Dear Annie: My parents, who were both from West Virginia, met in college and settled in New York. We spent our childhood summers on our grandparents’ farms, and I couldn’t wait to go back. I work now as a special education teacher and live in a small village in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Every summer, my sisters and I get together in New York. Last summer, we met at the home of one sister who married into wealth. Although I have been ignoring her occasional criticisms about my hair, makeup, clothes and shoes for decades, this summer was particularly difficult. Late in the evening, she began a long satirical monologue about how cheap and ugly my shoes were. A few of the others chimed in, but I don’t hold it against them. They were doing it to avoid being her next target. After all, they live near her and have to endure her ostentatious behavior often. I couldn’t wait to leave.
I value family, especially now that we are older and two of my siblings have passed away. But I’m beginning to wonder. By the time I leave these gatherings, I feel disrespected and diminished. I have close friends in West Virginia who love and value me. I’m wondering whether I should bow out of these summer reunions and limit my exposure to Christmas only. – Thank God I’m a Country Girl
Dear Country Girl: You certainly don’t have to subject yourself to such poor treatment frequently, but have you told your sister how her belittling comments make you feel? She may not realize how much she is hurting you and that her nastiness destroys the family closeness you crave. She may claim that she was “only joking,” but still, give her the opportunity to clean up her act before you take drastic action.