So, at last, here’s the first letter to Uh, Artie?

Actually, it’s a current letter to Dear Margo, Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter.

I’m borrowing it for a practice run for Uh, Artie?

So here we go.

Dear Margo:

My best friend just returned home from a temporary
one-year contract job out of town to find that his wife, who is nine
months pregnant, has been sleeping with her boss (30 years her senior,
I might add).

He is devastated, unemployed and quickly seeing
everything around him fall to pieces. When he asked his 5-year-old
daughter to describe this man, she referred to him as "Mommy’s

The baby is due soon, and my friend is (smartly) having a
paternity test done. If it’s not his child, what advice would you have?

He has no family where he lives — everyone is related to her. But
there’s a 5-year-old girl he adores and cannot leave.

My gut tells me
to encourage him to move to a new city and start a new life if the baby
is not his. It would just be too difficult to stay where all the
players live in the same small town.

— Trying To Help My Friend

The Professional Response
Here’s Dear Margo‘s reply:

Dear Try:

A paternity test would almost be redundant, presuming
there were no furloughs, though it certainly would be useful in
relieving your friend of child-support payments for the new baby. I am
assuming a divorce is in the works.

As for your wishing to be
supportive, offering your shoulder will be most appreciated. One thing
you might try to get across to him is that, even though all her
relatives are in this small town, he did nothing wrong. She did.

sounds like employment will be the determining factor in the outcome
for your friend. If he needs to travel or live elsewhere, he will do it
and find a way to manage visitation. Should he want to remain in the
small town, providing there is work there, I predict he can find a way
to make it work.

— Margo, manageably

I See It Differently
Margo is an acknowledged advice columnist, but Uh, Artie? would reply differently:

Uh, "Try"?

Here’s my first advice: butt out. This really isn’t your business. Stay out of other people’s problems. Leave it to the professionals, like counselors, clergy, and advice columnists. Don’t be an amateur advice columnist (like me).

If this were your problem and your wife were up the spout with the seed of her boss, I’d say this:

I’m against adultery. It would probably end my marriage. (Or not.)

But wait a giant minute, Mr. Wronged.

Whatever did you expect would happen when you left for a year? Don’t tell me that a year isn’t long because this was "contract" and "temporary" employment.

I recognize that you might have had to leave town. Perhaps there was no employment in your town. And your wife and child were otherwise required to stay in their hometown. I’m sorry about that.

But, even if necessity drove your move, there’s a basic fact: You left town. Now you suffer and look to place blame on the one you left behind? I’d cut you some slack if you were deployed in the active military. Otherwise, this is 99% your fault: you left a wife who is holding down a job — and caring for your five-year-old child — with no hands-on help from you — for a year — and you think you can make any claim on her?

Be honest: you took the risk and left home. Part of the risk of leaving is extramarital rutting. I wouldn’t agree to separate from Mrs. Isaac for a year, unless she enlisted in the U.S. Army. For now, if she’s at the dinner table, I’m doing the dishes.

Marriage can be between any two adults, but it is surely supposed to be between two people who live in the same city.

So, what if this happened to me?

If I left town for a year, I would fully expect my wife to seek and receive frequent carnal satisfaction. That’s only natural, whatever our marriage contract says. My absence would leave an unfilled void.

And I would hope, for safety’s sake, it would be with one consistent lover, rather than, say, the entire office.

And if it were schtupping she sought, I would hope she would find it with her boss, because it might result in economic gains, which I wanted enough to leave town for a yearlong job.

And, frankly, I’d be glad the Designated Hitter is 30 years older than she, because when I return to the Big Bed, I would, in coital contrast, seem like Mr. Vital Boombah. Hoo-haw!

I’d forgive my wife, if I could. And she’d forgive me for leaving, if she could. If we couldn’t, the marriage is over.

So, what about the new kid? The kid needs a father. Here’s a chance to love two children, no matter what their DNA.

Thanks for writing and best of luck with your, er, "friend."

— Artie

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