Hi, Carolyn: My 60-year-old dad, a widower of about three years, has started saying he wants a girlfriend. Okay, sounds great; I would love for him to have companionship. What bothers me is the way he talks about his reasons for wanting to find this hypothetical girlfriend. For example, "I need to find a girlfriend so I can have a decent meal for once." Why not make himself a decent meal, you ask? Apparently that's woman's work. Or, "This place will be a lot neater once I find my girlfriend."
I never really thought of him as sexist before, but I am really put off both by the implication that he is dating to find live-in help and what that suggests about his marriage to my late mom. I have never doubted how much he loved Mom, but I really hate listening to him talk this way. I can ask him to stop it, and he will, but do I have a right to try to fight back against the underlying attitudes?
— Bad Dad Joke
Bad Dad Joke: Why don’t you just ask, “Okay, you want a cook and a housekeeper. What are you offering her in this deal?”
Curious to hear what he’d say.
If it’s just more jokes then, yes, do speak up. “When you say things like that, I feel ____.”
Re: Sexist father: I think it's entirely possible he's just trying to joke about things so that she, the daughter, won't get upset that he's dating someone new.
Anonymous: Sounds promising, thanks — I hope she asks that, point-blank.
Re: Father: Rather than making a snarky remark, it would be better to simply be honest and say the comments are hurtful and you hope your mom was more than a servant to him. If nothing else, that could spur a good conversation in which he'd learn the impact of his words, and you'd learn where he's really coming from.
— No Snark
Re: Dad dating: Any chance your dad is making these "jokes" because he is uncomfortable talking about his feelings — being lonely, wanting to have companionship, wanting sex, whatever? It may be his awkward way of deflecting the emotion.
Re-Directing: Ooh. Yes. This fits — especially since the men-can’t-have-feelings prison dates, roughly, to the same social era as the women-are-suburban-housebots prison. Thank you.
Dear Carolyn: Should I move for a guy? I currently am not satisfied with my job, unhappy with it even. If I could find something more exciting and interesting, do you think I should move to his respective city? I am 23 and live in a much smaller city I think I have grown out of. I have a fear of potentially derailing my career or later regretting the decision.
Unsatisfied: Don’t move for “a guy.” Move because you’re unsatisfied by where you are in life, for whatever reason, and you have good cause to believe a move would be an improvement — whether that improvement is about a guy, a job, a climate, an economy, a culture, a whim. It’s about taking the reins, that’s it, which is worth doing, even when it scares us witless. Good luck.