Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I have two daughters who have their biological father’s last name. He never phones or visits. In six years, he has seen them once for an hour.

I would like to change their last name to my maiden name. I have full physical and legal custody of my girls. My ex has supervised visitation that he hasn’t taken advantage of. I married a wonderful man seven years ago, and he is truly their father.

I have no idea where their biological father lives. I’ve asked his sister, and she, too, has no clue. He has been in and out of jail on drug charges, and seeing as he isn’t paying child support or showing any interest in the girls, I don’t feel they should have to use his last name.

How do I go about changing their names with the least amount of trouble? I can’t afford a lawyer. My girls are 8 and 9 years old, and I’d like to get this done.

– L.A., Calif.

Dear L.A.: Contact your state or county courthouse and find out what forms are necessary to request a name change for minor children, and follow whatever additional instructions are required. (Should your ex reappear and contest this at a later date, you may need to contact a lawyer.)

Before taking this step, however, consider how your girls will feel down the road. They may be perfectly content to be totally disconnected from their biological father, but we caution you not to make your animosity toward him part of the package. When they are older, please allow them to have their background information should they request it.

Dear Annie: When it comes to relationships, whether family or friends, I’ve always had to be the one to pursue communication with them. They rarely call to say hello or ask how things are going.

I recently moved from Tennessee to Indiana and feel like I’m by myself. I have few friends here. What would you suggest I do?

– Lonely Hoosier

Dear Hoosier: It takes time to make friends in a new location. We recommend you get involved in local activities through your church, community centers, gyms, volunteer organizations, etc., as well as groups that hold interest for you, such as choirs, theater troupes, political organizations, book clubs and so on, which you can find online or through

Some people, like you, are better at maintaining communication than others. But you also could ask some close friends or family members why they so rarely call. Sometimes there are problems that can be easily remedied.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: For the past several years, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my wife and I aren’t going to have sex, so pornography and self-gratification are the alternative. I understand that she can be tired, ill or angry or just not feel like it. But that’s all the time. She said I take it too personally when she turns me down. Yet when she insists she likes sex and wants me to initiate, I get slapped and turned away as soon as I approach her. How can I not take that personally? I finally realized I am better off accepting that we aren’t going to have sex, and I no longer get frustrated.

I send flowers, take her out to dinner, make her coffee in the morning, make her lunch for work, clean up after dinner and make breakfast on weekends. I’m in good shape.

Her interest declined when our children were young. She told me if I don’t like it, I can leave, but we both know that would be bad for the kids. We talked about counseling, but she wouldn’t go, so I went by myself. The counselor wasn’t too helpful, saying suck it up or leave. I guess I’m angry. It’s no use talking to her about it anymore. So why am I writing? I want someone to change my wife. But I know she’s the only one who can do that, and she doesn’t have much interest. Men like me lead lives of quiet desperation.

– In Pain

Dear Pain: Please understand that your counselor was right. In situations where the other person is unwilling to make changes, your choice is to stay or to go. But although you decided to stay, you didn’t truly deal with the emotional fallout and became increasingly resentful, lonely and bitter. Additional counseling may help you let go of some of that and be more at peace. Our condolences.

Dear Annie: I am 13 and an avid reader of your column. I have been working at a summer program, and I ride a school bus there and back. Two young men ride the same bus. I have a crush on one of them (I’ll call him “Liam”), but I happen to know he likes another girl. The other guy (I’ll call him “Noah”) seems to like me. I had a crush on Noah last year, but I’m not sure I still have those same feelings. Here’s the problem: One day, it seems they both like me, and then another day, Liam seems interested in that other girl, and I am laughing and giggling with Noah. I am hopelessly confused about these mixed signals.

Is it wrong for me to like both of these boys? If Noah said he likes me, what do I do? Please help.

– Omaha, Neb.

Dear Omaha: Please don’t think you have to choose between these two boys right now. They probably both enjoy your company, although Liam seems interested in playing the field a bit more. That’s OK. Don’t be pressured to make any kind of decision. It’s perfectly fine to like both of them, at least until one of them expresses an interest and the feeling is mutual.

Dear Annie: My question for “Just Saying” is: Why all the anger? I have been a chef for 32 years and often have cooked food for those on a special diet.

The next time you go to a restaurant, simply phone ahead with your special request. I even have gone to the market to buy what my customer needs. A simple call to the chef will make your evening out a success.

– Chef P.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I am a 68-year-old woman who has been divorced for more than 30 years. I haven’t been in an intimate relationship for the past 10.

Last year, I discovered that I have genital herpes. The doctor said I may have had it for years before experiencing symptoms. I was devastated. When I have an outbreak, I take medication that shortens the discomfort, and I decided not to have intimate contact anymore. I’m quite busy with my retirement lifestyle and very content.

Here’s the problem: Through a friend, I recently met an interesting man my age. I don’t want to tell him about my personal medical history, but I also don’t want him to think I’m a prude. We went out casually once, and he has called since, but I have put him off. I can’t decide whether I should see him again and whether I should tell him I have an STD and let him decide whether he wants a “friend without benefits.” What do you suggest?

– K.

Dear K.: It seems a shame to end your sex life because you fear transmitting an STD. There are ways to avoid that. And your future partner may be more understanding than you realize. Please contact the American Sexual Health Association ( for information on all STDs, including herpes, and for support in communicating with potential partners.

Dear Annie: My daughter had the same experience as the son of “Upset Dad.” In seven years on the softball teams in middle and high school, she never missed a practice. Yet I can count on one hand the number of times that she played more than one inning in a game. Most of the time, she sat on the bench, while kids who habitually missed practice got to play all the time.

My daughter loved softball so much that she begged me not to say anything to the coach, and I respected her wishes until the day after her graduation, when I penned a polite but critical letter to the coach, athletic director and superintendent. Not one of them had the courtesy to reply.

I’m a teacher. The field is a coach’s classroom. If I refused to call on students who came to class prepared, raised their hands and wanted to participate, I certainly would be dismissed. In school sports, all students who attend practices regularly, follow team rules and want to play should have an equal opportunity to do so.

