Ask Amy: Advice for the Real World

DEAR AMY: I am 47 years old, attractive and in decent physical shape. I receive compliments from many men of a variety of ages.

I have just met a new man who is 54, and we are very attracted to each other (not only in the physical sense). We have another date coming up and, although I would love to become intimate with him, I am very self-conscious about my body.

I feel that I may not measure up to women he has been with in the past. I know that I am a very nice, intelligent, sweet, attractive woman, but I still have hang-ups about not meeting a man’s expectations, and worse yet, being compared to other women he has slept with. Any tips on how I can get past this?

I really like this man, and don’t want my hang-ups to ruin the possibility of something wonderful. — Still Learning

DEAR STILL LEARNING: Your own feelings about your body don’t really have all that much to do with your potential partner and his previous relationships with other women, or at least that’s my theory.

There will always be someone hotter, younger or simply not you to compare yourself against.

But one advantage of middle age is that you get to be yourself in every regard, and, aside from a reasonable determination to maintain your body and mind’s health and fitness, you should go forth muttering Popeye’s dictum: “I am what I am ... .”

Sexual compatibility seems to exist within its own spectrum, and if you two are sexually compatible, neither of your body shapes is going to matter much. Please realize that this situation is nerve-racking for everyone. Unless your guy is a total hottie, wouldn’t he be worried, too? That’s why a fairly frank and honest conversation where you (at least) reveal that you are nervous is in order. If you can’t talk about sex before having sex, then you’re probably not ready to go there.

DEAR AMY: My father married a wonderful woman who brought a young son into the family. My siblings and I are from 10 to 18 years older than this stepbrother, and have never become particularly close.

After all these years, I continue to struggle with jealousy about how my stepbrother has been raised and the different expectations my father has had for him.

We were all raised to be self-sufficient, with the expectation that we would finish college and be independent. We would never consider asking for financial help because of my father’s values-based and budget-minded philosophy.

Yet this stepbrother got married and had children without being able to support them. They have moved in with my father and stepmother and have taken over their home while my stepbrother tries to find work.

Their car, food and extras are all covered by the parents.

How do I get over this jealousy without ruining my relationship with my father and stepmother? My approach has been to not let them know how I feel and to be grateful for what I have, but it continues to eat at me (and my siblings). — Jealous

DEAR JEALOUS: Your father raised you to be highly functioning and self-sufficient, and you are. Would you like to be like your stepbrother: unemployed, unable to support your own family and living with your father? I assume not.

So I think what you describe as “jealousy” is really resentment.

One way to discuss this situation would be to ask your father and stepmother if they are happy with things as they currently are in his household. Can they afford to support these extra family members and still have money for retirement?

Their choices could have a direct impact on you and your siblings. If your father is bled dry by these other family members, then this self-reliant man might be forced to depend on you for support in later years. You should respectfully register your own concerns, while understanding that your father is free to make his own choices. It sounds as if your stepbrother is to be pitied, not envied.

DEAR AMY: I can’t believe the lame response you gave to “Lonely,” the middle-aged woman who didn’t have any friends. Buy a dog? How about volunteering at a soup kitchen or going to church? It is by giving that we receive. — Disappointed

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: First of all, I would never recommend that anyone “buy” a dog, but that they adopt one, preferably an older animal. Dogs are wonderful companions and promote interaction with others. Your suggestions are great.

Contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@tribpub.com. Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or like her on Facebook. Dickinson’s memoir, “The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them” (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.