Annie's Mailbox: Week of June 14th

Annie's Mailbox

Dear Annie:

You get lots of questions about weddings after the fact. Here’s one that’s before the problem happens so you can advise us. We’re getting married in June. We sent out about 100 invitations, each with a note requesting a reply by June 1. So far, we’ve gotten only a handful of responses. As I’m writing to you, there’s still plenty of time, but what do we do come mid-June with people who haven’t responded one way or the other? Is it tactful to contact people, maybe pretending that we think their invitations got lost in the mail? If we do contact people, should we call or write a letter or e-mail or what? Obviously, the caterer needs to know the number of people, and we need to decide on the seating arrangements.

— Soon-to-Be Wed

Dear Soon-to-Be Wed: 

Congratulations on your nearing nuptials! It’s customary to start going down the guest list and calling anyone whose response you still haven’t received two days after the deadline. (So if there’s anyone you haven’t heard from by now, it’s time to get dialing.) Take note of guests’ meal preferences so you can get that information to the caterer ASAP, though the guests should still mail back their replies, too.

And let this be a reminder to anyone reading this who’s got an RSVP card gathering dust on the fridge. An anxious couple is awaiting your reply.

Dear Annie:

I was kind of disappointed that under reader pressure, you retracted your advice to “Miffed,” the jealous wife who objected to her husband’s platonic friendship with a female co-worker. I thought you had it right the first time.

Perhaps it is because I am a man that I sympathized with the husband, and perhaps it is logical that your female readers would instead react by saying, “If there’s smoke, there’s fire.” But the thing that jumped out at me in “Miffed’s” letter was that she did not think there was anything “funny” going on between her husband and his co-worker; she just did not like it that he had a female friend. That “Miffed” would jump in a car and drive all over town to catch her husband in a lie when she didn’t think there was anything untoward going on strikes me as pretty zany behavior, and their marriage must be a nightmare. What would we be saying if it were a husband acting that way toward his wife?

The idea that men and women can’t be just friends is outmoded foolishness, but many still believe it, unfortunately. I suspect that “Miffed’s” husband will indeed leave her someday, but it won’t be because of the co-worker.

I would like to say more, but I know I need to keep it short. If you use this, just sign me “Somewhere in Arizona.”

Dear Somewhere in Arizona:

 I’ll refrain from flip-flopping, but I do want to share your letter with readers. The more perspectives the fuller the picture. Thank you for writing.

Dear Annie:

I’ve been dating “Grant” for a few months, though we have known each other for 20-plus years. He has two kids, ages 25 and 21, and I feel that they run all over him. Their mother died about five years ago. She and Grant had been divorced for a few years before that. His youngest son, “John,” lives with him, and Grant got the boy a job at his company. I feel that he needs to stop treating the kid as if he were 15.

Grant buys John beer, cigarettes and anything he needs. He even pays his cellphone bill. Grant says he tells John that he has to pay a certain amount per week, but half the time he doesn’t get it. John throws temper tantrums if he doesn’t get his way, and Grant always gives in.

We just got a place together, and John came with us. John says he has no intention of leaving. I don’t want to live like this because he does nothing around the house to help. He doesn’t want to help prepare food, and he doesn’t want to clean up after himself. I feel that his dad needs to let him make his own decisions and pay his own way as far as his personal bills go, but I feel I’m fighting a losing battle. What to do? Thanks for any advice you can give me.

— Frustrated at Home

Dear Frustrated at Home:

 Your problem is Grant, not his 21-year-old son. Seeing as Grant insists on treating John like a boy and allows him to run all over you, it is time to put your foot down. Tell Grant that either his adult son helps with the household chores and acts responsibly — rules to be enforced by Grant — or you will move out. You don’t have a choice at this point. It is good that your relationship is in its early stages.

Dear Annie:

I dealt with a lot of trauma in my life, bottled it all up and smiled my way through the pain. We often believe that we are the only ones suffering from mental trauma of some kind or another. The truth is that if we step back and look at the big picture, we can begin to understand that we are not alone. Just because my husband never hit me doesn’t erase the fact that I was abused. When a friend persuaded me to tell her what was wrong, she guided me in the right direction, and I got out of that situation (more than 25 years ago) and into a wonderful marriage. Therapy helped me to recognize my situation and accept that I can live a happy life. To anyone reading this who’s going through hard times: Give therapy a chance, and don’t be afraid to walk away and try again if you find that your counselor is not a good fit.

