DEAR AMY: My wife's cousin is a very talented artist. About five and a half years ago I approached her to commission a nude painting of my wife. I sent her photos and earnest money in the amount of $250. She replied that a modeling session would help. My wife traveled to her city, approximately 500 miles away, for the session. She also visited friends and family, and so she was happy to make the trip. My next contact with the artist was a few months later, when she advised me that she didn't know how to proceed, and would not be able to complete the commission. I received no money back, which wasn't a big deal. Since then, I have retired, we have moved twice, and are excited to basically move into our Airstream full time as we travel the country. Recently, we hit the road for three months and stopped by the cousin's studio. On an easel was a half-finished nude portrait of my wife. The artist asked what we thought. I reminded her that she had advised me that she was abandoning the project five years ago. "Oh, no." was her reply. We were going to Europe for three weeks and she said that she would have the piece completed upon our return. When we got back, it was completed, but we have moved on and really don't want the piece. We don't have room for it — and it is not her best work. My question is, what is our obligation to accept this commissioned artwork after more than five years? We love this cousin, but feel like this should have been handled differently.
Reluctant Art Collector
DEAR RELUCTANT: It took Michelangelo four years to paint the Sistine Chapel. Four years. You are not Pope Julius II, pushing the artist to complete her masterpiece. And she is not Michelangelo.
According to you, you seem to have happily invested time and money into this project, and were understanding when the artist said she could not complete it. In retrospect, it would have been wise for you to acknowledge this in writing — that way everybody would be on the same page.
You are not obligated to accept and pay for this painting. Perhaps the artist can make back some of her own investment by selling the painting elsewhere. The only wrinkle is if you and your wife want a nude painting of her floating around on the open market.
You should say to her, "I completely understood and accepted it when you said you couldn't complete this painting. That was several years ago. We have totally moved on and — as you can tell — have no room in our Airstream for this painting. I'm not sure where the misunderstanding happened. We think you're wonderful, but ... this ship has sailed."
DEAR AMY: You've advocated in your column for telling younger children about parents' previous marriages and divorces, but what about telling an adult child of a previous marriage and divorce, after 40-plus years? My first marriage lasted less than a year. My husband was abusive and a drunk, and then after the divorce I met my son's father and got married. His father never wanted me to tell our son, and now after 32 years together, we recently divorced. Should I tell my adult son? I'm worried he will find out.
Two Times an Ex
DEAR EX: Yes, you should tell your son about your first marriage. Somehow, this aspect of your life became the property of someone else (your most recent ex). You permitted him to control a disclosure that belongs to you alone. And over the years, this brief episode somehow grew to assume the dimensions of a major family secret.
Being ashamed and embarrassed about an episode in your life where you essentially triumphed isn't proportional. I hope you can be proud of your story. Own it.
Tell your son. He may ask you a couple of questions, which you should answer truthfully. This likely means much more to you than to him, but you will feel better if you disclose it.
DEAR AMY: "Madam X" (married) said she was behaving herself but was definitely flirting (with another man online). What she is doing is kidding herself, thinking what she is doing is innocent. She is committing emotional adultery. She is letting another man come between her and her husband, which can only result in driving them apart. If she finds flirting so much fun, she should flirt with her husband.
DEAR DISTRESSED: Well put.