June’s Attic

June—her nom de Cleaver—is a writer, editor, and ethicist and the author of Cleaver Magazine’s advice column, Ask June. She also is, or has been: a lawyer, policy analyst, polyglot, manager, singer, activist, silversmith, and adjunct graduate-school instructor in social work. More important, she is a world-class listener. Since she was about five, people on park benches, airplanes, buses, quiet woodland paths, supermarket and restroom checkout lines, telemarketing and tech support calls, and even, once, a tollbooth on I-95, have sought her advice on just about everything, from comma placement to wedding-day jitters. As with all agony aunts, June makes no warranties whatever about having any expertise or special knowledge, or whether the advice will be any good. But she does promise to try really hard and to answer in decent prose. As her lawyer-self would say: res ipsa loquitur; or, as June would say, the proof is in the pudding.

Explore June Cleaver’s attic for more answers to all problems punctuational, interpersonal, and philosophical. Got a question or feedback for June? Drop her a line. She entertains visitors at AskJune@Cleavermagazine.com.

Yesterday night my husband and I got into a big fight. This morning I found an enormous, perfectly ripe avocado in our crisper and instead of saving half of it for him, as I usually do when we have a finite amount of fruits and veggies, I ate the whole thing myself. Was I wrong? ... read more
I am five months pregnant. My partner and are both very happy about it. We have been together for several years and consider ourselves a stable couple. There is only one serious source of conflict right now: I gave up smoking a year ago when we decided to start trying to have a kid, and he still smokes. Lately the second-hand smoke has been making me sick to my stomach. He always goes out on ... read more
Dear June, The other day I called a local politician’s office to talk about an event they were hosting to sign people up for a senior discount program. The staffer who answered the phone chatted with me for a minute or two about one of the politician’s favorite causes, which I also support. Things were going fine until I mentioned that I was calling about the senior sign-up. “For a loved one?” she asked. As ... read more
Dear June,   I read your letter from the woman whose date stole a bottle of rosemary from her cabinet, and I thought you could help me with my problem. Recently I went on a first date with a guy some friends set me up with. He took me to dinner at a very nice restaurant. Everything was going pretty well for a first date. I thought he was cute, if not super handsome, and ... read more
Dear June, In most ways I am a good mother, wife, and friend, but I realize that I am a bit critical and nitpicky. Even when I make an effort not to, I find myself suggesting that my (adult) daughter’s hair needs combing, or that my husband should stop starting every sentence with “So,” or that my weight-loss buddy should do more lifting and less swimming if she wants to see results. I really am ... read more
Dear June, So many people I know get depressed in the winter. Some of them take medicine, and some use special lamps to mimic sunlight. Although I do not especially like being cold, or walking home in the dark, winter has never really bothered me. But for the last few years I have been feeling sad and restless and wondering what it all means and so on as soon as winter ends and spring comes ... read more
The problem is that I just got into my dream school, with great financial aid. My boyfriend was accepted at some good colleges, but none of them are within 500 miles of my dream school. The other problem is that I am not even sure I want to stay with Allston. I still love him, I guess, but there are lots of days when I would just as soon not see him. I get bored ... read more
I am in a writers’ workshop—some fiction, mostly poets—with a total membership of twelve, nine or ten of whom usually show up for our biweekly meetings. We have been meeting, with just a few changes in membership as people come to town, or leave town, or lose interest, for almost ten years now. One of our members, a founding member actually, has been creating problems for us because she almost always monopolizes the conversation. Ivy, ... read more
Dear June, You know what makes me mad? People who say “diminishment.” What’s wrong with good old “diminution?” And now I am seeing “abolishment,” too, for God’s sake. What is the matter with people? I know this seems like a small thing. Okay, it is a small thing. But language can make a big difference: look at that dairy farm that would have saved $10 million dollars if they had used the Oxford comma! ... read more
Dear June, My father died several years ago. Mom and I have always been close, partly because I am the only daughter—I have three brothers. Since Dad died, Mom and I have become even closer, talking on the phone almost every night and sharing confidences. She never talked to me about her love life, but I just assumed this was because she didn’t have any. It turns out that I was very wrong. Since about ... read more
Dear June, I teach English at a public high school, where I am the advisor to the writing club. For a few years, including during the summer, I have also been meeting informally every week or so with a group of the most motivated current and former club members to write for a couple of hours. I have been available to read their work, brainstorm ideas, critique, etc., all pro bono. I love their enthusiasm ... read more
Dear June, My mother has cancer and is unlikely to live out the month. She and my dad (who has dementia and is not part of this equation) belong to a devout and strict religious denomination, in which my siblings and I were raised. The last time I saw her she told me, and apparently she has also told everyone else in the family and half the nurses in her personal-care facility, that she will ... read more
