Boorish friends and the spooky wailer

This week, Dr. McFeely attends to adultery, obscene fortune and an eerie wailing from the backyard. Let the doctor tell you how to feel!

Published July 30, 2001 7:00PM (EDT)

Dear Dr. McFeely,

I have the same problem with all my friendships. All my friends talk my ear off, call only when they have a problem and I never can get a word in edgewise. When I try to politely point this out I feel like I am being whiny. I am getting to the point where I really feel maybe they aren't friends at all. Is this how I should feel?

Abused Listener

Dear Abused Listener,

The whiner has strong roots in this country. Douglas MacArthur's mother, it's said, whined on his behalf, writing letters to his superiors in the Army and urging that her son be promoted to general. Equally deep are the roots of the underappreciated confidant, the ignored listener, the Friend. In the movies, this character achieves happiness via natural chivalry -- the returning of a valuable ring, say.

Outside the movies this sort of gesture goes unnoticed and the orotund telephoners remain boorish and oblivious. You should feel like going to parties and bars. Maybe state fairs, too. That's where the new friends are, and the starting over.

Dear Dr. McFeely,

I've been married for two years, but I've been unable to give up my age-old habit of fantasizing about virtually every man I meet. Even ones I'm not attracted to. Following the fantasies, I often feel embarrassed, ashamed and guilty. Is there a better way I should feel?


Dear Cynthia,

You should feel fine about the fantasizing so long as you're being nice to these unsuspecting men. If the clerk at the pool supply outlet starts squirming, or the cable man begins tugging at his collar, you are fantasizing too obviously and should feel like running off to see a high school football game with your husband. If you sit in the front row, you will be overwhelmed, and the doctor thinks you might want to be overwhelmed.

Dear Dr. McFeely,

I'm a 38-year-old woman, living in a small city in Iowa with no crime and good schools. I am happily married and have two healthy, intelligent children and two reasonably well-behaved stepchildren whom I don't have to see too often. Three years ago I stumbled into my dream job, which is easy for me and for which I am paid $145,000 a year. I get my work done quickly, and I spend half my day on the Internet reading Salon or Slate or other interesting sites. I just got a glowing performance evaluation and a $10,000 raise. How should I feel?


Dear Blessed,

You've described the beginning of a horror film. The placid bliss is exaggerated when the camera takes the maniacal killer's perspective, peering through the bushes and licking his chops at all the happiness he'll soon ruin.

You should feel very fortunate that these killers are pretty much locked up in real life. Your luck is yours to enjoy, and you should feel content to abridge any guilt the old-fashioned way: loads and loads of charity work. You should also feel like using some of that cash like a Kleenex, at least once.

Dear Dr. McFeely,

Last night, as I was reading of Great Cthulu in a Lovecraft tale of the macabre, I heard a soft wail in my backyard. Like a sound wave that was shifting from a frequency range inaudible to human ears, down to the auditory threshold. I heard it again two minutes later, and it said "Hi" in a very eerie manner. Suffice to say, I didn't check the backyard, and went to sleep. HSIF?

Dunwich Horror

Dear Dunwich Horror,

You should feel pleased for your encounter with the eerie. Brevity is always the cornerstone of these encounters, and it's the brevity that's the fun. Think of the boy who pulled a piranha out of a California lake last week. The lake was closed briefly while experts conferred. It turned out the piranha wasn't a piranha but a pacu, which is harmless. Significantly, the pacu is designed to look like a piranha so other fish won't bug it.

For a while there, the boy had the excitement of local eeriness on his hands. Not eerie because the fish was scary, but eerie because it didn't belong. The incongruity of a piranha in California is that of your English-speaking backyard wailer. You should feel like loving it, like leaving the flashlight under the sink or, at most, shining it deep into the bathroom mirror.

Dear Dr. McFeely,

My lover's father says I'm committing adultery because my divorce isn't final. But I never had relations with my lover till after my husband and I were legally separated. I say it isn't cheating if I'm being monogamous -- which I am, with my lover, who is also monogamous. How should I feel?

Bad Girl?

Dear Bad Girl,

You should feel like your lover's father is a crusty, bean-counting meddler. And as long as his son doesn't share his boring opinion, you should feel fine. Some people in your situation would ignite a bag of dog poop and leave it on the old man's doorstep, but this is not an advice column.

Dear Dr. McFeely,

I have a conundrum: 1) I am in love with someone. 2) This person is engaged to someone else, but has doubts. 3) This person has feelings for me. 4) If she broke off her engagement, a relationship between us couldn't work due to the fact that I always put my career first. HSIF?

Desperately Confused

Dear Desperately Confused,

With the possible exception of your friend's poor fiancé, everyone in this equation is ripe for a month in the woods, alone. This month will help erode the national divorce rate, and will furnish those involved with no imminent decisions but where to find kindling. Where to find kindling will gradually take on weight until it's a big enough question for another letter to Dr. McFeely.

When the month is up, each party will return to his or her life surprised to find no further clarity on the marriage question. The woods aren't magic, they're just trees and underbrush. You should feel like you already know the answer to your conundrum: Find someone else. Someone else will generate the same love/career dilemma you seek, but without the poor fiancé.

Dear Dr. McFeely,

This morning, as I blew her a kiss goodbye, my daughter told me that she hates my guts. This is a pretty regular occurrence. I don't know where she learns to say such things, except maybe on TV or from her mother. I mean, she's 2, and already she hates my guts. This doesn't bode well for our relationship during the Teenage Years. Sometimes I think that the Terrible Twos are the Teenage Years filtered into one single year of hate and scribbled walls and scissored dogs. Sometimes I think I'm not a good father. But sometimes I think her mother really loves me and she loves me. That's when I feel really happy. But her mother and I seldom talk, as our daughter (as mentioned) is currently embroiled in the Terrible Twos, and we aren't allowed to speak or smile or eat without permission from her first. Right now, I don't feel happy. HSIF?

Hated Dad

Dear Hated Dad,

You should feel more unhappiness until your daughter completes the Terrible Twos, which will be sometime in her third or fourth year. You should feel the frustration in your neck, in your shoulders, behind your eyeballs and deep in your throat. You should walk slowly, dragging your knuckles right up to the day when everything changes and you once again tell co-workers cute daughter stories. She loves you, because you're her dad, so you should feel nothing more than temporary misery. You can pay everyone back when you're 90 by wearing diapers and pinching nurses.

By Chris Colin

Chris Colin is the author most recently of "Blindsight," published by the Atavist.

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