DEAR AMY: My wife and I love the beach. We walk on the beach, kayak, picnic, and in the summer we swim. When it’s hot and the beach is crowded, my wife invariably asks me, “Are you checking out that girl in the bikini?” I always say, “No,” which is a lie she sees right through. An argument ensues, dampening our otherwise beautiful day. I am in my 50s. I have no delusions of long-term futures with young girls (or anyone else) on the beach, but I love to look at attractive females. I try, apparently unsuccessfully, to be discreet, but my natural instinct is to stand and applaud. I know I sound like a dirty old man, but I doubt I am alone. So, how can I be honest and not hurt my wife? And can we still go to the beach?
Lying on the Beach
DEAR LYING: I think many of us in middle age passively admire young and beautiful people without being lascivious (your wife might actually be in this category, but from your own description, you are not). And so no — I won’t help you to find a way to check out women in front of your wife.
You say you know you sound like a dirty old man, and you’re right; you do. In fact, I read this letter to one of my daughters, who rolled her eyes and said, “Ugh, gross.” I doubt that was the reaction you were going for.
All “attractive females” know when they’re being checked out. Some may enjoy the attention, but even if they do, the last thing they want on their day at the beach is a round of applause from you. In this context, your wife’s feelings are more important than theirs — or yours — because she is the one you’re married to. She is (presumably) the woman you’re going home with.
You have a choice here: either stop checking out women, or come clean when she catches you and risk an argument. The first choice will make your beautiful beach days continue for many years, the second one will probably lead to her turning these beach trips into solo expeditions.
Stop blaming your wife for being frustrated about your inability to keep your eyes in your head.
DEAR AMY: After nearly 15 years of marriage, my wife and I have yet to agree on the cleaning of dishes. I was taught growing up that dishes are not to be left in the sink. My wife grew up in a family that left everything in the sink until, I suppose, someone had time to clean up. If I don’t touch the dishes she’s left in the sink, she will clean them up within a few hours. The problem is that she gets mad at me whenever I’m washing one of my own dishes and I ignore hers. I don’t mind cleaning other peoples’ dishes now and then (and we have young kids, which complicates the problem). But I resent being expected to clean her dishes nearly every time I go to the sink, while she is never left to clean mine. Any thoughts?
DEAR DISHED: You are facing an all-too-common domestic question. One obvious solution is that if you want the dishes washed — now — then you should wash them. All of them. I think you know it’s obnoxiously passive-aggressive to only do your own. You two are married parents, not Craigslist roommates. You should each step up and do things that need to be done without keeping score.
In my household, whoever cooks doesn’t have to do the dishes. It’s a pretty simple equation. Getting them washed before breakfast the next day seems like a reasonable goal.
I’m sure there are things you do (or don’t do) around the house that drive your wife crazy, too, so maybe it’s time to revisit the distribution of labor.
Also, get your children involved. The kids in my life love having jobs; I have a photo of my 5-year-old nieces loading the dishwasher with such precision and glee, you’d think they were on a trip to Disneyland.
I’d love to hear from other readers here. How do you settle household chore debates?
DEAR AMY: The letter from “Disturbed Dad” literally made me sick. This dad was trying to teach his young children that stepfamilies aren’t “real” relatives. Thank you for re-educating him.
Grateful for my Steps
DEAR GRATEFUL: Many readers responded as you have. Thank you.