Archive for December, 2009

Have yourself a dysfunctional little Christmas

Stress and holidays go together like overcooked turkey and dry dressing and what’s more stressful than the thought of a new love interest meeting your entire dysfunctional family?

Seriously, what do you do? Bring your new squeeze home to meet your scrapping siblings or come up with a glib excuse to keep them away? Warn them about Uncle Toby’s drinking problem ahead of time or cross your fingers and hope he doesn’t attack them under the mistletoe?  

I’ve certainly been in the unenviable and (awkward!) position of introducing a new date to the dysfunctional family fold — as have many others – and thought it might be a fun topic to explore for’s Happen Magazine.

According to psychotherapist Tina Tessina, prepping a new love interest for the family dynamic is crucial (i.e., “By the way, honey, if my brother-in-law offers to show you his stomach surgery scar, tell him no or else you won’t be able to eat dinner”). Secret signals can also come in handy, like a finger across the throat when your new girlfriend keeps encouraging Grandpa to discuss his recent teabagging escapades (political and otherwise).

Wondering how you can reconcile a new boyfriend or girlfriend with an alcoholic dad, a hoarding mom and/or a trio of sniping sisters-in-law? Then click here and read on. And as always, feel free to share your own stories of dysfunctional family gatherings (is there any other kind?).  Merry Christmas, friends and readers, and all the best to you — and your families — in 2010.  

It’s a family affair

I always feel a little goofy giving interviews to members of the media (I’m usually the one asking questions), but I got an interview request the other day that was actually pretty fun. Phillip Milano, who writes the “Dare to Ask” column for The Florida Times-Union, wanted to know if I would be his “guest expert” for the week and answer a question from a 36-year-old Jacksonville, Florida man. The guy’s predicament?

I’m 36 and just broke up after three months with a very sweet 20-year-old, Michele, who was simply too young for me. … Her mother, Linda, is 37, divorced and as sweet as her daughter. I know Linda is very attracted to me, and though I think we’d make a great couple, we haven’t said anything yet to Michele … Is it wrong for me to pursue Linda now that my relationship with Michele is over?

That’s right, he wanted to know if it was kosher to date (and do) the daughter and then turn around and date (and do) the mom. Call me old-fashioned, but I thought this was a little over the top (here’s a link to the column with my suggestions for Doug, the dating machine). Seriously, who’s next — Grandma?  Great Aunt Ethel? 

The guy’s question did get me wondering, though, as to how many people find themselves in the same situation. I’ve never been attracted to more than one member of a family at a time, but way back in high school, I had a girlfriend who dated two brothers. Of course, in her situation, she did it accidentally, i.e., she thought she was dating the same guy (they looked alike, okay, and, yes, there was some alcohol involved).

How about you? Have you ever fallen for some older guy and then found yourself making goo-goo eyes at his 20-something son? Or started dating a woman and then realized you liked her sister better? If so, what happened? Did you ignore your feelings of lust? Pursue the forbidden fruit?  Personally, it seems better to move on than risk a huge family feud, but maybe there are circumstances where it’s all worked out in the end. Whatever the case, sounds like the makings for a hell of a family reunion.  

What’s my story?

I'm a former freelance writer, now gainfully employed at Fred Hutch (views and f-bombs all my own).

I write about health and health care; cancer research and the cancer experience; dating, lifestyle and singles issues and lots of other stuff including humor and fiction and a few songs here and there.

Book info below.

Looking for my breast cancer blog? Go to doublewhammied

Where are my books?

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Fifty Shades of Brains
Sex. Zombies. Really annoying present tense narration.

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December 2009