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Home » The Vine

The Vine: December 30, 2009

Submitted by on December 30, 2009 – 1:24 PM55 Comments

Dear Sars,

I've read The Vine for a while and I think this is a new one.The closest one I can think of is the guy who bought all the chain mail off of eBay, but he was significant other, not a stepchild.Also, usually by the time I get done writing, re-wording, deleting, and asking my mom where I should put the comma, I've answered my own question.Not this time.

And yes, I know the solution to my problem is for me to speak the hell up.The thing is, I'm not sure a) whether I have the right to and b) how to do it.

Here's the situation:

My stepson, Q, is 20 years old.He dropped out of high school (which is a whole other story) and does not have his GED yet.He is unemployed.As of right now, he's on a daytime schedule, but usually he sleeps all day, waking up around 9 or 10 PM and then goes to bed around 3 in the afternoon.He typically spends his waking hours, no matter when they occur, either playing video games (on Xbox or computer) or watching TV.He has a license but no car, which he uses as an excuse to do nothing.

(I can hear your blood pressure rising from here.)

He is also a generally nice, funny person.I've said quite a few times that this whole thing would be so much easier if Q were an asshole.

Q2, my husband, ended up having to move 300 miles away for a job.He is currently in his hometown, living with his mom and working full-time.I plan on joining him in June.Q was staying with his mom, but somehow he ended up back at my place after Q2 moved for his job.By the way — nobody actually asked me if it would be okay to bring this adult back into my house.It was just kind of assumed.And yes, I went with it, because…well, I'm an idiot, I guess.

Q2 and I have been married for a little over a year.The first year we spent dead broke because he couldn't find a job in this town.This year, it looks like we get to live 300 miles apart.Things are already not as rosy as they could be.

I also have a daughter.She is 18 and finishing school, but she's only relevant in that she lives in the house and is having to deal with the fallout from Q's (non-)activities and the financial drain that an extra, non-contributing adult makes on the house.

I started to make a laundry list of complaints, but it got too long.Along with the whole no GED/no job/no activity thing, Q exhibits a general disregard for other people in the house (never cleans the Foreman grill because HE only uses it for hamburgers, takes over the entire couch and doesn't even think to move when other people come in to living room, turns thermostat up to 80 — 80!! — despite not throwing one red cent at anything resembling a bill, etc.).

To me, it all points to Q having absolutely no idea what it's like to live in a family/team environment. I'd love to blame it on his parents' divorce and being raised by a single dad, but my parents got divorced when I was 4, I was raised by a single mom and I know that if I use something, I need to clean it and that other people in the house might like to have some of the cookies and that you don't touch the thermostat unless you're paying the bills.

My problem is, as I said, that I don't know HOW to speak up.I don't want to be the mean stepmom and I don't want to cause (any more) friction between myself and Q2, but dammit, I also don't want to support a grown-ass adult who can't be bothered to take care of business.Everybody else in the house does something, whether it be school, work or household stuff.He is getting a free ride and I'm tired of him taking advantage of me and the situation.

This situation has made me resent Q and is starting to make me resent my husband.Hell, it's starting to make me resent Q's CAT, that's how bad it is.(Who is a very sweet cat and doesn't deserve that.)

I've tried to explain a few of the problems nicely, in a light manner to Q and it's like showing a dog a card trick.I'm so afraid of being cast as the mean stepmother (damn you, Disney) that it's kept me from saying what's really on my mind.

So, the questions:

Do I pour this all out to Q2, in an as little a what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-your-son manner as possible and let him handle it from 300 miles away? (I have my doubts about the effectiveness of that, which is why I haven't done it, but am willing to take suggestions.)

Do I sit Q down and tell him all of the problems I have with the situation and with him and hope this time will be different?

Do I start making ultimatums that X behavior will change or Y will be taken away/enforced/whatever?

Do I give him a time limit and if he doesn't meet the criteria, hand him bus fare and a change of clothes and wish him the best?

What would Sars do?

Lady Tremaine

Dear Tremaine,

I would have discussed Q with my husband prior to putting a ring on it — Q, my daughter, and our respective expectations about our adult children generally.I get the feeling you didn't do that because you both feared hearing answers you didn't like or ideas that differed from your own, or that you just hoped it wouldn't become an issue.

You'll have to do it now.Schedule a time to talk to Q2 about these general issues, preferably in person, and before you begin the discussion, resolve as best you can to 1) ask questions and listen to the answers, and 2) separate Q as stepson from Q as roommate. Q is a crappy, frustrating roommate, I agree, but because Q is also your stepson, you have to put those questions first.

How does Q2 feel about Q's apparent lack of motivation and proven lack of contribution?Where did he see Q living as of when the two of you got married?How did he foresee his role in your daughter's life — and yours in Q's?Ask these questions; don't assume based on the current situation that you know the answers.Listen to what he says.Talk about it.

Then you can put Q's behavior into context with that conversation, and address the Roommate Q problems armed with better information about how Q2 sees the situation and what you feel empowered to do.Let's say Q2 says something like, "I know it's frustrating, but he's family and we can't just kick him out," use your "I" statements (…hee) to respond with something like, "I understand, and I care about Q, but I feel put-upon by his presence, I feel that he's draining the household finances, and I feel as though a voting adult who is functionally a guest in my home needs to abide by certain rules, or find somewhere else to stay."You might also mention that Q2's casting of you in the caretaker role without consulting you is confusing and weird for you and makes you feel taken for granted.

But you have to have the Stepson Q conversation first, and you have to anticipate that Q2's idea of how to handle this may differ from yours.

In the short term, keep reminding Q pleasantly that other people exist, or removing opportunities for him to annoy you around the house.Locks exist for thermostats and grills; you can find them at Home Depot.Hiding the cookies is an age-old trick; start deploying it.Asking people to shove over on the couch is fairly painless, and you should start doing it.Studies show that new behaviors take three months to "take," so keep at it while you sort this out with your husband: "In this house, we pick up towels.I will stand here while you hang yours up.Cheeriest of thanks!"

And by the time you move, have house rules sorted and agreed on with your husband so you don't run into this situation again with Q or anyone else.

Dear Sars:

I'm a 41-year-old man who's been in a relationship with a 35-year-old man (let's call him Bill) for almost seven years now.We love each other dearly and have built a great life together — lovely home, great friends, etc.And yet I'm thinking of leaving him.

A large part of the issue is sex.I have a much (…much) higher libido than Bill does.In addition, there's just not a lot Bill likes to do in bed; I've made compromises in that regard, but he really hasn't.

In addition, the sex is getting increasingly rare.We sort of have an agreement that since Bill doesn't want sex as often as I do, I should hang back and wait for him to initiate things when he's in the mood.At this writing, it's been over four months, and that doesn't seem to be fazing him at all.

The sex has never been great.I put up with it for a long time because everything else in the relationship was so great — I mean, I've never met anyone with whom I have so much in common.A few years ago, we opened up the relationship a little bit, and the occasional bit of outside play lessened the sexual frustration for a while.But it's really started getting to me lately.And I don't think a sex therapist would change anything — I just think that sexually, Bill and I are not that compatible, and I also suspect that while Bill may be attracted to me, he doesn't truly physically desire me.

