Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I am one of four adult children. Our father died a couple of years ago. Three of us have our own homes. One sister, “Diane,” has been married twice and has lived with numerous men and was kicked out when each relationship ended. She has no place that she owns.

Our mother has told us that after she is gone, Diane will get the house and still share a quarter of the remaining assets. Dad was not in agreement with this, but Mom outlived him. In the past few years, Mom has spent at least $10,000 “fixing up the house” for our sister, sometimes at Diane’s suggestion. Diane moved in with our mother and treats her badly. She doesn’t spend much time with Mom, but when she does, she is terribly rude and condescending to her. It’s more than we can stand.

Mom has dementia and is getting worse. The house is filthy, and Diane becomes angry if we try to clean it. What can we do without a full family blowup? We all agree it is elder abuse, but don’t know what to do.

– Heartbroken Daughter

Dear Heartbroken: A full family blowup is the least of your worries. You have to protect your mother. The National Council on Elder Abuse ( offers a list of state resources for reporting abuse, including Adult Protective Services in Mom’s area. You also can call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 for resources and assistance.

Dear Annie: I have a question about tipping in hotels. I always tip for the number of nights I stay. If I checked in on Monday, I would leave a tip on Tuesday and again prior to my checking out on Wednesday. I thought this was correct.

Recently, we needed extra towels. I walked the note to the front desk and added a tip, telling the front desk clerk that we were leaving in the morning and would like the room made up early. The desk clerk thanked me on behalf of the housekeeping staff and assured me that the tip would be passed on.

But when I spoke to the housekeeper later that day, she said she didn’t receive the tip. When I asked the desk clerk, she said she had been instructed by the manager to give the tip to the housekeeper who made up the room prior to our Monday check-in. Was the manager correct? When I tried to leave a tip for the other gal the next day, I discovered that was her day off. How best can I make this up to her? What do I do in the future?

– Tipping Quandary from Ohio

Dear Ohio: You are correct to leave a tip for the housekeeper each day of your stay, because you never know who is cleaning your room on any given day. The problem occurred because you handed the tip to the desk clerk, and the manager gave it to someone else. If you insist on making it up to the housekeeper, send the tip to the hotel with her name on the envelope. But in the future, we’d leave tips on the dresser and ask for extra towels by calling the front desk from your room.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My second cousin “Susan” and I are in our 60s and have been friends since childhood. I was widowed six years ago. Susan never married.

Four years ago, Susan and I started traveling together. It’s much cheaper to travel as part of a couple than solo, and we get along well. Now, however, there are a couple of problems. Susan has put on so much weight that she encroaches on my airplane seat and tour bus bench. Airplane seats are not that comfortable to begin with, and Susan takes up a good third of mine. This makes long flights very uncomfortable. I think Susan should pay for a first-class seat or two coach seats.

The other problem is that Susan has taken in several stray dogs and cats, and her clothes reek of cat urine. I no longer want to share a hotel closet when we travel, because my clothes begin to smell like hers.

Susan is already talking about another trip, and I don’t know how to respond. I enjoy traveling, but I cannot deal with these things anymore. Any suggestions?

– Struggling Cousin

Dear Cousin: You have to tell Susan about the cat odor. She is undoubtedly so accustomed to it that she can no longer smell it. Say, “Susan, I’m sure you probably don’t notice it, but your clothes are starting to smell like your cats. Perhaps it would help to change the type of litter you use or put your clothes in a different closet.”

The weight issue, however, is more sensitive. If you are willing to address it directly, gently let Susan know that her size makes travel uncomfortable for you. Consider buying your own first-class, business class or premium economy ticket, and Susan can follow suit or sit elsewhere. Or perhaps you each could share the cost of a third seat so you have extra room. You also could suggest sitting separately on tour buses so that you can meet new friends along the way.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “At a Loss for Words,” whose mother shows little interest in her daughter’s children. She says her mom “is extremely self-centered.” She wants her mother in her life, but the hurt is getting to be too much.

I agree with most of your advice, but I think she should continue to invite the mother, regardless of whether she attends or not. Narcissistic people crave attention, even negative attention. Not inviting Mom allows her to think of herself as a victim of an ungrateful daughter. An invitation hurts no one, especially if the grandchildren are taught that Grandma probably won’t attend, and it prevents giving Grandma a way to show her disapproval, cause hurt and be the center of attention.

– N in N.C.

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

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My boss insists that all of her employees eat lunch with her in the cafeteria every day. She really gets out of whack if we decide to use our “unpaid” time to do what we want. She says we aren’t team players if we don’t eat together. And for the most part, lunch is all about her. She controls the conversation, which is all about her life. Today, she shared that she scolded a family member for bringing their cell phone to the family dinner table. A few of us at the table had cell phones with us at the time.

I don’t know how to handle this. We’re a small operation and can’t avoid one another. I think I should be able to text my kids during my lunch hour. She can’t stand to be argued with and never apologizes. We all need our jobs. What can we do?

– Cornered in N.Y.

Dear N.Y.: It is unfortunate that your boss is so clueless and narcissistic. Does she have a supervisor? If so, that is the person to whom you need to direct your complaint. You also could approach your boss as a group, perhaps sending her a letter signed by everyone, explaining that lunch together is nice, but you also need a break during the day to handle personal things that come up while you’re at work, and you don’t want to do it on company time. You can ask whether she would be willing to set aside half of the lunch hour for personal time and let her know how much all of you would appreciate it. But only you can assess how much you value this job and what you risk by pursuing this.

Dear Annie: Last year, my siblings loaned my father a decent sum of money, and Dad has yet to pay them back. I was not in a position to help then, but since that time, knowing my father has had financial issues (notably as a result of his poor decisions), I have helped in smaller ways, mostly by buying food for him.

Recently, Dad started dating a woman and has talked about various vacations they have taken and trips they are planning. My siblings don’t live around here and are not as close to Dad, so they have no idea where the money is going. Although I don’t want to get in the middle, I think they have a right to know that Dad could be paying them back in some small measure rather than using the money for vacations with his girlfriend. I sure would want to know.

– F.

Dear F.: Are you sure Dad is paying for these excursions? It’s quite possible the new girlfriend is paying for these trips. You can ask him why, if he has money to spare, he’s not giving it to your siblings, and yes, you can mention to your siblings that Dad went on a trip or two. But we don’t recommend you chastise Dad or rile up your siblings. They may be delighted that he’s getting out and enjoying his life, and the money might not be that important to them. Or they may have loaned him the money without expecting repayment. Any argument about those loans should be between your siblings and their father. No good will come of you putting yourself in the middle.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My 77-year-old grandmother is an incredibly caring and loving woman, and she expresses this through cooking. Granny cooks large meals every day, and if you’re around, there’s no chance to escape without eating at least one plateful.

