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Dear John: Living – And Loving – On Borrowed Time?

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected].

Dear John,

My husband passed away after a long illness a couple of years ago after ten wonderful years of marriage. I miss him every single day, he was my world, but I decided a while ago that I didn’t want to be lonely for the rest of my life and I know he wouldn’t want that for me, so I stopped saying no to every invitation to go out. After a string of comical date disasters, I met a man through my job that seemed perfect. Nice, polite, funny, and very sweet. A gentle soul. We met for coffee a couple of times, then dinners, and it slowly became “serious.” And that’s when he confided in me that he was a cancer survivor whose very serious cancer is in remission but who will not be able to think of himself as “cured” for a long time if ever.

Now I don’t know what to do. I care for this man, but the thought of being together and enduring the long and painful loss of another partner is too much for me to bear. I should also mention that I have a daughter who is now ten and I couldn’t put her through that again either. But then I remind myself of him and what a strong, good man he is and how scared he must have been and he deserves someone to share his life with. And most likely everything will be fine with his health. Or maybe our relationship won’t even go that far. This just has me so upset I can’t think straight. Is it foolish to let myself get in a deeper relationship with a man who could find out his illness has come back on any given day? Especially after what I went through with my husband? Like I said, I can’t even think straight. If you have any thoughts to share with me, please do.


Scared To Get Close

Dear Scared,

I can certainly understand your reluctance, and of course you would never willingly put your daughter through such a devastating loss again. But this man is no different than the rest of us – not really. We all go through life acting like our time is unlimited while knowing with more certainty than we know anything that it’s not. Perhaps his illness has given him a perspective that we could all benefit from – the importance of living well while we live, and the utter triviality of so many things we spend so much time and energy stressing over.

Maybe, instead of making this man a less desirable partner, his illness has made him a more desirable one.

You say he is nice, polite, strong, good, gentle, funny and very sweet. Any of us could receive bad news on any given day. I think the answer is obvious.


Dear John,

Maybe you can help me understand something. Probably not, but what the heck. My adult daughter came out as a lesbian. I was surprised and I guess I can’t explain it, but I wasn’t disappointed, but it’s not something I wanted for her either. In that sense, I can’t say it

was a GOOD thing and I think any parent who says otherwise is lying. We’ve had our ups and downs, maybe even more than most mother-daughters, but I love her, want her to be happy, I respect her individuality, and so I accepted this. It was her choice (I don’t mean choice like whether or not she was born this way, but that’s not even something I want to get into anyway) and that’s that. I gave her my full acceptance and I didn’t say anything but be supportive.

But here’s the problem. I can’t stand her girlfriend, and I mean I can’t stand her. My daughter is a lesbian, okay. That I get. But why then would she choose to live with a woman who is more masculine than almost any man and who is surly, rude, who goes out of her way act like a man and a disgusting one at that. Why not just be with a man?? So what am I supposed to do when I want to invite family and friends over? It’s not that this person is a lesbian, it’s that she can’t be civil. And what do I say to my daughter when I question what she sees in this person and she accuses me of not accepting that she’s a lesbian? I do – a lesbian with bad taste in women!!


Typical Mom, Kind Of

Dear Typical Mom,

A lot of times, a problem isn’t as complicated as it seems when you strip away details that seem relevant but really aren’t – in the case, the fact that your daughter’s a lesbian and (therefore) her partner’s a woman. Because this entire situation is subject to the same social constraints and expectations as it would be if you didn’t like your daughter’s rude boyfriend. So let’s take a look at the various aspects of your question without regard to the sexuality of the people involved.

You don’t like your daughter’s partner. Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to – she’s your daughter’s partner, not yours. You have to be polite to her, of course, as you would be with anybody, but you don’t have to endure rudeness or surliness. Invite her to any functions you invite your daughter to, but kindly let your daughter know that if her partner acts rudely or inappropriately, you will expect them to leave, and if she’s stubbornly rude, she won’t be welcome at future events. Remind her that this is simply what’s expected of adults and it has nothing to do with the fact that she’s a lesbian. If your daughter refuses to believe that, well, she can believe or not believe whatever she wants. You have no control over that.

Finally, about your antipathy to this woman. Before deciding you “can’t stand her” once and for all, I would strongly encourage you to make your best effort to get to know her. See if you can find out why she acts this way. She may have been hurt so often in life that her rudeness is a way to keep people out so she can avoid getting hurt again. I think you owe it to her, your daughter and yourself to give her every chance before writing her off. After all, you love and respect your daughter, and she obviously sees something lovable in her. Which brings us to your last question: what does your daughter see in her? I challenge you to find out.


Dear John,

My new boyfriend has a license to grow and use medical marijuana. We live in a state where doing that is legal. He is very careful about staying within the limits of the law, but within those limits, he is very open about what he does. His apartment just reeks of the plants he grows. And of course this is all still illegal in the eyes of the federal government.

My problem is my kids, who are both in their young teens, a boy and a girl. I like this man, and I am hopeful this will last, but I don’t know how to present this marijuana issue to my kids, and I think that eventually, I will probably have to. How can I tell them to avoid things like this if I’m together with a guy who relies on it?