So I've read enough Vine letters to know that this comes down to whether I consider this a breaking point — I can't change Bill, so would I rather try to put up with things the way they are, or bail?And I've been wrestling with that for the last month or so, and I think I'm coming to the conclusion that while I love him, I just can't see spending the rest of my life with someone who isn't really attracted to me.

Also, it just feels like we're stagnating.Most nights we don't even do much together — we both sit in front of our computers, or whatever.Maybe it's just seven-year itch, but I'm feeling like this just doesn't have anywhere left to go other than "more years of pleasant companionship," and I'm still young enough to want more than that.The idea of being single again and moving to a new city and starting all over seems very exciting to me right now, I have to admit.

And then I think, am I just being stupid and selfish?I mean, I'm middle-aged and while I'm okay-looking, I'm no hunk.I may never be able to find a guy who has this much of a connection with me who also happens to find me hot.Many people would probably kill for what I have right now, and it feels like I would be throwing away a lot.

But let's say that I go with the way I'm currently leaning and decide to break up with Bill.How in the world do I tell him?I can honestly say he has not a glimmer of an idea about how I'm feeling right now; it will totally catch him by surprise.(This lack of communication is part of our problem, I guess.)I know that the ripping-off-the-bandage approach is generally the best approach, but I just can't imagine throwing this at him all of a sudden, when he's expecting the usual conversations about "what do you want for dinner" or "what's on TV tonight?"

After seven good years, I feel like I owe him a gentle letdown if I can — I can't just say "look, we both know the sex is bad, and this really isn't going anywhere, and I need more," can I? And no matter what I say, how do I even approach the big conversation — with an ominous "we need to talk later" comment, or something?This is going to break his heart as it is; I want to defuse the extra impact of it coming out of the blue, which just seems so cruel.

I know these are age-old dilemmas, but now that I'm the one involved, suddenly I have no idea what to do.I'm really floundering and would definitely appreciate some guidance.

Don't Want To Be An Asshole

Dear Don't,

Well…counseling might address both of these problems.It could resolve the issues in the bedroom, or at least improve things, and it could also let Bill know that you're in an unsatisfied and stagnant place with the relationship.It could work.

I don't think so, though, because we already know how Bill responds to your trying to address the sexual-compatibility question — he goes with the option that requires less of him in the bedroom.I don't know whether he genuinely doesn't mind the open option or merely tolerates it in order to keep you, but if it's the latter, we can probably assume that counseling would kind of go the same way: he'd say or do things differently to keep you happy, but it won't solve the central problem.

And if you've made up your mind to leave, well, you've made up your mind, and going through the motions — with counseling, or dropping hints so that you feel like less of a monster — isn't going to protect Bill's feelings in the long run.It's just going to make you look like you cared more about not coming off like an asshole than about his actual feelings in the situation.It's a natural instinct, don't get me wrong, but as I've said in the past, wanting to break up is fine, and wanting to break up painlessly is fine, but expecting the other party to sign off on how awesomely you handled it…you can want that, but it won't happen.It's just not realistic.The only thing you can do is behave as honestly and kindly as you can manage while understanding that Bill is not going to acknowledge it, at least not for a while and possibly not ever, and then get out of the way and stay there.

Wanting to see if you can find a more harmonious, exciting relationship — or no relationship, for a while — doesn't make you an asshole.It will make Bill sad and it will hurt his feelings, but if you can't change it, you'll have to go.Way of the world.Just don't be that guy who's like, "Dear dumpee, please tell me I'm still a good guy so I don't feel so guilty kthxbai," because it's not Bill's job to reassure you of that anymore, and asking him to is what would make you look like a dick.

Which I doubt you are, since you cared enough to write this letter, but the sad fact is that, in situations like yours, good guys don't have any good options either.The only way around is through.

Dear Sars,

I am facing a persistent problem with one of my neighbors and could use a bit of friendly advice. I live in a quiet neighborhood with a series of small duplexes. In the neighboring buildings are young families with children around 6 or 7 and young marrieds who keep regular hours. In my building, I live in the A unit and one of my coworkers — we'll call her B — lives in the B unit.

Now the problem: Over the past month or so, B and her friends have consistently been waking me up when they come home from partying on a Saturday night. It happens every Sunday morning about 3 AM. (Our bars close at 2 AM.) She and her friends will walk the 8 feet or so from their cars to her apartment talking and laughing after making very merry at the bars. Unfortunately that 8-foot walk is right outside my bedroom window. It usually takes me about an hour to get back to sleep after they wake me up, mainly because I'm so steamed about getting woken up yet again.

I tried talking to B about it, but she's not very apologetic. She says that she's young, single and wants to have fun, and since it is a weekend it shouldn't be that big a deal. Now, I'm not exactly an old fogey — I'm only 32. And B's not exactly a baby — she's 27. But I do enjoy being able to sleep through the night, even if it is the weekend. In all other ways, B is an ideal neighbor. But we're just not seeing eye-to-eye on the whole "3 AM is quiet time" thing.

Some additional background: We live in a college town, so quiet student-free housing is hard to come by. I can't complain to our landlord; he's no help. (Once when my thermostat broke, he put a 99 cent thermometer on my wall as a replacement; thanks for nothing, dude.) I can't exactly start a guerrilla campaign against her because, as I stated earlier, we work at the same company. (Did I mention that her dad is Vice President of HR? Danger, Will Robinson!) And I really don't want to have to wear earplugs to sleep in because I find them uncomfortable.

Oh, and she may be a little ticked at me because I posted how tired I was thanks to my partying neighbor as my Facebook status. I didn't put her name on there, but some of my friends who also work with us guessed she was the partying neighbor and gave her a hard time. I apologized for embarrassing her (but it was the truth, and if she finds her behavior embarrassing…maybe she shouldn't behave that way).

So what can I do to get my neighbor to keep it down? I was woken up again at 3:11 AM last Sunday, after I JUST talked to her about it that week. I have no problem with her living it up, but I just want to live my life the way I want to, too. And that means sleeping when it's dark outside.

Can somebody please hit her snooze button?

Dear Snooze,

It usually takes me about an hour to get back to sleep after they wake me up, mainly because I'm so steamed about getting woken up yet again.

You've spoken to her about the issue; she's not willing to change her behavior.But…neither are you.Yes, earplugs are uncomfortable, but you have other options, like a fan or white-noise machine; you also have the option of realizing that this will happen every Saturday, and deciding not to get angry about it.If she wakes you up and you can't get back to sleep, go clean the kitchen or read a book or something until you feel drowsy again.

As neighbor problems go, this is minor, and I understand that it's "not fair" and that you're "right," but again, by your own admission, a large portion of your sleep interruption proceeds from how angry you get at having your sleep interrupted.Yes, she should behave more courteously, but now that you know that isn't going to happen, you can continue to fume about it every time, or you can put your iPod by the bed and listen to a podcast to drown her out.I'd recommend Age of Lasers.

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  • Jon says:

    Don't — I think this is the key passage in your letter: "I can honestly say he has not a glimmer of an idea about how I'm feeling right now; it will totally catch him by surprise." You're absolutely right that you can't change him, but you can tell him how you feel and give him the chance to change himself. Right now, he may know that you're not really in the same sexual groove, but he also probably thinks you're satisfied with your occasional extracurricular activities. He needs to know that it's important to you to have a fulfilling sex life with your partner. And then you can talk about whether and how that might be possible. It may be that he'll be absolutely unwilling to make any move to try to meet your needs. But you shouldn't assume he won't until you've told him what those needs are.