Dropping hints or saying you just ate, are on a diet or aren’t hungry doesn’t work. She says, “Eat it while it’s hot!” or “It’s not that filling,” and suddenly two more scoops of potato salad have appeared on your dish.

I feel trapped. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, because I know she does it out of love and because when she was growing up there wasn’t always food in the house. But it’s no good gorging until I feel sick. It feels like she’s trying to feed me to death. Help!

– Stuffed in Pennsylvania

Dear Stuffed: You are right that Granny shows love through food, and it also gives her pleasure to see you gorge. But no matter how much food Granny puts on your plate, you are not obligated to finish it. Practice saying “no” sweetly but more convincingly. Spend some time taking one bite and pushing food around on your plate, and then sit back and say, “I’m stuffed! I can’t eat one more thing.” She’ll insist. You’ll repeat. She’ll cajole. You’ll repeat. She’ll act hurt. You’ll repeat. Ask whether you could take the food home (where you can do with it whatever you like). Tell her you love her. Ask her to talk to you about her day. But under no circumstances do you have to eat everything she puts in front of you.

Dear Annie: We are perplexed as to the actions of our grown children. We were not perfect parents, but consider ourselves to have been pretty good. Our kids grew up in a nice home where friends were welcome, and they were involved in church and extracurricular activities. Now that they have their own homes, my wife and I continue to help by babysitting and lending a hand when needed.

But as we find ourselves aging and occasionally needing help from them, no help is forthcoming. Why? What makes adult children tune out the needs of aging parents? We feel hurt by their lack of caring.

– Confused Mom and Dad

Dear Mom and Dad: Have you asked your children for specific help? Sometimes parents expect the children to know what they need, but the kids can be oblivious, assuming their parents are as competent and capable as they always have been. Also, some parents expect grown children with family obligations of their own to do chores that would consume every weekend, when the parents are perfectly able to hire someone to do these jobs. Kids resent this.

Otherwise, please be direct. Say, “We are finding it difficult to change the light bulbs in our house because we are unsteady on the stepladder. Could you come by one day this week and take care of that for us? We’d truly appreciate it.” Most kids will step up when asked.

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: Our daughter will be a college freshman this year. She has been texting her new roommate so they can learn a little about each other.

Our daughter recently received a text from her new roomie stating that her parents and boyfriend will be bringing her to the campus. Her parents will be staying in her brother’s apartment, but the boyfriend is planning to stay in the girls’ dorm room. The room has two twin beds and very little space.

I was disappointed to hear this. My daughter is also bummed, but she is afraid to rock the boat with a new roommate. I contacted the university to see what their policy is. Even though it is an all-girl dorm, there is no policy against men staying in the rooms.

We very much want our daughter to have a good roommate experience. However, we do not want her to have to put up with a boyfriend in her room throughout the year. Do you have any suggestions?

– Mom

Dear Mom: These are the kinds of problems that crop up in college dorms, and your daughter needs to work them out herself. She can talk to her new roommate, asking how often the boyfriend will be around and whether they can go to his place instead. She can get a privacy screen so this activity is not in her face.

But we also recommend she ask to be placed with a different roommate, if not for this semester, then for the next one. Regardless of the university’s policy, they do not want the students (or their parents) to be unhappy with their living arrangements.

Dear Annie: This is in response to “Worried Wife,” who fears her husband is a pedophile. He absolutely is.

I am now 50 years old. Twenty years ago, my father, a respected community member, was accused of being a pedophile, but the case was not prosecuted. Our whole family went to therapy. My father admitted he had molested the poor boy and also that he had molested several other boys in prior years.

At that time, I told him that if I ever suspected him of molesting another child, I would turn him in to the police. I did so 10 years later. It turned out he had a string of male victims going back nearly 50 years. I only wish I had turned him in earlier. While it is sad that my 80-year-old father is in prison and will no longer communicate with me, it was the right thing to do. I am thankful that I was able to end his abuse of innocent human beings.

My father was never observed kissing or touching boys. We just knew he had an unnatural attraction for them. “Worried Wife’s” situation is far more blatant. She may want to keep him out of jail for her daughters’ sakes, but be assured that this young boy is only a stop on the way to his next victim.

– F.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: We need some serious advice about a family member who is driving the entire family insane. When “Billy” was a child, he was considered gifted, and everyone predicted he would accomplish unbelievable things. After six years of college, he has no degree and is only qualified to be a bartender or a rugby player.

But this hasn’t stopped him from getting married and having three little kids. They all moved in with his mother and stepfather. They don’t assist with any of the bills, but occasionally buy food that they mark as theirs and won’t let anyone else eat. His wife has a good job, and we’re afraid she might get tired of him being a deadbeat and leave.

Billy has bounced from job to job and either quits or gets fired within weeks. He lost a managerial position when he was late the first day because he couldn’t find his tie – he blamed it on his youngest child. Worse, he still thinks he’s gifted. Several other members of our family have gone on to get degrees, but Billy makes remarks that indicate he’s the genius and they haven’t achieved anything. He dominates our family get-togethers. I don’t think he realizes his faults or what he’s doing to the rest of the family. He always claims to be the victim.

Now he has found a local doctor to prescribe painkillers for his rugby injuries and is passed out in the recliner most of the time. He actually transported two of his children to school and almost hit a school bus. We are taking on water and won’t last much longer. Please save our sinking ship and tell us what to do.

– Reaching for a Life Jacket

Dear Reaching: Has Billy been tested for attention deficit disorder? Is his doctor aware that these painkillers are too strong? Would his wife insist he get counseling to work on his issues? Is she aware that he drove the kids to school under the influence? (She should be.) Unless Billy is living in your home, you are limited in what you can do about this. But please help your parents and those young children whenever possible.

Dear Annie: You recently advised “Sad Grandparents” that if they suspect their daughter is being abused by her husband, they should report it to the authorities. Please advise your readers that they can do this anonymously. It may increase the chances of people reporting abuse.

– J.

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’ve dealt with a family member who has been a sex addict for years. I’ve hinted that a “sex addict” is pretty much the same as a drug addict. If it’s something you hide from loved ones, it can’t be a positive way of life.

