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Refuse To Be Intimidated


Dear Ann Landers: I come from a big family. My married older brother, “Mitch,” had an affair with “Suzy” about two years ago. He eventually broke it off and reconciled with his wife.

Here’s the problem. Suzy started seeing my younger brother, “Joey,” who lives at home with my mother. Mitch has turned very negative on Suzy, and needless to say, his wife is still bitter about the affair. They refuse to attend any family functions where Joey and Suzy will be present. Mitch won’t even go to my mother’s as long as Suzy is allowed in her home.

My husband and I are often the ones who entertain the family. We are in the awkward position of deciding whether to invite Mitch and his wife or Joey and Suzy. If I tell them they are both invited, neither will show up. My mother is in a worse spot. She wants to see Mitch and the grandchildren, but she doesn’t want Joey to move away. Mom is 77 and a widow. She doesn’t need this stress.

We feel guilty visiting either Mitch or Joey, and when one of my brothers comes to our house, we are always nervous that the other one might show up and create a scene. We’re thinking of setting up regular visitation at Mom’s so that they’ll know who is where and when. Mom has started to worry about who will attend her funeral since she knows Mitch won’t show up if Suzy is there.

What is the right thing to do? Please help us out. - London, Ontario

Dear London: I would adhere to Landers’ Law of Internecine Family Warfare. It goes like this: Invite whomever you want. If one of the invitees says, “I’m sorry, I won’t come if you invite X or Y or Z,” you should say, “Sorry, we’ll miss you.”

P.S. It appears to me that Suzy is the proverbial skunk at the family picnic and Mitch is so full of guilt he can’t see straight.

Dear Ann Landers: Recently, you published a letter from “Golden West,” a person who had suffered from compulsive hair pulling for 27 years and through your column found help for this condition, which is known as trichotillomania.

For at least 30 years, I have been chewing the inside of my mouth to the point of being sore, and yet, I cannot stop biting and hurting myself.

The help you gave “Golden West” gave me hope that there might be help for us cheek chewers, too. If you are acquainted with this behavior, will you please write about it in your column for the benefit of all of us who so far have not been able to kick this habit? I can’t believe I’m the only one, although I have never met another “cheek chewer.” - C.N., Denver, Colo.

Dear Denver: You say you never have met another cheek chewer. You may have and didn’t know it. People don’t generally talk about such things.

My advice to you is the same as the advice I gave to “Golden West.” See a psychiatrist, not for counseling but for medication. Or, if you are lucky enough to have an excellent physician, he or she will prescribe the medication. P.S. By now, I’m sure you’ve guessed the chewing is rooted in what we used to call “nerves.”


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