Category Archives: Ask Johanna

Ask Johanna: On Husbands

We hope this month’s “Ask Johanna”  will resonate with many of our readers.  (There is something about being over 50 that makes us just a tad less patient with our spouses.)

Dear Johanna,

My husband is on Oxycotin for pain, following surgery on his back.  I don’t know if it’s the drugs or him, but he is driving me crazy.  I have been busting my butt cooking for him and preparing restaurant-quality meals, and here is a typical response:  “Boy, this shrimp is tough.  What did you do to it?”  Or, in response to fresh collard greens, sautéed in olive oil, garlic, and ginger:  “These collard greens are chewy!”  I’m trying to be loving and understanding and, since he’s totally immobilized, I’ve stopped myself short of screaming, “Why don’t you cook for yourself or order out?!!!”—but my patience is wearing thin.  Am I being overly sensitive?

Frustrated in Phoenix

Dear Frustrated, I say get him a feeding tube and go dancin’!  Or, if that seems harsh, how about upping the dose of his oxycotin just one night and letting him drift happily into dreamland while you get yourself away from that kitchen?!

Dear Johanna,

My husband is starting another new business—for the 10th time—and it is taken all of our resources.  We’ve used up all of our savings, and there is nothing left.  Yesterday, he said, “I wish I had an extra $3,000—I could really make this business into something.”  I held out my arms and said, “Here, take my last vein!  You want me to give plasma for money?” Tell me, Johanna, was I being too mean?  I want to be a supporting wife, but I have nothing left!

Vehement in Virginia

Dear Vehement, I’d say you’ve done well to have been so nice to him through 9 other ventures!  And, besides, I’m not big on being the perfect wife.  Whenever I try to be one, all I end up with is a giant knot in my stomach—which can only be untangled by a good, cathartic blow-up at my husband.  I recommend it!  It releases stress.  It clears the air.  It may even make you like him again.  Go for it!

Dear Johanna,

My husband insists that he is not hard of hearing and does not need a hearing aid, but every time he watches something on television, he turns up the volume so loud that I’m surprised the neighbors don’t come over to watch the game with him! What can I do?

Going Deaf in Detroit

Dear Deaf, Don’t even try to convince him that he’s deaf.  Just get him one of those wonderful sets of wireless headphones with adjustable volume.  Then, he can turn up his own volume, while you sit happily watching the t.v. at your own, comfortable level.  And, if the store clerk happens to mention that the headphones are tailor-made for deaf people, so be it!

Junk Food Junkie Teens and Husband’s Dirty Socks

Dear Johanna,
My teenagers are all turning into junk food junkies!  They won’t eat good food, even if it is placed in front of them.  Instead, they pretend to eat it and then sneak out to the kitchen late at night for a Cheese Wiz omelet or a frozen pizza.  What’s a poor mother to do?

Irritated in Illinois

Dear Irritated,
Step number 1: Tell them that every piece of junk food that goes in their mouth has to be paid for out of their own money.  Step number 2: Find moretasty recipes for the healthy food you’re serving.  No teenager worth his/her salt is going to be interested in plain, fried tempeh, but they might get interested in a tempeh Reuben sandwich.  Give it a try!  Other than that, you’ve stumped me.  Maybe the best advice is to close your eyes and breathe deeply until they leave for college or jail, whichever comes first.

Dear Johanna,
My husband is driving me crazy.  We’ve been married 27 years, and during that whole time, he’s taken off his socks next to the bed and only to be picked up by the household cleaning fairies or moi. Is there any way to train a grown man to actually pick up his own ocks and put them in the dirty clothes basket?  I don’t get it!!!!

Nuts in Nantucket

Dear Nantucket,
I actually came up with a handy system:  I never pick up my husband’s socks.  I just let them lie there.  Occasionally, I put a little sticky note on the socks with gentle words like, “This sock belongs in the dirty clothes basket if it ever wants to be clean again.”  And then, don’t pick up those socks!  That just perpetuates the system.  Hold out for when he is utterly frustrated and has to go sockless to work, and actually figures out that his socks don’t have little feet that walk them to the dirty clothes basket!