— Stronger and Happier

Dear Stronger and Happier:

 Therapy really is a wonderful thing, and I think everyone could benefit from it. Thank you for sharing your story of hope and triumph after trauma.

Dear Annie:

Not long ago, I got out of a relationship with an ex who was sometimes physically abusive to me. It was a nasty relationship with an even nastier breakup. And though I can now look back at it as a blessing in disguise, I can’t deny the fact that it broke my heart and soul into a million pieces and has left a lot of emotional scar tissue. Anyway, a close friend of mine, “Pam,” recently mentioned that she sees my ex and his girlfriend (the woman he was cheating on me with) fairly often and is on friendly terms with both of them. She even told me that she and this girl have had several one-on-one conversations about how they would like to be friends but can’t because of me. It was bordering on accusatory; I felt as if I was supposed to thank her.

Annie, I would never put someone in a position to choose one friend over another. But Pam did not know either of these people before this. In fact, she helped pick up the pieces and put me back together after the relationship blowup. I just don’t understand why she would actively grow friendlier and friendlier with my ex and his girlfriend. I told her that I was confused and hurt by this information, and she just didn’t seem to get it at all and thought I was being overdramatic.

I don’t expect my friends to punch my ex and the “other woman” in the face when they see them, but I also wouldn’t expect them to actively initiate a friendship with them. Am I being selfish? Is there a proper way to handle this?

— Wish It Didn’t Bother Me

Dear WIDBM: 

Though you can’t make rules for your friends, you can make rules for you and your mental health. One of those rules might be to not spend time with people who actively associate with your abuser — not to punish them but to protect yourself. You can explain as much to Pam by saying, “To be honest, this makes me very uncomfortable. I can’t dictate whom you’re friends with, and I won’t stand in the way of this, but I also can’t give it my blessing, if that’s what you’re looking for. I need to move forward and heal myself emotionally, and that means keeping a safe distance from the person who abused me.”

Dear Annie:

You asked for others to write in about options folks have chosen for senior living. My folks are in their 90s, and they considered a senior living facility. Ultimately, it would have been very expensive and impractical for them. So they chose another route: aging in place — but not with us.

Aging in place is becoming very popular. Many seniors who find they need help with more and more tasks want to stay in a familiar environment. Caregivers can be hired — from once a week to full time — and may be similar in cost to a facility. In our situation, we were lucky enough to be able to purchase the house next door. We made a gate and pathway between the two houses. Now they have visits from family every day. They are secure knowing that they will live out their years among family but in their own home. Aging in place was the best choice for their situation.

— Delighted Daughter in CA

Dear Delighted Daughter:

What a blessing, both for you and for them. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Dear Annie:

I was mistreated at my husband’s funeral. People walked by as if I didn’t exist. I was mistreated by his son, my stepson. I loved my husband very much, and I won’t get married again. I had a good man, and nobody could take his place. How does one deal with life when she has lost her husband?

— Angel in Illinois

Dear Angel:

 I am so sorry for your loss. And I am sorry you’re feeling so alone in your time of grief. There’s no easy answer, but reaching out to others — as you have done in writing to me — can help, even if you don’t quite feel like it. Look to friends, grief counselors and spiritual advisers for support, as well as organizations such as Soaring Spirits International. Its Web site says, “Widowed people created Soaring Spirits because we discovered that connecting with other widowed people made the challenges of surviving a spouse or partner a little easier to manage.” Visit or call 877-671-4071 for more information.


My girlfriend has a brother, “Joel,” who is 23 years old and has Asperger’s syndrome. Now, don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against people with Asperger’s. But this guy is too much. He always has to have the last word, argues constantly and thinks he knows everything. Their mother insists that my girlfriend let him tag along whenever we’re together, and she actually lets him. I’ll say, “It’s just going to be us tonight, right?” She’ll say yes, but when I get there, she has him with her. I’ll take her aside and remind her that it was supposed to be just us, and she’ll say, “But my mother didn’t want him to be at home by himself.” He’ll proceed to ruin the evening. First he’ll insist on a different restaurant. Then he’ll interrupt everything I say. And by the time we get our food, I’m ready to walk out.

