DR. WALLACE: I'm 18 and dating a nice guy who is 20. We are very close and care for each other very much. So far over the 10 months we've been together, we have enjoyed each other's company and senses of humor very much!
The problem is that his dad is in prison, and he visits his dad every Sunday for about two hours. He had never invited me to meet his father during the first several months of our relationship, but now that we are pretty steady together, he actually invited me to go with him on a future visit. The problem is that I am kind of "creeped out" to meet his dad for the first time in a prison. I have never been to a prison, even as a visitor, in my life. It's not that I am sheltered or a prude, but I do have this little voice in the back of my mind telling me to stay away from there for now.
I did ask my boyfriend what his dad did to get himself in there, and all he said was "white-collar crime." I looked that up on the internet and came to understand that it likely means his dad did some business crime or committed fraud of some sort. He apparently did not injure anyone physically, but he took money or cheated on a business deal or something related to that.
What I would like to know from you is whether or not I should visit his father in prison. I understand he will be there for another five to seven years, as he was sentenced to eight to 10 years about three years ago.
Also, since his dad did something very wrong — at least in society's eyes — should I be suspicious of my boyfriend's character since he has some of the same DNA as his father? So far, my boyfriend has been great and has done nothing I disapprove of. Many people, even several adults, in our town like my boyfriend and treat him well. — Creeped Out Girlfriend, via email
CREEPED OUT: Since your boyfriend's father will likely remain in prison for several more years at the least, I feel you have no need to rush into this decision. Thank your boyfriend for the offer to visit his father; tell him you'll think about it carefully for now, but you would like to hold off going with him until you reach a final decision. You may feel differently in time, but for now, I would listen to your inner voice. However, do give some serious thought to actually visiting at some point in the future. Have your boyfriend tell you about his father's good qualities and what it was like growing up in the family's house when your boyfriend was very young. Hearing these stories may humanize his father to you and ease some of your apprehension over time. You may feel differently a few months or a year from now. Keep an open mind. Your boyfriend obviously is proud enough of you to wish to introduce you to his father. Keeping in touch with his father is a big deal to your boyfriend; do support him in continuing his visits.
And as to your "DNA connection" worries: Absolutely do not assume anything bad at all about your boyfriend. He is his own man, who lives his own life and makes his own decisions. His father's mistakes should not be held against him at all. He is no more or less likely to do something wrong than any other young man in your city, and you already know he has earned the respect of many people in your community. Think of him based solely on his own personality, actions and personal integrity. Do not factor in his father's transgressions at all.
ENJOY THE MOMENT, BUT BE RESPECTFUL
DR. WALLACE: I'm a lucky girl who has the fortune of dating two guys at the same time! I really like them both — a lot. Both have asked me to go steady, but I can't decide which guy I like best. All my girlfriends have just one boyfriend. I'd like to have just one, too, but I can't make up my mind on who the lucky guy is going to be. What should I do? I'm 16, and both guys are 17. — Like Them Both, Boulder, Colorado
LIKE THEM BOTH: This simply means that you're not ready for a "serious" boyfriend quite yet. Keep dating both guys, but don't make any "steady" commitments right now. Eventually, time, circumstance and actions will help you make that choice, but until then, enjoy your time with each of them. But remember to treat each of them with respect, and do not deceive either one of them in any way. Think carefully about how you would feel if you did not know these two young men at all but had met and were dating a completely different boy you liked enough to want to go steady with — but who was dating you and another girl simultaneously. Your thought process would then be very, very different.
Experience tells me that in your days of dating as a teenager and a young adult, you are likely to find yourself on the other side of your present situation someday. So be respectful now and have respect for yourself if and when you find yourself in the opposite situation in the future.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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