Dear Boots: July 2024

By Anna Mitchael

Questions from Deep in the Heart of Texas

Dear Boots,

When I got a pool I wasn’t planning on it becoming a neighborhood pool, but every time I’m ready to go for a dip, people are knocking on the fence to come in. How do I put some boundaries in place without hurting anybody’s feelings?

— From, Deborah, Waco, TX

Dear Deborah,

Thank goodness I’m not a therapist. If I were, at the first mention of boundaries, I’d probably be laying out a plan for healthy relationship building. This might include lots of conversation. Perhaps observation of how folks in the neighborhood are taking to the plan, measured on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is “aggressively chopping tree limbs in the front yard with an ominously large ax” and 10 is “genuinely waving hello with love in your heart and a banana bread loaf to drop on their doorstep.”

Plans like that take time, Deborah. Since I’m just an advice columnist, I’m freed up to tell you this: There are only 90 days of summer. That’s 90 days you can spend with the curtain-twitcher from the cul-de-sac hanging out on your favorite unicorn floaty, or not. Ninety days you can wonder if the minivan full of kids that unloaded at your back gate all sucked down extra-large lemonades right before they came, or not.

Hard, sometimes uncomfortable, boundaries are the basis of solid neighbor relationships. Always have been, always will be. We have to be able to kick them out of our house — and pool — whenever we want. Otherwise they become family.

— Love, Boots

Dear Boots,

My teenager wants to bleach his hair. I keep telling him it’s not as easy as it sounds but he insists that because it’s his head of hair, he can do what he wants. Thoughts?

— From, Joey, Robinson, TX

Dear Joey,
I can’t read your question without feeling something strange and wholly unexpected: a deep and powerful longing to return to those teenage years. Not long enough to get worried about what people think about me. Or find myself saddled with Algebra II homework. But oh, to have a day of thinking: Sure, for decades people have been bleaching their own hair and botching it up to the tune of an expensive emergency trip to an actual hair salon to fix it, but I am going to be the one who beats those odds. Me and this 2-gallon tub of bleach? We have a date with destiny.

My middle-aged brain doesn’t work like that anymore. Somewhere along the way I picked up a case of the What’s Likelys that I can’t seem to shake. Any time I have a thought that feels even remotely risky, a What’s Likely scenario attaches itself like a caboose to the idea, spoiling the fun, and almost always knocking it out of contention for manifestation in this here reality.

Just last week I came upon some very delicious-looking sushi in our refrigerator. The craving that came over me for that sushi was fierce. I rue the sad soul who would try to step between a mama bear and her raw fish.

But then, of course, as I’m reaching for the plastic tray, I see the expiration date has already come and gone. Almost instantaneously, a thought comes chugging in, chanting, I think you shan’t, I think you shan’t, I think you shan’t. It suggests What’s Likely is that I will end up with food poisoning and be unable to get out of bed for days, ruing every breath I take.

Once that What’s Likely locomoted through, I couldn’t get my hand out of the fridge fast enough, and I was in such a rush, I didn’t even think to throw the container away. Of course who came in right behind me but my husband, who, as a rule, takes expiration dates as loose suggestions. He ate every one of those delicious sushi pieces, enjoyed himself thoroughly in the process, and felt like a million bucks the whole next day.

We know What’s Likely going to happen to your teenager’s head. Chances are good the hair will turn orange or splotchy, and in the process many materials and surfaces in his bathroom might be irrevocably ruined. But is this particular scenario one you want to embed a What’s Likely about? There are times What’s Likelys can actually save us from harm. Other times they are sticker burrs on what would otherwise be more of a freewheeling, maybe-it-screws-up-but-maybe-it’s-awesome-so-let’s-see-what-the-day-brings mentality.

Adulthood is a comin’, and it’s got so many cabooses chugging along with it. I vote on this issue, you let his head be his head, and then, in your monthly budget, catalog the emergency trip to the hair salon as his date with destiny.

— Love, Boots

Dear Boots,

What are you doing for the 4th this year?

— From, Michaela, Waco, TX

Dear Michaela,

Anything but a rain dance.

— Love, Boots