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Smoking Alternatives, Troubled Parents, and the Unappealing Business Trip

I have a work-related trip coming up that I’m just dreading, mainly because of the co-worker I’ll be traveling with. She’s extremely religious, so she doesn’t drink, curse, or watch R-rated movies or TV, and just generally won’t shut up/read social cues. We’ll have to drive there together in one car, stay in the same hotel room, and there will be quite a bit of down time, when drinking or trashy TV would come in handy.

The city we’ll be going to is not terribly safe, so it doesn’t leave much room for going exploring on my own. Other than hitting up the hotel gym for hours on end, what can I do to keep my sanity and not completely ruin my professional relationship with her?

Aw man, the sharing-a-room business trip is rough! But we can get you through it.

How long is it? If it’s just a night or two, you can probably just suck it up and take an extra long time on your skincare routine to get a little alone time. But if it’s more like a whole week, you’ll need to set some boundaries. Because you are allowed to have a little space to do what you want, just as she’s allowed to prefer a more Jesus-y atmosphere.

The best way to set a boundary is to be cheerful, polite, and relentless. For instance, let’s say it’s Night Three and you’re feeling the need to not hear this woman’s voice. How about you say something like, “I feel like watching a little TV, but I know that’s not your thing, so I’ll use my laptop and put my headphones on! Talk to you in a bit!” Wow, you’re in such a great mood! Then flip over on your side away from her and get going on some Netflixes.

Or, walk over to the door and say, “I’m gonna go out for a walk — see you later!” on your way out, and then go to the hotel bar maybe? Or go hang out in the lobby with a book? I dunno. I guess I just want to make sure you don’t spend the entire trip doing stuff you hate just because it seems easier than speaking up. So make sure you don’t let that happen! You can do it! Practice with a friend before the trip! Relentlessly cheerful!

Also, for the long drive part, how about an audiobook? Two benefits here: you get to hear a great story, and also the other lady will have to shut up. There’s a wide pool of non-heretic literature out there that you can both enjoy — something like Anne of Green Gables (free) or Heidi (also free) or the Little House books (unfortunately not free, but your library probably has it).

These could also give you something neutral and at least kind of interesting to talk about at meals and other times you’re forced to converse. “I was SO GLAD when Marilla didn’t make Anne go stay with Mrs. Blewett, weren’t you?” Beats fire and brimstone talk, anyway.

Hey gals, I just joined the roller derby in my city (Long Beach Roller Derby, holla!) I’ve been struggling with finding a name. Do you have any ideas for me?

That roller derby thing seems so gosh-darn much fun! I wish I knew what your first name was, or what kinds of things you like the most, so we could have something to start with! Maybe you can comment and the Pinners can get in on it, too.

Here are a few (silly) ideas, vetted for uniqueness against the International Derby Name Database.

Girtha Hitt
Anne of Green Fists
Milla Cut A Bitch
Ellen Rip Ye
Joan Hackaway
Elizabeth Sour Fruit
Jada Fuckit Smith

Most of these offerings follow the time-honored pun-on-a-famous-name pattern. Another popular trope seems to be using your regular first name with an angry word as the last name. “Rage” is a good one — one syllable last names tend to scan well. Penny Rage. Edith Rage. Chloe Grace Rage. I like it. Stay away from “Smashlee,” though. Over-saturated field.

My mom recently discovered my dad has been having an affair for a while. After 34 years of marriage, she’s filing for divorce. She has been really level-headed through it, and I am so proud of how she’s handling it.

My dad retired a little early, and it looks like he’s been using his retirement fund to support this woman — moving her from a different city, new car, gambling, beautician school, etc. Furthermore, it looks like he’s been lifting things from my mom’s jewelry box that he originally gave to her and giving them to the girlfriend. He was also planning to visit me this summer (I live in a different state), but my mom said she’s found evidence that he was probably planning a trip to see me for a bit and then leave for a vacation with her, all under the guise of visiting me.

Here are my questions: my mom is living in my brother’s house now, so he’s been helping her out a ton, but what can I do to help mom out from where I am? What in the world do I say besides, “I’m sorry this is happening”? And how do I deal with my dad? He was a great dad when I was growing up — these things he’s doing now, I feel like I don’t know who this person is. I feel sick about the lowness of his actions and the betrayal of our whole family, especially my mom. And I really think he’s getting played, and when his money is gone, this lady will be gone too. His whole retirement fund! Can I tell him I’m worried about that?

You certainly can tell him you’re worried about that! And that you’re hurt by what an asshat he’s being. He may or may not listen to you, but I think you should DEFINITELY TELL HIM how his actions are making you feel sick and betrayed and scared. Because it sounds like he’s so far up inside his own ass that he may not even realize!