– English Teacher and One-Time Sports Mom

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to, or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: When my daughter was 14, she falsely accused me of physical abuse. She is now 33 and brings up these false charges whenever she is having difficult issues in her own life. She blames me for all of her problems. Even worse, my sister enables and promotes her negative view of me. I want closure for all the pain she has caused my family and me. I don’t know whether I should take legal action or whether it is simply better not to have any further contact with her.

I’ve tried my whole life to be a good person. But no matter what I do, my daughter uses our past to smear and embarrass me. Can you help me?

– Mother in Iowa

Dear Iowa: Have you ever gone for counseling so your daughter could express why she accused you of abuse and you could work through it together? Even though you say the charges are false, she may believe differently, and this needs to be addressed. And if she is simply trying to ruin your reputation, that, too, deserves an airing so you can find out why she is holding on to such animosity. If she rebuffs your attempts at reconciliation and refuses counseling, we agree that ending contact may be the best way to regain your equilibrium.

Dear Annie: This is an open letter to all stepchildren with an impending wedding:

Dear Children of Divorced Parents: I worked in divorce law for many years. When it comes to wedding planning, you have one of two choices: You can choose to honor and include both parents appropriately, or you can choose to honor an angry parent and exclude half of your family. If you select the former, then you receive all the benefits of having both parents and families. If you choose the latter and use the wedding to injure the other parent on behalf of the angry parent, you should not expect any fruits from that excluded family. Understand that your decision probably will determine the attitude of the other parent, and you will not have the right to expect generosity and cooperation from the excluded parent. It might help to keep in mind that a parent whose relationship with you requires that you marginalize the other parent is not showing love. He or she is showing selfishness. It does not help your marriage or your future children.

Please get counseling to help you set standards so that an angry parent does not ensure your wedding revolves around his or her failed relationship.

– Observant

Dear Observant: You have written wise words for future brides and grooms. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to distance oneself from a parent (abuse, for example), but in too many instances, it is one parent’s petty revenge upon the other. This is a sad way for young couples to start a new marriage.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for 10 years. We have no children.

My biggest problem is his weight. He has put on a lot of poundage in the past several years and is definitely not the guy I married. I don’t claim to be a princess, but I stay pretty fit. I am not attracted to him sexually because of his rolls of fat. I am saddened.

We love each other dearly, but my husband refuses to take walks with me and will not help around the house. I know I should love him with my heart, so how do I get around this problem?

– California Dreamin’

Dear California: You cannot force your husband to do anything about his weight. He must want to do it for himself. Tell him you are worried about his health. Ask him to talk to his doctor about his weight (or leave a message for the doctor with your concerns). Explain that his unwillingness to help around the house or work on his weight is undermining your respect for him. Beyond that, please be patient. Try to love him as he is, for all of the other qualities he brings to the marriage and for the things that attracted you to him in the first place.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Jaded and Voting with Our Wallets,” who is upset that people who have never invited her over for a cup of coffee have the nerve to send her an invitation to their child’s graduation or wedding.

I have the same problem, but with my children. I’m always invited to all kinds of parties and showers, but never to the homes of my three children for a meal of any kind.

My son and daughter-in-law lived with me for a year and were not too happy to leave, because I did all the cooking, cleaning and laundry. I finally asked them to find their own place, but they still showed up every weekend to be fed. When they found a house to buy, they had to borrow money from me, even though I hadn’t done that for my other children. I insisted they repay it monthly, which they did, but I never heard the end of it from his resentful siblings.

I have always loved to cook and entertain, and over the years, I’ve had many parties for my extended family. But other than invitations where a gift is required, they have never reciprocated.

I never hear from any of them now, and parties go on without me. I have a great-granddaughter who is 2 years old, and I’ve never met her. I’m 76, waiting for two knee replacements and don’t have the money or energy to entertain. At first, I cried not to see my family. I now spend time with people who enjoy being with me and try not to think about how ungrateful and distant my children are. Needless to say, there will be no inheritance when I die.

– Used, but Got Over It

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I have two siblings with whom I have shared most everything. Now that my dad is slipping mentally and physically, we have decided to sell his home and move him into a memory care facility.

My two siblings simply ignored my recommendation that we give the listing to our real estate agent. Annie, within the past 15 years, my wife and I have sold three homes and purchased two through our very capable realtor, while my siblings have not been in the housing market for 20 years. Instead, my brother wants his newly licensed realtor friend to sell the house, even though she has never sold one. My sister wants her son-in-law, who recently graduated college and works at his mother’s real estate firm, to handle the sale.

I recognize that there are individual interests here. But the additional problem is which facility my father goes to. Two are close to all of us. But my brother and sister want to move Dad into an independent living facility we visited three years ago that does not include an assisted living option and is farther away.

I do not want a confrontation, just a fair shake for our beloved father, but I am afraid I have no input. Any suggestions?

– Under the Table in Indiana

Dear Indiana: Is there an unbiased friend or relative who would act as a mediator? It might help for you and your siblings to be in the same room discussing these options with someone whose opinion all of you trust and respect. Before this situation produces resentment and finger pointing, please ask your siblings to consider this option to avoid ill will down the road.

Dear Annie: I am a woman in my 50s, and I used to have bad acne. My skin is mainly cleared up, but I’m left with rough patches and brown spots. I try to conceal it with makeup, but several times a day, I catch someone staring at my skin. Their eyes immediately turn away when I see them looking, but the embarrassment is deep. I don’t wear much makeup, just a tinted moisturizer, as I don’t want a mask. I’ve tried more coverage, and people still look. I realize they aren’t trying to be mean. They can’t help themselves. My own children have done it. It has made me reclusive, and I only like to go out when it’s night and the lights are dim.

I can’t afford a chemical peel. Please tell me what I can say to these people or whether I should just try to ignore it.

– Ashamed

Dear Ashamed: There is no reason to be ashamed of your face. You already know that people aren’t trying to be cruel, so it would help if you could accept your face as it is. What do you care what strangers think of your skin? If you want better coverage, you can find Dermablend at most cosmetic counters. You also can ask for assistance there and at makeup specialty stores. And please make an appointment with a dermatologist to see what other remedies are available in your price range.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: Please help make young women aware of uterine cancer. My 29-year-old daughter was diagnosed with stage-four uterine cancer last September. Some physicians think because you are young, you can’t have cancer. This is not true. My daughter’s symptoms were irregular bleeding and severe pelvic pain. The doctors kept prescribing birth control pills or hormones.