I’ve noticed the times when this family member seems to be “holding it together” or “keeping it under control.” I don’t think you can be “in control” of an addiction. It shows in the face, attitude, weight loss or gain, social life and daily living. It pains me that I can’t help. I’ve been told by several family members that “you can’t save everybody.” Well, I want to try. What can I do?

– Caring Relative

Dear Caring: You can stop making assumptions about addicts and what it means for them to keep things under control. We know you mean well and want to help. Please suggest that your relative contact Sex Addicts Anonymous at You also can look up sex addiction and see how you can be a source of support.

Dear Annie: Here’s my problem: 400-pound barbells dropped in my neighbor’s garage. The young couple who moved in next door describe themselves as “practicing athletes” and pursue this hobby every night for 45 minutes. Each drop of the barbells is deafening and jolts our home. I have talked to “the athletes,” and they don’t care.

Their two young daughters follow in their parents’ footsteps by running to ring our doorbell and then dashing back home. They did it so many times that we had to have the doorbell disconnected.

We have asked the police to stop the barbell noise, but they tell us people in our subdivision can make noise until 8 p.m.

Waiting for this agonizing racket every night, day after day, is enough to make me sick. My nerves are in shreds. When a homeowner receives no help from the police, what can I do? I am an 82-year-old woman, and I have tinnitus, which causes loud ringing in my head. Since my neighbors started their weight-dropping routine, it has become worse.

Do you have any suggestions other than suing them?

– Going Deaf in Michigan

Dear Michigan: If the noise ordinance says they can drop weights until 8 p.m., you have no cause to sue them over that. However, if your doctor can document that your tinnitus is worse because of the noise emanating from their garage, you may have a case.

In the meantime, please do what you can to muffle these sounds. Put a fan in your room. Turn on the television or radio. Wear earplugs. Even better, get out of the house until 8 p.m. Even though it’s late, you aren’t going to be able to relax anyway. So go for a walk with your husband, a friend, a relative or another neighbor. Staying home and fuming helps no one.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I have a question for parents. Why, when the kids’ soccer, football or baseball games are over, do the parents open up the trunks of their cars and get out the beer? Tailgate parties with alcohol do not belong at children’s events.

When my children played sports, we went out for ice cream. Alcohol was not permitted before or after. What kind of behavior is this teaching our children? Where are the police? They have to know this is happening. Their children play sports, too. Not to mention, these same parents put their children in the car and drive home after drinking in the parking lot. Please explain this to me.

– Concerned Grandparent

Dear Concerned: There is no rational explanation. These parents are irresponsible and idiotic. The organizations or schools that sponsor the sports should issue rules about parental behavior before, during and immediately after the games, and you (or the parents of your grandchildren) should request that it be done.

Dear Annie: My niece recently married her live-in boyfriend. They chose to marry in another country, but didn’t send any announcements or invitations. That’s fine, because it was expensive.

When one aunt who could afford the plane fare and hotel asked whether she could attend, she was told “no.” The only guests were the parents. The aunt was deeply hurt. I felt bad for her and angry with the bridal couple for being so rude. When they returned to the states, another family member asked whether there would be a reception and was told there wouldn’t be.

Now they are hinting for presents. My sister-in-law asked me to go in with her to purchase a rather expensive gift, and I refused because of the way they treated the aunt. My family is angry with me. Frankly, I never want to hear from that niece again. Am I wrong?

– Ex-Auntie

Dear Ex: Yes. The bridal couple can invite whomever they wish, and if they choose a small, immediate-family-only wedding with no stateside reception, that is up to them. The aunt was wrong to ask for an invitation simply because she could afford it. If they wanted extended family to be there, they would have invited everyone.

For most folks, if you are not invited to a wedding, you are not obligated to give a gift. But this is family, and yours is trying to be gracious and happy for the newlyweds by giving a gift. If you don’t wish to contribute, that’s up to you. But please don’t cut off your niece because you didn’t approve of her guest list. At least send a card with your best wishes.

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

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: Eight months ago, our highly educated 43-year-old daughter informed my wife that she hates her. She put on a humiliating performance in front of her two children, a stepchild, her husband and us. We don’t understand this at all, but she now wants nothing to do with us. We do not deserve such treatment. We have been good, helpful parents and grandparents. In March, I phoned my daughter and asked why she hates her mother. She refused to discuss it. Three months later, I wrote her a letter and asked again. She has not responded. Our daughter’s first marriage was not good, and we helped her emotionally and financially. Is a therapist giving her bad advice? Does she have a split personality? Might she be in a cult? Is her husband pushing her to do this? Please help us find a reason for this shabby, disrespectful treatment.

– Bewildered Dad in Illinois

Dear Dad: Your concerns are all interesting possibilities, but extreme. More likely, your daughter blames her mother for things that have gone wrong in her life. You may see it differently, but this is your daughter’s version, and to her, it is the truth. Please don’t argue with her. Instead, ask whether all of you can go for counseling together to work through whatever issues are troubling her, so you can be a family again. We hope she will agree.

Dear Annie: My neighbor’s tree hangs 15 feet over my property line and shades my crabapple tree. When I asked “Ralph” to trim his tree so that mine could get some sunlight, he went ballistic and refused.

Whenever Ralph and his wife go on vacation, I water their dozens of plants and take in their mail. I no longer want to do either of these things, because they obviously don’t appreciate it. I once asked them to watch my dog when I needed to go to the emergency room, and they wouldn’t do it.

Ralph got into a fistfight with the neighbor on the other side when the man wanted to install a fence on his property. He once physically pushed the cable installers when they tried to lay down cable for another neighbor.

All I want is for Ralph to trim his tree so that mine can survive. Do you think I should water their plants and take in their mail in the future?

– Unhappy Neighbor

Dear Neighbor: Ralph sounds like a loose cannon. It’s your decision whether or not to take care of his mail and plants. You are not obligated to do so, and he certainly does not reciprocate. But about the tree: In most cases, it is legal for you to trim the branches that hang over your property line, provided you do not harm the tree. However, we don’t recommend you confront Ralph directly with this because he is so volatile. Do you have a neighborhood association that can help mediate the issue? Would his wife intercede? As a last resort, you can take Ralph to court. And if he is causing your crabapple tree to die, you can sue for damages.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My 5-year-old son has been claiming to see the paranormal. I’m sure part of it is just his imagination. But sometimes he describes in great detail people and even pets who have died.