Dear June, This is the most minor of problems, but to me it is a recurring annoyance. My topic is tea! I am a tea drinker, and nobody in this coffee- and now beer-obsessed country seems to know anything about it. The “better” restaurants and cafes are the worst. The greasy spoons and fast-food places may only offer two kinds of not-so-great tea—regular and decaf—but at least those are real, unflavored black teas, not some ... read more
I am growing more and more upset at the level of vitriol and vulgarity in political discourse, if you even want to call it discourse, these days. At the same time, I can’t help feeling happy and as if “our side” has scored a point when I read about a really good insult. Daylin Leach made my heart leap the other day when he called Trump a “fascist loofa-faced shit-gibbon. ” Lately I have been ... read more
Jean-Michel is a music professor. He sometimes writes reviews, and he gets free thickets to things. Yesterday he called me and said he had two tickets to the symphony for next Saturday night. When he told me the program and soloists, I said, very sincerely: “That sounds fabulous! Thank you!” I was just about to add that my husband and I would be thrilled to have the tickets when he said: “Great! I’ll pick you ... read more
My husband “Albert” has stage-four cancer. He has been given no more than six months to live, and possibly much less. So far he has been able to do some work in his home studio, but he tires easily and is starting to look quite frail. He has been very brave and, considering the circumstances, cheerful about the situation. I am glad to do almost anything I can to make things easier for him. But ... read more
After my initial shock wore off I found that I was very, very happy at the thought of being a mother. But Jeremy’s attitude is freaking me out. The absolutely first thing he said when I told him was: “I don’t want you to think that this means I’ll marry you.” This response devastated me for a lot of reasons. It seems ominous that this was the very first thing he thought of, not the ... read more
My husband likes to tell people that he pulls his weight at home and does his share of the family chores and daily housework. The problem is that he always seems to do the jobs I actually like to do, and leaves the less pleasant, usually harder, jobs for me. I will come downstairs after a shower and he will say: “Honey, I just wrote little personal messages on the Christmas cards—now if you can ... read more
Dear June, ...I am troubled and, although I haven’t yet spoken to her about it, a bit angry that, without consulting me, my wife decided to put all her art-therapy earnings in a separate bank account. The account where my salary gets deposited is a joint account, and has been since before we were married. So is our small savings account, all of which is either money from my earnings or sale proceeds from a ... read more
Dear June, Last week we went to a dinner party for ten, hosted by our friends Barry and his husband James. Barry, who always makes the main course, is a good cook, but his meals are usually on the bland side. This time the linguini sauce was wonderful—if anything, it was a little challenging, a little edgy. Although I did notice that James was silent and looked a bit discomfited, everyone else at the table ... read more
Dear June, I think I am a thoughtful person, but I am really terrible at predicting who is going to give me gifts at Christmas and Hanukkah, and how lavish, or not, these gifts will be. Last year I was very embarrassed on more than on occasion. How does one respond in such cases? —Inept in Indiana ... read more
Dear June, My boyfriend “Eric” and I have been together for three years now, and neither of us ever talks about ever splitting up. But I have a problem: until about six months ago, or maybe a year, we had a normal, satisfying sex life, by which I mean that we found each other attractive and enjoyed ourselves making love. We had sex maybe twice a week, on average, and probably would have done it ... read more
Dear June, About a year ago a coworker and supposed friend of mine betrayed various confidences and otherwise badmouthed me to my supervisor. I am pretty sure this led to my termination. Even if it didn’t, I have no desire ever to see this man—let’s call him Nick—again, and have actually changed my life in a few small ways (go to a different Starbucks, blocked some mutual friends on Facebook, changed food coops) to make ... read more
I host our annual Thanksgiving feast. My family, who is a mixed bunch in terms of what we believe in, and how much, has adopted the secular Thanksgiving tradition where we go around the table and each person in turn says what they are thankful for. This year it was a total shit show. My uncle started off by saying he didn't have anything to be thankful for this year, because a bunch of morons ... read more
I am a graduate student (in Clinical Psychology, not English or Literature) and have been writing short stories and novellas off and on for about six years now. I worry about how caught up I get in my fiction. I find myself laughing out loud, or crying, or getting turned on, or becoming really angry. My own sex scenes have sent me off to find my partner, or take a cold shower, and one time ... read more
Do not give way to despair or complacency: the middle way, hope, is the only one that leads anywhere. Keep working for the causes you believe in, even if it may be hard to see the point just at present. Start working for new causes. Shore up causes that are threatened. Contribute as much time and money as you can. Remember to be grateful for all we have in this country and on this Earth, ... read more