On Gifts From Husbands

Dear Johanna,

For my 60th birthday, my husband decided to gift me with a new laptop.  Now, keep in mind that I have a lovely laptop that he gave me 3 years ago (with no consultation) that weighs 18 POUNDS–which may not sound like much but is too heavy for me to lug around because of my knee problems.  I have often complained about its weight and even left it behind when I would have liked to have it with me–but he has been happy to use it.  Anyway, guess what my husband got me this time!:  ANOTHER 18 POUNDER!  I asked him to return it for one that I could carry more easily, but, instead, he kept it for himself BECAUSE, in fact, his is not working right, so HE GOT IT FOR HIMSELF and got mad at me for complaining, with the old “I can never do anything right.”  I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but last Christmas, he got me a camera that I didn’t really want or need and said “well, if you don’t like it, I”ll use it.”  Any suggestions?

Heated in Hillsborough

Dear Heated,

My one suggestion to you is, don’t worry, you just figure out exactly what you want for your birthday–what you would have liked to have received–and give it to him for his birthday! That way, you’re both happy!


Grandmotherly Worries

Dear Johanna,

My granddaughter is a teenager, who seems interested in nothing but her boyfriend.  She wants to go to college some day, but she doesn’t seem to see the connection between doing well in school and getting into college.  Her parents, my daughter and son-in-law, say not to worry, she’ll be fine, but I think she needs a kick in the pants!  What should I do?

Grimacing Grandmother in Georgia

Dear Grimacing,

I say you invite that girl over for tea, set her down, and give her a grandmotherly talk!  She may even listen to you, and she certainly won’t listen to her parents.  Of course they say she’ll be fine.  They’re worn out from the whole battle!  You could even resort to bribing her for good grades.  I’ve seen it work before.  And only a grandmother can get away with that!

Aging Mothers, Dating, and Gifts

Dear Johanna:

My mother is turning 90, so it seems like I should be over any issues I have with her by this time and should be happy letting her sit there, knitting, minding her own business–but instead, all it takes sometimes is for me to walk in her living room and see her face for me to go off the deep end.  How can a little lady of 90 still drive me so crazy?  Especially when she hasn’t even said a word!  After all, I’m supposed to be grown up by now:  I’m 53 years old!

Childish in Chicago

Dear Childish:

It’s perfectly understandable.  That woman isn’t innocent!  She’s not just sitting there knitting!  She’s scoping you out!  You say she’s “minding her own business.”  Have you ever known a mother that truly minds her own business?  And she doesn’t need any words to tell you what she’s thinking.  All she has to do is look up from her knitting, with a face that says, “Oh, so you’ve put on a few pounds!” or “I see, you haven’t been taking good care of yourself: your hair is not brushed,” or “Do you mean to tell me that lazy no-good husband of yours still has not gotten a job?”  Of course, you lose it!  You may think you’re 53 years old, but you’re instantly back to being 7,  with your mother disapproving of your school outfit!  But, that’s ok, just remember this:  if she weren’t such a spunky little thing, you wouldn’t be the strong, vital woman you are!  And, when she’s gone, trust me, you’ll miss those disapproving looks.  Certainly no one else in the world will ever care about every detail of your life the way she does!  Tell her to wipe that look off her face and smile when you come to see her because you love her to death!

Dear Johanna:

Why is it that I have to be the person in our marriage that always buys the gifts for everyone?  Did anyone ever say that a man is, by nature, incapable of picking out gifts or something?  Even when the gift is for someone in my husband’s family, like his sister’s son, I’m the one who has to remember to buy the Bar Mitzvah present!  How fair is that?

Sick of it in St. Petersburg

Dear Sick,

I’m with you on this one, since I’ve been Santa for all of our five kids, with no help from the sleeping giant!  I have an idea: next time you have to buy a present for his nephew, tell him you’ve picked out a great collection of love poems or a special, anniversary copy of “Gone With the Wind,” and all he has to do is sign the card, “Love, Your Devoted Uncle.”

Dear Johanna,

I’m recently divorced, after being married for 20 years, the last five of which were pretty lacking in the love department, and I’m petrified about having sex with a man again.  I’m afraid I won’t even know what to do–and I shudder to think of how I’ll look in a sexy nightgown!

Feeling Old in Ohio

Dear Feeling,

Stop that nonsense!  Every wrinkle on your body came from valuable life experience.  You are a wonderful collection of knowledge, laughter, heartache, joy, sadness, and skill.  Flaunt it!  And, as to not knowing what to do:  remember that old saying about riding a bike?  Just get ride back on that saddle and ride, sister, ride!