    (Also, I'm a 40-year old gay man who just started getting back out in the dating scene, and I can tell you there are plenty of guys in their mid-30s to mid-40s out there looking for love — don't stick with someone just because you fear you won't find someone else.)

    Snooze — Often, such duplex neighborhoods are actually condominiums. If so, there may be a board that can bring some pressure on her to keep the noise down. It's just a possibility, since the landlord seems to be useless.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    Tremaine, part of the job of a parent is to make the nest uncomfortable so that the little birds work up the nerve to fly. Q's got a nest any of us would love…no responsibility, all his needs met, and he doesn't have to lift a finger. He's no fool. Maybe when you move you can just leave him there, hogging the sofa, eating all the cookies, dirtying the grill. (I totally agree with Sars…be nice til you can formulate a plan with his dad…but you GOTTA have that talk!)

    Don't, Bill already knows. Just open your mouth and say it. Start with all the good stuff: "Honey, you know I think you're so smart & funny & we have blahblahblah in common, but, I'm unhappy." Maybe ask what he'd do if he were you. I'll bet he'll be relieved that it's out in the open (or I may be projecting my last marriage all over you…I already knew, too.) Best of luck.

    Snooze, I had similar trouble with my former upstairs neighbors. They were always so blitzed they'd forget which floor they were on, and so would try to come into MY place by mistake. Then they'd blast C&W music 'til dawn. I asked them & asked them to keep it down…and then I just asked the police to swing by every Saturday at 3am. The police were in the parking lot when the drunkards came home from the bars the following Saturday. Busted 'em for DUI, and they moved 2 weeks later. Ahhh, peace. (But I didn't post that on Facebook! lol)

  • Jen S says:

    I've said quite a few times that this whole thing would be so much easier if Q were an asshole.

    Tremaine, this, to me, is the crux of the problem. He is an asshole.

    Yes, he's nice, and funny. He cracks jokes and hasn't stolen from you or burned the place down. But that doesn't mean he isn't an asshole.

    Living rent free, keeping your own hours regardless of the PERSON WHO OWNS THE HOUSE'S convenience or comfort, running up bills and not doing any kind of cleaning up after oneself are all asshole behaviors. Just because Judd Apatow had some hit movies does not make this kind of behavior cute, funny or acceptable in real life.

    Your utter terror of being seen as "mean" in any way towards a grown man who has made it clear that he'll sponge off you as long as you and his father let him is interesting. There's no indication in your letter that he's threatening in any way, so I'm guessing this isn't a situation where police or the like need to be called in. It's just one of those scenarios where this guy didn't get the "how to be a functioning human" manual and now you are the de facto parental figure who suddenly has to brief him on what his mom and dad should have covered years ago.

    It's not fair, of course, and Sars is right on the money that you and your husband need to discuss this in a serious and detailed manner toot sweet.
    Keep in mind that you are supposed to have each others' backs in all reasonable matters; that's what a marriage is. And of course he has a say in what goes on in his home and marriage, and with his children.

    But again, and I can't say this enough: No matter what the circs, crappy economy, separated from your husband, he's a "nice guy", you are ALL ADULTS here. He may be Q2's kid, but he's not a child. And you have the final say in what goes on in your own home. Bitchy stepmothers may have had a point.

  • Janet says:

    Margaret, that's brilliant!! I think that solution was just perfect for your situation, and kudos on following it through. :) Definitely good after you've spoken to them a few times.

    Snooze, there are lots of different types of earplugs out there for different problems, and I would take a good look through your local drugstore. I use the expandable foam kind, and after a minute or so I just don't feel them anymore. I agree with Sars; I think you are "right" but there's just no way to come out of this as a winner.

  • Diane says:

    @Don't – what Jon said. Even regardless of the availability of other relationships, don't hold on to the one you have just because it's the one you have. I held on to a good man once, because I knew he was a good, good, wonderful man, and that those aren't thick on the ground. I punished him for the favor, too (though obviously you're not a drama-queen bitch, so this isn't your case). Thing about punishing people is, even if we're not drama queen bitches, we do it one way or another. Sometimes to ourselves. Give yourself permission to be dissatisfied, and not to make that about wanting someone else nor even about Bill. Incompatibility can be horrible, and it can be sad, but it's still incompatibility.

    All the best to you *and* Bill. (And … Margaret's right: he knows. Even if he can't acknowledge it either.)

  • Jennifer says:

    @Don't: If sex wasn't something important enough to "count" in relationships, we wouldn't spend so much time making rules and regulations for ourselves about it. Since it is important, you and Bill have to agree–and you don't. Certainly, some people will say that it's not worth it to end an otherwise good relationship over sex. But I imagine that sex is not as important to those people. Plus, when you look at the rest of it, is that what you want? You say that you don't do that much together anymore, that you feel like you're stagnating. Even outside sex, the possibility exists that this relationship has run its course.

    "More years of pleasant companionship" isn't what you want and I think your ability to recognize that speaks really well of you. As Sars says, you don't get to control how he feels about this. But I know that I wouldn't want to be the person someone has resigned themselves to be with, and I imagine neither does he.

  • Laura512 says:

    Lady Tremaine here.

    I wanted to address a couple of things that have come up already.

    No, Q2 and I didn't talk about the kids a whole lot before we got married, mostly because they were 17 and 19 at the time and our first year of marriage went the complete opposite of how we'd planned. He moved down from another city (we're old hands at this long distance stuff) and we figured he'd get a job, we'd get to work on Q's stuff, get Q out of the house, my kid would graduate in June 2010 and voila! Life as adults! Whoo!

    That? Did not happen. So far, the only one on anything resembling that schedule is my daughter who will graduate in 2010, is currently working and saving for school and has her shit all lined up. No, that hasn't caused any resentment and tension between the kids at all, why do you ask?

    Also – making the nest uncomfortable kind of difficult with someone who clearly just does not give a shit. As Q2 said when we talked a little about this (between the sending and the publishing of my letter), "you can't fight apathy." Start taking power cords? Take all the co-ax out of the house so internet isn't even a possibility? I think a large part of my problem is the disconnect I have here between this situation and the concept of having to PUNISH A 20-YEAR OLD BY TAKING AWAY HIS X-BOX.

    Oh – and we already hide the cookies and the grill situation has been..resolved? I got home the other day and the grill was an ant farm. I went off, his dad went off (via phone) and now? He just doesn't use it. Which, I guess I got what I wanted, but…dude. Really?

    What I wish I had the cajones to do is either call his mom and tell her "this is your son, he is not my responsibility, come get him now" or just walk into his room and tell him that he has a month to start taking the GED tests and filling out applications, or he's out.

    He was willing to walk 2 miles to get a game, but not to find a job. And yes, we talked about it. It was like talking to a wall. I think that's my biggest frustration (I know it's Q2's.) Talking to this kid does NOTHING. He just stands there. No anger, nothing. I've had more constructive conversations with my cats.

    I hope nothing up there looks defensive, because I'm not. I know this hasn't been handled well. I've never felt so ill-equipped to deal with a situation before.