Recently, we were out with some mutual friends, and sure enough, she had Joel with her. We all went back to my place. Then he wanted to order pizza. I calmly said, “Joel, you don’t need to order pizza. There’s food here already.” He ignored me and ordered pizza to be delivered. Because of a mix-up, the order arrived cold just as everyone was leaving. He wanted me to warm it up in my oven, and I suggested he do that when he got home because I just wanted to go to bed. He started giving me all kinds of stupid reasons, and I cursed at him and told him, “Be a man and eat it cold.” My girlfriend then got angry with me for being mean.

The last straw was last week, when we went out to a nice restaurant for my birthday. Joel showed up even though she had said he wouldn’t be there. I tried to bribe him to leave by handing him $20 and saying, “Get a sandwich and see a movie.” But that didn’t work.

Everything would be fine in my relationship if it weren’t for Joel and the way my girlfriend enables him. She and I get along really well, and we have fun together, but our time together is limited. My job is tough, and I don’t have a lot of patience for aggravating things outside of work. How can I get her to stop letting her moron brother tag along? I don’t want him around, but my sweetie can’t seem to act like a grown-up and say no to her family.

— Over It

Dear Over It: Long-term relationships aren’t just about getting along well. They’re about priorities. And it sounds as though you and your girlfriend have some irreconcilable differences in that department. In all the incidents you mentioned, Joel’s presence never seemed to be a nuisance to her, only to you. Even if firmer boundaries would be beneficial for her, that’s a decision she needs to make on her own. It could be that her family will always come first. If you’re not prepared for that, consider ending things now. That would give her the chance to meet someone a bit more sympathetic to her family.

Dear Annie:

I’d like to respond to “Child-Free and Tired of Judgment,” who wondered what to say when someone asks her why she isn’t having children. She should just look at the person and say, “Why do you ask?” I find this works for someone who is being just plain nosy. What could anyone possibly say except, “I’m nosy”?

— More Caring

Dear More Caring: Those four words really do say it all. Thank you for sharing this excellent retort.

Dear Annie:

Seventy-one years ago, my father decided to honor his kid brother and heritage by naming me Iaina, the female derivative of Iain (also spelled Ian), and I have had to correct others’ spelling and pronunciation of it ever since. I have not learned how to live with it, and no matter how long I live, I never will. I chose a nickname for this reason, Janie (not Jane), and people get that wrong, too. My first-grade teacher insisted I was misspelling and mispronouncing my name and “corrected” me on a daily basis.

I was having dinner with a friend of 10 years in a local restaurant this week, and she was chatting with an individual at a table beside us. She introduced me as Jane, and I corrected her and said my name is Janie. She then said my real name is Iaina but mispronounced it and butchered it. I was livid because she has known me for so long and knows how much it bothers me that people mispronounce my name, so I corrected her again.

I do not feel that I am honoring my name or heritage and almost want to stop responding to anyone who calls me by the wrong name when speaking with me or corresponding with me. It is not a small thing. How do I get people to understand that it is important to acknowledge the correct spelling and pronunciation of everyone’s name?

— Janie

Dear Janie: It’s no wonder you’re frustrated. Our names are deeply intertwined with our identities. When people don’t make an effort to accurately pronounce your name, it’s as if they’re saying they don’t care who you are. I’m sure that’s rarely, if ever, their intention, but it is nonetheless the effect.

Though you shouldn’t have to repeatedly correct people, don’t be shy about doing so. Your friends, of all people, should take the matter seriously, and it sounds as though it’s time for another talk with your friend about how her dismissal of your name amounts to a dismissal of your feelings.

Mainly, I hope your letter is a wake-up call for anyone reading who is guilty of this behavior. When meeting someone new, people should do their best to learn how to say the person’s name correctly. Repeat it back to the person, and ask for clarification if you have to. Yes, it means putting yourself out there a bit, but it makes the person feel seen, acknowledged and important, and it sets a tone of mutual respect — well worth that extra smidgen of effort.

Dear Annie:

I can understand why “Camera-Shy Grandma” doesn’t like to be photographed, but she should consider the fact that her stepdaughter likes pictures of people who are important to her. My brother was killed in Afghanistan 10 years ago, and I can’t find a single photo of just the two of us together as adults. What I wouldn’t give for one today!

— Kyle C.

Dear Kyle C.: I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. You are 100 percent correct, and my failure to address that angle of the issue was an oversight that I regret. I’d like to amend my earlier response.

Camera-Shy Grandma: Try to grin and bear it for at least a few photos from time to time. You’ll be giving her family a gift for the future. Don’t worry so much about your appearance, either. To them, you’ll always just look like beloved, beautiful Grandma.