DEAR ABBY: My middle-aged younger sister is 12 months into a midlife crisis. She has divorced her husband and abdicated her role as a mother, preferring instead to be a buddy to her teenage sons. She has started sleeping around, smoking pot and drinking — a lot. Needless to say, our family is very concerned.
This behavior is nothing like her. When she does take our calls, she lies about what she’s doing. We have caught her doing it, and so far we have just held our tongues. I’m unsure whether confronting her about her behavior would help or hurt her.
I love my sister and always will, but I have lost a lot of respect for her, and our relationship has been damaged. Should I tell her I know she is acting reckless and being dishonest? — HELPING OR HURTING IN THE SOUTH
First of all, you’ve got my name all wrong. I’m Stephan. But I’m going to overlook that just this once. Because it looks like you have a pretty serious situation on your hands and you are in need of some Extremely Bad Advice (TM). Lucky for you, I’m an EBA expert.
What you’ve described is a classic case of mistaken identity. You’ve put the onus on your younger sister, Hurting, but in reality the problem is you. I suspect it is your life that has taken a turn for the miserable, and you’re just not ready to admit it.
The once-a-week unimpassioned sex with your 31-BMI husband has become boring and routine. What used to be an exciting night of gossip over the card table with your girlfriends has turned into the same old, same old bitchfest about how terrible their husbands or ex-husbands are and how little they’re valued at work and how they look forward to that week’s vacation in Cancun that you’re all still deluding yourselves you’ll actually take this year. And whereas you used to at least get some solace from the soccer games of little Trevor and the Brownie meetings of sweet Katheryn, (oh, remember how adorbs they looked running around in their little uniforms!), they have grown from cute toddlers into insolent, moody teenagers, with all the requisite angst and hatred directed mostly at you.
It’s no wonder you’re looking for an escape route.
But to put the blame on your sister, Hurting, is to miss the point entirely. Can’t you see that, instead of falling victim to the “kids’ happiness first, kids’ happiness only” mentality that has gone viral within white suburbia over the past generation, she has actually found a solution to the problem of her misery? She opened her eyes to the reality around her. She took the red pill. She woke up and began to live again. And yes, maybe she is covered in goo and completely naive about the impact her decisions could have on her world, but at least she’s trying.
Which is more than I can say for you. All you’ve got is the same complaints she had but without any of the solutions.
Perhaps you could give it a try. You don’t know what you’re missing. These are not your parents’ midlife crises, where all that happened was an extra dish thrown against the wall at dinner followed by everyone retiring back to their beds to self-destruct in peace, heart attacks at 55 welcomed with relish. No, these days we recognize that when people go off the deep end, it’s signaling something far deeper inside them that is wrong. And no amount of nagging from you is going to solve the problem; it’s for her to either figure out or die trying.
So should you call your sister out for her bad behavior? Only when she’s bogarting that log. Until then, your best solution is to snuggle up to her and her newest boy-toy for a special invitation-only night of fun, remind her that it’s puff, puff, pass, and let go. You’ll thank me in the morning.