Mary Jane


Dear Mary Jane,

What if your boyfriend had to take prescription painkillers every day to deal with chronic pain? What would you say to your kids then? You’d probably say something like, “Joe lives with quite a bit of pain, and his prescription painkillers make him a little more comfortable. They’re powerful drugs, definitely not for teenagers because their brains are still developing, and Joe uses them because a doctor thought doing so was a good idea.” The fact that the prescription painkiller in this case is marijuana needn’t change how you handle this. The only difference is the one you pointed out: what your boyfriend is doing is legal in your state but still illegal as far as federal law is concerned. But you can explain to your kids that the federal government has agreed to look the other way and not enforce federal law where people like your boyfriend are concerned.

Kids understand full well that adults can do things that they can’t. Be honest with them and answer their questions. If you want to influence their behavior, talk more with them about things like this, not less.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected] . He's away from the advice desk this week, so he's chosen some of his favorite letters from previous columns to share.


Related Slideshow: Valentine’s Day Events in Central Mass

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Valentine's Music Fest

Jillian's, Worcester

Grab your favorite cowboy (or girl) and take them to Jillian's on Feb. 14 for the Valentine's Day Country Music Festival. The event features acoustic country singer Lisa Marie and Bobby Hogan and Sugar Creek. The concert goes from 7:30pm to 1:30am.

Click here for more information.

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Valentine's Day Workshop

Crompton Collective, Worcester

The Worcester Historical Museum and Crompton Collective will partner for a special valentine workshop on Saturday, Feb. 8 to teach participants the history behind Valentine's Day cards.  Individuals can learn the real story and make their own cards in the style of Esther Howland the artist and businesswoman responsible for popularizing Valentine's Day greeting cards in America.

Click here for more details.

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Parent's Night Out

The Children's Workshop, all MA locations

Would you like a night out for Valentine’s Day? Bring the kids to The Children’s Workshop! They will provide supervision, fun, entertainment and snacks for the kids while parents enjoy a night off. This service is FREE and open to the community! You do not need to enroll to take advantage of this great event. Space is limited. Please RSVP by February 7th.

The Children’s Workshop has 7 locations throughout Massachusetts.

For more information, click here.

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Valentine's Day Symphony

University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, Worcester

The Seven Hills Symphony's Winter (Valentine's Day) Concert, which will take place Feb. 14 from 7:30pm to 9pm, features an all-Romantic program. The concert will showcase the winner and runner-up of SHS's concerto competition. Winner Spencer Kim will be the soloist for the first movement of Dvorak's Cello Concerto and runner-up Miranda Waltz-Peters will be the soloist for the first movement of Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1.

This is a free event, but donations are encouraged.

Click here for more information.

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A Lesson in Chocolate

Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston

Make the most of your Valentine's chocolate and learn which chemicals elicit biochemical reactions in the human brain. During the presentation, you will also learn how to taste chocolate for quality and the best way to enjoy it. The event features presenter Mike Cross, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Northern Essex Community College.

Click here to register.

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Ice Skating

Buffone Arena, Worcester

Are you looking for a romantic and fun activity this Valentine's Day? Look no further than ice skating at Buffone Arena. In honor of V-Day, Buffone will host a live, ice-slide DJ event so you can skate and rock the night away.

Admission is $5 and an additional $5 for rental skates.

For more information, click here.

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Valentine's Day Ball

Bull Run Restaurant, Shirley

Enjoy a romantic night of dining & dancing at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, just 20 minutes from Worcester. Enjoy dinner and the upbeat music of Bellevue Cadillac, known as "The Most Danceable Band on the Planet." Doors open at 6pm for dinner & seating. Showtime is 8pm.

Tickets for the performance $25 in advance and $30 the day of the show.

Click here to buy tickets.

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Valentine's Day Dinner

Publick House, Sturbridge

The historic Publick House in Sturbridge will be offering a special Valentine's Day Dinner Menu on Feb. 14. Entrees include roasted prime rib, pan-seared salmon, roasted duck, and lobster pie. Click here to view the menu in its entirety.

Click here to make reservations.

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Valentine's Day Massacre

Lucky Dog Music Hall, Worcester

Why not do some head banging this Valentine's Day? Rock out with your mate from 8pm to 2am on Feb. 14 at the Valentine's Day Massacre at the Lucky Dog Music Hall. The event features six metal bands: Deception Of A Ghost, A Faylene Sky, It Lies Within, Kerrigan, Shred Of Salvation, and Promise Of Fire.

Click here for the details.

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Historic Valentines

Old Sturbridge Village

On Feb. 8th and 9th, children can make their own valentines and visitors of all ages can "meet" the local woman responsible for the popularity of sending valentines in the United States Esther Howland.

Admission is $24 for adults and free for children under 17.

Click here for more information.

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Dinner for Two

7 Nana Japanese Steakhouse, Worcester

Did you know that many components in Japanese cuisine have long been known to be natural aphrodisiacs? Ingredients such as rice, wasabi, ginger, unagi, sake, even shitake mushrooms can fuel romance. So if you’re looking to start your evening with some natural and edible sparks, join 7 Nana on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, and either choose from their regular dinner menu, or make your reservation for one of their special prix fixe menu seatings and enjoy a special Valentine’s Day menu.

To make reservations, click here.

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Chocolate Making

Old Sturbridge Village

Learn about the history of chocolate - from bean to beverage - on Feb. 8th and 9th at Old Sturbridge Village. OSV historians will demonstrate processing chocolate by hand using cacao beans in the original manner of ancient Mexico, where chocolate originates.  They will use a "metate" to grind freshly roasted chocolate "nibs" to make a hot, spiced chocolate drink. 

Admission is $24 for adults and free for children under 17.

For more information, go here.


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