March 19, 2007

Uncle Millie Rides Again

Another week, another installment of Uncle Millie's return to the advice-giving business. It occurs to me that this more-or-less weekly schedule on which his columns have appeared is unusually regular for him, although that probably has to do with the fact that I'm the one calling him (and that I'm paying for the calls).

And once again, we find the master of romance down in old Mexico. Uncle Millie reports that he did not, as promised last time, leave the barstool where he has been holed up since I first re-encountered him. He did think about it seriously, though, and if all goes well, he'll think even more seriously about it in the coming week.

Here's what I want to know: if Uncle Millie has been slumped on the same barstool for over a month, how has he managed to change clothes? Actually, on second thought, I think I'd rather not know. Take it away, Uncle Millie!

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I'm In The Mood For Love, Simply Because You're Near Me... Well, You and This Bottle of Tequila, by Uncle Millie

Hola, me lads! To all, a belated Happy St. Patrick's Day, which is, as you probably know, the highest holiday on Uncle Millie's personal religious calendar. You might think that they do not observe St. Patrick's Day here in Mexico, lads, but you would be most wrong. In fact, I am told by my faithful bartender, the day is set aside to remember the "San Patricios," a band of Irish immigrants who deserted the US Army to fight with the Mexicans during the Mexican-American War. In fact, I am told, Irishmen are regarded as heroes here. I have no idea if this is true, but if so, it would explain why my Mexican compatriots have welcomed me with open arms.

It would not, however, explain why I cannot get so much as a taste of Bushmills in this cantina. How can this lovely country welcome my ancestral people, but not our native drink? Where is the justice in that? The good barkeep attempted to make up for this oversight by coloring the cerveza green for the weekend, which was a nice touch, I felt. Unfortunately, due to the quantities I imbibed as part of my religious observance, I am colored a bit green myself at this point. But no matter; you haven't come to listen to my woes, you've come for romantic advice, and you shall have it.

Let me begin our letters for today with a comment left on my last column by one PG. PG feels that my advice to Mitch in Emmittsburg, who was rather dismayed about his wife suddenly wanting kids, was missing a little something. Specifically, PG writes:

It's a win-win situation.

I fear this assessment reflects Uncle Millie's oldfashioned, pre-DINK outlook. If Mitch had assumed that he was marrying a woman who also would be an earner, then having her not only stop contributing to household income, but add to the burdens on it by producing children, getting out of helping with raising those children may not be much help. After all, I doubt Mitch would be pleased if his wife currently had a wage earning job and stopped doing it simply to enjoy more leisure time. If he doesn't want children, he'll probably look upon them as his wife's hobby.

Actually, that raises a question for me to ask Uncle Millie: assuming that he's occasionally been the sole wage-earner while his spouse has been responsible for domestic duties, what is the proper attitude to have toward money in that situation? should the money be considered equally the possession of both spouses, with each having equal discretion (or lack thereof) over its expenditure? does it belong in proportion to the amount of work one does? or to the amount of only market work one does (which would make the sole wage earner the sole proprietor)?

DINK, I'm given to understand, is short for "double income, no kids," and does not mean what I thought it meant.

To answer your first point, I must concede that I had not considered the possibility that the lad's wife worked outside the home. If she does, though, my advice still holds. If she is a "modern woman," then appeal to that, and turn her "modern" worldview against her. If the lad points out that he does not intend to fall for the sham of "equal parenting," then she will have to choose between her conception as a "career woman" and her dreams of motherhood. And since no self-respecting "modern woman" wishes to be a mere housewife (how anti-feminist!), the lad will be off the hook.

Perhaps she will instead vow to continue working and hire a nanny or caretaker to raise the child. If so, the lad can simply say that the nanny's salary will come out of the wife's share of the household income. This means an end to the fancy vacations, lavish dinners out, and new clothes to which she, in her DINK lifestyle, has become accustomed. In all probability, she won't wish to sacrifice those luxuries, and the lad is once again off the hook. If she does decide to trade in dinner for 2 at Spago for Happy Meals at the drive-through, then he's rid of her free-spending ways in other areas. Again, it's a win-win situation.