  • Laura512 says:

    @Jen S – I think I'm going to print out your comment and put it on my fridge. Thank you.

  • Annie says:

    @Tremaine – What Jen S. said. Every word of it.

    And this: Q is not your stepson. Stepson/stepmother implies some sort of parental relationship & you don't have that. He's your husband's son. He's not your problem.

    This isn't a kid who's working his way through college, or is working on getting is act together. This kid's GED is not your problem. He's a straight up asshole, sponging off you & making your life miserable.

    Call his mom! Do it! Better yet, pack his shit up in a box, and drive him back over there. Change the locks.

    And then, let your husband how angry you are. Let him see your laundry list of complaints. Let him know how much you're spending on heat & food & electricity because of Q. Let him know how much you resent this situation. I'm angry on your behalf.

    Seriously, save yourself. You & your daughter & the cat all deserve better.

  • Diane says:

    Lady T, I'm glad to hear that some aspects of the situation are making progress. Allow me to speak as someone who is inherently and inwardly an underachiever, but outwardly a perfectly functional human being, who is intimately related to people of both persuasions, still, at age 41.

    Your audience/underachiever/leech/wall is terrified. He's at that age where he knows perfectly *well* what is expected of him, he's resentful that it's time now to be a grownup, and he's angry at himself for not living up to the constant, unspoken, perfectly reasonable, and utterly horrifying expectations that come with it. At the very bottom of all the selfishness and BLANKNESS is the paralysis of fear – fear he would fail, fear he might succeed, fear that being taken care of is over and this is just life. One of my most beloved friends is so terrified, at her own age 42 and in this hideous economy, that she's been out of work for YEARS now, lives between her father's and her husband's homes, and has suddenly come up with the idea of becoming a fashion model rather than looking for a job.

    She lives right here in the same world with the rest of us, where 42-year-old women are not highly-sought-after commodities for Victoria's Secret catalogues – BUT: she's terrified, after being unemployed so long, she just doesn't have the tools to BE a grownup. Having never been one at all, so's Q2.

    The problem, of course, is that the trick of demonstrating to someone of perfectly functional faculties that they have these faculties, and NONE of us gets a manual, and we ALL are afraid, has never been learned. Encouragement works for some, but it's a pain in the ass to constantly have to deploy. Ultimatums often don't, and are a pain in the ass to everybody. Guidance and positivity are unfortunately weak, and even more exhausting than encouragement and ultimatums. And, as you've observed, punishment's none too comfortable either.

    The thing is – "you can't fight apathy" doesn't get anything done, and succumbs to the other person's fear, validates and signs off on it. Jen is right, and so is your own instinct about "taking away his X-box" (hee). You may not be able to fight it, but does that consign you to accommodating it? Really … ?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    He's your husband's son. He's not your problem.

    Good luck selling that attitude, seriously. She married the guy because she loves him, and Q is his kid. She's supposed to act like Q is some rando who answered a Craigslist ad?

    Changing the locks may in fact be the only thing that works, but she can't realistically act like her husband's son has nothing to do with her.

  • Laura512 says:

    OH MY GOD, GUYS, THANK YOU. I was so afraid that, starting with Sars, I'd just be told that I'm a gigantic wimp who needs to grow a damn spine already and what the hell is wrong with me?

    Thank you for respectfully calling me out on my fears and for recognizing other sides of the situation (Diane.) Y'all rock.

  • Bria says:

    Lady T – I can only imagine how frustrating this situation is for you, and how complicated. Two things come to mind as processes to work through before you talk things through with Q2.

    First, I think you have to find a way to shelve your (highly justified) gobsmackedness over the fact that a 20 year old can't figure out how to do anything but play video games all day and leech off his stepmom. Not that it's an invalid feeling, but I get the sense that it's getting in the way of reaching solutions. You raised a child to do better than that – you know it, your daughter knows it, Q2 knows it, and Q knows it. Let it go. It seems pretty clear that you aren't going to get the results you want in any kind of organic, non-forceful, oh-look-what-he-decided-to-do-today way, so find a way to allow a result to come about without dampening it with the idea that you shouldn't have had to force his hand. You're right, you shouldn't. But that's not the world either of you is living in right now. It's going to take one foot in front of the other for a while, and you'll slow yourself down considerably if you let yourself get swathed in too many "…really?!" revolutions.

    Second, figure out what you really want out of this. Do you want him to move out? To get a job? To help around the house? Spend some time looking at the big picture and figure out what you'd like it to look like in a month, 3 months, 6 months. It will be easier to enlist Q2 to back you up on reaching some kind of positive outcome if you know what you want that outcome to be. I get that you want the situation to be different (80 degrees….lord), but I think you are going to have to get more specific if anything is going to come of this.

    In terms of conversations with Q, you might need to shift the focus. If I read your comment about walking to a game correctly, you talked to him about why he is willing to put himself out to get to something fun but not to get to a job interview, right? I think for these conversations to get productive, you've got to shift them from Here Is What You're Doing Wrong to Here Is What You're Going To Do From Here on Out. If the tone and structure of the conversation is all about telling him what a fuckup he is…there's not really a lot for him to add, especially if he doesn't feel like he has a defensive leg to stand on. Make your conversations shorter and more focused on the immediate sphere of your mutual influence – "find 5 jobs to apply for before dinner" instead of "get a job"; "come empty the dishwasher, please" instead of "you need to help out around here." You know?

    I can't help feeling really sorry for him, truth be told. No one who lives that way feels good about himself. He *knows* that he's not where he needs to be in the grand scheme of things. Has he been evaluated for depression? Some counseling might not be the worst thing for him right now. Good luck.

  • Jem says:

    Tremaine: I agree that the first thing you should do is talk to the hubby about Q, with everything you've said here and more. One thing I thought of while reading your letter and these comments that maybe you could discuss with Q2 as an idea: Would it be possible for you, Q2, Q's mom, and any other adults who are in his life and could help, to have a sort of intervention with Q? Show a united front, that you are willing to help him, but only if he gets his life together in certain, specific ways?

    I don't know if that's even a reasonable suggestion or not, but it's a thought I had so I figured I'd share. Best of luck to you!

  • Natalie says:

    @Lady Tremaine:

    I'd recommend talking to your husband about this and insisting he talk to his son so that you can avoid making him take sides in a future altercation. Better to let them have it out. Unfortunately that's going to take you admitting to your husband that his passivity here is pissing you off.

    @Snooze: Yep, living in close quarters sucks, but it's what we all do until/if we have houses.

    I would strongly recommend against passive aggressive facebook notes though, particularly about a boss's daughter. If you aren't willing to put a name on it and say it to a person's face, it doesn't belong on facebook.

  • Karen says:

    Lady Tremaine,

    If you can realistically live without Internet and/or cable, I'd seriously consider canceling them until Q gets himself together or moves out. If he wants them, he can call the cable company, arrange for them, and pay the bill.

    I agree with Diane that he's scared, and I sympathize to an extent, but fear does not require one to be inconsiderate to the other people he's living with. While you and Q2 need to be in agreement about how to proceed, a conversation that goes, "You're part of this household, you need to contribute, your rent will be $X a month, due on the 1st starting next month, or you can move out" is totally appropriate. Yeah, he may think you're the mean stepmom. Some teens also think their parents are, like, so totally stupid and ruining their lives. Doesn't make it true — in fact, it probably means you're doing it right.

