Q.: A friend of mine has been looking for a job for a few months after being laid off from his previous job. After another failed job interview, he came to visit me for some coffee.
When I answered the door, I was shocked to find my friend dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. I asked him if he went to the interview like that, and he informed me that he goes to all his interviews in jeans. He obviously was also not wearing deodorant, as he smelled really bad.
He is sensitive and vulnerable because he is not getting any jobs, so how do I tell him that if he dressed better he would have a better chance at getting employed? – Can't Believe My Eyes, Washington, D.C.
A.: Tough love is called for in this situation. Tell your friend that you think he needs to get his act together before he goes back out on an interview. That means taking a shower, putting on a suit and brushing up on his interviewing skills. Otherwise, it's likely he will be unemployed indefinitely.
Q.: I am a student who lives in an expensive area. I am eating a lot of fast food, as it is a cheaper option. However, I know how bad fast food is. Do you have any suggestions for how to eat healthier while on a budget? – Broke, Manhattan, N.Y.
A.: It's time to go to the grocery store and start buying food that you can prepare for yourself. It's so much more affordable. Also, you can buy prepared foods at grocery stores for far less than they would cost at a restaurant. Chances are, these foods will be fresher and healthier, too.
Q.: I am 21 years old and have gone through hell and high water for my mother. We were homeless for nine years after she lost her big government job and, of course, her friends and family bailed on her. (Isn't that always the case?) Since then, I have always stuck by her and bailed her out of whatever nonsense she got herself into. I made sure she had everything she needed (food, clean clothes, a roof over her head, etc.), and I was basically her advocate at social services when they denied her help.
Her life is back to normal (she's now retired and disabled), but she is so used to me taking care of her now that she won't care for herself. I'm beyond frustrated, as you can probably tell, and I'm sick of playing Superman. – Frustrated Daughter, Alexandria, Va.
A.: Your mother needs to develop the skills to take care of herself, skills that she has not learned for a variety of reasons. Hopefully, she has insurance now. With that, you can get her involved in therapy where she can talk about her life and the challenges she faces. Set up the sessions for her and, if it is allowed, attend some of the sessions with her so the therapist can see exactly how your mother looks at the world.
Meanwhile, see if you can get into college or find a job where you will be out of the house and on your own, at least for some of the time. Tell your mother your schedule and explain to her that as much as you love her, you have to live your life.
Step by step, spend more time on your own. When you are with your mother, make it clear that you love her and that she has to be responsible for herself now. Check in on her to ensure that she is OK. The more consistent you can be in contacting her, the easier it will be for you to be apart from her, because she will not feel abandoned.
You need to do this now to establish any semblance of independence. But be prepared to take care of your mother again. The blessing and challenge of having older parents is that usually at some point, the adult children gain the privilege of caring for them into their old age. Unfortunately, you had to do it on the front end as well.