Seriously! WTF is going on in his brain? What do you think? Does he seem fairly normal or does he seem extra bonkers? What’s his attitude like? Do you think he might be on something scary? I only ask because stealing jewelry from loved ones seems more like meth-addled than general mid-life-crisis behavior. But maybe I’m just too paranoid. You see some stuff, being A Lady. SMDH.

Anyway, yes, you can and should definitely talk to him and tell him exactly what you told us. That you love him and he has been a wonderful dad but you don’t understand what is going on now and in addition it feels like a knife in your heart. If he wants to leave your mom and be with someone else, that’s one thing … but why the stealing? Why the lying? Why the vindictiveness? And does he realize what it looks like this new lady is doing to him? Has he considered that she might not be who he thinks she is?

Many situations in life can and should be cheerily glossed over, but this is not one of them. The man needs The Realest Talk. Maybe with you AND your brother together? A united front can help get the point across, or at least deflect some of the anger and defensiveness he’s going to lob back at you. Be prepared that he may not want to talk to you for a while, but if it wakes him up even the tiniest little bit, it will have been worth it, right?

And, God, your poor mom. I have had to edit out about a dozen superfluous WTFs from this response to you because clearly this is out of left field and completely awful. She doesn’t deserve to be treated this way! I want to help her, too!

I wonder, what is her financial situation like? Does she need some assistance getting assets into an account he can’t touch? Does she need a safe place to stash the last of her dwindling jewels or other logistical help to protect herself? Maybe she could use a vacation to visit you?

She’s got a lot to work through: first the shock and pain of being betrayed, and then process of sorting out what she’s going to do next. She’ll need time for mulling and stewing, but mixed in with that she also needs something else to do with herself. Maybe a mom-daughter long-distance book club? 2312 just came out if you’re nerds! Or a regular Skype and coffee date? Does she have any close friends nearby? Or is there a club she could join or a class she could take? These activities are post-breakup cliches for a reason — they work.

With time, and with extra infusions of sweetness from all of you who love her, she’ll figure it out. And I bet it would help her a ton to hear what you wrote, that you think she’s been amazing through all this. But you probably already told her; you sound like a really lovely daughter.

As for your dad, well … may I just again say WTF. Who knows what is going to happen with him. Maybe he’ll snap out of it. Or maybe he’s totally blowing up his life for good. Either way, what he does impacts you and you’re totally within your rights to let him know that. It might not change his actions, but at least you will have said your piece and gotten some sort of reaction from him that lets you know where you stand.

Ughhh what are 20 things to do that are better than smoking?!?!

First off, GO YOU! Breaking the shackles of The Man and His Wack Tobaccy! Freeing up your lungs for better things! A Lady is very proud of you!

Okay, so first, here are some things NOT to do.

– Do not watch Mad Men or early seasons of Sex and the City.
– Stay away from commercials featuring Smokey the Bear and videos featuring Smokey Robinson.
– And take particular care to avoid the movie Matchstick Men, as apparently it contains so much smoking that scientists used it in a study designed to find out whether watching actors smoke in movies makes people want to smoke. (Duh, of course it does.)

Anyhow, here’s your list of 20 things. I’m not sure these are all more fun than smoking, but they are at least better in that they won’t kill you dead! Also, I tried to include activities that you could actually do rather than stuff like “Travel the galaxy with Jean Luc Picard” or “Wish for three more wishes.” Though I guess anything’s possible! Anyway!

1. Swimming.
2. Masturbating.
3. Drinking tea.
4. Playing Katamari on your phone.
5. Messing around with makeup while watching tutorials and drinking wine.
6. Walking around your neighborhood taking pictures of bugs.
7. Reading a book under a tree.
8. Taking a bike ride alongside a river.
9. Making some simple linocut prints.
10. Writing letters to your friends on dog stationery with extra stickers.
11. Epic thrifting.
12. Planning and throwing a slightly fancier party than you normally would.
13. Mapping out a pretend vacation to Vietnam or Tanzania or wherever. Approx. 50% as good as a real vacation.
14. Knocking over blocks, running back and forth, and giggling at nothing with a one-year-old.
15. Adult coloring.
16. Putting on some music and deep cleaning your fridge / closet / whatever.
17. Visiting that cool place in your town that you never get around to visiting.
18. Eating oranges or ice cream or french fries or buttered biscuits or strawberry pretzel salad or anything really.
19. Dancing your ass off for a really long time and realizing you’re not out of breath.
20. Going into a smoky room a year after quitting and realizing how gross it smells, and that you no longer smell like that. Winner!

Previously: On Adding or Keeping Distances.

A Lady is one of several rotating ladies who know everything. Do you have any questions for A Lady? (300-word max, please.)

Photo by coka, via Shutterstock

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