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Past My Sell-By Date?


1st November 2017

Dear Sylvia 

I am in a bit of a dilemma and wondered if you could help me. I am an elderly expat Brit living in the North Haute-Vienne and my wife has left me to go back to the UK as she couldn't stand the life here. I myself have no wish to go back, but I am becoming increasingly lonely. I'd like to meet someone new to share my remaining days with but don't know if anyone would have me.

I am not rich, although not destitute by any means and I own a small property. The problem is I am in my mid 70s and I suffer from a minor heart problem and diabetes. I have been thinking about online dating but I am rather overweight and well past my best-before date so not a great prospect for any prospective female.

I know some people lie about their age and health and post photographs of themselves when they were younger. I don't like the idea of doing that but feel it is my only chance of meeting someone. What is your opinion about that? Do you think it's worth a try?

Lonesome Old Guy, Rochechouart

Sylvia Says:

Dear Lonesome

Thank you for your recent letter stating that you are lonely and intend to spend your twilight years in the Haute Vienne in France. 

There is no shame in seeking to share your life with a suitably affable and compatible companion of a similar age. However, the practicalities of a senior person finding that special someone require making the effort and putting yourself 'out there', i.e., letting others in your position know that you are available. 

Try and avoid the self-deprecation theme that you have adopted in your letter. If you don't believe in yourself, no-one else will. You sound like a kind, lovable person with much to offer and there are plenty of lovable souls out there who want the same thing as you. 

If you choose an Internet dating agency over local singles clubs and various other social outlets that cater for single people, just be yourself. State your age and post a current photograph, etc. Wear a warm smile and don't labour your health issues. The ones you have described are common to the older generation and it would be highly unusual if your prospective dates didn't have their own health problems and insecurities.

I would most certainly recommend that you give it a try, and that if you are successful in meeting that special someone, there is enormous pleasure and many rewards to be derived from sharing your life and achieving a sense of purpose with a like-minded person.

Do not be disheartened if doesn't happen for you straight away. Give it your best shot and acknowledge that there is always a possibility that if it doesn't happen, it's not meant to be.

Good luck!

Sincerely, Sylvia.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

11 December 2017

Dear Sylvia

My wife and I married when we were both 20 and have been together now for over 50 years. People congratulate us as they think we are the perfect couple, but actually, we can't stand the sight of each other. We stayed together initially for the sake of the children and now we are just stuck with each other.

I keep thinking I should strike out on my own and try to make the most of my remaining years, but then the more sensible side of me thinks that would be madness at my time of life. What do you think? Should I or shouldn't I?

Wavering of the Limousin

Dear Wavering 

Thank you for your letter concerning your dilemma as to whether you should stay in your current circumstances in a marriage that has run its course or take the huge leap of striking out on your own.

You have not disclosed your age but I would guess that you are in your late 60s or early 70s. There are other factors which are essential to your momentous decision, of course. Are you in good health? Are you in a position to be financially independent from your wife? We all know that life is much easier with two incomes. Have you discussed your personal  feelings with your wife? Perhaps she has similar thoughts. Your domestic situation is by no means unique. 

Is there a chance that you could achieve this new lifestyle choice in a measured and amicable way, or is your wife unaware of your longings and ticking over contentedly in her comfort zone? This could have unwelcome implications for you if she is not aware and have a major bearing on your decision. But I think you know all this.

My advice to you, having considered all the above factors, is to 'go for it' if you feel you can achieve a happier lifestyle. We only have one life to live and it would be a shame to further waste your remaining years in a loveless marriage, both for yourself and your wife. 

Good luck in your decision making.

Sincerely Sylvia

Inflexible Parents

6th December 2017

Dear Sylvia

I am 16 years old, I live on a council estate and my parents are very strict. I won a scholarship to a posh grammar school which is situated on the other side of town, over an hour away by bus, and all my friends live over that side. We all belong to a church youth club which meets from 7 'til 11 on a Thursday evening.

