegant, and symmetrical. I like it!

Send questions via e-mail to

Filed under: Lifestyles