As to the second part of your comment, I began to answer it, before running aground in the thicket of economic jargon. I asked my good lad Fred to simplify it for me, and he told me that you were essentially asking: If the man earns the money in the relationship, does that mean that he gets to decide how the money is spent? Or does the woman, in exchange for keeping up the household, also get a say in how the money is spent?

In traditional couples such as these, the man usually makes the spending the decisions, which is as it should be. I say this for two reasons. First, if he earns the money, he should be able to decide how it is spent. It's only fair. After all, if his wife made a cake, would she like it if she was not allowed to eat any of it? Second, he is less likely to spend the money on things like shoes and hair-care products.

Now, at first blush this arrangement may seem unequitable, but I assure you that it is more fair than it seems. As a practical matter, women in traditional arrangements have plenty of avenues by which they can influence household spending decisions. These range from nagging to cooking special meals to employing feminine wiles. In some drastic cases, horrifying as it may seem, some women have even withheld sex from their men to get what they want. Personally, I think this is inhumane. If Amnesty International wants to do some real good in the world, they should focus their attentions on the scourge of women who withhold sex. But I digress.

My point is that the traditional arrangements, so often derided by "modern women," have a significant upside for men and women alike. Everyone knew his or her role, and men and women had their spheres and avenues of influence. Compare this to our modern situation, where no one knows who should be wearing the pants in the relationship, men and women are both convinced that they're getting a raw deal, and confusion, strife, and unhappiness results. The only advantage to the new way of thinking is that some women have abandoned the notion of commitment altogether, and dedicated themselves to having sex as often as possible. This trend, I approve of. The rest of it, I do not.

Now, let's move on to some new romantic problems.

Dear Uncle Millie,

For the past year I've been dating "Carrie." She's not the best-looking or most exciting woman -- she doesn't like to go out on the town very much -- but she treats me well, she's a great cook, she always tidies up my place when she's over, and I'm sure she'd be a loyal wife and a good mother. I'd figured that in another year or so, I'd ask her to marry me, and we'd have a long and satisfying life together.

That is, until I met "Tracy." Tracy is nothing at all like Carrie. She's smoking-hot, for one thing, holds her liquor, she's wickedly funny (she tells dirty jokes better than anyone I've ever seen), and she loves to shoot billiards (and she's damn good!). She's not the most stable or reliable woman -- she's always late, she carries a gun with her everywhere, she's currently living with her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend. We've been out a few times over the last month. One time, some woman pulled a knife on us. Other than that, though, we've had a blast. And the sex has been out of this world! The things that she can do with a pair of velvet-lined handcuffs and a can of Crisco...

Neither Carrie nor Tracy knows about the other one. So far. But I really feel like I need to make a decision. Carrie's steady, kind, and thoughtful. I could see us growing old together. But Tracy's hit me like a hurricane! I can't imagine growing old with her... I have the feeling she'll be shot, in jail, or dead of an overdose before she's 40. But I don't know if I can content myself with Carrie any more. Part of me says I should bid Tracy a fond farewell and settle in with Carrie, and part of me says dump Carrie and live it up with Tracy. I can't make up my mind. Help!

Manny in Issaquah

Ah, lad, the age-old query: safe but boring or exciting but dangerous? Plod along with the tortoise or race with the hare? It's a thorny problem, to be sure, and there are risks with either option. On the one hand, there's the possibility of drug problems, financial ruin, jail time, venereal disease, or even death. On the other hand, there's the possibility of a lifetime of bad sex. Not a decision to take lightly!

