DEAR AMY: My 70-year-old mother divorced my father five years ago after 30 years of a constantly emotionally abusive marriage. She slowly recovered her sense of self, made friends and had a fairly fulfilling (if quiet) life. She met a married man three years ago. They got together at their 50th high school reunion. He lives in the South and she lives in New England, and neither wants to move. They speak every day on the phone and travel together. They are having a great time.
He is retired and very well off. He pays for her trips and plane tickets. I am thrilled for my mother, but my problem is that although he has been separated for many years and is living apart, this man is still legally married to his wife.
This does not bother my mother. She has no plans to remarry. He wants to stay legally married because of "severe financial ramifications" with investments he and his wife have together.
I am not buying his excuses. I feel my mother is being taken advantage of. I feel he could easily get divorced. I think she is living a fantasy and may get hurt should this man decide to return to his wife or find another girlfriend. Most of the family agrees with me, but mom is adamant that it doesn't bother her and she just wants to enjoy whatever time they have together. Your thoughts?
— Concerned Daughter
DEAR CONCERNED: Your mother cannot catch a break. She is finally liberated from her abusive marriage, and now her children decide to micromanage her romantic life.
This man is being honest with her, she is fine with things as they are, and she is having a great time. I can't figure out how this adds up to him taking advantage of her.
Your mother could in fact get hurt. At 70 years old, given what she has been through, don't you imagine that she already knows that? If your mother's values dictated that she wouldn't see this man unless he got legally divorced, it would be up to her (not you) to convey that.
DEAR AMY: I recently came into some money but have not changed my lifestyle much because I'm trying to keep things as normal as possible for my kids. I have increased my charitable giving.
My question is about giving money to friends. I have wonderful friends and none of them would ever expect this kind of gift.
I see many of them struggling financially, and I would love to give some of them a one-time gift, but I'm worried about our relationships changing and becoming uncomfortable — or ruined. I helped a relative who asked, and it turned very tense when he kept asking for more.
Is there a way to do this smoothly, or is it just destined to be awkward and maybe shouldn't be done at all?
— Blessed With Excess
DEAR BLESSED: I have had relationships bolstered by loans, gifts and general bounty-sharing. But you can't do this if you have specific expectations about how things will go for you.
Giving money can create a dependence and expectation for more, but if you enter the exchange carefully and with an open attitude, it can go well. You also need to marshal the power of a neutral "no."
You must also learn, however, how to tolerate hearing about other people's challenges without feeling compelled to fix them.
DEAR AMY: "Unsure" was pondering her boyfriend's choice for a "half-sleeve" tattoo.
One thing anyone planning on covering their skin with tattoos does not seem to consider is that one day they may become as old as I am.
Future tattooers: Before you cover yourself with meaningful "artwork," go visit a senior center. Take a long look at their once firm flesh, and imagine it covered in unrecognizable ink.
DEAR SUSAN: My awesome Uncle Harvey used to show me the battleship he'd had tattooed on his forearm during his time in the Merchant Marine. By the age of 80, that ship had definitely sailed.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.