Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas

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I'm 17 and still live at home, but whenever a guy comes round to pick me up for a date, my mum always flirts with him. Sometimes I ask friends round for coffee after we've been out for the night but if she hears us, then Mum always comes down in her dressing gown and starts chatting to any of the guys I've brought back, and making sexy remarks. I really hate it, but I don't want to say anything because I know she's lonely after my dad left two years ago, but it's really embarrassing. What can I do? Yours sincerely, Jerry

Virginia says... In the past it was much easier for parents to know their place. They'd been brought up with a totally different set of social values to their children, and the culture they'd experienced in their youth was a world apart from that of their offspring. When I was your age, most of my friends' parents would no more have tried to be friends with my friends than fly. As for my own friends, enter one of my parents and it was time to leap up from their chairs and start talking politely about the weather and how nice the garden was looking and that they hoped they weren't making too much noise. The generations simply had nothing in common at all.

But more recently, the generations have so much in common that it's much more difficult for parents to realise that, despite their apparent similarities, they are still actually a different species to their children. More often than not, their children and their friends might even be wearing, albeit in a retro way, clothes of their own generation, and even listening to the same music. Certainly smoking the same drugs.

So, faced with a gang of people who appear, to your mother, like young versions of her contemporaries, it must be very difficult for her to understand, particularly if she's lonely – as she sounds – that her presence is really not wanted.

You could tell her, of course. But how can you do it without causing pain? Remember it will be terribly hurtful for her to be told basically that she's just too old and that you don't want her around. There's no nice way to say that, however much you doll it up with "Don't take this personally" and "But Mum I do love you".

My answer would simply be avoidance. Meet your boyfriends outside your home. Don't have your friends back. Go to someone else's home, a home where the parents know their place. Or, if you do have friends back, make sure it's on a night when you know your mum's going to be out really late.

Your mother has got to get an interesting social life of her own. Join a dating agency. Join some sort of club for people her own age. But it's loneliness that's going to drive her to it. She's certainly not going to feel inspired to make an effort to find it if there's one happening for her downstairs a couple of nights a week, all ready and waiting for her to swan in and out of as she wishes, without her even having to bother to change out of her jim-jams. Hard words, I know, but true.


Readers say...

Reassure her

Your mother sees you growing up and it forces her to confront the fact she's getting older. She's trying to prove to herself she is still young, I believe the best way to deal with the situation is give lots of reassurance remind her of how beautiful she is. Once reassured she won't feel as if she has something to prove.

Paul Hamer by email


Stop her now

My mum used to do this when I lived at home. She eventually managed to persuade one of my exes to sleep with her! She must be told firmly that this behaviour towards much younger men cannot be tolerated. She should join an internet dating site and meet more age-appropriate men.

Name and address supplied


She's worried for you

You may be misinterpreting your mother's actions. She is concerned that you might get involved in a relationship you will later regret, so the flirting is likely to hide the fact she is assessing. Tell your mother all about your boyfriends and explain to her you would not do anything stupid. Once you have gained your mother's confidence she will more than likely leave you alone.

Name and address supplied


Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia, I've been having an affair with a woman for a couple of months now. It's been fine – nothing too serious, but I've become fond of her. A couple of weeks ago she told me she was married but that she and her husband have an open marriage. This didn't worry me too much, because I wasn't serious about her – but now she's said that she wants me to meet her husband and that her husband wants to meet me. She suggests we all go out to dinner together. I feel uneasy. What do you think? Yours sincerely, Chris

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