He mainly claims to see a cousin he never met, but whom he can describe accurately. Sometimes, he will sit up in bed and start talking to a wall, saying he is talking to his cousin.

Now he says he can see someone else. He isn’t sure who it is, but it frightens him. My son won’t even walk past the bedroom door without me or another adult with him and the bedroom light on.

We don’t let him watch scary movies or anything like that. Is it possible that he is really seeing these things? I’ve mentioned it to a few different ministers who just laughed it off and said there is no such thing as the paranormal. Any advice would be appreciated.

– A Fan of Your Work

Dear Fan: The fact that your son doesn’t watch scary movies does not mean he hasn’t been exposed to ads for them or comments from friends. Nonetheless, our concern is not that your son is making it up. Sometimes manifestations of the paranormal can indicate a medical problem. Please take him to his doctor for a complete checkup, including a neurological exam.

Dear Annie: I would like to contribute to the responses to “Frustrated with Noise,” who complained about young children in church.

When my sons were small, they were a wild bunch running down the aisles of our synagogue. Our rabbi never reprimanded them. If a baby cried during services, the rabbi would always ask the parents not to remove the child.

One day he explained: He was a Holocaust survivor. The first year after he was liberated from the concentration camp, there were no children at services. They had all been murdered. After a year or so, people started to have children again. Babies were born. At the first service with children in attendance, there was the sound of babies crying. It was such a joyful sound that our rabbi never again wanted to preside over a service without the sound of children.

– Agoura Hills, Calif.

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: My husband and I recently purchased a new home. It took us a while to reach this point. In the course of trying to purchase, we were offered help by a good friend, “Mary,” who lives 1,500 miles away. Mary referred us to her mortgage lender, also 1,500 miles away. We engaged the lender, who worked hard, but things didn’t move as quickly as we needed, and we lost a large deposit on the house, along with the costs of an appraisal and inspection. This was money we could ill-afford.

We recently found another house and used a local mortgage lender. Everything went smoothly, and we’ll be moving soon. Here’s the problem: Last month, Mary called to chew me out because we didn’t use her mortgage person. I told Mary that we lost a lot of money due to that person’s inability to help us, and we’ve moved on. Mary was mean and nasty and hung up on me. I haven’t heard from her since.

Mary and I have known each other for 30 years, and we’ve been through a great many of life’s ups and downs. She’s like a sister to me, and our husbands get along well, too. I was astonished that she would be so obtuse about what we’d been through. Mary often reacts like this when she’s angry, but I wonder why it’s up to me to make the effort to fix things. Should I reach out to her? It saddens me that such a longtime friendship would end this way, but I’m ready to let it go.

– Arizona

Dear Arizona: Mary is what we call high maintenance. She is emotionally demanding, cuts you off when you don’t put her first and then forces you to do the hard work of repairing the friendship. Over time, this behavior becomes tiresome, and we don’t blame you for having had enough. Mary lives 1,500 miles away. Consider distancing yourself from the friendship, bit by bit. Let Mary make the next move, whenever that is, and you can maintain the level of friendship that best suits you. In the meantime, please try to find new friends in your current location.

Dear Annie: I found the letter from “A.” so refreshing. The mother told her son that certain events require a personal phone call instead of a text message, and then he did it. What magic did she use? Communication. She told him calmly what she wanted, it was reasonable, and he did it.

People can’t read your mind. Stop acting affronted and insulted or stewing in your own replay of past events, and communicate calmly.

– Not Karnack

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

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: This is for the many caring children who are forced by circumstances to place their elderly parents in a nursing home to be cared for by others. When visiting, these children are so heartbroken to hear the parent say over and over, “I want to go home.” Please tell them this “home” is most likely the safe, warm feeling of their childhood, or the place where they were in control of their lives. My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to care for his mother in a nice apartment annexed to our main living area. It had sliding doors to the deck and overlooked a quiet tranquil yard. We took our meals with her, and she had plenty of interaction with our family and as much personal care as possible. Yet, the more senility crept in the more she wanted to “go home.”

That feeling of “home” was the one thing we were not able to give her, no matter how hard we tried.

– No Regrets in Watertown, Conn.

Dear No Regrets: We suspect the need to “go home” reflects the fact that the place in which they are living, whether a care facility, a child’s home or any other residence, is foreign and frightening in its unfamiliarity. As dementia proceeds, what is considered familiar can go back a long way, and certainly those places include the warm feeling of childhood or a place where they were in control. What you cannot reproduce is the recognition of where they are and why.

It sounds as though you did everything possible for your mother-in-law. We’re glad you have no regrets. No one should feel guilty for doing the best they can.

Dear Annie: My mom is in her 70s. She always has had trouble controlling what comes out of her mouth, but it seems to be getting worse.

Mom often insults others by making offensive comments or asking rude questions. When they attempt to respond, she laughs in their face. I have heard Dad rebuke her on occasion for this behavior, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference. Simply being around her is exhausting. I worry that Mom is severely limiting her options in terms of who would be willing to care for her in the future. She doesn’t seem to realize that the more words she carelessly speaks the greater the likelihood that something regrettable will come out. Is there anything I can do or say to her that might make a difference?

– Can’t Think Before Speaking

Dear Can’t: Has your mother had a complete checkup lately? Sometimes these problems are the result of small strokes or other physical or neurological problems. On occasion, troublesome behavior that has been annoying but tolerable becomes less filtered and less controllable over time, especially if there is underlying depression or anxiety. Suggest your mother see her doctor, and offer to go with her so you can discuss this directly. You also can leave a message at the doctor’s office with your concerns.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Concerned Friend” with interest. I started biting my nails in the first grade and never could stop despite wanting to. Fifty years later, I was given medication for depression that also contained an anti-anxiety medication. To my amazement, the nail biting stopped, and I’ve had beautiful nails ever since.

– Prescott, Ariz.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I married my wife in 1957. We were compatible in every way and very much in love. We have four children, eight grandkids and 11 great-grandkids. Since the day I met her, whenever I held her or kissed her, she was always my 16-year-old sweetheart. She is still the gal I fell in love with.

About five years ago, my wife lost interest in lovemaking and will not talk about why. I’m sure she isn’t cheating. She is 73, and I am 79.

After 55 years together, I have finally noticed that she has aged. She just laughs when I say that I wish she would still act like my 16-year-old gal when I hold her and kiss her. I truly miss her touch and sweet words. She tells me she loves me, but it doesn’t feel like it.