After several years, several physicians and several medications, she finally saw an ob/gyn at the University of Louisville who did a biopsy of her uterus – and then we received the devastating news. She was treated aggressively and is fighting every day to get better. She is such an inspiration. She had surgery several months ago, and they removed all the cancer in her abdominal cavity. But she still has it in two inoperable lymph nodes in her chest and is taking chemo.

If this story will help just one person or physician take that extra step, maybe another young woman won’t have to go through what my daughter has. P.S.: Since I started this letter, I have learned that my daughter’s cancer has spread again. I beg you to get the word out.

– Louisville, Ky.

Dear Louisville: Our hearts our breaking for you. Uterine cancer (also known as endometrial cancer) is most common in women over 55 years old, so doctors don’t often consider this when they first see a younger patient with symptoms. But if you believe something is wrong, be persistent.

Doctors aren’t infallible. Risk factors include endometrial overgrowth (hyperplasia), obesity, women who have never had children, periods beginning before age 12, menopause after age 55, estrogen therapy and a family history of the disease. Common signs are abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, pain with urination and sex, and pelvic pains. The National Cancer Institute (1-800-4-CANCER) offers a free booklet at

Dear Annie: This is for “Wish I Could Turn Back Time.” I, too, am 63 years old. Twenty-five years ago, I was convicted of a nonviolent felony. I did not go to prison. I had a job for many years with great reviews and was liked by management. When they started a program to fingerprint everyone, I was let go. In California, a felony cannot be expunged. Once you make a very bad decision, as I did, you are NEVER forgiven.

– California

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.

Email questions to or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I am 37 and divorced. I identify myself as bisexual and try to live my dating life very privately.

The problem is, my parents are quite judgmental and racist. I dare not say anything about my dating partners, who are of either gender and any color. But I am tired of living my life for others. If I choose to go my own way, however, my two children would lose their grandparents. Any suggestions?

– Frustrated in Virginia

Dear Frustrated: You aren’t giving your parents any credit for being able to accept you as you are for the sake of their grandchildren. You don’t need to give them details of your dating life and parade various partners in front of them. No one does. But you should not be afraid to introduce them to someone who becomes a meaningful part of your life, and then give them the time to work through their feelings. You can find support through PFLAG (

Dear Annie: Many years ago, I was disowned by my parents and most of my extended family for marrying against my parents’ wishes. I was allowed back into their lives only because they wanted to see the grandkids. Now, with elder care issues, we are struggling with appropriate boundaries. I’d like to offer some suggestions:

Instead of spending every moment yelling at me because I am not there more often, don’t do enough and don’t measure up to your friends’ kids, try saying that you are glad to see me, thanks for the help, etc. I will do more if I feel appreciated.

I need to know about your health problems and your wishes regarding treatment, but couldn’t we talk about something other than your aches and pains once in a while?

Keep your expectations realistic. I have kids, a job, a home to maintain, in-laws who also need help and my own set of health problems. I am not going to drive 400 miles twice a week to mow your lawn. Hire somebody.

Stop trying to manipulate me. The time you claimed Dad was dying so I’d spend all my vacation time with you? That was cruel. It destroyed my trust in you.

If you want honesty from me, then be someone who is safe to tell the truth to. Listen respectfully. Apologize sincerely when appropriate, or explain your point of view and the reasons for your choices. Don’t attack me.

Be cordial and polite toward my spouse and kids. If you force me to choose between you, I will choose them.

You say that you are too old and set in your ways, and I have to love you the way you are. You are the one who wants a closer relationship. I am ready to give up. If you want a different outcome, you are going to have to change, too.

– Your Son

Dear Son: You obviously have had a poor relationship with your parents for years. We agree that they sound difficult and demanding, but it will be hard for them to change without calm and consistent responses from you, rewarding their appropriate behavior, leaving when they are manipulative or insulting, and teaching them what you will tolerate. Only you can decide whether it’s worth the effort.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: We live five hours from our daughter, “Barbara,” her husband, “Seth,” and their two kids. We visit them once a year.

Seth completely ignores us. The last time we arrived, our daughter and grandchildren hugged us, but Seth sat with his back to us. He didn’t even say hello. When my husband went to talk to him, Seth walked out of the room. Each time we go there, he becomes a little worse. We send him birthday and Christmas gifts, and he never responds. We have no idea why he hates us. When he does talk to us, he mostly discusses his new hobby: shooting defenseless animals. He knows we are repulsed by this, yet he prattles on about how he plans to take his daughter with him on hunting trips.

He seems to be a good father, although he is very condescending toward our daughter. Barbara claims that Seth is a terrific husband, and she loves being a stay-at-home mom. But she looks pale and thin and rarely smiles. We are worried about her.

Maybe Barbara doesn’t want to ruin things for the kids, but honestly, we think she’s delusional. We love her, but don’t know how to change Seth’s attitude. Any ideas?

– Sad Grandparents

Dear Sad: The fact that Seth likes to hunt is his business as long as he has the proper licenses. We don’t recommend you debate the issue, because you are unlikely to find common ground. We agree that he is rude, but unless Barbara can convince him to be more polite, it’s best to lower your expectations and ignore his behavior.

The more pressing issue is Barbara’s health. Is she truly too pale and thin, or are you projecting? If you believe there is abuse, report it to the authorities. Meanwhile, please reach out to your daughter without denigrating her husband, which will make her defend him. Ask how she’s feeling. Talk to her often. Invite her to bring the kids to visit you, with or without Seth. See for yourself what’s really going on.

Dear Annie: Many years ago, I was in the same position as “Busy Mom,” with five children, farm chores and a huge garden. My house looked lived-in, to say the least. One day, my wonderful aunt said to me, “Don’t worry, Marg. It’s clean dirt.” Bless her heart.

– Manitoba, Canada

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: “A Graduate’s Mom” should lighten up about decorum at graduation ceremonies. I am a professor at a large university, and I participate in graduation every year. The faculty and administrators provide the necessary pomp and circumstance. But these young people have worked hard for four years and deserve to celebrate.