  • Chan says:

    @Don't: Having just been on the same basic side of this as Bill, I can offer just a bit of advice. As the person who isn't happy, your job is to initiate the change that you want and to not drag things out. But as Sars so correctly states, it's not Bill's job to thank you for making the potentially-impending break-up easy or let you off the hook for the guilt you will feel. Chances are, if you break up, he will be very hurt. He will need to process that hurt and it will likely look like anger at you for at least some period of time.

    If breaking up is indeed what you decide to do, there isn't going to be an easy way to approach it and there isn't going to be a gentle, painless way through it. Just be the decent, caring person you are and make it happen. After dinner one night soon, clear the dishes, turn off the TV, and have a quality conversation. Start with something like, "I really do adore you, but for me, our relationship isn't working on all the levels it should." Have a basic plan in mind for how you think dividing assets should go, but don't get too detailed, as Bill should have a say in it. (You don't want him to feel you've been planning this for a long time, either.) Have a basic deadline in mind for when you think the separation should happen and then lovingly stick to it. You obviously care for Bill and you owe it to him AND to yourself to have the relationship end as OK as possible.

    That said, avoid major holidays because, believe me — breaking up on Christmas day is horrid any way you slice it. I know, 'cause my ex didn't think to write to Sars about how to break up in a decent way. The good news is, the holidays are nearly over and January is a great month to get moving on a fresh start for you and for Bill. Good luck with it all!

  • Colleen says:

    Re: Q … Didn't Sars write an essay about How to be a Grown-up, or Things You Should Know by 25, or something else I can't seem to find in the archives?

  • John says:

    Lady T: I bet your stepson was raised in a house where someone else (probably a woman) did all the housework. It probably never occurs to him to do any, and he wouldn't know how if he tried. (I spent a good deal of my childhood being actively prevented by my mother from helping out with housework. I had a lot to learn when I got my own place.)

    Here's a few things you could try, if they seem appropriate to your situation:

    1. Helpful teacher method. Pick some chore every day (sweeping up, laundry, etc) and brightly say to him "here, I know your mother never showed you how to do laundry, but I'm going to teach you how to do it, since you're home all day while I'm working" — and then actually get him to do it, as you explain step by step. This will only work if you're cheerful and supportive while doing it, and praise his efforts.

    2. Family meeting method. Call a meeting with everyone, because it is time to "redistribute the housework", and "we're all adults here". Make a list of everything around the house that needs to be done. Ask him which items he wants to take care of, going forward. Include items like 'pay rent' and 'pay utilities' with your name already beside them. If he picks his own items, he's more likely to do them.

    The big idea is to treat him as though the reason he has not been contributing is one of ignorance or bad assumptions, rather than bad intent. If it fails to get him contributing in some way, it might make him uncomfortable enough to move out :-)

    @Don't: if you do decide absolutely to break up, please please please don't try to 'let him down easy'. It can't be done, and only leads to the other person thinking there might be some chance of getting back together. Make it surgical and quick — in the long run, it is a lot kinder. I know from experience.

  • Risha says:

    @Don't – I'm recently divorced, after my husband came home from work one random Friday last January, and announced that he had rented an apartment and was moving out. It absolutely hurt like hell, and to a certain degree still does. But he kept me hanging on for a couple of months, pretending that it was temporary, telling me that he didn't want a divorce and that if I made some changes he'd come back. Finally he admitted that he had no intention of ever coming back – he had just been trying to let me down easy to minimize the pain.

    As an FYI on the behalf of the next woman he breaks up with, I explained to him in great detail that he had actually done it in the most cruel and painful way possible. Hopefully, for her sake, the lesson sunk in.

  • meltina says:

    @Lady Tremaine:

    It's not being an evil stepmother. It's being a decent, kind mother who sees the kid is going nowhere and tells the kid "Look, kid, you are an intelligent, smart and [insert other good qualities here], which is why I hate to see you be 20 and be floundering like this. I feel that I do you no favors by letting you believe that everything will be okay, and someone will always take care of you. I want you to be able to take care of yourself, and the only way you're going to learn to do that is to start doing [insert a couple of realistic goals]. You don't have to do it all on your own. I will help you however you can, but you have to show me a willingness to get started on it."

    Like others mentioned, in an ideal world mom and/or dad would have sat down the kid and told him that years ago. But alas, balls were dropped and all that. You have to fill those shoes, however much you are worried about rising to the occasion.

    I'm not a mom, but my own mom can attest to the fact that having one kid who doesn't have to be asked to do something twice makes it hard to nag the other kid, so you just grit your teeth and do it. He might think of you as an evil stepmother, but look at it this way: if he manages to turn his life around, he will eventually realized that if you hadn't pushed him, he wouldn't have done it. He might be openly grateful or he might not, but he will know it. More importantly, you will know it, and that should be enough satisfaction.

    I would suggest you tackle one problem at a time, and go from there.

    If he doesn't pick up after himself, ask him to. If he doesn't answer you, assert calmly yourself by saying "I would really appreciate if you did this right now." Don't yell, but don't budge either. When he finally does what you've asked him to, thank him for what he did regardless of how much cajoling it took, and above all sincerely rather than sarcastically (here's something to get you started practicing that: "Thank you! I feel so relieved that the kitchen is tidy again!").

    If you want him to work on his GED, volunteer to help him study. This will also help you assess whether the kid's lazy or lacks confidence. If the former, you need to basically make it a rule that "there's no room for "I can't do it" around here, there's only room for 'I can try'" (channelling a really good 2nd grade teacher here LOL). If the latter, you need to figure out how to boost his confidence. That is really something that is easier the more you get to know a kid, so you need to get up to speed on him by recruiting other family members who know him better. Ask his mom for advice (yes, even if she's washed her hands of him), or ask his dad ("I get that you think that you can't fight apathy, but think of the last time Q achieved something he felt was worth doing, and he was motivated to do that something? What was it? What did it take to motivate him?"). Most of all, talk to him, not like a child who needs scolding all the time, but like another adult: where does he see himself in 1, 2, 5, 10 years? How will he get there? Does he have a plan? If not, does he want some advice from you (tell him he doesn't have to take it, but you're offering it if he wants it – then do exactly that)? I suspect that the fact that you are so ill at ease about this has something to do with not having to do this with your own child because she doesn't need that. But this child (because he might be 20, but he seems to be acting like a 10 year old) does need that kind of conversations, more desperately than you might think. Bear in mind, it is conversations, not the adult doing all the talking. Ask the questions, and if he just shrugs them off, ask him what the shrug means? Does it mean he doesn't know what to do or how to answer? "That's okay too, I don't expect you to have all the answers, even adults don't have all the answers all the time. I was just wondering you what you thought."

    I won't lie to you, you're looking at spending a few years on a child who hasn't received the best parenting. A lot of his behavior sounds like learned helplessness, which often takes a while to undo. But as others point out, you've done a fine job of raising one independent and hardworking child. The only way you fail at helping another one is if you don't try (remember the rule: no "I can't", but "I can try").

    I know this has been recommended in other contests, but if you want an assist, you might want to check out "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk" from your local library, and mine it for tips on how to open up the sort of dialogue I mentioned above. Good luck.

