DEAR AMY: My wife of more than 40 years and I had a mutual parting of ways five years ago. Though we went our separate ways, we harbor no searing animosity toward one another and we regularly talk in civil and polite tones. My former wife thought I was going in the wrong direction, but I quickly made an effort to meet a new woman through online dating. I was successful in that venture. My ex joined many different clubs and organizations and eventually fell in with a man whose company she enjoys. Happy ending? I wish. I was happy for my ex, but women I met online told me that this guy continues to occupy a spot in the online dating scene, messaging women about his availability. It is not my business, but I’d also rather not have her contract an STD because of this guy’s secret liaisons. I’m feeling perplexed about the issue. My ex’s heart is apt to be broken pretty much either way. She eschews online dating, so she is not apt to discover his habits on her own, but I don’t want her to die prematurely or to live with an STD she couldn’t see coming, due to his deceit. Advice?
DEAR CONCERNED: It should be easy for you to confirm whether this man is active on dating sites (at least the ones you are also on), and before saying anything to your ex, you should confirm this.
You two were married for 40 years. You seem to have remained friendly, if not friends. You genuinely care about your ex’s welfare. You also don’t know about their relationship or arrangement.
Once you confirm this man’s online activity, you can say to your ex, “I just want you to know that ‘Barry’ is currently active on online dating sites and has messaged women I know. I don’t want to interfere in your relationship, but I thought you would want to know.”
That’s it. Your ex might get mad at you or not take this news well, but what’s she going to do, divorce you? STD rates among senior citizens have doubled in recent years, and these diseases can take a terrible toll, especially if people have a suppressed immune system or other health problems.
You, your ex and all of your partners should be tested and use common sense “safe sex” guidelines.
DEAR AMY: I don’t mind the usual social pleasantries, but I can’t stand it when drive-thru coffee drink-makers try to engage me, a complete stranger, in small talk such as, “What are you up to?” “Just getting off work?” “Doing anything fun today?” How do I politely communicate to these young, cheerful people that I just want my coffee?
Not Your Chum in Chico
DEAR NOT YOUR CHUM: You are right, that there is a line over which many of us don’t want to step during glancing encounters with strangers while doing errands. So — cashiers at the supermarket — please don’t comment on the contents of my grocery cart, which skews heavily toward cat food. It makes me feel like a cat lady (which, I suppose, I am).
And, “Doing anything fun today?” comes off as condescending from someone half your age, who has no idea that you just left work and are on your way to the nursing home to visit your ailing parent.
I think the way to politely communicate that you just want your coffee is to answer every greeting with, “Just trying to get through another day. That latte is going to help. Thanks.”
I’ll happily run responses from readers.
DEAR AMY: I am responding to various comments regarding the wisdom of letting an adolescent watch the movie “The Exorcist.” You seem to think it is a fairly benign choice. My husband had the same attitude and let our 13-year-old son watch this movie when it showed up on TV one night (he assumed it had been edited; it had not). This movie traumatized our son. He was extremely fearful for months. We ended up seeking medical and then therapeutic help for him, and after exploring all of the possibilities, everyone concluded this movie was actually the culprit. My son is now in his late 20s and when I shared your point of view with him, he completely disagreed with you.
DEAR READER: Every parent should make media choices alongside their child, taking into consideration their child’s temperament.