I am proud of what they’ve accomplished. How often does one graduate from college? And as a parent, aren’t you anxious to celebrate an end to tuition bills? You should be standing on your chair and shouting to the rooftops. As long as it doesn’t include vulgarity, I’m happy to witness the celebration every year. To “A Graduate’s Mom,” I say congratulations and WOO-HOO!

– A Proud Prof, Lawrence, Kan.

Dear Prof: Our mail was fairly divided on this subject. Read on:

From Michigan: Our local high school is very strict about graduation ceremonies. Boys must wear ties and dress shoes; girls, proper dress wear and shoes – no floppies. If a student does not comply, he or she must make it right, or they will not receive a diploma at the ceremony. No fireworks under the chairs or balloon bouncing. You get to hear each graduate’s name, and it’s an enjoyable day.

Nebraska: My children have all attended New England prep schools and competitive colleges. There is no rowdier a bunch of folks than the parents, grandparents and family members of a graduate. We have celebrated our own graduations and those of our children, nieces, nephews and friends with joy from our spots in the audience. We come with signs of congratulation, cowbells, vuvuzelas and megaphones. One year, a family of 15 shouted in unison, “We love you!” as their graduate walked across the stage. Across the aisle, a family of five wildly waved long ribbons on three-foot sticks when their graduate was announced. Two years ago, a family we know released white balloons as their graduate walked by. Air horns, bells and whistles are the norm. Our graduates have accomplished great things, with the love and support of their family and friends. We invite “A Graduate’s Mom” to shake a pom-pom in school colors, hold up a personalized sign, clang a bell and make a joyful noise with us.

Texas: Having run commencement at a major university for 18 years, I agree with “A Graduate’s Mom.” Graduation should be about the achievement of the graduates and the frequent sacrifices of the families to get the graduates to that point. The best graduation ceremonies are a combination of seriousness and celebration of these achievements. That should be the focus.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I am a nonsmoker who has asthma and early heart disease. When I am at family events and outdoor concerts or entering stores and public places, I often find myself exposed to secondhand smoke from cigarettes and cigars. Even though I make every attempt to avoid this smoke, it is sometimes impossible. This results in my having burning eyes, difficulty breathing, a wet cough, etc. At times, I’ve needed oral and inhaled steroids because the inflammation was so severe.

I am not particularly welcome in some circles because my attempts to avoid the smoke are seen as “grandstanding” or being a ridiculous jerk. My only other option is to stay home and miss out on time with family and the concerts, festivals and other outdoor activities I enjoy.

Smokers clearly know the dangers of what they are putting in their lungs, and I respect their right to do so. Why is there no consideration or respect for those of us who cannot tolerate the effects of tobacco smoke? When did we become the bad guys who just need to suck it up (literally) or stay home? I’m not trying to start a war between smokers and nonsmokers here. I am simply looking for intelligent, viable solutions to a common problem.

– Gasping for Breath

Dear Gasping: We know how difficult this must be for you. Nonetheless, smoking is still permitted at most outdoor venues, in which case, there is little you can do other than avoid them or wear a surgical mask to act as a filter. At family functions, you can suggest that the smokers be assigned a specific area so they can puff in peace and the rest of you can breathe more easily. Your family and close friends should be told about your medical difficulties and even given information so they understand you have a serious problem that should not be taken lightly. (Information is available through the American Lung Association at

Dear Annie: After reading the responses to “Bob in North Carolina,” I agree that some women who present the news wear sexy clothes. I also believe that many of them debase themselves because they need the job.

It’s a shame women can’t be appreciated for their professional talents alone. But, that said, what’s good for the gander is good for the goose. So let’s get rid of those wrinkly, white-haired tie-and-suit men and spice up the news with younger guys showing off their arm muscles and chest hair. Maybe that would make the bleak news we hear more fun for all of us.

– Fair’s Fair

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to To find out more, visit

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My beloved mother-in-law passed away two years ago. We had a church funeral and a celebration of her life.

My father-in-law had the body cremated. He intends to have the ashes buried in the family plot in New York, 1,200 miles away, although he hasn’t done so yet. On more than one occasion, he has informed my husband that he wants him to go to New York for another memorial ceremony. I have never heard of having two ceremonies so far apart, and my husband is not looking forward to it. We said our goodbyes at her funeral. Planning another one feels like a dark hanging cloud.

My father-in-law recently met a lady and has decided he should have my mother-in-law’s ashes laid to rest within the next few months. He expects us to travel to the second ceremony. I feel that it is my father-in-law’s responsibility to take care of this, and frankly, it should have been done a long time ago. Am I wrong? Do we really have to drag out the burial like this?

– My Heart Is Breaking

Dear Heart: Some families might find it touching to have another (small) memorial two years later, when you’ve all had the opportunity to recover from the initial sorrow and can celebrate your mother-in-law’s life with more joy. But since you don’t feel that way, you do not need to go to so much trouble. However, this is your husband’s mother, and he gets to make that decision for himself. Please do not try to influence him. If he would rather go with his father, we hope you will be supportive.

Dear Annie: Your comment to “Swimmers’ Parents” was good – it isn’t fair to hold one twin back so the other can catch up.

My twin son and daughter had similar issues. She read before he did. He ran faster. It upset them both not to be “as good” as the other. It is important to tell the children that we all have different abilities, even if we are the same age. Also, we made sure our children had separate opportunities for achievement.

When our daughter showed aptitude for playing the piano and our son wanted to play, too, we suggested another instrument he had shown interest in, and he was off and running. Sometimes we had them play little duets, and we gave them both well-deserved praise. A plus of their individual activities was that each made separate friends. They are adults now and quite close, but they are very different people.

– Two Close for Comfort

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. email questions to or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My dear mother-in-law has suffered with dementia for 10 years. This wonderful, loving woman did not receive the care she could have, and as a result, her quality of life is worse than it needed to be. I have some advice for family members when a loved one receives the dreaded diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s:

You need to learn about the illness, and you need to make a plan. Pretending the person is not sick doesn’t help. It makes life harder for them. I never realized how powerful a force denial could be until I witnessed my father-in-law’s absolute refusal to change anything about their life. Expecting her to keep cooking, leaving her alone, etc., were truly acts of cruelty.

