Amy's Sloppy Seconds

Dear Dategirl,I just ended a nine-year relationship and I'm starting to date again, but am having a problem. My parents and two brothers all live in the same area as me, so it doesn't take long before my date meets my family.I've never smoked, drank, or done drugs, and I have no criminal record. My two brothers, however, are alcoholics and convicted felons. They're both on probation and live with my parents. I try to keep all this hush-hush, at least in the early part of the courtship, but somehow it always comes up.My mother is an alcoholic and has dementia, so if she's drunk and/or her dementia's acting up, she says and does things she doesn't remember and/or denies. When my brothers are drinking, they become argumentative and aggressive. All this drama scares off my dates, even though I've done nothing wrong! I try to explain that I'm not like my brothers and that I won't let them harm her. Ironically, my dad is a retired chief of police and a graduate of the FBI Academy. How can I convince potential girlfriends that just because my brothers are criminals doesn't mean I'm going to be?—Golden Child of a Dysfunctional Family

Know what's annoying? Being second choice. See, dear readers, Golden Child first asked this question of syndicated columnist "Ask Amy." I know this because he was too lazy to cut and paste, instead forwarding to me the original e-mail he wrote her. I guess Amy wasn't quick enough. But even though you wounded my little ego, I'm going to answer your question because I love me some crazy.Why the hell are you bringing women you're just barely dating to hang out with your violent, drunken, criminal brothers and your wack-ass alky mom? Sure, maybe it's not carjacking or rape, but exposing a nice lady to that kind of deranged chaos sounds pretty criminal to me.Unless you're serious, I recommend keeping family and flame far apart. I've been seeing my Large Greek for five years now, and when two Christmases ago his sister told me that I'd gained weight, I turned around and told my boy that he could do holidays on his own from then on. Only recently have I lifted that ban. Who needs to be insulted by other people's families? That's what our own are for. And compared to what you're putting your dates through, the fatty comment was a minor transgression. If the Greek's brothers had been having drunken knife fights, I'd never have made the trip to see them.Everyone has things about them that they wish they could change. I have screwy teeth. You have a fucked-up family, and you just need to figure out how to finesse it. When a new girl asks about your background, there is a right way to tell her and a wrong way. By jumping the gun and assuring the woman that you're nothing like your felonious family, you sound defensive. Here's how it's done:Hottie: So where'd you grow up? What's your family like?You: My family is pretty nuts—let's not even talk about it.Hottie: Aw, but you're so sweet! They must not be all bad!You: Believe me, they are. But let's talk about you instead—where'd you grow up?By maintaining an air of injured mystery, you bring out the caretaker that lurks within every woman, no matter how hard she tries to fight it. By following that up with a question about her, you're showing her you're that rarest of creatures—the man who actually listens to his date. And that will get you

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