Ask Amy

Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 11:00pm

DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have been dating for two years.

A few months ago, his ex-wife (they divorced three years ago) left her live-in boyfriend and hasn't been able to find a place where she can afford to live.

She lived with friends for a while, but their patience for her "extended visit" ran out. She basically begged my boyfriend to let her move back in with him and their child.

I told him this would be a problem for me, but I just found out that he did it anyway.

His claim that it is for the daughter's sake is not enough for me.

He feels I am making this a bigger situation than it should be, and I feel that he should get her out of his house before I want to see him again.

Am I being unreasonable? In your opinion, is this in the child's best interest?

— Wondering Girlfriend DEAR

GIRLFRIEND:
The current economic issues are causing some estranged couples to live under one roof because the family simply can't afford to sustain two households.

The child's best interest is served by having two fully functioning parents together in the home. Having one somewhat marginal parent use the home as an in-between crash pad? Not so much.

What's best for the girl depends on how skilled her parents are at explaining and coping with their choices and limitations, and how willing they are to put her needs before their own.

The biggest issue right now between you two is the fact that your boyfriend was aware of how you felt about this and, instead of discussing it with you or even attempting to persuade you, he went ahead and agreed to this domestic situation without telling you. That's the definition of a deal breaker.

Tell your boyfriend that you are also doing what you think is in the best interests of everyone concerned — including the child. Dad having a girlfriend around when her parents are cohabiting isn't a good idea.


DEAR AMY: It happened again last night — I had to change my restaurant chair position to avoid seeing some patrons eating their food.

Where I'm from, we were taught to hold the fork in our left hand and the knife in the right.

The knife cuts the food and the left hand elegantly brings it to the mouth.

Here I observe that people keep their left hands shackled to their laps most of the time. They only use the fork.

They use their knife on the right hand to cut food; then drop the knife to the side of their plate and return their left hands to their laps.

The food is brought to the mouth by using forks held in the right hand.

Having lived in different countries, we noticed that most people elsewhere seem to know how to use dinner implements properly. Do you have any explanation for the strange table manners in this country?

— Disgusted

DEAR DISGUSTED: When I lived in Europe for several years, I observed the Continental way of handling knives and forks (which is as you describe above), and while it wasn't my own custom (and even though it didn't seem quite "natural") I tolerated this practice, was intrigued by it and eventually was able to adopt it.

I suggest you do the same with the eating style of your adopted home.


DEAR AMY: "Anonymous in Louisiana" complained about her adult children's expensive tastes when dining out and her shock at being expected to share in the bill. So who raised these children and taught them good manners at home?

Were they raised by someone else or by wolves?

The source of the problem could be determined by a quick glance in the mirror.

Why didn't she and her husband notice their kids' manners when they were growing up, or were manners and discipline someone else's job?

I hate it when people who do a poor job parenting their kids whine about their bad manners later.

— Tired of Whiners

DEAR TIRED: You're right. Parents who don't teach their children good manners at home end up picking up the tab later in life.

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Filed under: Lifestyles