The thing I want to get across is to always treat your partner like you did the first day you met him or her. It’s the best way of getting to your 57th anniversary. I promised to love her until the day I die, and I will keep that promise until we are head-to-head in our mausoleum 5th-floor penthouse.

– The Old Fool

Dear Fool: We sympathize, but we are also astounded at how many men truly do not understand what happens to a woman’s libido at menopause and beyond. Your wife’s lack of interest in lovemaking has nothing to do with how much she cares for you. She would probably love being your 16-year-old sweetheart, but her current hormonal state doesn’t permit it. It’s a physical change.

There are treatments, but they don’t work for everyone. Talk to your wife. Say that her physical touch – not sex – would mean the world to you, and ask whether she would be a bit more affectionate.

Dear Annie: Thank you for printing the letter from “Disgusted in New York,” whose 85-year-old aunt wasn’t bathed in the hospital.

I have been a nurse for many years. We never give baths in bathtubs to patients. We “bathe” them in bed – what my mother would have called a sponge bath. Also, it is possible to shower people who can handle a shower chair. However, this lady seemed to have an odor, thus none of the proper things was done for her well-being and comfort.

– A.S. RN

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: My dad passed away three years ago. He was one of my best friends, and we shared a love of classic automobiles.

The day Dad died, I chose to stay at work rather than go to the hospital. I run a business, and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. That evening, when I tried to console my mother, she asked, “Where were you?” She refused to look at me, so I left.

To my mother and her side of the family, it seems I am always doing the wrong thing. It was Dad who encouraged me to go my own way. My sister and her husband took over the sale of my mother’s house. I didn’t ask for anything. However, I do know classic car restorers and offered to help with the sale of my father’s cars when Mother said she wanted to get rid of them.

When I found a potential buyer for one last month, Mother informed me that she had given the car to my sister as a thank-you for all the work she and her husband had done for her during the sale of her home. Supposedly, they are “restoring” the car and plan to keep it in the family. No one bothered to tell me. I was angry and upset.

My friends all agree that my mother was wrong to give the car to my sister without telling me. I can no longer trust any of them, so either I let it go or cut ties. Who knows what else they’ve kept from me? If they truly cared about me, they would include me in family decisions. I was working on becoming closer to make up for our estrangement after Dad died, but now I feel betrayed. I am tired of paying for a debt I do not owe.

– Missing Dad

Dear Missing: You seem to be in complete opposition to your family. They say “left,” and you say “purple.” Perception means a great deal.

When you stayed at work instead of being at your father’s side, your family interpreted that to mean you didn’t care. When your mother then gave you the cold shoulder, you should have apologized instead of leaving. From her perspective, if you don’t care, why should she give you the cars to restore? And you believe that because you and Dad shared a love of those cars, she should have given you a voice in the decision. You aren’t communicating in the same language, and your anger is clouding the issue. Before the estrangement becomes permanent, please see whether you can work on this. Ask Mom to go with you for counseling. We hope she will so you both can express yourselves with a mediator present to translate.

Dear Annie: A while back, “Given Up Hope Out East” wrote that she was 50 years old and obese. She said she was happy and not going to diet anymore. It’s been months, and I haven’t been able to get her out of my mind. She needs to get busy and lose it before she gets older.

I’m 75 and morbidly obese and certainly wish I’d gotten it under control when I was 50. It gets 10 times harder every year to lose weight. I’ve lost 30 pounds in the past six months, but it’s really hard. I still have almost 200 pounds to go. Tell her to get with it!

– Getting There

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: How do you get help for a friend who appears to be drifting into dementia?

”Marjorie” and I have known each other for more than 20 years, and we have lunch every two weeks. When we first met, Marjorie was bright, energetic and involved in many activities. She is now in her mid-60s.

Two years ago, she suffered a couple of mini-strokes. At first, there were no obvious changes, but as time goes on, it has become more and more difficult to converse with her. She speaks in non sequiturs, has great difficulty finding the right word to express herself and often uses inappropriate phrases. She frequently misunderstands what I am saying and responds oddly. She now has considerable difficulty dealing with calculating the amount of her lunch check tip.

We have a friend whose wife has advanced dementia and is now confined to a care facility. He believes Marjorie is exhibiting the same symptoms. Marjorie seems completely unaware of how she has changed, and I am concerned that she needs help. It also alarms me that Marjorie is still driving and could injure herself or others. I am concerned that the workmen she hires to help around her house are taking advantage of her by charging excessive amounts for their services. If her funds are drained, she will have to substantially reduce her standard of living.

Annie, I am one of Marjorie’s closest friends, and yet I’m reluctant to say anything to her about this. I don’t want to hurt her. How do you tell someone she is losing her mind?

– Concerned Friend

Dear Concerned: You don’t. You tell her you are worried about her and ask whether she’s had a medical checkup recently. Marjorie’s problem may not be dementia, but she won’t know until she checks. (Sometimes, something as treatable as a urinary tract infection can mimic dementia.) If Marjorie has family, please notify them about her deteriorating mental state and suggest they accompany her to the doctor. You also can contact the Alzheimer’s Association ( helpline at 1-800-272-3900.

Dear Annie: “Salem, Oregon” asked how to get her family to stop giving her Christmas gifts. For several years, I wanted that, too, but my family wouldn’t agree.

Last year, I sent everyone an email telling them I would accept only handmade gifts or a notice of a gift to charity (monetary or that they volunteered). One planted a tree in my name, and I received a card from a charity when another helped with a special project. I plan to do the same thing this year.

– Feeling Great

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’m a young woman with a degree in education. After spending several years as a student teacher and co-teacher, I decided that I really don’t want to remain in teaching. I know I should have switched majors in college, but I hoped this would work out. I also was worried about what my family would think.

These same well-meaning family members are now actively pushing me to accept a teaching position in a nearby small town. I went to the interview to please them, but the entire time, I was wishing I were somewhere else. I have told only my immediate family that I’m going to turn down the job if offered.

So what do I tell these other relatives about my job decision? How do I keep them off my back? I’m already suffering health issues due to anxiety, and I don’t know how much more I can take. I’m tempted to move out of the area, but I love living in my town. Any help would be much appreciated.

– Ready To Run Away

Dear Ready: You have to develop a stronger spine. Your career choices belong to you, and although some folks may be disappointed, that’s their problem. Their disapproval should not determine your future. Practice saying, “I’m sorry you are unhappy with my choice.” You don’t have to talk about the reasons, nor do you need to create excuses. But you have to be able to withstand the fallout, which will be temporary in any case. This, too, shall pass.