Realize that your loved one is not going to get better. He or she may stay the same for a long time, or may steadily get worse, but they are not going to improve.

You need to keep them safe and anticipate that they may do things they have never done before – like wander, take the wrong medicine or let a stranger into the house.

If you live out of town, consider the possibility that those who live near your loved one may know more about the day-to-day situation than you do. When you visit and keep Mom company all day and do fun activities with her, yes, she’s going to seem better, but it doesn’t reflect the reality of her normal day when she’s alone for hours at a time. If the locals say Mom needs more care, they may be right.

Get help. Join a support group or contact your council on aging. We hired a wonderful dementia coach who helps families figure out what to do. It is possible for the sick person to enjoy the things that they are able to do if they are given support.

Consider that the person’s spouse might not be the best caregiver. Observe what is really happening in the household. You may need to hire helpers. In day care, assisted living or other facilities, there is trained staff, always rested and fresh.

Try to avoid isolation, for the sick person as well as the caregiver. Don’t turn down offers of help. I called some of my mother-in-law’s friends to ask whether they would come over and learned that they had been turned away by my father-in-law.

Someday I hope there is a cure for this horrible illness, but until then we have to do the best we can to manage life for those who are dependent on us.

– The In-Law

Dear In-Law: Thank you for taking the time to write and guide others who are in a similar situation. We hope anyone affected by this dreadful disease will contact the Alzheimer’s Association at Their website has a wealth of information for dementia and Alzheimer’s. There is also a 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: Every year, my grandmother and I go to my cousins’ house for Christmas. This year is different for me. I have had the miracle of God helping me overcome some major addictions in my life.

I’ve expressed to my uncle that I do not feel like I know who my cousins are now that we are adults and have lost touch to some extent. There are also economic differences. My income is near the poverty level, and I receive government assistance. My cousins, however, are financially successful. I have made attempts to meet with them, but it never happens.

They are not into religion, and I believe they are controlled by materialism. (My aunt and uncle give me cash for Christmas.) I also notice that they do not open presents in front of us. I feel like a stranger who just shows up for a free meal and to get “paid.” I think that going there cheapens the importance that this day has for me. I would rather go where they feed the homeless and be an example unto them.

– Trying To Keep my Dignity

Dear Trying: While we agree that the holiday season includes rampant materialism, you are being awfully harsh in your judgment of the relatives. The meal and exchanging of gifts is traditional in most families. Not opening presents is sometimes a way to avoid embarrassing someone whose gift may not be as fancy as someone else’s. Giving cash is a way of providing a gift when you aren’t sure what the other person likes and you want to please them.

These are all kind and thoughtful gestures, and we aren’t sure why you don’t harbor more charitable thoughts toward your family. However, if going to your cousins’ makes you miserable and you would rather spend the holiday feeding the homeless, we certainly wouldn’t try to dissuade you. We wish more people would lend a hand to those in need.

Dear Annie: I have a suggestion for “Thought I Was Part of a Large Family,” who feels distant from her siblings: Go to the reunion with a different focus. Take along family group sheets, which you can get at your local library or through Distribute one to each family to fill out, and have them return the sheets to you during the reunion. That way, if you never go to another reunion, you still will have a lot of family information. Be sure they add their email addresses.

This could bring the family closer together. It is a beginning, not an ending.

– Retired Genealogist

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My husband and I have three children, two of whom recently graduated college. We knew the dates of the graduations five months in advance, and we told my mother, the only grandparent they have. We told her how much we wanted her to attend and celebrate the accomplishments of her two oldest grandchildren.

She said she couldn’t attend our son’s because she had a board meeting she “simply could not miss,” and the date for our daughter’s graduation conflicted with her picking up her new Mercedes at the dealership.

I am beyond hurt that my mother takes such little interest in any of my children. They are awesome kids and are always polite and well mannered around her. What should I say to her? (I know what I would like to say, but I won’t.)

Mom’s friends are always telling me how lucky I am to have such a wonderful mother when it couldn’t be further from the truth. Mom is extremely self-centered and is happy to purchase a new piece of expensive jewelry before spending any quality time with her grandchildren. She treats my siblings’ children the same way, with the exception of one sister whose children she positively spoils. She attends those children’s sporting events, school activities and every party she is invited to.

I am a loving and caring daughter and want to have my mother in my life, but frankly, I don’t believe it’s healthy anymore to keep being hurt. I thought about telling Mom how I feel in a letter, but I doubt she would see the problem. How do I explain to my kids that it’s not them? How do I handle Mom’s lack of interest?

– At a Loss for Words

Dear At a Loss: Your mother sounds narcissistic. If you can accept her as she is, selfish and self-absorbed, you can have a limited relationship. There’s no point inviting her to your children’s events, because you will only be hurt by her response. Your children are old enough to understand that Grandma has personality issues that prevent her from appreciating them, and it is not anything they can change. Don’t expect more than she is capable of giving, and you will be able to handle her with less frustration and sadness. We hope you have friends who can fill the gap.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Hope for the Helpless,” whose husband checks out every attractive woman. Here’s a different take on this issue.

As a new bride, I noticed my husband’s wandering eye at the beach. There were lots of pretty young women in skimpy bathing suits. As we looked around, I asked my husband, “Did you see the purple bikini over there?” He later told me it took all the fun out of it when I pointed out the pretty women.

– K.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: “Young and Stuck’s” husband mirrors the distancing behavior of my husband, which led to our divorce. Now, more than 60 years later, I have read of similar behavior in descriptions of concussion victims, particularly athletes in contact sports.

At the age of 16, my husband played high school football and had two concussions. As he grew more distant in our marriage, I noted his glassy, fixed stare and flat expression. After our divorce, he married several more times and went through bankruptcy. “Stuck” needs to get her husband in for a neurological exam and find a good counselor for herself.

– Also Stuck and Poor

Dear Annie: My friend “Horace” is 75. He spends a lot of time with “Loretta,” a childhood friend who is experiencing some dementia. It is getting to the point where Loretta doesn’t remember how to do many of the things she used to be exceptional at, and of course, it makes her frustrated and agitated.

