Question: I think I may have flirted a bit too much with a young Balinese boy. He’s eighteen; I’m twenty-six; I have a boyfriend, and he knows it. I’m very happy with my boyfriend, and he knows that too. Still, he is cute and awkward and rather nice, and when I look at him, I think to myself, “Some girl is going to be lucky to have him someday.” I see him a couple of times a week at the shop where he works, and a couple of weeks back, as I was leaving, he mentioned that he looks forward to work because he gets to talk to charming Western women like me.
I’ve been less responsive to him since then. I still joke with him, but I’ve tried to cut off the flirting. Still, I wonder if what I really need to do is to make an opportunity to speak with him to ask him if we need to talk. Perhaps it would be easier on him if he knew exactly what was happening from my end. What do you think? Do I take him aside and tell him what I’ve told you – that I don’t want him for myself, but he’s cute and some girl is going to be lucky to have him someday? Should I try to get that message across casually, rather than in a private discussion? Or is it best to just stay quiet and hope he’ll find his own way around the sudden lack of flirting?
Dr. ZZ: I wouldn’t worry too much about managing this young man’s feelings. We live in weird times. Never have we been more sexually liberated, but there’s also this weirdly fraught aspect that prompts us to wonder how much we’re expected to follow through on the heels of friendly, even flirty chitchat.
Our grandparents’ generation had ballroom dancing, which allowed them to rub up against each other and talk and flirt and touch members of the opposite gender in a socially-sanctioned way. We stay at arm’s length, escalate to text messages, and then suddenly we’re in close proximity, having skipped a whole bunch of steps along the way. Having small crushes on people who make you feel awesome when there’s no chance of them getting out of hand is fun. Crushes put an extra spring in your step and sparkle in your eye.
My advice is to keep talking to your Balinese friend in a friendly, engaging way and enjoy his company. Assume he can handle himself, and he will handle himself. If the weird flirting ever comes up, either because he pushes the issue or because he’s so darn adorable you can’t help yourself, you can always say, “I like this place too – I get to keep my flirting hand in with cool guys like you. I hope I didn’t overstep the other day.” In other words, just acknowledge the awkwardness and the adorableness, and let him walk away feeling ten feet tall.
Question: I’m an Indonesian woman in my mid-40s, having trouble with my role as a daughter. In the past year, my mother has been unable to drive; so I have taken up driving her wherever she needs to go. At first it wasn’t a problem, but recently she’s been calling me for a ride when I am at work. If I try to arrange something for another time when I am available, she acts displeased and complains to my father. This generally gets me a phone call from Dad, scolding me for being uncooperative.
I want to help my Mom, but I have my own life to worry about, and I can’t change my schedule to fit hers all the time. It’s difficult to approach her about this because she gets defensive any time I bring it up. Please help.
Dr. ZZ: Obviously, things cannot continue the way they are. You need to sit down with both your parents and talk about driving, boundaries and schedules. It’s not going to be easy as they are apt to be resistant, but you need to look at your schedule and plot out the times you need for work, personal care (e.g., grocery shopping, working out, errands, etc.), social commitments and leisure time. This ought to leave you with 1or 2 regular time blocks per week when you can be available to take your mom somewhere.
Be conservative with these available time blocks – say, one weeknight and one weekend day. Make a calendar and block out the times you are busy, and highlight the times you are free and able to drive your mom. Chances are your parents will push against these limitations. (“What if she needs you during one of your busy times? Why are you being so stubborn? We’re family.”) The absolute last thing you want to do is justify every piece of your schedule to them. A simple “I have other commitments. ‘Sorry!” is sufficient.
Refrain from making suggestions, and let the two of them work it out. Outside of your regular, available times, perhaps your dad can find a way to handle it, or your mom can get a taxi. Whenever you set and start to enforce a new boundary, the situation is apt to become tense; you may even be tempted to scrap the whole plan. But in cases where everyone loves one another and is acting in good faith, these tensions are usually temporary; people adjust. Give it a little time, let things roll off your back, stick to the times you are actually free and willing to help, and you should see some changes. If your dad calls you to yell at you, don’t pick up.
Dr. ZZ has a Ph.D. in Counseling and a doctorate in Natural Healing. Drawing on a background of over thirty years as a professional therapist, she offers self-help in the areas health, relationship and personal growth. All queries are answered by email and, if they appear in print, are subject to editing. Please email your questions : <firstname.lastname@example.org> All identifying information is kept strictly confidential.
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