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The Son Also Rises

My boyfriend and I have been living together for a year. He’s great. His mother is the problem. She’s retired and a widow, with one other son who lives many hours away. She lets herself into our house when we aren’t home. When we are home and in bed, she uses her key and comes in without even knocking. She parks in the middle of the driveway or on the grass. She wipes my counters and lectures my daughter on how to sweep. She’s even tried to get him back together with his ex-girlfriend. About three weeks ago, I bought new sheets. I washed them and threw them in the dryer before leaving for my grandmother’s funeral. When I returned, his mom was in our bedroom helping my boyfriend put on our sheets. I was furious. I have repeatedly tried to talk to him about his mother’s behavior. He realizes it’s a problem, but he feels sorry for her because she doesn’t have anyone else.


I’m not sure when, exactly, you’re supposed to cut the umbilical cord, but I suspect it’s long before the child becomes eligible for the senior citizen discount at Denny’s. Your boyfriend’s mother sees it differently: “Why cut the cord when you can reinforce it with triple-gauge steel?”

She should be grateful to you for giving her life new meaning (from the moment she knew you wanted her son, she’s been meaning to make you run away screaming). Unfortunately, she isn’t just some giant Metamucil-sucking tick in support hose -- she’s also his mother. This means that classic tick removal techniques -- like sticking a burning object to the end that’s sticking out of your life -- are out of the question (at least, while your boyfriend’s watching).

Too bad your boyfriend seems to have inherited only the passive portion of his mom’s passive-aggressiveness. It’s time to educate him in what he’s been missing -- and what he’s likely to be missing soon (you, from his life, duh!) if he isn’t a fast learner. Inform him that, as sorry as you might feel for his mother, it doesn’t seem to quell your need for privacy, dignity, and all those other emotional luxuries. He can either be mommy’s little boy or your boyfriend -- not both. This doesn’t mean he has to ditch his mom -- nor should he. But, if he wants to keep you, he can’t keep letting her play the little old lady card: “In my blinding loneliness, your front lawn looked just like a parking space!”

Since there was a right time for your boyfriend to make a break from mommy, and it came and went 20 or 30 years ago, you shouldn’t get your hopes up now. For best results (if any), he should read from a prepared statement -- in a soundproofed room. He needs to tell her how much he loves her, and take it downhill from there, explaining that she’s an honored guest in your home and she needs to refrain from unguestly acts like barging in uninvited and engaging in home-invasion sheet changing.

From then on, whenever she crosses the line from “honored guest” to “unwanted pest,” it’s his job to provide immediate refresher courses. In lieu of his intervention, smile sweetly and give her a little verbal shove: “Thanks, but I’d rather wipe the counter myself, even if I do it tragically wrong!” Go out of your way to include her as a guest, and she might find it easier to get into the spirit. Do your best to find reasons to be optimistic, and repeat them to yourself while you’re rekeying the locks and laying spike strips on the front lawn.

Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.