Dear Annie: Last year, my son married a girl we adore. He and his new wife live in the same town. But ever since the wedding, he barely speaks to us. It’s as if he started his new life and forgot about his old one.

He’ll respond when I call or text, but he never initiates contact. He treats his siblings the same way, which makes me sad. The only way we see him is when I invite them over for dinner. We got along fine when he lived at home, so I don’t understand how he has seemingly forgotten us. I don’t know how to address this with him without coming across as rude.

– Lonely Mom

Dear Mom: You are making this an emotional crisis, and it doesn’t have to be. Your son still loves and cares about you. Let us explain: When your son lived at home, you saw him every day, and contact didn’t require any effort from him. Now that he lives away, it doesn’t occur to him to call or text, because he never had to think about it before. He is conditioned to let someone else do the work.

Here’s how you fix it: Let him know you miss him and would love it if he’d remember to call or text once or twice a week. But understand that you’ll still have to do most of the work. Then make friends with his wife. Call her. Text her. Ask her to go shopping with you or meet you for lunch. But also be sure to give them their space. While they are both part of your family, they are first and foremost a unit unto themselves.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I am the mother of a biracial child. My son’s father, “Derek,” and I are not currently together, as he resides some distance away, but we visit often so Derek and our son can have a relationship. Ultimately, we would like to be together.

The problem is my father. He is not, and never has been, a fan of interracial dating. Over the past five years, he has come to accept his grandson, but on more than one occasion, he has expressed his “disgust” and “disapproval” of the relationship I have with Derek, even using the “n” word. I have zero tolerance for this. My father doesn’t have to like Derek, and I’ve never tried to force a relationship between them. But he needs to respect that I’m an adult, and regardless of whether Derek and I are together, I am going to encourage him to have a healthy relationship with our son.

How do I get my father to understand this and, in the meantime, allow him to have a relationship with his grandchild when he harbors such ignorance and animosity?

– Stuck

Dear Stuck: Hopefully, your father’s attitude will become more enlightened the more attached he becomes to his grandson.

Nonetheless, the way to deal with Dad is to set boundaries. Do not permit him to denigrate Derek in front of your child or you. If he does so, leave the premises immediately, not in anger, but out of necessity, saying, “Sorry, Dad, but I will not tolerate such remarks.” Be consistent and firm. You can train Dad how to behave whether he agrees or not.

Dear Annie: “Old Friend” didn’t indicate whether she missed the funeral out of choice or due to lack of information. She said she had not been in touch with the deceased in months.

This past year, I missed the funeral of a dear friend’s mother. We always sat together at family dinners, and my lack of presence was noted. But the reason I didn’t attend is that when calls were made regarding the funeral, I was inadvertently left off the list. It was an oversight. I would have been there had I known. The family felt sad that I missed it, but they were not critical.

– S.

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 have one surviving parent nearing 90 years old, who until five years ago was able to live completely independently. A serious injury greatly reduced Dad’s mobility and caused chronic pain and hearing impairment. But he is mentally competent and able to live at home with some help. I live a couple of hours away, but I talk to Dad daily, supply nutritionally correct homemade frozen meals and make regular trips to help with house and yard work, minor repairs, appointments, errands and so forth. I also have a job and provide limited care for an in-law, as well, and my husband has serious chronic health issues that also require significant care. I am spread thin, and I am tired.

The problem is my sister, who is single, retired, has no children and lives walking distance from Dad. She likes to play the martyr, insisting that Dad’s condition is far worse than it really is and that he’s had dementia for 20 years. She claims to be his 24-hour caregiver.

None of this is true. In fact, Dad tells me that my sister rarely calls him, and when she does, she is verbally abusive. Sis tells these lies to the extended family and friends, saying that I’m unwilling to help with Dad’s care. I am not allowed to be a part of the family discussions about Dad’s needs. I am not allowed to be at family gatherings, as my presence would be “too upsetting” to my poor, long-suffering sister. She also tells the relatives not to call Dad because he’s too incapacitated to know what’s going on. It breaks Dad’s heart not to hear from anyone else. Dad won’t correct this misinformation, because he doesn’t want to embarrass my sister or have her yell at him. I have tried to hold my head up, ignore gossip and calmly give facts when confronted, but I am tired of being the villain. Above all, I am worried about Dad. How do I dig us both out of this mess?

– Vilified Sibling

Dear Vilified: If your sister is verbally abusive, report it to your local Administration on Aging ( We also recommend you phone or email the relatives and ask them to call Dad because he is lonely and would appreciate hearing from them regardless of his condition. Then please contact the Family Caregiver Alliance ( and ask about respite care for yourself. You have your hands full.

Dear Annie: Single older women outnumber similar men by a tremendous number. In my Sunday school class alone, there are several women who would love to have a man ask them out to lunch or a movie, yet the one or two single men in the group seem to have no interest in doing so. I am a neat, clean, self-responsible Christian woman, with my own car and home.

I can make easy conversation with men, but in my 10 years of widowhood, I have yet to be asked out even once. I am self-sufficient and lonely for male companionship, but don’t want to get married again. I have many gal pals I travel with, but I miss having a guy around. Tell “Okie” not to give up.

– Red Hat Mama

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My daughter was recently ordered by the court to have her 5-year-old son visit his biological father and grandparents every other weekend. They live 200 miles away. The boy has always lived with his mother, because the biological father felt he was not ready to be a dad and deserted them. Now they have decided they want to spend time with the boy.

When at their house, my grandson is not permitted to eat at the family table. He eats at a small table in the corner. He’s only permitted to eat or drink at certain times, he cannot phone his mother when he wants, he sleeps in a room in the basement, he must call the grandparents by specific names or they won’t speak to him, and most recently, he came home with so many mosquito bites that he required medical attention. Once, the biological father brought him home so sick that he missed a week of school. My daughter’s lawyer has been contacted, but is there anything we can do in the interim to protect the boy from such horrible abuse?

– Worried Grandma

Dear Worried: We’re not certain this qualifies as “horrible abuse.” It seems more like neglect combined with incompetent parenting skills. The lawyer should go to the judge immediately with documentation and ask for supervised visitation, and possibly mandate that the biological father take parenting classes. If you believe the boy is truly being abused, contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.

Dear Annie: Thank you for printing the letter about celiac disease. I hope you have space for a letter about children who are severely food allergic.

