Ask Amy

Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 11:45pm

DEAR AMY: I'm at an age where I'm eligible for Social Security and draw a pension.

I enjoy good health and still have an energy level of men much younger than myself.

I'm scared to death of going into my twilight years with nothing to look forward to other than carrying my wife's purse around cute little boutiques, playing cards and dealing with boring people.

I know this sounds selfish, and I have a little guilt about it, but if I don't follow this dream, I'll never know what adventures might await me.

I intend to explore the possibilities of living on my own in South America where my dollar will afford me a certain amount of freedom and luxury.

Am I crazy? I know there are a lot of unanswered questions, but I have a dream and I want to see it through.

— Old Timer in the Northwest

DEAR OLD TIMER: Your scheme certainly does raise a few questions. Let's start with the most obvious: What happens to Mrs. Old Timer while you are in South America?

Will she have to hold her own purse and deal with a lot of boring people back here in the good ol' USA?

I gather she will.

Look: Your dream sounds like a fine dream - though I venture that South America contains as many boring people as anywhere else (though, of course, they're boring in another language).

If you are married and intend to stay married, you'll need to run your dream past your wife before you book passage on a tramp steamer.

If you don't intend to stay married, South America is as good a place as any to run from matrimony.

Every sane person should dream a big dream, and every sane person in a long marriage occasionally dreams about decamping alone to South America.

Your job is to sort out the dissatisfaction from the dream, do the research necessary to see if you can live your dream, and then — gulp — run it past your wife.

DEAR AMY: Last week I was a guest at a party. I was seated next to a friend of my mother's, and I could not get up to move unless I made five or six people get up, so I was stuck.

This woman proceeded to tell me a story and used two very offensive racial slurs when relating her story.

I was so stunned that she would think it was OK to say these things to me, but I wasn't sure how to tactfully respond, so I pretty much ignored her the rest of the night.

I was angry with myself for not speaking up, but I didn't want to spoil the party and make people uncomfortable.

The icing on the cake was at the end of the dinner when she made a racist announcement directed at the rest of the group.

Is there a way I could have tactfully put her in her place?

— Wondering

DEAR WONDERING: Sometimes an immediate and honest reaction to an offensive comment is sufficiently tactful.

When you hear a comment that shocks and offends you, you can respond by saying, "Wow. I can't believe you just said that."

The person will express surprise. (Offensive or insensitive people usually act shocked when anyone objects.)

Then you can say, "I'd appreciate it if you didn't use racial slurs. Thank you for understanding."

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