DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: We have a great family cottage, but it now houses three generations of women who are bossy and independent.
I'm the grandfather who's had to put up with bickering between my wife, daughter and teenage granddaughter. We've had two big incidents in two weeks at the cottage where my wife and grown daughter bared their teeth and fought over cottage rules and territorial rights. I love all of these women but I'm a senior executive in a big company with high blood pressure and I need to relax on the weekends. Rather than enter the fight, I simply said, "It's no fun for me to be here with the constant bickering and I'm taking the convertible home, where I can relax. Good night all." Then I walked out to the car with my wife behind me, shrieking things like, "You're going to break up the family if you do this!" I just said, "I really doubt that. Try to find a way to get along if you want other family members out here." Don't I sound strong and wise? Well, it backfired. My wife has been home since Sunday, and is not talking to me all this week. I need help.
-- Smart Guy? Tuxedo
Dear Smart: There simply isn't enough space or privacy in any cabin for a couple of generations when everything can be heard through the walls, and both groups want to live different styles. That's why cabins are delightful and relatively trouble-free when the first family is growing up, and psychologists make a lot of money working with "cottage angst" people June-September. Apologize for leaving your wife in an embarrassing situation instead of working out the problem, and tell her now much you love her. Then present her with a plan to end the cottage wars. It's time for a rental cottage and some privacy for the two fully-formed families. Since it sounds like you may have some extra cash lying around, how about helping with finances for the new spot? The younger family can chip in as much as they can afford. Talk to your daughter and her husband yourself, and take the blame for changes that need to be made. Explain your blood pressure is high in emotional battles, and you can't hazard a heart attack or a stroke over cottage fights. Plus, you know first-hand how stubborn her mom can be.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: My friends like to go to the nude beach and hang around. I went last week and wore my bikini bottoms, but there was a lot of pressure and snarky remarks from my girlfriends to be totally naked like they were. I don't want to take off my bottoms. I don't know why; I just don't. What do you suggest? By the way, I'm 21 with an athletic body. I'm not trying to hide anything.
-- Just Topless, Patricia Beach
Dear Topless: "Clothing optional" is the term for most "nude" beaches. It's not mandatory, though a fully clothed bird-watching group might not be welcome.... Next time a girlfriend starts pressuring you to take off your whole bikini, speak up assertively. Say firmly, "Why is what I'm wearing, or not wearing, a problem for you?" If you can't get an answer from her, say, "I need to know because I'm fed up with pressure over this and I'm not going to take my bottoms off." If you shine the spotlight back on pressure bullies, they'll usually mutter something like, "Can't you take a joke?" Don't bow to this nonsense. Say evenly, "Well it sure doesn't sound like a joke to me." Then change the subject, and end it. You're the one in control.