Dear Amy: I’m a 50-year-old freelance graphic designer. My income has completely dried up, and so I recently moved in with my mother (Dad died nine months ago).
My ex-wife is in a serious relationship. She lives a half-hour away from me. Our youngest daughter, 17, is special needs and lives with her most of the time. I get our daughter every other weekend and every Wednesday. She will start staying with me an extra day each week (Tuesdays). This schedule works for us.
My girlfriend lives two hours away in New York City and just got a full-time job. She has a sister in the city that she cannot move away from, so she can’t move to live with me.
My girlfriend and I don’t see how we can maintain any type of relationship with the responsibilities I have with my youngest daughter. I would move to Brooklyn and could get work in the city in a heartbeat, but I won’t be able to see my daughter as often.
At this point in my life, I don’t want to lose my soulmate! Do you have any suggestion? — Devoted
Dear Devoted: You have experienced several very important transitions over the last year: your father’s death, your own professional reversals, your decision to move back home, and your new co-parenting plan.
Life tends to happen in overlapping stages, not in discreet and separate incidents or episodes. You have a lot of imponderables stacked up right now, and your anxiety is directing you elsewhere.
I suggest that if you are financially able, you should not make any sudden moves, and devote this next six months to your family relationships, staying where you are and concentrating on your duties as a father and a son. Your girlfriend is starting a new job; she will need to devote time and attention to her career. If you are living two hours from New York, you should be able to visit her for long weekends. You can get the lay of the land and make a longer-term plan.
Your daughter will soon be of an age where her choices and options will change, and you should be close by to help guide her through.
Dear Amy: I’m at a loss how to respond when random men order me to “Smile!” while I’m going about my day.
I’m sure these guys think they are being playful and debonair, but to me it feels like I’m not measuring up, and that I must try harder.
These men have no idea whether or not I just lost a dear family member, or I gambled away my child’s college fund and don’t feel like smiling.
Interestingly, men don’t tell other men to smile, women don’t tell men to smile, and women don’t tell women to smile. I wonder why that is?
What do you do when this happens to you? — RBF
Dear RBF: When this happens to me, I quietly seethe, thinking about all of the awesome comebacks I could deliver, and then forgetting them all. I definitely don’t smile.
I don’t know what motivates people (I have had women do this) to demand or suggest that complete strangers should “smile.” It’s not playful. It’s definitely not “debonair.” To me, it feels like a casual assertion of privilege — as if someone can basically demand that a stranger should change her face around to please them. I don’t believe there is a lot — if any — forethought put into these commands, which is part of what makes them so maddening. Somebody says this to you — because they feel like it. They want you to shape your face differently. I have read that some people who issue this command believe that they are being helpful in some way.
I think the next time someone demands this of me, I’ll just say, “No.”
Dear Amy: I’m responding to “Bothered in CO,” the family whose pale-skinned daughter was upset by comments about her skin tone.
I have dark hair and an olive complexion. My kids’ dad is pale and has light hair.
Our two daughters take after their dad.
One day, just the girls and I went to a family event. A woman we’d never met before asked, “How come you girls are light? Is your daddy fair?”
My 5-year-old daughter Becky replied, “Yeah, he is — most of the time.”
Oh snap! We’re all kin beneath the skin. — Proud Mama
Dear Proud: ... And it’s Becky, in for the win. Thanks for the smile.
You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.