For me to get there for 7, I have to catch the quarter-to-6 bus, and as my parents insist that I am home by quarter-past-10 I have to leave the club at 9 o'clock when it is in full swing to be home in time. If I am not there is hell to pay. I have tried to explain the problem to my parents and pleaded with them to change their mind and allow me some leeway but they won't listen. What can I do?

Unhappy Teenager

Dear Unhappy Teenager

I sympathise with the rigid discipline that your parents have imposed  concerning your leisure activities. Of course you are unhappy. Your parents would no doubt have been very  proud when you were accepted as a pupil at the grammar school; however, they are apparently unwilling to make any concession to your predicament of being an out-of-catchment pupil .

As you have explained, with the bus journey adding an extra two hours plus to your school day, you are then faced with the same set of circumstances when you try to pursue a social life with your friends.

Social activities are vital to a healthy teenager's development, as any responsible parent should accept, and this has caused a miserable situation for you. If your parents are unable or unwilling to come to any kind of compromise concerning the difficulties you are experiencing, then the choices you face are bleak and stark. 

Your parents have brought about a situation in which everyone stands to lose. However, one must assume that they have your best interests at heart, albeit shockingly misguided, and this amounts to a callous disregard for your personal happiness and well-being.

I am not sure what you imply when you mention 'hell to pay' if you don't come home on time, and hope that your 'punishments' do not exceed acceptable boundaries, in which case you will need to contact an outside agency, but that would be a different matter entirely. Please advise me if this the case.

My advice to you in the practical sense would be to give up any thoughts of a social life, harsh as that may sound. Concentrate on your studies, concede to your parents' wishes in order to make your life bearable. In the longer term, once you are older and more independent, you will likely have to face up to leaving the family home prematurely and suffer the consequences of all that that entails. 

Good luck.

Sincerely Sylvia

Far Flung Family

6th December 2017

Dear Sylvia

My husband and I are expat Brits and have lived in France for 20 years. We love it and intend to spend our remaining time here. Our children, all originally born in the UK, are scattered all over the world in Canada, the US and Australia. We remain in contact through the Internet but the odd Skype session doesn't replace regular human contact, and as time goes by, there is less to talk about and we feel we are becoming more and more cut off from them and our seven young grandchildren, all of whom were born abroad and we have never met.

We are retired on small British pensions and with the constant sterling/euro exchange rate being so awful at the moment, we are finding it increasingly difficult to manage. We've always managed to send Christmas gifts before, but now we find that postage costs alone are prohibitive and this year we simply can't afford it. Naturally, we are worried that this will put even more distance between us. How can we maintain our relationship with our family without the distance between us becoming even greater?

Mr. and Mrs. Slater, Charente

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Slater 

Thank you for sharing your concerns in respect of the long distance relationship you have with your global family. It is a fact of modern life unfortunately that despite the advances in communication technology, there is no substitute for regular personal interaction between yourselves, your children and grandchildren. 

As the years go by, you will inevitably feel increasingly alienated due not least to the various circumstances that have arisen, as mentioned in your letter. Even if you could afford the long distance international visits involved, they would be spasmodic and exhausting for you both.

I can only suggest that you continue with your current methods of communication, keep the home fires burning so to speak, and keep contact regular at all costs. Is it not possible for just one of you to visit at a time, as this will halve the cost and give you peace of mind that all is well at home?

Nothing is permanent and life is constantly evolving. Stay optimistic, positive and interested. Many families are dysfunctional, fractured and toxic. Such families I am sure would dearly love to have caring parents and grandparents such as yourselves. 

Be patient. As the grandchildren reach the age of majority they will very likely want to come to England and spend long periods with you, either studying or on a year out. And, of course, your own adult children will likely want to do the same.

So in the meantime, watch this space.

Amitiés, Sylvia 

Stay Well Clear

18 November 2017

Dear Sylvia

I am seeking advice re two of my oldest friends. A friend (male) has recently undergone surgery of a most intimate nature and my other friend Dorcas went to visit him at his residence in Brighton. Whilst there, the cat Godiva scurried into the guest room where the cupboard door had been left ajar, presumably accidentally, as what poor Dorcas found there was quite shocking. All manner of women's undergarments of a tawdry kind, some clearly showing signs of wear were there upon the shelves.