This gal is a widow with children, and her husband left her a profitable business. The children have never liked any of the guys she’s dated, but they tolerate Horace because he is now her unpaid caregiver. The only other person who is around the house is a part-time secretary for the company.

The kids recently had a letter drawn up to notify Horace that he should not expect anything from Loretta’s estate when she dies. He is well-off already, so that doesn’t matter. The kids otherwise keep a hands-off approach when it comes to their mother. They deny that she suffers from any dementia, and we doubt her doctor is aware of it – her kids won’t report it, and Loretta says nothing because she is afraid they will put her in a nursing home.

Loretta feels lost when Horace isn’t around. It is also getting more difficult to calm her down when she becomes agitated. I am concerned about Horace because I think the kids are taking advantage of his devotion. If something should happen to her, I can see them blaming him. He is already losing sleep over her episodes, and I know her condition worries him. How can Horace protect himself, as well as Loretta, without upsetting the kids?

– M.

Dear M: Could Horace accompany Loretta to her next doctor’s appointment and discuss her dementia? (He also could write to the doctor, explaining his concerns.) It would be best if Horace could convince Loretta’s children to pay more attention to her care, letting them know that she needs more than he can provide.

If she can no longer live alone, it would be preferable that the kids hire a caregiver or place Loretta in an assisted-living complex or continuing-care facility where someone will check on her before she burns down the house. She still could retain some independence. Horace also can contact the Eldercare Locator ( at 800-677-1116 and ask about available resources.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I am having a hard time forgetting my boyfriend’s past.

Before we met, he subscribed to girlie magazines, went to strip clubs, bought lap dances, etc. I have always felt those things are degrading and disrespectful to women.

He also has said he fantasizes about other women.

Whenever I see him staring at a hot girl, it makes me think of his past.

I do believe he loves me, but I can’t help it. This is causing problems in our relationship. How do I get beyond this?

– Hard Time Forgiving

Dear Hard Time: A lot of men subscribe to girlie magazines and have visited strip clubs.

As long as he has stopped doing these things, we wouldn’t worry about that part of his past.

Fantasizing is common (women do it, too) and is not a concern unless he acts on it, although he would be wise to stop discussing his fantasies, since you become so upset.

You and your boyfriend could look into couples counseling to see whether that can help you work through this. But if you cannot let go of his past, we hope you will let go of him.

You both deserve a relationship where you feel secure and not judged.

Dear Annie: This is in regard to “Proud Mom,” who didn’t like it when people attempted to touch her baby.

There are quite a few places where she can find signs that attach to car seats and strollers saying, “Please Don’t Touch the Baby.”

I found plenty offered online, and she could even make her own.

Of course, it won’t stop everyone, but it might help a little.

– Completely Understand

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.

Email questions to or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I am a 42-year-old single man who has never been married or even been in a relationship. I’m perfectly content with this, but apparently, the people in my life are not. The truth is, I am not nor have I ever been attracted to either sex. I don’t know whether there is something seriously wrong with me, or whether there is even a name for what I am. I realized I was different in middle school when all my friends became interested in dating, but I couldn’t care less. I figured it would eventually change, but it never did. In my senior year in high school, I confessed this to my best friend, who told me I was a freak. I never mentioned it again to anyone.

There is no underlying factor for why I am like I am. I was not abused as a child, and I had a great relationship with my parents and siblings. I can be affectionate, and I enjoy giving hugs to the people I love. I can recognize that someone is attractive, but the idea of being intimate doesn’t appeal to me. I accepted this a long time ago and feel comfortable in my skin.

Over the years when someone tried to fix me up with someone, I always declined or came up with an excuse. Now everyone thinks I’m gay and in the closet.

Let me be clear, I firmly believe your sexual orientation is determined when you’re born. I also believe my lack of an orientation was also determined at birth. It has nothing to do with being straight or gay.

I seriously have no idea how to deal with this. Should I just stay silent and let them think what they want, or should I try to explain how I feel? Please don’t recommend counseling. I don’t feel abnormal. Not being physically attracted seems normal.

– Conflicted in Kentucky

Dear Conflicted: There is a name for this. You are asexual – not interested in physical intimacy with either sex. More importantly, there is a support group for you at AVEN at

Dear Annie: I read your response to “Concerned Old Man in West Hills,” who didn’t understand why his niece was upset when he told her she was fat. You said it was rude to comment on one’s appearance.

Why in hell do you think pointing out that someone is fat is so rude? They are obese, and they are killing themselves. What’s the big deal in saying so? I am 78 years old and weigh the same as I did in high school through effort and sacrifice. Give me a break!

– Not a Rude Guy, Just Honest

Dear Not: The fact that something may be true does not make it less rude. Would you say, “My goodness, that’s an ugly baby!” or “You are really unattractive”? It is not OK to disparage someone’s size when they already know they are heavy, and you have no idea whether there are underlying reasons or whether they’ve been working hard on it. It can be especially galling when someone who never has had a weight problem thinks he knows enough to pass judgment. More importantly, it doesn’t help the other person lose weight, so being rude is simply a form of self-indulgence. Whatever effort and sacrifice you put into maintaining your weight might now be put to good use learning to be kinder.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: The current “fad” of gluten-free products is both beneficial and harmful to those of us who must follow a gluten-free diet because of celiac disease.

On one hand, it’s easier to find gluten-free foods. But on the other hand, those of us with celiac disease are looked upon as if we are simply food faddists.

Here are some of the problems we face: Restaurants are more aware of the need to serve gluten-free meals, but are often sloppy in their attempts to avoid cross-contamination, not being aware of the extreme importance of “not even a crumb.” When a hostess declares a dish to be gluten free, does she understand the restrictions of wheat, rye and barley? Will she be kind to us if we question her recipes? Will she be offended if we decline to partake?

When we are at a dinner, we often hear such ignorant comments as, “Are you trying to improve your athletic performance?” or “Go ahead, a little won’t hurt you. Don’t be so fussy.”

Can you help educate the public about the difference between celiac disease, which necessitates a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, and those who are simply making a personal choice?