Food allergies were not part of our world in 1999. That is when our baby developed hives after eating mixed cereal. The pediatrician said, “Maybe he’s allergic to the wheat in the cereal. Give him Benadryl.” We didn’t know that “allergic to wheat” was serious or that wheat was in almost everything in our pantry, from barbecue sauce to root beer, cereals, potato chips, candy, hand cream, shampoo and sunblock. The early reactions were just hives. There was no thought of converting our kitchen or segregating him at school.

The first anaphylactic reaction came at age 4. The ER doctors explained cross-contamination. We were told to read all food labels and always carry EpiPens. At age 13, our son now cautiously sits at the school lunch table with his friends and goes to ballgames, overnight camp and select restaurants. We continue to be vigilant. One crumb of wheat in his mouth would lead us to the ER. We would like to share some resources about food allergies with your readers. Please suggest they contact:

Mothers of Children Having Allergies (; Food Allergy Research and Education ( (this is a merger of the Food Allergy Initiative and Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network); the Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research (; the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (

– B. in Chicago

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I am a 13-year-old boy and can’t talk about this with anyone I know.

My father isn’t in my life. It never mattered because I have the best older brother anyone could ask for. “Tommy” is 21, and he is my hero. He helps me with my homework, teaches me about life, takes me places, protects me and loves me unconditionally.

But here’s the problem. I think I’m in love with him. Is that possible? He’s all I can think about. I’m not gay. I like girls. I have never felt this way about any other guy. Tommy has a girlfriend, and they plan to get married. He’s never done anything to make me think he has other feelings for me, although he’s very affectionate. He gives me hugs and kisses the top of my head.

Is there something seriously wrong with me? Should I tell Tommy how I feel? I really love him with all my heart.

– Little Brother

Dear Brother: Thinking you are in love with a sibling is actually not that uncommon. When you are 13 and going through a great many physical and hormonal changes, it is easy to think that the strong, loving feelings you have for Tommy may be romantic in nature.

You admire him, appreciate him and want to be close to him. The important thing is to understand that these feelings will be replaced by more appropriate ones as you get older.

Until then, you can discuss these feelings with your Mom, your school counselor, your doctor or a trusted adult relative or neighbor.

Dear Annie: Our son married a wonderful girl last fall, and we love her and her parents dearly. There is only one problem. Their eating habits are atrocious.

”Emma” cooks nothing but high-fat, high-sugar food. Her mother cooks the same way. Since marrying, our son has put on a lot of weight, and all of them could lose a few pounds. Her father is having gallbladder issues but refuses to change his diet.

I have offered to help Emma learn new recipes, but she isn’t interested. I love these people and want to help them develop better eating habits, but I don’t want to make them angry by sticking my nose in where it doesn’t belong. How do I help?

– Mom-in-Law

Dear Mom-in-Law: Please don’t tell Emma’s parents how to eat. Your intentions are good, but there is no way to do this without sounding as if you are lecturing and criticizing them. The same goes for your daughter-in-law. Instead, concentrate on your son. Surely, he grew up with healthier eating habits and knows the difference. Encourage him to help Emma stay healthy, because this is something that will affect their future children. Then stay out of it.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: During the middle of my freshman year in high school, I was in the midst of training for my first real track season. My winter workouts gradually gained intensity, and my food intake gradually started to drop. Initially, the more weight I lost the easier it became to complete tough workouts. With that mentality, I slipped into the world of anorexia nervosa, thinking that eating less and exercising more would translate to success in athletics.

I struggled with the disorder in silence for months, dropping from 130 to 98 pounds on my 5-foot-7 frame. I’d eat a granola bar for breakfast, run five miles in 100-degree heat and then fall asleep in an attempt to ignore the hunger pangs.

The only person who ever directly confronted me about my weight loss was my volleyball coach. I lied about how “I was fine” and attributed my dizziness and inability to focus to a hectic schedule. I became terrified that my inability to compete was a result of laziness, so I started running. About 10 minutes in, everything went black. I collapsed on the ground, but no one saw, and I didn’t tell. But it made me realize my actions were spiraling out of control, and I finally sought help from my family doctor. It took years to undo the damaging behavior that had developed in a few short months, and those thoughts still nag at me today.

Eating disorders plague more high school students than are diagnosed, simply because people refuse to speak up if they see that something is wrong. Those few words from my coach helped me realize that I had a problem, freeing me from the firm grasp of denial. If you or someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder, please reach out to a qualified mental health professional immediately. Losing a few pounds can quickly spiral into losing a life without the proper treatment.

– Recovered in Nebraska

Dear Nebraska: Thank you for writing. We are sure you have helped more people than you realize. If you recognize yourself or someone else in this letter, we hope you will contact the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders at

Dear Annie: This is in response to “Salem, Oregon,” who requested that their children not give them Christmas presents. I have also told my children that the only present I want is for them to give blood at their local Red Cross. My three sons and their girlfriends and wives have willingly done so.

Now the Red Cross “opens” the presents that keep on giving. Life is the best gift anyone could give.

– S.

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

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My mother has always had a rocky relationship with her sister, “Josie,” for many reasons. The final straw came after Josie stole money from my mother seven years ago. They haven’t spoken to each other since.

I understand that my aunt hurt my mother badly and what she did was unforgivable.

I know Josie doesn’t deserve another chance, but I wish my mother would give her one anyway. Josie has changed her ways over the past seven years and now lives a very stable life. I don’t think she’s the same person.

No one in my family (including me) will ever trust Josie because of the things she’s done. But I wish my mother would call her sister and say that she loves and forgives her.

My siblings and I have talked to Mom about this, but she always brushes us off. I know this is between the two of them, but they aren’t getting any younger, and they don’t have an eternity to reconcile. I don’t want my mother or Josie to have any regrets. Is there anything we can do?

– Worried Daughter and Niece

Dear Daughter: You are kind, forgiving and understanding to want your mother to reconcile with her sister before it’s too late.

Unfortunately, until your mother reaches the same conclusion, there is little you can do. You say Josie has changed, but at the same time, you will never trust her. It’s difficult to forgive someone who has repeatedly broken your trust and hurt you, and not all reconciliations are beneficial if the behavior continues.

But you can ask your mother what Josie would need to do to get back in her good graces and then see whether Josie is up to the task. Beyond that, please let your mother decide how much pain she is willing to risk to have her sister back in her life.

Dear Annie: I never had a weight problem until I was older.

When I read about “Concerned Old Man in West Hills” calling his niece “fat,” it reminded me of a T-shirt I once saw. It said, “I may be fat, but you are ugly, and I can diet.”

