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April 11-17, 2007

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Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Dear Sydney, my daughter-in-law wants to go out with her girlfriends once a week, and this always seems to include excessive drinking at her friend's house or at local bars. She does not get home until 1 in the morning sometimes, and drinks and drives. She's been trying to get my verbal support as a way of justifying her behavior to my son (her husband), who doesn't like it when she goes out. She has also been asking me to babysit the baby so she can go out. I would be OK with the babysitting if she were going to a movie, but I just can't justify helping her go out to engage in what I feel is destructive behavior. What should I say when she asks for my help? They are young parents, so it's extra hard for me to remain unattached to their behavior.--Mama in the Middle

Dear MIM: They may be young, but if they're old enough to become parents and get married, you cannot expect to be able to control the dynamics of their relationship any more than you can control the behavior of your daughter-in-law. It's not your responsibility to watch the baby so Mom can party, this is true, but what needs to concern you in this situation is the safety and well-being of your grandchild. Try to look at things from this perspective rather than from the point of view of judging, supporting or not supporting your daughter-in-law's behavior.

You are under no obligation to babysit, but perhaps babysitting would be in everyone's best interest. Better that the baby is safe with you than partying with her or his parents or riding in a car with someone who has been drinking. Who goes out when is something for the happy newlyweds to work out with each other. In fact, you should feel free to tell your daughter-in-law, when she asks, that it's not really any of your business how she chooses to socialize and that you have no interest in either defending or condemning her decisions. But by no means should you refuse to babysit on the grounds that by doing so you would be supporting her freedom-loving lifestyle. Refuse to babysit if you don't want to babysit, but don't do it as a means of controlling your daughter-in-law's behavior. This won't work anyway, and better to feel slightly used than to have your grandchild exposed to her parent's occasionally life-endangering shenanigans.

Dear Sydney, my husband and I live with my in-laws who are very religious. When I first moved in they were respectful of my choice not to join their religion, but lately, now that they are more comfortable with me, they are trying to push their beliefs on me. My husband and I can't afford our own place just yet. What should I do so that our living situation is more bearable for a few more months?--Sinner

Dear Sinner: Here's the bad news: As long as you are living with them, they can push anything on you they damn well please, including their religious beliefs. This does not mean that you have to convert, only that you are obligated to endure their religious paradigms as long as you are living together. With this in mind, it makes the most sense for you to focus your energies on moving out. Therein lies your salvation! In the mean time, be quietly respectful; after all, chances are they are just doing what they feel is crucial for your salvation. They don't want to turn you into something bad; they want to save your soul!

Then again, considering the chaos that organized religion has wrought upon the world to this date, it could be considered wrong to be passive when confronted with someone else's burning desire to convert you. You could stand up to them and assert your own views. But before you do, remember that religion is an emotional life vest that many seem to find it impossible to live without, and it is neither your job nor your responsibility to divest them of it. Just keep your trap shut and save up money for first and last. After that, you can draw the line between yourself and their religious overtures at whatever point makes you feel the most comfortable.

Dear Sydney, my partner recently discovered he has an STD, one that he says he has had for a while but just didn't know it. I'm afraid that he might have come by it more recently. Maybe I'm just being paranoid. How do I know for sure? Should I ask him or just let it be for our marriage's sake which, honestly, is pretty strained at this point by this unwelcome addition to our relationship.--Worried

Dear Worried: Well, first of all, this is a terrible bummer and the fact that it's depressingly common does nothing to shine a ray of sunshine on the situation. STD's are embarrassing, they're painful and sometimes they can be deadly. There's nothing good about them; they're like the mosquito, simply irredeemable. With this in mind, it is in your best interest to take this situation with utmost seriousness. Do your STD homework. Some STDs can lay dormant, showing no symptoms for years at a time, especially in men who often fail to get regular STD check-ups (as compared to the yearly visit to the gynecologist you had better be getting).

I don't know what it is he has acquired, so I can't say for sure, but it's certainly possible that he picked something up before the two of you met and just never knew about it. On the other hand, sometimes something like this can be a sign of more difficult things. Sit down and talk candidly about this with him. Express your concerns and fears. Why are you feeling suspicious? Are there any other indications that things in your marriage may be amiss? Or are you reacting to the news with emotions that are, quite understandably, a little excessive and paranoid? See what he has to say, and above all, try not to hold it against him.

The risk of STDs are a burden that all sexually active people must share. Remember that sometimes it only takes one mistake, and that's it. At this point, your biggest concern should be doing your research and making sure that the two of you deal with your health issues appropriately. Make sure you both go to the doctor or a health clinic, and if you want to do some research on your own (always a good idea), check out, where you can find all kinds of fun and friendly STD facts.

'Ask Sydney' is penned by a Sonoma County resident. Inquire at

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.