The TV presenter and comedian advises readers as Weekend’s agony aunt
Dear Ruby I was widowed six months ago, after nursing my beloved wife through a long and terrible cancer. Since then I have been waylaid at every opportunity by a flotilla of widowed or divorced ladies who seem determined to take me under their wing. Although 73, I am apparently that rare creature: an eligible single man.
Food parcels, pots of marmalade and home-made cakes are endlessly left on my doorstep and whenever I go into Waitrose in Newbury I get ambushed by bright-eyed widows, determined to help me choose the right melon or the best sausages.
I don’t wish to offend, but I would like to be left in peace by these well-meaning but alarming ladies. Any advice?
JohnM,Berkshire Dear John I don’t know why this behaviour among the aroused womenfolk doesn’t flatter your ego. Take the pot roast and run. I assume your life isn’t endangered and they’re not hurtling themselves against your windshield or jumping down your chimney, so how harmful could it be?
It seems straightforward: if you want to be left alone while shopping for food, go to another supermarket where your singleness isn’t worldfamous. My advice is to tell them you’re still in mourning. I’m sure this will appeal to the sensitivity that must still lie somewhere in these septuagenarian nymphos. Maybe you have a friend you can throw to them if they are so ravenous.
I am sorry for your loss but someday you will heal and these women will pack a mighty solace. Dear Ruby Why aren’t my mother and father prepared to step in as child minders? My SKI (Spending the Kids’ Inheritance) parents constantly jet around the world on luxury holidays, leaving me high and dry. I have three children under five and a permanently exhausted husband who spends half his life in airport departure lounges, and I have no help whatsoever apart from my 18-year old au pair from Riga. My Spanish in-laws, on the other hand, are always falling over themselves to help out, but they live in Menorca.
Many of my friends complain that their own families are unsupportive. Although, like most of my peers, we are mortgaged to the hilt, I’m not talking about money but a far more precious commodity: time. Do we expect too much of our parents, or is it quite reasonable to ask a bit more of them? Dear Sally This is a phenomenon I have noticed only since coming to Britain. When I was growing up in America, it seemed that parents lived to plough everything they made into their children as if the kids’ success might compensate for the parents’ shortcomings. Long before trophy wives, we had trophy children. Proud parents would hold up photos of buckteethed little brats who had been given honorary degrees in play-dough spitting or a medal for belching.
This is the American way. Only we can make a Paris Hilton and be proud of the
Sally B, Hertfordshire fact. In other countries, they would have flushed their spoilt brats away.
In my case, my parents bought me everything money could buy and then sucked away my sanity for the price. They used to lovingly tell me: “We made you and we can break you just as easily.” In exchange for eight years’ worth of summer camp, I let them play mental volleyball with my brain cells. It’s a miracle I can even go to the bathroom without their help these days.
They used their money as blackmail, telling me that if I didn’t buck up they’d leave it all to the dog. (I always chuckled at that because I knew at least I’d get more than the turtle.)
Let me tell you: for all their “help”, it wasn’t worth it. I would much rather not be such a chemical cocktail. My husband, who has been independent since he left the parental home, is a far healthier sample of the species than I will ever be. The conclusion? This isn’t going to make you happy, Sally. Your parents have done their job. Whatever they do for you now is a favour — they owe you nothing.
I know you don’t want money, just their time, but I think that once you reach the age of 18, your parents’ task is technically over. Perhaps they are a bit selfish, but that’s their business. The fact that you have three kids under five, an au pair from Latvia and an over-worked, exhausted husband is your terrain, not theirs. But go ahead: it’s reasonable enough to ask them for help. Dear Ruby I feel I have to comment on your reply to Mr R Brown’s letter (Weekend, March 31).
Whether the divorce-case woman is a bloodsucker or the man is not entirely a perfect husband, can it be justified that she gets the home and half of his wages after six years of marriage and no children?
Why would a career woman without children want to take this route? Has she no pride or confidence in her ability to fend for herself? If he was a brute, she should sigh with relief, take what is equitable and restart her independent life.
I was left with two stepchildren after 16 years of marriage many years ago (I am now a pensioner). I am not looking for sainthood — I negotiated what I thought was equitable but never sought to bankrupt my ex. In retrospect, I believe I was naive. But I would rather have it that way than live off a man I no longer have any respect for.
But then, I suppose I am just an old lady with old-fashioned views. Dear Veronica You are a very rare breed of human. You have something called integrity, an almost extinct trait today. I agree with you that the decent thing to have done was for the woman with the job just to count her blessings and support herself.
Sadly, this is not the way this world turns. Many women I know are fuelled by revenge and, no matter how much a woman makes, if she feels hard done by a man she will go for his wallet, which is the closest route to his jugular and within the law.
Walking away from the scene of domestic hostility is like being hit by a car and not asking for recompense. For some reason, we connect pain reduction or licking our wounds with an exchange of cash. I know it’s ugly, but there it is. Some of us — even me — don’t mind taking money from someone we don’t like.
If the world were full of people like you, there would be no law suits. Imagine that. But you are clearly an A-list, honest and pure human being, so God bless you and the other three people in the world like you, wherever they are.
Send your problems to either Ruby Wax or Graham Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org.