Problem: Help Me Become a Non-Pathetic Empty Nester

Our advice columnist to the rescue

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Our only child will be leaving for college in the fall. She is easing the transition by going out constantly and refusing to help us with the DVR, saying it’s time we become more independent. Please tell me: What’s next? How do my husband and I keep from becoming pathetic old people who talk baby talk to the dog? What will this do to my marriage? My job requires me to be in touch with what’s going on in the culture, but my own personal youth consultant is leaving me. Please don’t mention how much sex we can have now. Please.

— E.Y., Bethesda, Md.


Dear E.Y.,

The desolation engendered by the departure of your child for college can be profound, particularly when you rely on that child to translate the world around you. When I need to know the meaning of words like “turnt” and “ratchit,” I have more or less accessible sources of information. But these trustworthy sources of slang now believe that the world outside their home holds attractions more alluring than helping their father manage his iTunes account.

Until the arrival of a grandchild, hobbies will be crucial. Marijuana and board games are two options. Many couples begin to realize that their new freedom has redeeming features. Which brings me to the subject you don’t want me to mention: In many ways, the empty-nest years resemble the newlywed, pre-kids years. Sex at unusual times and in unsuitable rooms has its appeal. An empty house can mean exciting kitchen sex. (This is not something I would engage in personally, because of my fear of blenders.) Once, your goal was to prevent your offspring from having sex in the basement. Now you can try it yourself! You may need pharmaceutical intervention to achieve what formerly occurred spontaneously, but this will not be the worst humiliation. The worst humiliation will occur when you try to mimic a Cialis commercial and end up breaking your hip in a claw-foot bathtub.


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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/04/whats-your-problem/358647/