Dear June, I am in a creative writing workshop with seven other people. One of the writers in my group, “Don,” just submitted a story that has a very similar plot line to one I showed the workshop a month ago, as well as the same rather unorthodox format. I was already annoyed with him because his previous story contained snippets of dialogue virtually identical to some in a novel chapter I had submitted a ... read more
I was completely amazed at my good luck at having found such an attractive, interesting, sexy, and thoughtful man to build a life with.... Or so I thought, until the other night when Jason tearfully and drunkenly confessed that he and one of the female housemates, Melissa, had slept together on and off for over two years, almost since he joined the household. At first he said that it ended when I moved in, but ... read more
Dear June, I had an abortion last spring. I was very sad about it, but do not regret it in the least, for many reasons. I decided not to tell my mother because she is a fundamentalist Christian and completely anti-abortion. But, thanks to one of my cousins who knew my then-boyfriend, Mom found out a few days after I had it. She actually came to my town—I work about 100 miles away from my ... read more
Dear June, Last year my husband died after a long illness. About a week before Carl died my closest friend, “Hepzibah” (ugliest pseudonym I could think of), who has known both of us for over twenty years, decided that she had to tell me how she and my husband had had a “torrid but short-lived” affair about seven years earlier. “Short-lived,” it turns out, means five months, and probably the second-worst five months of my ... read more
Dear June, My mother, who died about two months ago, left me a letter directing that I take her ashes and scatter them over the Pacific because she has very happy memories of her time in California before she met and married my father. My husband and I, and all of my three siblings for that matter, have always lived in New England, where she and my dad lived until his death in 2009. I ... read more
What is the statute of limitations concerning how long one is required to keep unwanted kitchen appliances that were received as gifts from dear friends and relatives? My apartment has a small kitchen and, while I do like to cook, I do not have space for mixers, juicers, bread makers, tortilla presses, pasta makers, tomato mills, french-fry cutters, electric indoor grills, gelato machines, panini presses, R2-D2 popcorn makers (yes, I’m a Star Wars fan and ... read more
My neighbor, Ira, isn’t a bad guy. He loans me his lawn mower from time to time, and his kids and mine are in the same class at school. His problem is that he is a world-class name dropper and a liar, and he just can’t seem to help himself. He just got back from Italy, and—wouldn’t you know—he had to tell me all about his private audience with Pope Francis, the new Lamborghini that ... read more
I have a new co-worker in my office. I like her a lot. She fits right into my circle of simpatico colleagues, and we’ve all been having a good time lunching together. Recently we were discussing childhood trauma in literature (I was recommending the Patrick Melrose novels) when she told us that her 8th grade teacher had been eaten by his pet ocelot. I burst out laughing, assuming this was meant to be comic relief, ... read more
Last week I went out on errand with my boyfriend. About ten minutes into the drive I realized that I did not have my smartphone. I was afraid that I might've dropped it on the way to the car, and wanted to turn around. He was driving, and told me that not to be silly, that I was always fussing about things like that, that would be a waste of time, and that he was ... read more
Dear June,  A delectable dilemma presented itself while we were sorting through the generations of accumulation in my father's storage unit. I immediately thought of you! In an old chest was a box of papers and photographs from my great grandmother's family. I knew my great grandmother, a crusty and opinionated octogenarian who was called by everyone "Great." She died when I was 8. My grandmother and great aunt had sorted through their mother's family ... read more
Dear June, I am in the middle of a ten-day job as dog-and-house sitter at a posh Manhattan apartment. I sleep at the apartment and play or hang out with Arlo, their standard poodle, every evening. I also walk him at least three times a day and generally take care of him. (I am a recent art school grad and spend most of my mornings at a ceramics studio downtown.) Arlo is a nice dog and, except for having ... read more
Dear June, I can never visit my parents, and can hardly ever even talk to them on the phone, without their bringing up my weight. I am a 29-year-old woman, active and fairly athletic, generally healthy, and successful at my job. I am in a relationship I find satisfying.  It is quite true that I struggle with my weight – it is at a level that my nurse practitioner considers “slightly obese,” which is something ... read more
Dear June, I’m a few years out of college and was lucky enough to land a decent job in my field, publishing. Recently, a new position opened up in my department, so of course I spread the word to my friends and former classmates—and now a college buddy of mine has landed the job. While I am delighted by this news, I am also nervous because I will be his immediate supervisor. We’ve been in ... read more
Dear June, I went to the wedding of a niece recently. As a "thank you" for the gift I gave them, I received a postcard. The card featured a photo from the wedding and a printed message, something like "Thank you for your wedding gift, we appreciate your thoughtfulness."  I found it odd to receive a thank you that was so impersonal. Is this the new trend? I have not attended a wedding in some time, ... read more