– Cheryl in Pennsylvania

Dear Cheryl: No one should treat eating restrictions as a “fad,” because you never know who truly has a serious problem. In people with celiac disease, eating anything with gluten triggers an immune response. It can damage the small intestine and make it difficult to absorb nutrients from food.

Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to anemia, osteoporosis and lymphoma. In children, celiac disease can slow growth and weaken bones. There is often a genetic component. On the other hand, some folks are simply gluten sensitive.

Eating gluten may make them uncomfortable or tired, and when they cut gluten out of their diet, they feel more energetic. “Cheating,” however, will not cause the severe symptoms of celiac disease.

Dear Annie: I read your response to “Not a Christian,” who objected to a breakfast gathering that started with the blessing “in Jesus’ name.” You said it was inappropriate. I suspect the majority of the people in that room find comfort in this blessing, and the rest probably don’t care. Why offend many to make a very few happy? People like this are intolerant and selfish.

– Karen from Wyoming

Dear Wyoming: We know many find these blessings comforting, but others do not. Why offend anyone? This is not a religious gathering. It does not require a public prayer from any denomination, and it’s certainly not for the majority religion to impose its beliefs on the rest, no matter how few.

Those who wish to give a blessing of any kind can do so at their own table instead of insisting on offering a prayer on behalf of others who would rather you didn’t.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I am a 68-year-old twice-divorced woman who has made some unwise decisions in my life. I’m single (which is fine) and will be retiring at year’s end. I’m currently living with an egotistical, frugal, cold-as-ice 75-year-old man who claims he loves me, yet he dominates every conversation, lacks social skills, ignores etiquette and attempts to control me.

I didn’t know him long enough before I moved to be with him. We met at a dance when he was in town visiting friends. I still couldn’t discern infatuation from love. I wanted a fairy tale. I thought with my heart instead of my head. After a while, dancing four nights a week wears thin when that’s all there is to enjoy together. I haven’t been happy for several years. We’ve made some nice friends, but if I don’t suggest getting together, they never would. My children and siblings live out of state, and I want to move back home. How can I do that and save face with my family and friends? They warned me that I was rushing into things.

– Danced Enough

Dear Danced: You’d rather be unhappy than admit you made a mistake? It could be very freeing to say to your friends and family, “You were right. I should have listened.” Then it’s over. Just make sure you don’t repeat the mistake. Take some time to figure out what is best for you, without focusing on the next man in your life.

Dear Annie: I’ve been married for 45 years. I love my wife, but I like to flirt with women.

Last year I did more than flirt, and my wife found out. I asked her to forgive me, and she did. But when she keeps asking for an explanation, I blow her off, leave or get upset until she quits asking annoying questions. Should I tell her to get over it, or sit down with her and tell her the entire truth, even if it is more than she can handle?

– Wondering

Dear Wondering: You cheated on your wife, and you find her questions “annoying”? Your wife deserves your complete honesty. It’s not up to you to decide what is too much for her to handle. She might forgive you, but she will never be able to trust you again if she doesn’t believe you are totally truthful, answering any questions she has for as long as it takes. Ask your doctor to refer you to a marriage counselor so the two of you can hash this out and truly start fresh.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I had to respond to “Frustrated with Noise,” who had a problem with children crying in church. Obviously, this person doesn’t have children. How are these kids supposed to learn how to behave in church if their parents do not have them participate in the services? Yes, loudly screaming children should be removed until they can calm down, but otherwise the children should remain.

As a young mother, I attended church alone with my two young sons. Once, the baby started crying, and I did not want to leave my 4-year-old in the pew, and he was unwilling to leave with me. When I later apologized to the wonderful Franciscan friar who was the officiate that day, he simply stated, “No worries. He was just singing his praises to God.” We should all take this attitude toward our youngest church members.

– Experienced Church Mom

Dear Mom: Our mail was divided evenly on this one. Read on:

Texas: I liked your response, but here’s the problem. Most churches are so desperate to get bodies in the door, they won’t attempt to instruct parents in how to behave. These parents, like the children they coddle, won’t see themselves in this letter. They’ll say, “It’s just a little crying spell, and she’ll get over it in a minute.” But if it happens week after week, it means the child is exerting control. Instead of raising children, these parents are raising their own little center of the universe, teaching them that if they scream enough they’ll get what they want. We have self-centered parents raising another generation of kids even more self-centered.

From Florida: I am a children’s pastor with many years of experience. Every church I have served in has had a fully staffed nursery with loving, trained volunteers and a well-equipped and exceptionally clean environment. But when we suggest parents take advantage of these services, some of them act as if we are trying to sell their children. It is the responsibility of the parents to realize that not everyone is overjoyed listening to their child cry, scream or otherwise disrupt the service. We are pleased to help, but we can’t care for children if parents won’t bring them to us!

Boston: My father was a minister. It was most troubling to him, too, dealing with this touchy subject. One Sunday morning while preaching, a child started crying. The mother got up to leave, and my father stopped speaking. A loud snore broke the silence. My father said, “I can preach over a crying baby, but not over the snoring of adults.” There was applause as the mother sat back down. What happens when babies cry on airplanes? There’s no place to send them, so please be understanding.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Readers: Happy July 4th! Here’s a little history of the Liberty Bell:

The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered the Liberty Bell in 1751 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges, the original Constitution of the state of Pennsylvania. On Nov. 1, 1751, a letter was sent to order a bell from Whitechapel Foundry in London and to inscribe on it a passage from Leviticus: “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof – Lev. XXV X. By Order of the ASSEMBLY of the Province of PENSYLVANIA for the State House in Philada.”

The bell was hung on March 10, 1753, and cracked the first time it was struck. At the time, it was thought that the bell was too brittle. Two Philadelphia foundry workers named John Pass and John Stow were given the cracked bell to be melted down and recast. They added copper in an attempt to make the new bell less brittle.

No one liked the sound, so Pass and Stow tried again. In November, the sound still wasn’t good enough, so a new one was ordered from Whitechapel. When the new bell arrived, it sounded no better than the other one, so the Whitechapel bell ended up in the cupola on the State House roof, and the Pass and Stow bell remained in the steeple.