On the other hand, perhaps you're not thinking creatively enough, framing it as a decision of Carrie vs. Tracy. Some might say that, since neither one satisfies you fully, you should not choose either one. I say: Why not choose them both? Let each of them make you happy in the ways she can, and between the two of them, you can fulfill all of your desires.

I know that some would argue that you should hold out for a woman who gives you the best of both worlds: a woman who's smart and kind, witty and sweet, a caring wife and mother and great at making love, a woman who can handle a beer mug and a mop with equal capacity. Uncle Millie is not sure what planet these women are found on, though he would very much like to know. In the real world, you can find women who are good in the kitchen or in the bedroom, but not both.

This is why mistresses are such a time-honored element to successful marriages. To their great credit, the French figured this out and made it part of their culture. In America, though, we cling to this fantasy of finding The One who "completes me." Many a perfectly acceptable marriage has foundered, and many a happy family has been disrupted, because we insist that men must find total and complete satisfaction in their wives. Rather than allowing the man to find another woman to supplement his needs in some of the areas in which his wife (though wonderful) may be lacking, we insist that he fulfill all his desires in her. If mistresses were culturally acceptable, American marriages would be much happier and longer-lasting. But I digress.

My point is that, if you've got one lass who cooks and cleans and treats you well, and one who makes your hair stand on end and curls your toes, what is the problem? Collectively, they are the perfect woman! Hang on to them and don't let go.

Dear Uncle Millie,

This is the most difficult letter I've ever had to write. I've been married 9 years. My wife, "Kristin," is a good woman. We've had our ups and downs like any other couple, but she's never done me wrong, and has stood by my side through some pretty rough times in my personal life (including drug addiction). We have 3 kids, ages 2 to 7, and they're the apples of my eye. They're well-behaved, smart, beautiful kids. My wife and I both have good jobs, and we have a nice house in a safe neighborhood with good schools.

Sounds like a perfect life, right? That's what I thought, too. Until three weeks ago. I went on a business trip, and afterward ran into "Mike" at the bar. We both went to the same school, as it turned out, and we had a few drinks and traded stories about our alma mater, about sports, about politics. We talked until closing time. Then (I can't believe I'm typing this) we went back to his hotel room and slept together.

This was the first time I'd had a sexual experience with a man. Honestly, it was the first time I'd been unfaithful to my wife, with a man or a woman. The next day, I was filled with shock, confusion, and disgust at myself. The day after, the conference was over, and I flew home. I did not tell my wife what happened; I tried to forget the whole thing, honestly.

But I've been wrestling with it ever since, and I really think that I might be attracted to men. I'd never considered it before (in my house growing up, I'd have been grounded for life if I'd even thought about being gay), but I've realized that this isn't the first time I've thought of men in that way.

I love Kristin. She's all I could ask for in a wife. But I've never, not even when we were dating, felt the kind of passion for her that I felt for Mike that night. I feel like I'd be living a lie if I stayed with her and didn't say anything.

But how could I declare that our whole marriage was a lie? How could I do that to Kristin? To our children? We belong to a very conservative faith community, and I'm certain that I would be shunned if I revealed this.

If it was another woman, I wouldn't hesitate to forget about her and stay with Kristin. I take my marriage vows very seriously. (That's why staying married and taking a lover is not an option for me.) But knowing now the feelings I have, I don't know if I can stay in marriage the rest of my life and pretend to be truly happy. Every option seems like a disaster to me.

What in the world do I say to Kristin? To the kids? To our friends? Please tell me how to make sense of all this.

Dave in Houston

Well, my goodness, lad. Uncle Millie has surely never received a letter like this before. You did come to the right place, though, as I do have some experience in this regard: this very situation, in a reverse sort of way -- that is, my wife declared that she loved other lasses -- is what caused the end my seventh marriage. In her case, though, I think she was simply overwhelmed: my rugged masculinity was too much for her to deal with, so much so that she abandoned the male gender entirely. But I digress.