  • Alyson says:

    *looks at Sars's response to Lady Tremaine*

    This is why Sars has an advice column, and I don't.

  • JB says:

    Lady Tremaine,

    Speaking as someone who did move back in with parents after graduation (although the entire time I was working at least one, if not two, jobs) I think that Q needs concrete deadlines. Now, I'm not saying ultimatums will work, but I think setting "conditions" to him living rent-free as an adult are perfectly acceptable… he needs to help out with x around the house, he needs to put in y amount of money a month to help with utilities, he needs to attempt the GED by a particular date, he needs to aggressively find a job… because left to his own devises, he will continue to be a worthless sponge-person. If he is not going to abide by those conditions, give him a deadline that he needs to find alternate accommodations by. Oh, and if your husband seems unwilling to intervene, get involved, or support you, I think that's another Vine letter entirely…

  • Damaris148 says:

    @snooze – One passive agressive trick that worked for my mother back in the day was extremely loud opera at inopportune times. B doesn't have to be quiet at 3am on her way in from drinking… but you don't have to be quiet while enjoying your (extremely loud) opera at 7am on a beautiful Sunday morning.

    Of course, this will most likely escalate things unpleasantly, and Sars' advice is much more adult. :)

  • autiger23 says:

    @Snooze- if the expandable earplugs aren't working even when you try more than one kind (I like the ones with the rounded tip), you might try shaving down the sides of a pair if they are just too big.

    You could go with passive aggressive options, but in this case, I think it'll just bite you in the butt since she could possibly have a bigger, badder effect on your life other than waking you up once a week.

    Earplugs once a week isn't ideal, but it could be way worse neighbor-wise. I found that getting myself sleepy and then popping them in just before falling asleep makes me notice mine way less. And, yes, I wear them because of a noisy neighbor as well. My issue is that my dogs back and wake up the other two neighbors in our four-plex when my rude neighbor comes home, so I have to be quick to shush my dogs so I'm not the a-hole. Too mad they don't make earplugs for dogs. Can't wait to get a house of my own.

  • Waverly says:

    @Snooze — do you have an HOA? If so, start filing complaints with your Board of Directors. In our HOA, if you file enough noise complaints, the offending owner receives a fine.

    Also, check out earplugs and a fan, as Sars suggests. These can help drown out not only the noisy party people, but also any annoying cats that might be living in your apartment.

  • robin says:

    @Snooze and @Damaris148-
    "B doesn't have to be quiet at 3am on her way in from drinking… but you don't have to be quiet while enjoying your (extremely loud) opera at 7am "
    Your city may have different laws, try searching online for your city code of civil laws that govern such things as noise pollution.
    Where I live, it is very definitely illegal to make a lot of racket at 3am or at 7am. It's OK to make "reasonable noise" between 8am and 8pm, but not at night. The local police pay more attention to noise complaints made in the later hours of the night/earlier hours of the morning. And owning your own house is no guarantee of quiet, because in a city or other closely-spaced neighborhood, that racket carries. I dealt with similarly inconsiderate neighbors by making repeated phone calls to the police as needed. Be ready to give details to the police–car license plate #s, descriptions of individuals, etc. so that they can approach the correct guilty person.
    As for opera, well, to each their own. I found that there was a radio station in the Buffalo NY area that can be heard all the way in Albany, with a Polka program on Sunday mornings. Bagpipe music also works well. However, it wasn't as effective as I'd hoped, because my house is that well insulated that if I played the music indoors, it couldn't be heard outdoors. That shows just how loud the nextdoors were, that I could hear them when they couldn't hear me; but didn't help as much as the sound of a police siren.

  • Snooze says:

    Snooze here. Thanks to everyone for all the advice.

    My passive agressive FB message read: Snooze is feeling pretty tired this morning, thanks to being woken up at 3 a.m. after my neighbor and her friends came home from closing down the bars and whooping it up. Sadly, I think this same thing happened the last time I was in bed on a Saturday at a decent hour too.

    I kind of think that if her coworkers automatically drew the conclusion that I was talking about B, that's her own fault for putting out that vibe. And if she felt embarrassed, that's really her not taking responsibility for her actions. If MY coworkers came to me and said, "heard you were whooping it up this weekend," I would be all, "damn straight!" I think you have to own up to your behaviors.

    And that's the real crux of the issue. B refuses to take responsibility for her actions or acknowledge that our behaviors have consequences–a real sign on immaturity at her age.

    As for me, I'll try to incorporate some sort of sound machine, but when I've used them in the past…they've woken me up. Guess I'm just a light sleeper and a bit of an insomniac. It's the same reason why I don't sleep with a TV on in the bedroom. It makes for poor sleep quality. If that doesn't work, I guess I'll try the earplugs again. But I admit they make me nervous. I always feel like something bad might happen, and I won't be able to sense danger.

    Sadly, there's no HOA for this collection of duplexes. They're all owned by the one landlord, who is notoriously hands-off. And I have to admit that the noise level, while inappropriate in its timing, does fall within the range of our local noise ordinances.

    So basically…I'm screwed. I think I'll take up meditation in 2010. (Or decide to take up weed-eating on Sunday mornings. I hear gardening is very relaxing.)

  • EC says:

    @Lady Tremaine: first of all, this situation is probably not beyond hope and you sound like a reasonable person with a good chance of helping to change it.

    I think that Q2 has got to take the lead in having a kind but firm conversation with Q where he emphasizes what you mention in your letter – it’s not acceptable for a 20-year-old to be doing nothing. I think this needs to come from your husband himself, whether or not he wants to do it – he’s the father, he’s the real authority figure, and from what I can tell, you haven’t known Q for very long. (Which really makes it all the more unfair that you’ve been tasked with providing for him.)
    I totally agree with what others have said about focusing on specific things that need to happen – he needs to get a job, and/or go back to school. You don’t need to include hard ultimatums, but Q needs to understand that the current option of doing neither of these things is off the table.

    I would actually steer away from making his frustrating living habits part of the “what to do with your life” conversation with Q2 – you’re totally entitled to ask for changes in that area, but it’s kind of a separate issue, and discussing everything at once may, as @Bria touched on, come across as “Here are another 15 ways in which you suck,” which is only going to reinforce his feelings of ineptitude. Also, if Q2, who doesn’t live there, starts lecturing him about being a slob, it’s going to be obvious that you’ve been complaining about him behind his back to his father, which is going to make him feel ganged-up on. Handle this part yourself since you’re the household head right now – I think Sars’ advice about being a cheerful nag is perfect. Be nice, but relentless, and spell things out if you need to. I think that a lot of this annoying stuff, like raising the thermostat to 80 degrees, stems not so much from him genuinely not giving a shit about the heating bill and more from him really not understanding what cranking up the thermostat does to your heating bill. He doesn’t pay bills, so he doesn’t get it. Explain it to him if you must – you shouldn’t have to, it’s true, but he’s apparently somewhat clueless.

    Good luck! I think you can still turn things around if Q2 steps up.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I kind of think that if her coworkers automatically drew the conclusion that I was talking about B, that's her own fault for putting out that vibe.

    It's not exactly a disappearingly long shot that they'd figure out who you meant. Come on. You used social media for passive-aggressive shaming. If you want to act all "…what?" about it, okay, but a status update like that would make *me* dig further into my position just to annoy you. Especially if I'm technically on the right side of the law.