Poor Dorcas fretted all the way back to Maidenhead as to whether to say anything. Fortunately, she has me to turn to, but this requires careful handling and I am hoping for a sensitive and swift reply.

I do have a small concern of my own regarding talcum powder, but this takes precedence.

Eustacia Smith

PS Eustacia Smith is not my real name but I want to remain anonymous.

Sylvia Says:

Dear Eustacia

Thank you for sharing your friend Dorcas' shocking discovery of her close personal friend's new lifestyle choice, albeit by accident.

You have given me to understand that this man's metamorphosis could be directly linked to his recent intimate surgical intervention. Notwithstanding, that is not for her (or you) to pass judgment on; the man is a free agent in a free society. And may I suggest that the lifestyle changes could likely have been his motivation for undergoing the surgery in the first place?

Your friend must respect and accept this if she wishes to continue the relationship in any way, shape or form. He has not indicated that he wishes to discontinue it, so my advice to her would be to 'go with it'. It could be just a phase, but that is his business entirely. 

I am unclear as to what part, if any, in this unusual situation she expects you to play. My advice to you is stay well clear and provide a shoulder to cry on if needed. I would strongly advise your friend against any attempt at control or emotional blackmail as this is morally wrong and always ends in tears. 

Sincerely Sylvia.

PS  if you wish to discuss the unrelated matter of the talcum powder, please supply a stamped addressed envelope.

Negative Feelings

Dear Sylvia

I have a very good friend who I have known for many years and who has been a rock to me in times of difficulty. I am divorced and she has never married. We neither of us have children or any close family and have spent every Christmas together since 2004 when I was separating from my then husband.

However, all of a sudden, everything has changed because she has found a boyfriend. Suddenly she has no time for me and she now is talking about moving in with him. It looks as though I will have to spend Christmas on my own this year and I am becoming increasingly depressed at the prospect.

In addition, I will have no one to go on holiday with next year. I should be pleased for her but instead I feel jealous of her happiness and angry that she has pushed me aside. How can I come to terms with these negative feelings that I am experiencing?

Depressed, Dordogne

Dear Depressed

I have read your recent letter outlining your sense of betrayal and abandonment by your best friend with some concern. You have obviously enjoyed a mutually compatible relationship in the past. However, the introduction of a new male companion by your erstwhile friend has inevitably caused your feelings of obsolescence and of being surplus to requirements .

It is never a good idea to invest too much in one individual for all your emotional and social requirements. This is something that most of us have to come to terms with during our schooldays and adolescence.

There is a wider picture here. You can display your understandable feelings of hostility, which will result in a backlash of defensive behaviour and likely result in the cutting off of all contact. This will, of course, only add to your mutual  resentment and exacerbate your depression. Or you can take a more benevolent view of the current situation as it stands, show that  you are happy for them both, and make it clear that you wish to continue to be part of their lives, even if you do not. This will be better for both parties concerned.

Take charge of your own life and seek out your inner independent persona. This will likely be a painful adjustment, but over time will achieve a far more satisfactory outcome for you than your current one. Trust me.

Sincerely Sylvia.

Is Age An Object?

26th October 2017

Lack of Civility

27th October 2017

A Test of Faith

31st October 2017

The Borrower

22nd October 2017

Wilting Under The Strain

24th October 2017

Lack of Harmony

26th October 2017

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 © 2017 S. A. Hounsell

Please note that whilst serious and constructive advice is offered on this page, Sylvia's Perception not a professional advice service. The name 'Sylvia' is a writer's pen name. Advice is offered in good faith but if you are suffering from depression or other serious problem, psychological or otherwise, please seek advice from suitably-qualified professionals elsewhere. For further information, a list of helplines can be found on the Counselling In France website, or at Anglo Info.

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