Every time I ask my friend Sally if she wants to hang out she says she has something else to do. A few weeks ago she said she had to go out. About an hour later while walking around the block I noticed her car was there. I knocked on the door. Sally said she was getting ready to leave and besides she was on the phone. Does it take an hour to get ready to go out? I don’t want to lose an old friend, but I’m not sure she really is a friend anymore. If she is why does she keep ditching me? My husband Lyle and I have a fourteen-month-old child together. My two children from an earlier relationship and Lyle’s son make up our family of six. Lyle and I make good money and we both collect child support from previous partners. What bothers me is Lyle won’t let me see his paychecks or combine our joint incomes in a joint account. I contracted herpes-2 after a one-night stand ten years ago. Since the age of seventeen I have times when I feel really happy and I’m talking to friends on the Internet all of a sudden I feel a wave of sadness. And I remember bad things, like when my best friend died when I was little. I don’t know why this happens all the time. What do you think? My husband thinks my herpes-2 is a constant reminder of my promiscuity. I get very angry at this, but then I remember that stress can trigger an outbreak. I try to remember that the virus doesn’t change who I am inside. I don’t think I’m a bad person, do you? I didn’t say anything about his gonorrhea, did I? I was in the parking lot of a shopping center when I noticed a woman two cars away yelling and hitting a little girl. The girl seemed to be about six or seven. I wrote down her license number. I checked with several state agencies and fund out that although slapping may be legal in Virginia the state policy is open to interpretation. Should I report her? I got into my car, pulled up alongside them and called out, Are you okay? The little girl was crying and straightening her dress. Yes, she’s okay, the woman snapped. This kind of behavior really bothers me. I frequently see adults slap, pinch and berate their children—sometimes babies in strollers. These adults seem to be out of control and everyone ignores them. Sometimes I walk slowly by these people to let them know I see what they are doing. One time I reported a woman who was slapping and scolding her Down syndrome daughter, who kept yelling, I’m your friend. My mother died when I was seven. She suffered bad depression toward the end of her life. I actually scare myself sometimes. But I don’t think my depression is bad enough to see someone about. Do you? My best friend Sheila was recently married and I was a bridesmaid. About two months before the wedding Sheila called to say that the junior bridesmaid dress she had selected for one of her attendants was too small—size 8 for a girl who was size 12. She wanted to know if there was anything I could do to alter the dress because it was too late to get another one. After a lot or work and many long hours over a four-week period I finished the alterations. Neither Sheila nor the junior bridesmaid offered to pay me for the work so I thought it was because I said I’d do it as a favor to Sheila. A few days before the wedding I was still deciding what to give her as a wedding gift but everyone I asked said that altering the dress was enough. Well Sheila didn’t see it that way. On her wedding night she called me several times demanding a gift of money. Even after her honeymoon she called and said I’d been disrespectful not to give her a gift. Was I wrong not to give her a separate wedding gift? My husband’s mother wants to spend a lot of time with him. She likes us to have dinner at her apartment only a mile away. If we can’t then she still likes my husband to. If he can’t or doesn’t want to she gets very hurt. She tries to make my husband feel guilty. I tell him that’s what she’s doing but he still feels bad. At my job I get hit on right and left by men in their fifties. I’m not talking about cute or even simply annoying remarks, but constant lewd suggestions and requests for my phone number. Would it be right to report these guys? I don’t want to risk my job. And here is an embarrassing problem: My job requires me to make public appearances and often I am “dressed to the nines.” I admit for dramatic purposes I sometimes apply too much makeup. I have always been told I am beautiful and have even done some modeling. The problem is people think I’m a man. Once I was cornered at a festival by an angry group of people who had been fired up by one drunkard’s insistence that I was a drag queen. You know I’m a woman—I have kids for heaven’s sake. The first few times it happened I tried to brush it off and regain my composure—once I stopped crying. But lately it’s getting ridiculous. I am mistaken for a cross-dresser even when I wear very little makeup. At five-foot-seven and a hundred and twenty pounds I’m hardly manly. A week doesn’t go by without this happening. My husband says I should just blow it off that people are just jealous. But my confidence is in the cellar and I’m at my wit’s end. I’d like to cower somewhere but my job won’t let me. The other night my Lyle brought home a male friend for dinner without letting me know beforehand. They both drank a lot of wine. Then my husband wanted me to go to bed with the two of them. Of course I declined, but I was really put out by this new wrinkle. And neither of them even offered to do the dishes after I did my best preparing a nice meal for them. If my husband’s mother hadn’t called to berate him for not visiting her who knows where this could have gone. My son wants a dog, but my husband says, No way. He becomes enraged when I bring it up. I said it would be good for our son and he said he’d rather have a dog around than my son (who is my child with a previous husband). Then he said it’s either him or the dog. Now I feel I must get a dog as my first priority is my son, isn’t it? It isn’t right for him to keep bringing up my herpes—2, either. The other day I found my son in bed with my husband in my son’s bed. I don’t usually walk right into his room but I needed to get something. He said my son hadn’t been feeling well and he was just taking a nap with him. My son seemed upset. He asked if this meant he couldn’t have a dog. I don’t know what to believe Dear Abby. What would you think?
Lynda Schor's most recent book, Sexual Harassment Rules, and an older one, Seduction, are out with Spuyten Duyvil press. A half-dozen of these are here, on the Truck. Her interview with Carol Novack can be found in The Mad Hatters' Review 7. Prints of her artwork are at Hamilton Stone Review, where she also serves as Fiction Editor. She lives, and writes, with Halvard Johnson, in San Miquel de Allende, Mexico.
-- Lynda Schor