Truth be told, though, I've always found it easier to understand women who love other women than men in your situation. Who wouldn't love women? They are far more attractive than we are, lad. Men are hairy, lumpy, and crude. I've always been surprised that more women aren't attracted to their own kind, frankly. It's fortunate for us, and for the future of the human race at large, that most lasses prefer men. But lads who love other lads... that I can't quite wrap my mind around. Where is the attraction?

Nevertheless, there is no shame in being this way, lad. You need not be disgusted with yourself over this. Neither about loving lads, or about the infidelity. It is what it is, simply a fact of life. There is no point in denying who you are, lad.

But still, you must decide what to do about your situation, particularly with a family involved. It is a pity that you do not wish to take a lover, as that may be in many ways the most elegant solution. As I mentioned in my response to the letter above yours, our silly cultural prohibition on lovers has caused the crack-up of many otherwise solid marriages, which is surely a pity. Who knows? Perhaps your wife would be interested in a three-way, particularly since you'd be spared the demeaning and unpleasant wrangle over the gender of the third person.

But you say you do not wish to take a lover, so that option is out. As such, I believe you will have to confess this to your wife. Uncle Millie is loath to include the words "confess" and "wife" in the same sentence, but I do not believe you have an alternative, lad. Now that you've opened Pandora's box, so to speak, do you truly believe you'd be able to content yourself with your wife's company for the rest of your life? That would be hard enough even if she were your preferred gender. Given that she is apparently not (why not, lad?), it is an impossibility.

That leaves the question of timing. And as a rule, I believe you should tell this sort of thing as soon as possible, because the longer the marriage, the more she will be able to collect in alimony. There is one hitch here, though. You mention that you have children, but you do not mention their genders. Are there any young lads in the lot, or are they all lasses? If there are no young lads, you may wish to wait until there are. It all depends on your desire to continue the family name. After all, this is not an opportunity you will have once you switch to lads exclusively (unless there have been advances in biology of which Uncle Millie is not aware). That part of it is up to you. Beyond that, lad, the earlier the better.

I do worry that you are not giving sufficient consideration to the possibility of taking a lover. You would be able to keep your family together, and still have the sexual satisfaction you desire. Do you really wish to discard that ideal solution simply because some old man on a mountaintop, thousands of years ago, chiseled some nonsense about adultery into a stone tablet? Think it over, lad.

That brings our advice-giving session to a close for this time. Before I go, though, I did wish to share with you a poem, in honor of St. Patrick's Day. This poem is by Tom Moore (an Irishman, of course), and it neatly encapsulates the story of my life. Here we go:

The time I've lost in wooing,
In watching and pursuing,
The light that lies
In woman's eyes,
Has been my heart's undoing.
Though Wisdom oft has sought me,
I scorned the lore she brought me,
My only books
Were woman's looks,
And folly's all they've taught me.

Her smile when Beauty granted,
I hung with gaze enchanted,
Like him, the spite,
Whom maids by night
Oft meet in glen that's haunted.
Like him, too, Beauty won me,
But while her eyes were on me;
If once their ray
Was turned away,
Oh! winds could not outrun me.

And are these follies going?
And is my proud heart growing
Too cold or wise
For brilliant eyes
Again to set it glowing?
No, vain, alas! th' endeavor
From bonds so sweet to sever;
Poor Wisdom's chance
Against a glance
Is now as weak as ever.

In case the old-fashioned English is too much for you to understand (and there is no shame in that), a brief summary: I was a horny young man, and now I'm old, and I'm still horny. What better way to celebrate this holy day.

Erin go bragh, lads! Happy hunting!

Posted by Mediocre Fred at March 19, 2007 10:08 AM | TrackBack

Tough questions this week...With stuff like this, Uncle Millie may be hosting his own Jerry Springer-styled talk show soon. (With about as much drinking and chair-smashing fun, naturally)

Posted by: PapaShaft at March 21, 2007 01:33 PM
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