– Toledo, Ohio

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

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I’m worried that my daughter has married a narcissist. He does what he wants, when he wants. He constantly puts down one group or another, and in fact, his performance reviews at work indicate he needs to be more “culturally diversified.” He always wants to buy my daughter (or himself) the nicest jewelry, car or whatever so that he’ll look good. He’ll take advantage of others to achieve his goals. They now have a 7-month-old boy.

We recently visited, and my son-in-law made me so angry, I blew up at him and had to leave the room. I apologized, but only to say that I’m sorry for my outburst. I’m wondering where I go from here. I will visit my grandson in spite of his father, but I’d like things to be civil. Should I play to his ego and claim I was wrong? Do I confront him again with the real issue? Or do I forget it and hope for the best at the next visit?

– Worried Grandpa

Dear Grandpa: You’ve already apologized for whatever argument you had before, and we see no reason to bring it up again. The fact that your son-in-law is a know-it-all and you don’t like him doesn’t mean he is a bad husband or father, and those should be your main concerns. If your daughter loves him and he is good to their son, please try to get along with him for their sake.

Dear Annie: I’ve been shopping with my 13-year-old several times recently and am just appalled by what is in fashion. I would never let my child out of the house wearing the short shorts or skimpy midriff shirts. What is wrong with the fashion industry for teenagers? Why can’t designers come up with clothing that actually covers our girls? Don’t they realize that many schools have dress codes? It shouldn’t be this difficult to find affordable teen clothing that is appropriate for school.

– Disgusted Virginia Mom

Dear Disgusted: We agree that many articles of clothing for teenage girls are highly sexualized and inappropriate, especially for school. In the past, readers have suggested purchasing athletic wear or checking out stores like Old Navy and Lands’ End. You also could talk to the managers of the stores and ask them to stock more appropriate styles that appeal to young girls.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Tired of Listening,” whose negative wife has become much worse. My late mother-in-law also had a negative streak, but almost overnight became worse. We commented on it, but she appeared to have no clue what we were talking about. When Mom went to the doctor for a seemingly unrelated medical issue (she couldn’t feel her nose), we found out that she had suffered a series of small strokes that coincided with this change in behavior. There were no physical signs, but the strokes had affected her personality and her ability to filter what she was thinking and saying aloud.

”Tired” should have his wife examined. While it may not prevent her from “speaking her mind,” it will give the family a little bit of empathy toward her.

– Mid Missouri

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My husband, sans wedding band, enters a bar alone and buys drinks for female strangers sitting alone. This invariably leads to conversation between them. On one occasion, the woman was a prostitute.

He says he is just being friendly. I say he is coming on to them. He does not buy drinks for female strangers when I am with him. Am I being unreasonable and jealous, or is he behaving like a horn-dog cad?

– Friendly’s Wife

Dear Wife: You don’t need our take on this. You already know. Your husband is flirting and, without the wedding band, is seeing whether he can pick someone up. He may not have acted on it yet, but if this keeps up, it’s only a matter of time. We doubt he’d appreciate it if you did the same thing. Tell him to knock it off.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Feeling Like My Husband’s Mother,” whose husband is immature. I felt for the guy. It seems like she wants to fix him. This approach is inherently flawed. He is just having fun. I am sworn by the covenant of men not to share this information with women, but in this case, it seems necessary. The husband is acting normally. Any guy will play out his years until his body tells him to stop. In this case, I suspect it will be a skateboard accident that slows him down.

There is a natural switch in a guy that moves from fun-lover to responsible husband. This change often happens in his 30s, sometimes sooner, sometimes later. This guy is just not there yet. This is why women marry older men. They want a guy who is more mature and secure. This woman did not make that choice. So, she now has a new choice to make. It is important to note that she will not change this guy by nagging him.

OK, you may now ask, “What are her choices?” She should look for the easiest way to secure a future, which seems to be her real goal. They could start that savings account with an automatic withdrawal from each person’s paycheck. They could make sure they both have 401(k) accounts with the maximum removed from each check each month. They should learn to live on the adjusted income, which can still be fun. Most importantly, she should invent ways to have fun with her husband herself. Otherwise, she needs to find a new guy who has already made the switch.

Be warned, though: Those mature guys are usually already taken. If not, those guys can come with other baggage she has yet to learn about. She may reach a time when she fondly thinks back on the day when her only problem was an immature husband.

– John in Waikoloa, Hawaii

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

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I am writing in the hope that my situation will help other women. A year ago, I started experiencing irregular monthly cycles that would last for 20 days at a time. I also had extreme pain and a rapid heart rate. I was told, “You are going through menopause.”

After several months of this, my doctor had some blood work done. He had me go immediately to the emergency room for a blood transfusion. At the hospital, I was given a pelvic ultrasound that showed I had polyps that turned out to be endometriosis. Then my life changed. I was diagnosed with endometrial stromal sarcoma and required a complete hysterectomy. During my surgery, the doctor found a five-pound tumor (which explained my unusual weight gain). I have since endured more than 30 radiation sessions and will continue this treatment until the cancer is gone.

I knew I was not yet going through menopause. My symptoms were too extreme. I am grateful that the doctors took the time to figure out what was wrong. I urge all women who are having such symptoms to seek help as soon as possible. Endometrial stromal sarcoma is very treatable.

– Grateful in Indiana

Dear Grateful: Thank you for alerting women to be vigilant when it comes to their health. There is a support group for survivors of ESS and their loved ones at We hope you will look into it, if you haven’t already.

Dear Annie: Would you please print this for grandparents everywhere?

Dear Grandparents: You’re killing your grandchildren with your kindness. We understand you love them, but you have to stop pumping them full of sugar.

You don’t listen to us, so we’re hoping Annie passes this along. Your grandkids visited the Saturday before Easter, and you made marshmallow treats together. On Sunday, you watched as they hunted for Easter eggs stuffed with candy and chocolate. As a reward, they received overflowing baskets full of more sweets. Dinner was followed by some sort of whipped-creamy dessert so decadent it made our teeth hurt. Christmas was much the same, with mugs of hot chocolate.

We’re learning so much about sugar and its potential for harm in our bodies. Yes, everything in moderation, but you have no filters on your moderation. We could understand if you only saw them once a year, but this scenario plays out weekly because you live nearby. Whipped cream, strawberries and syrup is overkill for morning pancakes. Find pleasure with your grandkids in other ways, please. It will make us all feel better.

– Dad in Distress

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