    You did speak to her directly, so it's not like you wouldn't have said it to her face; you did, and she refused to quiet down, which is lame. But as far as the FB thing…not sure how you thought that was going to go. You stooped to her level; now there you both are.

  • Snooze, from someone else who hates loud neighbors: Hearos earplugs. My boyfriend (now husband) introduced me to them several years ago, and my years living in dorms would have been so much more bearable if I'd known about them. I always thought earplugs were worthless until I used the Hearos. They're great — soft and comfortable and extremely effective. They won't block out the noise if someone is trying to break down your door or if a fire alarm goes off, but they do a fantastic job of reducing the likelihood that an annoying noise outside will wake you up.

    My husband and I buy them in bulk from, and we use the Hearos Ultimate Softness series, but my brother-in-law (a doctor who really, desperately needs his sleep) swears by the Hearos Xtreme Protection. Yes, our family discusses favorite earplugs at Christmas. We're weird like that.

  • L says:

    To Snooze:
    I ´m a very light sleeper myself and had problems like yours for a long time until… yeah, earplugs are pretty much the only way around them. I mean, your problem is annoying, but it happens once a week, for what, 10min? My brother is a musician, my dad likes to watch movies loudly during the night and once a neighboor threw a house party with eletronic music that lasted until 7 a.m. (not in the u.s. trust me no chance the police would come shut them up). So earplugs it is. Ever since I ´ve started using them, not only do I not even notice these things but I also sleep much, much better. I feel more rested in the morning. Seriously, find ones that you can live with. And usually in an emergency it ´s pretty ease to wake up (it won ´t block out the fire alarm or someone breaking your window, you ´ll still wake with those things). Because maybe your annoying neighboor will move out. And someone with an annoying dog might take her place. And you ´ll have just as big a problem… honestly, sure she shouldn ´t be so loud in such late hours but it ´s not like she is throwing super loud house parties. If you had the plugs, this would ´t even register.

    It looks like that (with the facebook comment and everthing) you want her to admit she is wrong and stop doing this. And you stay up out of anger. You need to let this go… and find a way around it.

  • KW says:

    Snooze – As someone who can't stand earplugs (and has tried) I would recommend you try whatever different options people recommend and see what works for you. I'm an extremely light sleeper who's had to move eight times in 5 years and thus I've had to adapt to many different noises at night. (current place – freight train horn at 2am) I'm always on the hunt for the perfect option. I used to use an ocean sounds cd, then switched to a sleep machine/alarm clock combo. Fans can work in the summer. I personally find those sounds with birds chirping completely annoying but other people love them. I can't do a TV or static on the radio. Anyway my rambling point is just try – You'll find something and then you'll be so happy you did!

  • e says:

    I suspect that this is neither the time nor place for this question, but with all the talk about earplugs, I have to ask anyway: How the hell do you WAKE UP with earplugs in??

    Sleep studies have shown that I have a pretty severely disrupted sleep pattern, but no sleep apnea or other more treatable conditions, so my sleep is screwed up even in the best circumstances. I can sleep THROUGH just about anything – it's falling asleep in the first place that I have trouble with.

    I sleep with a fan running in the room for "white noise" – and I can hear the fan from the other end of the house through a closed door. Yet even with the fan on, I no sooner get drowsy than some noise jolts me awake. Even sometimes just the thudding of my own blood in my ears is enough to keep me wakeful.

    There are problems with sleeping pills (namely that I develop a tolerance after a month or two) and everyone always suggests earplugs.

    The fan is hooked up to a timer so that it turns off 20 minutes before my alarm goes off, yet I still occasionally wake up to find that I've completely slept through the (very loud) alarm. (I've tried bright-light alarms and vibrating alarms, but they're even less effective.) If I added earplugs to the mix, they might help me fall asleep but I fear I might never wake up.

    I'd gladly deal with the creepy feeling of earplugs if it would help me fall asleep, but how do y'all ensure you'll wake up on time in the morning? (And failing reassurance on that count, can anyone recommend a *really loud* white-noise machine? I've bought four or five, and countless CDs, but none of them have been successful at drowning out the sounds that keep jerking me from the edge of sleep.)

  • Kate says:

    Yes to the Hearos! I've always hated earplugs, but I am a light sleeper and I recently was going to be sharing a room with someone for a couple of weeks. I bought three different kinds of earplugs and hearos were the most comfortable and blocked the most noise. They had them at CVS.

  • Alison C says:

    @snooze, yeah no one likes to have their sleep disturbed. I am a light sleeper too… but it is a Saturday night rather than a school night and she has a right to go out and have fun if that's what she wants to do.

    It would be a different story if it was happening more than once a week or it was affecting your sleep on a work night but I think you need to let this go.

  • Emma says:

    ~I still occasionally wake up to find that I've completely slept through the (very loud) alarm. (I've tried bright-light alarms and vibrating alarms, but they're even less effective.)~

    Bear in mind that you might not actually be sleeping *through* the alarm – you might rouse yourself just briefly enough to deal with it and go right back to sleep. I know I've woken up on more than a few mornings with my alarm switched to the 'off' position and no conscious memory of having done so.

    My solution is usually to have two alarms go off simultaneously; one very loud one right next to my ear, and one across the room that I actually have to emerge from my warm blankets in order to silence.

    (I've seriously considered that clock in the magazines that shoots off a propeller and flies around the room, refusing to shut up until you catch it.)

    Re: the earplugs issue – find a comfy pair and then test-run them when you don't have to be up in the morning for any particular reason, but set the alarm anyway (possibly using the above method) to find out if you can hear it.

    If not, find a louder alarm – or possibly one that administers electric shocks. (Kidding. Mostly. Not that I've ever been tempted to seek out such a thing…)

  • e, I find that my alarm still wakes me up even when I wear the Hearos. Sounds are muffled, but it's not as if you can't hear anything. When I've got the earplugs in, they block out sounds like voices outside my window or our upstairs neighbors' TV, but I can still hear nearby sounds like my husband's voice or my alarm going off.

    If you sleep through loud alarms even without earplugs, though, I'm not sure what to tell you — your worry about earplugs making it even harder to hear the alarm is completely reasonable. Maybe give them a try one night when you don't have to wake up early the next morning, and see what happens? I wish I had better advice!

  • L says:

    @ e

    Well, for me (light sleeper) it ´s a non issue. I sleep fine through the night but I hear my alarm go off. I also wake up with the phone or doorbell ringing (but not with my brother getting home from a party :) ). My brother though, is a really heavy sleeper, and with no earplugs on it can take several minutes and peharps cold water to wake him up. So…. I ´m assuming light sleeper manage to wake up? I ´d never give my brothers earplugs, no matter how much insomnia he had…

  • Bria says:

    @e – get a Shake Awake. It's an alarm clock that you put under your pillow and, as the name suggests, it shakes to wake you up. My mom is hearing impaired – can't hear anything once her hearing aid and cochlear implant processor are put away for the night. She has used a Shake Awake for, goodness, probably 20 years. I've borrowed it before, and I can assure you that there is NO WAY to sleep through it. It's small, it will last forever, and it's a sure thing for anyone worried about sleeping through a loud alarm. You can get them through the company itself, or Amazon.

