Sense & Sensitivity

DEAR HARRIETTE: My sister and I have a relatively large age gap between us. (I am 15 years older than she is.) For her ninth birthday, she received a dog! This particularly resonates with me because I was always aware she'd grow up the more spoiled one. During my high school years, I was a baby sitter who had no fun, and my little sister will be able to go to all of the parties. I always begged my parents for a pet but never even got a fish. I would have been content with any kind of critter, but my 9-year-old sister getting a puppy seems like a slap in the face to me. When my parents told me, I told them it seemed out of character for them to gift her with a dog when they didn't get me anything, and they told me she is more responsible than I was! How can you judge a child on how responsible they are? We were all children once, and it bothers me that my parents think so little of me.

I didn't want to start a fight over this, but I want to draw the line with my parents when it comes to talking about how much better my sister is than me. How do I tell them to stop treating her like she's so mature without seeming bitter? — Older Older Sister, Spokane, Washington

DEAR OLDER OLDER SISTER: Parents of multiple children, especially those with big age gaps, learn from their experiences with their older children and often course-correct along the way. Unfortunately, this can look like unfairness when the older child witnesses the younger one enjoying privileges previously considered unimaginable. If possible, rather than being angry with your parents, give them credit for learning. They are different now than when you were young, thanks to what they learned from you.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Much older guys constantly hit on me, and I always end up in relationships with older men. These men are at least 10 years older than I am, and I end up seeing them because no one else in my age range is trying to be in a relationship with me. I am 20 years old, and I don't understand why men closer to my age do not find me appealing. I don't wear much makeup at all, and I consider myself to be pretty up-to-date with fashion trends. Although I appear as youthful as possible, guys in their early to mid-20s stay away from me. I don't think I look much older than I am. How can I stop attracting these types of men? I want to date someone youthful, not 15 years older than me.

— Too Young for Me, Detroit

DEAR TOO YOUNG FOR ME: It's time for a self-assessment. Make a list of the qualities that you like in a man. Be specific. Then look at the men you have dated to see if any of them matches your profile. Are you attracted to older men without realizing it? That could be true. You might also simply be mature for your age — not so much how you look, but how you behave. While 10 years seems like an enormous gap now, it actually is a comfortable gap for many couples. Let the qualities guide you in finding a partner, not the man's age.

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