I am a middle-aged woman, currently living alone—my children are both launched, and their father decamped long before they did. Last month my beloved Lab, Vulcan, died suddenly of a heart attack just after his ninth birthday. It was a terrible shock to come home from work and find him lying there, and since then I have not been able to get over either the trauma of that moment or just not having him around. ... read more
Dear June, Maybe you don’t do politics, but every time I run into someone that I thought had a modicum of sense and they tell me they’re going to vote for Donald Trump, I find that I have no resources except to tell them they are stupid and are not thinking straight. I mean do they really think Donald Trump can deal with ISIS? The issues of the Middle East? Aren’t they terrified as I ... read more
Dear June, I am so angry. I live in a comfortable suburb, with old trees and well-kept houses. Most of us make a good living and work hard for our money. Now I find out that my next-door neighbor, a recent divorcee with two spoiled kids and no job, is putting on her designer clothes and driving her gas-guzzling SUV to the supermarket every week and paying with food stamps! One of my neighbors told ... read more
Dear June, My mother-in-law has never liked me, even though I helped her pampered son grow up for the past 35 years, and produced three reasonably presentable children for him (and grandchildren for her). Last month, Nanny-ma, as my kids call her, went to her eternal reward, no doubt still bitter about the trash that her Sonny decided to marry. Though I feigned grief for as long as I could, after a couple of weeks, ... read more
Dear June, Is there a polite way to let someone much younger in years know that they’re wrong? Especially in a heated political argument, where you want to avoid insulting the person’s lack of historical knowledge and perspective while encouraging his or her enthusiasm and passion? As you might gather, this has become quite the inter-generational predicament on popular social media forums during this election year, but it also crops up beyond politics and into ... read more
Dear June, My neighbor Alicia was just born to be a pain the butt. First she whined about my lilac tree, which she was sure was going to crash into her house. Since it was planted eight feet from the house and is only six feet tall, it would have been a mighty quiet crash. Her next big worry was the evergreens, which I planted near the property line, mostly for their natural beauty (but ... read more
Dear June, While my roommate was away for the weekend her betta fish died. Because I knew that she was very attached to the fish I went to the pet store and purchased a replacement that looks very similar to the dead fish and flushed the dead one away. My roommate is none the wiser. My boyfriend says that I should come clean and that my behavior has been patronizing and deceitful. I believe that ... read more
Dear June, I work in the billing department of an automobile dealership in the upper Midwest. One of my colleagues, a man I'll call Ernie, constantly refers to me as "Cupcake," something which I think is demeaning and degrading to me, especially since I just got my CPA. I told Ernie a couple of times to knock it off, but all he ever says is, "Lighten up, kid." Ernie is old enough to be my ... read more
Dear June, My husband and I have been together for ten years and married for six of them. We have a four-year-old daughter who is the center of our lives. Everything seemed fine. Sex seemed especially fine. But now he tells me that he has just discovered (or rediscovered, but he thought that stuff in college was only experimentation) that he is bisexual. He says that he loves me as much as ever and wants ... read more
Dear June, I have a second interview coming up for a job I want very much. I have been going over questions they are likely to ask me. I feel pretty comfortable talking about my experience and qualifications, but I also anticipate a question like: What would you say, or what would your employer say about you—positive and negative? The part of the question that I'm struggling with is the "negative." How do I talk ... read more
Dear June, To be honest, I feel stuck. I realized that I've been writing, studying, and publishing fiction for a decade, but I can't seem to take the next step. My short stories show up in the pretty-good literary magazines. I've had some near misses but haven't cracked into the first tier yet. Even though I've got several completed manuscripts, I can't seem to find an agent and I despair of ever seeing my name ... read more
Dear June, One of my coworkers, a middle-aged married man, regularly refers to his wife as an alcoholic in casual conversation. He uses the word as if it's a punch line in a joke, and for some reason, others tend to laugh. Sometimes, he elaborates by calling her a "mean drunk." I'm uncomfortable with this on so many levels, especially as individuals in my immediate family have struggled with alcoholism. I'm torn between telling him ... read more
Dear June, My wife and I have a three-year-old and a new baby. My parents, especially Dad, are very religious, but my wife and I are not at all observant. When our older son was about the age our baby is now, Dad and Mom offered to watch him one Sunday morning and acted somewhat tense and evasive when we came to pick him up. One of their neighbors eventually let slip that my folks ... read more

Ask June: Deceived in DC

Dear June, I recently attended an amateur theatrical production that featured a coworker. During the play, I realized that my coworker is "acting" in the office, as much as she was on the stage. Now I'm wondering whether to continue to be my authentic self or sign up for acting classes. What do you think? — Deceived in Delaware County ... read more