Dear Annie: I don’t know if I’m the victim or the perpetrator, but I know what I’m doing is really bad. After 33 years of a lousy marriage, I am in so much emotional pain that I’ve been breaking things and throwing them at my husband, as well as punching, kicking and biting out of sheer frustration.
I am 55 years old and a size 4. In order to stay that small, I have to eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day. When I eat normally, I gain weight quickly – sometimes as much as a pound a day. I’ve been to the doctor and have been told I’m fine. Of course, if I reach a size 6, my husband will say, “You could lose a few pounds.”
I do feel better thin, but I think it’s psychological. I’ve always been attentive to my appearance, always having little procedures done so I can look younger.
It would never occur to my husband to help with dinner or run an errand. He comes home when he feels like it, yet expects dinner to be waiting for him. He totally ignores me. I’m so unhappy, I’ve developed many health problems.
I can’t leave because I don’t have a good job or benefits. Most of the time, I want to die, but I’d probably blow that, too. It didn’t help that my mother told me I was fat, ugly and stupid my entire life. Do I have good reason to lash out, or am I the problem? – Trapped in Vermont
Dear Vermont: Justifying your behavior doesn’t excuse it. The point is to change those things that are causing you pain, and to stop hurting yourself and others in the process. Your husband sounds like a bully, and you sound abusive, but you are smart enough to understand the underlying motivations, which means you can work on this. Ask your doctor to refer you to a good therapist. You need help.
Dear Annie: At Christmas, students often give cute little gifts to teachers. As a teacher, I would like to let parents know what gifts would be truly appreciated:
“Monetary donations to help cover field trip costs for students who lack funds.
“Notebook paper, index cards, construction paper, pencils, pens and glue sticks.
“Gift certificates for a grocery store or teachers’ bookstore.
Teachers also would love donations of time. Parents can read books and record stories on tape. They can help file or copy materials. We need parents to support our dedication to giving their children the best we have to offer. Please pass this along. – Virginia Teacher
Dear Virginia: Parents often wonder what gifts would be most appreciated by children’s teachers. Thanks for your wonderful suggestions.