The Liberty Bell tolled when Benjamin Franklin was sent to England to address Colonial grievances, it tolled when King George III ascended to the throne in 1761, and it tolled to call together the people of Philadelphia to discuss the Sugar Act in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765.

In October 1777, the British occupied Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell was hidden in the floorboards of the Zion Reformed Church in Allentown. According to tradition, it continued tolling for the First Continental Congress in 1774, the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 and on July 8, 1776, when it summoned the citizenry for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. However, the steeple was in bad condition, and historians today doubt the likelihood of the story. The final expansion of the crack that rendered the bell unringable was on Washington’s birthday in 1846.

The Liberty Bell was originally called the “State House Bell,” but abolitionists adopted it as a symbol and gave it the name “Liberty Bell” in 1837. In 1847, George Lippard wrote a fictional story for The Saturday Courier that told of an elderly bellman waiting in the State House steeple for word that Congress had declared independence. Suddenly the bellman’s grandson, who was eavesdropping at the doors of Congress, yelled to him, “Ring, Grandfather! Ring!” The story captured the imagination of the people, and the Liberty Bell was forever associated with the Declaration of Independence.

Starting in the 1880s, the bell traveled to cities around the country “proclaiming liberty” and inspiring the cause of freedom. A replica of the Liberty Bell, forged in 1915, was used to promote women’s suffrage. It traveled the country with its clapper chained to its side, silent until women won the right to vote. On Sept. 25, 1920, it was brought to Independence Hall and rung in ceremonies celebrating the ratification of the 19th amendment.

Each year, the bell is gently tapped in honor of Martin Luther King Day. On every Fourth of July, at 2 p.m. Eastern time, children who are descendants of Declaration signers symbolically tap the Liberty Bell 13 times while bells across the nation also ring 13 times in honor of the patriots from the original 13 states.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I’m a 58-year-old male. Ever since my early 20s, I’ve been confused about which sex I truly am. Of course, I was born a male, but my thoughts and feelings are that of a female. There is nothing about being a male that interests me. I’m thinking about getting hormone shots to become more female.

I’ve lived with this issue all of my life, but maybe it’s too late for me now. Do you have any suggestions or information?

– Unknown Gender

Dear Unknown: It is not too late for you to work on this, and we recommend you get more information before starting hormone shots. You can find resources and support on transgender issues through the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center ( and the American Psychological Association (, which can answer many of your questions and point you in the right direction.

Dear Annie: Two years ago, our youngest daughter married a wonderful young man. We adore this guy, and he is a loving and caring husband. The problem is his parents. Neither his family nor ours is wealthy, and from the early stages of wedding planning, we worked to stay within a budget.

Our family is small, and his is large, which put the dinner over budget. We all met prior to the wedding, and the groom’s parents assured us they would pay for the additional guests from their side of the family. At the end of the evening, my husband paid the catering bill. The next day, the groom’s father thanked us for all of the planning and effort that went into making the day so special and added that he would be sending us a check to cover the dinner.

That was two years ago, and we have yet to receive a dime. Our new son-in-law asked his father several times whether he had settled up with us, and he said he absolutely would, but it hasn’t happened.

We love this young man dearly, and I’m afraid if we say anything now, he will take it upon himself to pay us, and it’s not his responsibility. My husband has worked hard his whole life, and at the age of 70, he is very set in his ways. He judges a man by his word, and now he wants nothing to do with our daughter’s in-laws.

Should I send them a note asking them to pay, even after all this time? I’m afraid that when future grandchildren come, it will be tense and unpleasant to be around each other because of this unpaid bill.

– Sad Mother-in-Law

Dear Sad: We’re going to give the in-laws the benefit of the doubt and assume they forgot. Even with the best of intentions and a few reminders, people can let things slip out of their heads. We suggest you send a note to the other parents (both of them), saying that you were going through your checkbook and noticed that this account was still unsettled. Ask when would be convenient for you to come by and pick up the check. (If they live out of state, ask them when you can expect it in the mail.) If you think they are having financial difficulties, you could offer an installment plan. Be sure to add some kind words about their wonderful son and how thrilled you are to have him in the family. We hope they come through.

Annie’s Mailbox

Happy Canada Day to all of our readers north of the border!

Dear Annie: Twenty-eight years ago, I was married with three children. We moved to a small city and met “Jane and Doug” and their children. Jane and I became instant friends, and our children played together.

Jane began an affair with some guy she met at work, and at the same time, I became enthralled with Doug. I convinced Jane that she would be happier if she divorced, even though I knew Doug didn’t want that. Nonetheless, we all divorced, and I moved in with Doug.

Ten years ago, Jane convinced her two sons to move back home and work for their father’s company. Jane then left her boyfriend of 15 years and moved into her son’s home. This is when my nightmare began.

Doug and I are members of a social club. Doug’s sons joined the club, and then Jane joined so she could spend time with her sons. She invaded our lives. She is there whenever we are, sitting at the same table, playing pool, etc., and dancing with Doug. Jane and I do not speak. My daughter told her to get a life of her own, but she says this is her only family, and she has nothing else.

Jane is quite attractive, but won’t date anyone. Doug feels sorry for her and obviously enjoys her attention. I know she holds a grudge against me for stealing her husband.

I do not enjoy the club anymore. I’ve tried not going, but that plays right into Jane’s hands. So I continue to go with Doug. He knows how much this hurts me, but he will not be rude to Jane or tell her to go away. I’ve considered giving him an ultimatum, but I don’t want to take the chance of losing him after 28 years. I really love him. Is there any way to resolve this?

– Unhappy and Frustrated

Dear Unhappy: Some folks may see this as divine justice, but no one in this scenario is innocent. Nonetheless, you pushed Doug to get a divorce he didn’t want, which means he may still have unresolved feelings about Jane. Please get counseling, preferably with Doug, and see whether the two of you can be honest enough to work this out.

Dear Annie: After reading the letter from “Hurting Daughter-in-Law,” whose in-laws inexplicably stopped speaking to her and also cut off contact with their 10-year-old grandson, I have come to the conclusion that there are a lot of weird people in the world.

– S.S.

Dear S.S.: You should see it from our end.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar.