Dear Annie: I retired from the Navy after 30 years of service. Many of those years were spent at sea, so I was looking forward to spending some stress-free time with my wife. It hasn’t happened.
Here’s the problem: We have owned our house for 30 years, but two years ago, new neighbours moved in. The one next door has a voice so loud, we can no longer enjoy our backyard. Her laugh is a deafening cackle. I put up a privacy fence, to no avail. It has only made her louder. Her husband, too.
The new neighbours across the street live their lives on the front porch, including changing the newborn’s dirty diapers in front of everyone. Shouldn’t this be done in the privacy of their home or backyard? What should I do? — Gonzo
Dear Gonzo: First try the direct, friendly approach. Talk to your next-door neighbours. Invite them over for coffee. Get to know them. Then ask if they can please keep the noise level down. Visit your neighbour across the street, and suggest they change the baby’s diapers inside the house so as not to gross out passersby.
Also, check into the possibility of a local neighbourhood or homeowners association that helps mediate disputes. Beyond that, there are limits to what you can do without creating additional problems. Try to ignore the neighbour with the diapers, and consider fans or other white noise devices when you are using your yard.
Dear Annie: My husband is an outgoing guy and is easy to talk to. He’s handsome, funny and loves to be sociable.
My problem is, women adore him, and I find myself forced to watch them flirt with him. One of my girlfriends got rather tipsy and whispered something suggestive in his ear. When I asked what that was about, my husband claimed he “didn’t remember.” Another friend rubbed her hands up and down his back while saying hello. She’s not that friendly with anyone else.
There have been other incidents, too. I am so sick of putting up with this. I trust my husband, and he knows how I feel. Please give me some advice before another woman puts her paws on my man. — Not Handling this Well
Dear Not Handling: Honey, you married an attractive man who enjoys the attentions of other women. While some women are terribly aggressive, the truth is, men can put the kibosh on most of this flirting if they make the effort. You say you trust your husband, but it obviously isn’t enough to make you feel secure. Ask him to stop tacitly encouraging this flirting because it is disrespectful to your marriage. He can be friendly and still dial down the charm a few notches.
Dear Annie: If “Dutiful Daughter” had written: “My mother is in her late 60s and is becoming increasingly difficult,” you would have responded by asking what in Mom’s life was making her so unhappy. Instead, because the daughter said her mother was in her late 80s, you suggest this could be early dementia and that she needs an evaluation.
Even people with cognitive impairments can be made unhappy by circumstances in their lives. And the current state of medical “evaluation” mainly adds to the stigma without helping mother or daughter. — Margaret M. Gullette, Ph.D., Resident Scholar, Women’s Studies Research Center, Brandeis University
Dear Margaret Gullette: We appreciate that some folks, regardless of age, can be unhappy, and that there may be very specific reasons why. But it would be terribly irresponsible of us to ignore the possibility that a person in her late 80s may have age-related issues, including some mild dementia. Like it or not, age is often a factor in physical as well as mental changes.