Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for 21 years, and we have five wonderful children. “Tom” is 50, and I am 39.
In the past few years, Tom has developed an annoying habit. He openly ogles attractive women and young teenage girls. I can understand one glance, but he stares. After we walk past, he’ll look over his shoulder to get the rear view.
Later in the day, he will sometimes remark that I should wear this or that revealing outfit, tone my muscles more, dye my hair a specific color or lose weight. Mind you, I am a size 4. Tom says he finds skinny women with large breasts and tattoos a turn-on. I don’t look like that.
I have told Tom that his newfound habit is hurtful and disrespectful to me. It makes me feel that I’m not pretty enough and gives the impression that these women could easily steal him away. It embarrasses me so much that I don’t want to go anywhere with him. We no longer take evening walks, and forget about restaurants.
When I tell this to Tom, he becomes angry and often yells at me. He insists he’s doing nothing wrong and has no intention of stopping. He says I’m the one with the problem, and that I’m jealous and spoiled.
Is he right? Do I need to change? Is this the proverbial male midlife crisis? Why doesn’t he care how much it upsets me? He could at least not do it when I’m with him, but he won’t.
— Unhappily Married to an Ogler
Dear Unhappy: Many men have these thoughts, but Tom seems to have lost the ability (or willingness) to censor his actions in public. Ask him to get a complete physical to make sure his “new habit” isn’t being exacerbated by a medical condition. If he is simply behaving like a toddler in a candy store, you must decide whether you can ignore his boorishness. Most women find this behavior pathetic and obnoxious, rather than seductive.
Dear Annie: Another family gathering is coming up, and my husband and I find ourselves becoming tense, as usual.
My husband has two sisters who think it’s great fun to catch mistakes people make and then ridicule them. They do it under the guise of good-natured teasing, but it comes across as mean-spirited. His other siblings are kind and considerate, but the family sticks together and would never tell these two to knock it off.
My husband is getting older and has become a little forgetful. He is a target of their ridicule, and he hates it. He pretends to be a good sport, but he has confided in me that this treatment bothers him a great deal.
Should I say something in order to make family gatherings less stressful? I hope these sisters will recognize themselves here and try to be kinder, although I know few people see themselves in the column.
— The Outlaw
Dear Outlaw: Take one of these sisters aside privately and say, “I know you care about your brother, but he’s sensitive to the fact that he’s getting older. When you make fun of him, it hurts him terribly because you are his family and he loves you. I know you don’t mean to cause him pain, so I hope you will keep this in mind.” Rest assured, some day the shoe will be on the other foot.
Dear Annie: I had to respond to “Modest in Iowa.” Being an OR nurse and someone who has recently had surgery, your response was right on.
More and more men are going into nursing, and I assure you, they have only a professional interest in their female patients. The male nurses I work with and those who have cared for me are wonderfully compassionate and quite sensitive to privacy concerns.
— An OR Nurse
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