DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I'm single, aged 26. Christmas is coming and I hate being with my Mennonite family because they won't let me drink or smoke or have any fun. I have never broken tradition by not going before, but I want to go to my girlfriend's place in Regina this year where they party and celebrate the way Christmas should be. How do I get out of the home thing? -- Desperate Mennonite Grinch, Winnipeg
Dear Desperate: You're 26 -- a man. You can decide on your Christmas plan, for whatever reason, but you can be elegant about it. So stand up. Tell the home crew you're going to your girlfriend's house for this Christmas and you'll celebrate with the family beforehand. Then make sure you do get out there before Christmas with gifts and a sunny face. Bring food you purchase, and cook a big dinner for everybody.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: Twenty years ago I made a really stupid decision that cost me my marriage to a great woman. I watch my married male friends with a different perspective now. Most Fridays I could find at least one of them curled up in the darkest corner of a lounge somewhere, sharing an intimate glass of wine with a women who's not their wife. I always wonder if they've clearly thought out what that brief flirtatious time, and occasional romp, may cost them. I offer my experience -- one half of your pension, probably the house, usually all of the fun money you used to have. A judge may tell you when you can see your children. A large percentage of your after-tax income must be paid out to your ex, on time (or else you can lose your driver's licence) If pulled over after that, you spend the night in the Remand Centre. When the ex-wife remarries, even a guy with a great income, your support amount still must be paid. She'll probably take the kids, and new husband to Hawaii for two weeks with your money, coming back tanned and happy. Most of the parents at the soccer/hockey/volleyball games won't talk to you. The kids will probably (and shouldn't they?) blame you for all the stress that follows. The once-friendly bank manager will politely ask how you're going to manage the debt on your reduced income, and to pay down your line of credit, now. That great glass of wine will move on, probably telling you to call her "when you get over it." You won't. The anger, bitterness and resentment will probably get into the lines of communication with your ex. The children will hate you for it. You will absolutely not be invited to birthday parties. The little Christmas tree you put up in the corner of your apartment won't work for your children; they'll pass in year 2. C'mon guys, you are a lot smarter than this. Make it work. -- Confused at the Corner, Winnipeg
Dear Confused: I'm confused myself. Why haven't you resurrected your life in 20 long years? You're one unnecessarily bitter dad. Yes, you lost a great woman, but the one-soulmate-per-person thing is a myth. There may not be many in each city, but if you beat the bushes gently, there are still some out there for you in the urban realm. In small towns, it's much harder unless you go online. It can still be done. So what's going on with you? Why do you sound like it's still the first year of the breakup? You sound like an intelligent person who should be taking courses and meeting women, or joining a singles activity club and getting actively involved with other singles and finding someone you love. As for your older kids, take them adventure travelling and bond to them that way. It doesn't have to cost a lot. I know of one dad who took his older kids backpacking, staying with them in hostels, enjoying great talks and fun all along the way. They slowly worked out a lot of bad history and are close to this day.
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