  • Michelle says:

    I have small ear canals so the regular foam ones do nothing for me other than pop right out. Last year I was in Costa Rica and our little hostel, while awesome, was on the main road where motorcyclists went zooming past our windows at all hours. We went to the local pharmacy and got plugs that looked like these (not sure if it was this brand) and they are the BOMB> Unlike the regular foam ones in Walgreens or wherever, these sort of shrivel as you twist them then expand into your ear so they won't pop out. I haven't been able to find them anywhere. I'm only seeing them online in bulk, but it could be worth it.

    I also agree with Sars that not letting this bother you is also essential… doesn't seem that any of the other neighbors are complaining about it.

  • Esi says:

    @Colleen: It's 25 and Over– (Thanks, Google!).

  • Beth says:

    e – are you making sure that your alarm is set to wake you up in one of the periods of sleep that you are more likely to wake up in? like, sleep cycles last 90 minutes, so you're more likely to wake up 90 minutes after falling asleep, or three hours after falling asleep, etc etc. I realise if you have difficulty falling asleep in the first place that might be hard to work out, but is it worth considering? or a sleeptracker might help… I've wanted one for ages.

  • Isabel says:

    Lady T, if you're still around – I would second the suggestion that he be evaluated for depression. Maybe he's just lazy/unmotivated/etc., and some of the inconsiderateness seems like it might just be his personality/immaturity, but that degree of just not doing anything but playing video games all day? As someone who in the good stretches of her life is a functional & energetic & productive human being, and in the bad stretches of her life literally could not drag herself out of bed more than once a day to keep from starving to death, I would recommend that for everyone's sake you at least suggest to him (or have his dad suggest to him) that he look into it. Depression is a real medical condition and arguing or talking rationally to depressed people doesn't work because if they CAN'T think rationally. Depression also (and again, I speak as one who has had it repeatedly over the past few years) basically turns people into self-involved assholes, because they can't see past anything except their own problems, real or imagined or exaggerated by the condition. And yeah, he enjoys video games or whatever but that doesn't necessarily mean he's not depressed.

    Again – obviously I'm not armchair diagnosing him or anything, but frankly the potential for depression being at least partly at hand here leaped out at me from your letter. And again, I don't mention this just out of some think-about-what-he's-going-through concern, and you have every right to be pissed – the part of me that wasn't thinking "dude this kid may have a serious problem" was also thinking "whoa this guy seriously needs to stop dicking around like this" – but because if it IS depression than seeking treatment might also make it much easier for you to get him to work on his shit, and for him to get his shit together enough to move out.

  • Isabel says:

    also just to clarify (again, if you're still around) – I know it seems like he can put effort into fun things but not into serious things, which sometimes people respond to like "well he CAN do things, just not the things he should, therefore he's not depressed." i actually had that attitude about myself for a really long time, like "well i can write like a zillion words on feminism or whatever on my blog for hours at a time, therefore the reason i can't write a sentence on this paper must be that i'm just lazy, not that i'm depressed." long story short, i was deeply, deeply wrong. i just wanted to clarify that i didn't just gloss over your points about how he does spend effort on fun things.

  • Nikki says:

    Snooze: The facebook status was passive aggressive and not exactly appropriate. Sars' advice was good in that you should try what you can to sleep through the disturbance. However, your co-worker is being inconsiderate and selfish to justify her getting to wake you up in the middle of the night. I'd talk to her again and let her know that you'll start calling the police if she doesn't start taking your request seriously. How difficult is it to shut up for an 8 feet walk? I make my friends do that when we come home from the bars at that hour, and they have to walk about 30 feet!

    Lady T: Q knows he's taking advantage of this situation and he also knows that it can't last forever. When I was 19, I dropped out of college and lived at home for a year with a similar schedule/set of waking activities. My mother gave me six months before I was out on my butt: 3 months to decide what I'd do with my life and 3 more months to put that plan into action. You're a much more loving stepmother to kick him out than you would be to allow him to continue living without responsibility.

    Don't: Would you be happier alone/single? Forget the idea of meeting someone who is everything you want and more. Just think about whether being single is preferable to your current situation. If it would be, that says a lot. If you're not sure, that's a signal that you should try to "work on" the relationship. Like Sars said, it could work. There's also a good possibility that your partner is aware of your feelings and/or some distance between you. It's likely he actually does have a clue. As for when and how to end things (once you've decided), start making your logistical preparations and wait for a moment to come. Yes, most nights you're talking about what to eat for dinner, but chances are while you're looking for a new apartment or separating your DVDs, the topic of your future / a trip next summer / that you've been acting funny (etc) will come up and you can break the news.

  • La BellaDonna says:

    Snooze: seriously? Your local noise ordinances permit your neighbor to make a racket at 3:00 a.m.? Well, while you're busy experimenting with different earplugs, you might want to research what it would take to change the hours on your local noise ordinances so that it would NOT be OK!

  • Erin S says:

    Passive-aggressive FB status or no, I'm with Snooze on this one.

    And Margaret in CO is right on. If this neighbor is coming home drunk at 3 o'clock, and there's ANY possibility that she or one of her drunk friends is driving, then it's not just about Snooze's sleep patterns anymore. It's officially a hazard for the brats themselves and for anybody else on the road. Tip off the cops.

  • MizShrew says:

    @Snooze: as someone who has co-managed a 30-unit apartment building, I am well aware of the problems that can arise with annoying neighbors. I've dealt with loud drunks, drug addicts, clueless 20-somethings, and That Loud Constantly Bickering Couple. Never before had I contemplated such evil and intricate plots for revenge, so I feel you, I really do. But you need to leave this one alone, and here's why:

    1. The devil you know — your current neighbor is moderately annoying once a week. A new neighbor could be intensely annoying every day (screaming baby, barking dog, loud arguments, you name it.) Count your blessings, buy some earplugs, and make do. Seriously.

    2. The passive-aggressive approach (already started with the FB post) always fails. Your neighbor will NOT be shamed into behaving quietly. In fact, she's more likely to start having loud drunken 20-minute conversations right outside your window just to piss you off. So put away the weed-wacker and the Pavorotti CD. Trust me on this one. Find another way, especially since you have to work with this woman. Which brings me to…

    3. Do you really want this issue seeping into your work life? If she's immature enough to ignore a pretty simple request, do you think she'd shy away from making your work life miserable?

    However, if you feel you must do something, here's one suggestion: If your apartment manager is not responsive, check to see who your management company is and speak with someone there. There is probably something about limiting noise, respecting the neighbors, etc. in your lease that you can use as the basis of your argument; take a look at your lease before you call. But again, given how much worse it could be, I would step away from this fight.

  • Susan says:

    Snooze, you need to lighten up. Of course it would be fabulous if all neighbors were as considerate as we think we are. But it just so rarely happens. My sister's neighbors' kids set one of her bushes on fire. My brother, who lives on 2 acres surrounded by houses on at least 2 acre properties, has a neighbor who plays country music so loud it makes the windows of my brother's house rattle. I have a neighbor who sits out on his back patio 9 months out the year drinking and generally making merry (loudly) with his friends until the wee hours of the morning almost every night. It's called living amongst the rest of the human race and why I am saving up to by 25 acres in the country. Until then, ear plugs, advil PM, anger management classes … you need to get over it.

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