Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Real Talk With Rachel: Stuck on a Lady; Trying to Bridge the Generational Gap

by Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

I am a guy in his mid-twenties. When I was in college, I dated a girl two years younger than me for a semester, though I wouldn’t characterize her as a “girlfriend.” She is very pretty and smart, but things ended when I graduated. Two years later, I still think about her. She just moved to DC and I ran into her at a party. I would be into hanging out more and seeing where things go, but I don’t think she’s interested. I’m kind of embarrassed that I can’t stop thinking about her when it seems like she has moved on.

Lingering Lust

Dear Lingering Lust,

How do you know she’s not interested? Is it intuition, or did you ask her out and have her turn you down? If it’s the former, ask her out and see what she says. You have nothing to lose, considering she hasn’t become a good friend since you dated.

If she has already rebuffed you (and sorry about that -- it always stings), then it’s time to figure out how you can stop thinking about her. Feeling embarrassed about the rejection means you’re feeling two bad feelings: shame on top of undesired. Chip away at the bad feelings starting with the shame. Asking someone out takes courage, and it’s awesome to be courageous. Nothing to be embarrassed about there.

Keep repeating that mantra to yourself, and sooner or later it will feel true. Then, all you’ve got lingering is the unrequited lust. Why do you keep thinking about her? Based on what you wrote to me, I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that you never called her “girlfriend.” Was it one of those “don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” situations?

You can’t change how things went down with her, but figuring out why your mind keeps traveling in her direction will help you evaluate what you’re looking for in a lady. That way, the next time someone comes along you’ll be able to appreciate them in the moment.

Make sure someone comes along by going out to meet new people and taking part in activities you like. Time to occupy your thoughts with someone new.


Dear Rachel,

My mother is now in her eighties and lives in an assisted-living complex a half-hour from where I live with my husband and two teenage sons. I try to visit her at least once a week. When my sons were younger, they would come with me often. Now, they’d rather sit at home and stare at their laptops or play video games. They just don’t “feel like” going to see her. I know they’re teenagers, but how can I get them to understand that an hour or two of their time could brighten up my mother’s whole week? I want them to be people who are giving of themselves and their time, and I want my mom to have a relationship with my children.

A Good Mother for My Mother

Dear Good Mother,

You spend a lot of time talking about your sons, but very little telling me about your mother. Any reason, beyond general teenage angst and parental annoyance, that they don’t want to visit her? Some illnesses and conditions (dementia is one that comes readily to mind) are really freaky, and your sons might be afraid to confront such clear signs of aging.

Even if that’s the case, you want your boys to be able to put aside their fears in service of a larger kindness -- a visit to your mother. I agree that you should try and encourage them to go, but for your mother’s sake and not your own. Don’t force them to go each week, either -- that seems unrealistic for teens.

The number of times your kids visit your mom is not a litmus test as to whether or not they are good people. Many teens are exceedingly selfish, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be a permanent fixture of their personality. It’s more like a seasonal jacket -- they’ll probably discard it.

Still, your sons might be a little ornery for a couple of years, and you want them to get to know their grandmother now. See if they share any interests -- whether movies or sports shows. Maybe you can get your sons to watch TV at their Grandma’s place. Or, see if you can get your sons engaged in your mother’s past. Any cool stories -- concerts or historical happenings -- that your mother could share?

Above all, try not to turn visiting your mother into a chore. That’s no way to cultivate the kind of bond you want to encourage. You can create incentives, though: bringing their favorite dinner along, or letting one of them drive there if he has his learner’s permit.

For me, one of the most exciting things was realizing that beyond the title “Grandma” and “Grandpa,” which I had always associated with extra cookies and such, were two people with unique experiences from a time before touchscreens.


Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel at advice @ fastmail dot net.

1 comment:

  1. I agree so much with the advise you gave. My mother-in-law developed Parkinson's when my daughters were still very young. My husband made it a point to go visit 3 or 4 times a year with one or the other daughter and, as they got older, with both. The disease is a very scary one, especially for little ones. And my mother-in-law was not always easy to be around. But they both loved the trips up to see her because she told them stories, let them watch TV with her, and there were always outings for ice cream or dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant. The trips were more of an outing, not a chore. When things got really bad, both girls were anxious to be with her at the end, which they were. To this day they still tell "do you remember the time grandma ..." stories and the experience was, I think, as important for them, as for her, maybe more so. I believe that teenagers sometimes have to be told what the right thing to do is and, in my opinion, maybe a bit of prodding is in order. And the teen years is not too early to confront debilitating illnesses and ultimately death. In the end, a relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild can turn out to be very precious and should be firmly encouraged so the relationship has time to grow (again).