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Dear Annie: I consider myself a generous person. I never forget the birthdays of my children, grandchildren or friends. I bring casserole dishes to those who are sick or have lost a loved one. Is it asking too much to get a simple thank you? I wouldn’t care whether it was by text message or email. Have we become so entitled that we can’t take a few minutes out of our busy lives to show gratitude?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Let me begin with the worst of it (Miss Manners would be advised to brace herself). I am 20 and have not written thank-you notes for holidays and birthdays for about two years now. I’d like to make amends with my family members who sent me nice gifts that I didn’t thank them properly for, but I’m not exactly sure what the right course of action is at this point. Do I just send out thank-yous for the gifts I received this year and try not to draw explicit attention to how remiss I have been in my correspondence? Can I apologize for not sending thank-you notes in the past?
Dear Carolyn: I’ve been in a relationship for three years with a wonderful man. At the beginning, I was deliriously happy. Recently, though, my boyfriend is acting differently toward me – more withdrawn, needing more space, etc. I consider myself a fairly perceptive person, and so I mentioned this to him, suspecting there was just something small we needed to work on and everything would be fine.
Dear Annie: You often print letters from older parents dealing with rejection from their adult children. This is literally an epidemic everywhere. Anger and hatred are destroying families. My husband and I have three adult children who were the delight of our lives. We had a typical loving family, with vacations, birthday parties and special celebrations that included friends and extended family. We had anxious times during illnesses, surgeries and accidents, but we made it through.
Dear Annie: For the past several years, my husband has taken out a new credit card each January and maxed it out over the next 12 months. This has resulted in major debt, which I fear will devastate our family and possibly affect our children and grandchildren. My husband is a good and caring person who often picks up the restaurant tabs for our friends and family and buys them gifts they could buy for themselves. As a result, he is extremely popular. If I try to limit these unnecessary expenses, everyone thinks I’m a spoilsport.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am in a quandary about giving a Christmas present to my cleaning lady. I had to cut her hours back from every other week to once a month. At Christmas I always gave her a small present and a check for one week’s work. What do I give her now – the same amount as before? I don’t want to lose her, as I really like her.
While I’m away, readers give the advice. On begging, pleading, nagging a mate to adopt healthier habits: Over the years, I have also come to the conclusion you have: My wife has chosen a path that I cannot force her from. In my situation I believe that any suggestions, hints or offers only strengthen her will to resist.
Dear Annie: When my mother-in-law was still living, I always helped her organize the holiday meals. After she died, I began doing it myself. I always plan a nice dinner. Now I am having a hard time wanting to get together with my family. I have adult grandchildren, one of whom is already married. I get no assistance from any of them. It’s just something they expect me to do. No one helps with the cooking or cleaning up afterward. They all wait until the last minute to arrive and sit around while I get everything on the table. After the meal, they go downstairs to chat while I am stuck with the kitchen cleanup.
Hi, Carolyn: My best friend, who is also my roommate, sometimes makes comments to me such as, “You act so different around X group of friends,” even though there have been hardly a handful of times when we have all been in one room. I have no idea what change in behavior she is referring to, but these comments really get to me. Whether they are true or not, I believe they are really petty. What are some ways I can respond? – L.
Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for only 18 months. Things were blissful for the first year, and then things took a drastic change. One day, he told me he has lost the “in love” feeling. Apparently, he had felt animosity for some time, but I had no idea. He chose to hold his emotions in, and over time, the result was that he stopped loving me. He now spends four days a week with friends and comes home past midnight. I don’t believe he is cheating. When he was single, he chose to live a sheltered life.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Over the years, the gift-giving experience of grandparent to granddaughter has developed into a kind of predictable dance: A grandparent will call us and note that granddaughter’s birthday/Christmas is approaching. They will then ask what she wants. We will decline to answer, stating that a thoughtful gift given from the heart with a personal touch is always appreciated. They will push back, insisting we name an actual gift.
Dear Annie: I am a woman in my mid-30s, and think I may have been molested when I was young. I have little memory of my childhood up until age 13. But I do know that when my friends played with their Barbie dolls, they had her driving around, going on dates and dressing up pretty. I pretended she was having sex with Ken. Other kids played house, but I pretended to be the dad and would get on top of my younger sister and rub against her.
Carolyn: I’m pretty annoyed and appalled at my brother, “Ted,” and his wife, “Lisa,” regarding Christmas and I’m wondering how to approach them. On our side of the family there are four siblings (including Ted) and five nieces and nephews. Three years ago we decided that the Christmas gift exchange had gotten to be too much so we agreed that gifts among the siblings and grandparents would only be given to the children.
Dear Annie: My husband and I agree that it is bad behavior to use one’s cellphone while in the company of others, unless it’s an emergency. However, he even thinks someone looking up information or showing pictures is rude. I disagree. He also feels justified in saying something to the offending party. I think it’s best to say nothing and simply not go out with them again. It’s too embarrassing to everyone. What is your take on this?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How can one know if she is talking too much or being talkative? I like to think I’m funny and engaging, that I tell a good story and am an entertaining guest and hostess. However, at Thanksgiving dinner, my husband said I was carrying on a monologue. I thought I was aware enough of being long-winded to cut myself off, but perhaps the champagne (which wasn’t cut off) blurred my judgment.
Dear Annie: In 1988, I had a wife and three beautiful children. Then my wife decided to be “liberated.” She wanted to spread her wings and be independent. She engaged me in a particularly acrimonious divorce and lived on child and spousal support until she discovered that being independent was not working for her. She remarried and moved my children hundreds of miles away, effectively excising them from my life, even though she admits I was a great father. Needless to say, I harbor considerable animosity toward her. I’ve since remarried a wonderful woman. My children are grown and starting their own families. I recognize that I must endure the unpleasantness of having to see my ex at my children’s weddings, etc., but I never expected that my brother and sister would invite my ex to their own children’s weddings and other family functions.
Dear Carolyn: As I write, my husband is halfway across the country taking care of his ailing mother. We have had a terrible “text” fight over the past few days, and it revolves mostly around the fact that he thinks I am “compassionless” about his mother’s situation, and I am not being supportive of his decision to stay weeks with her while I fly solo holding down our family fort. His mother is a prescription drug and alcohol abuser who has emotionally tormented my husband for pretty much all his life.
Dear Annie: My supervisor rarely states his desires clearly. But if I take the initiative or ask him to clarify, he makes me feel like an idiot. He is condescending and highly critical of most people. He also is a nonstop gossip. He has portrayed me to others as racist, womanizing and incompetent. He has control over my payable time and my vacation requests. He has the ear of management and lives in the same neighborhood as many of my co-workers. I fear that bringing any of this up for discussion will create a level of retaliation far worse than the existing reality. – Kansas
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is proper holiday dinner conversation when the age ranges and marital statuses are mixed? I am a single aunt who is outgoing, not introverted at all, but when I go to my sister’s house for a holiday dinner, I feel excluded from the table conversation, as does my widowed mother. It’s all about the kids – and the kids are loud. When I try to introduce a topic, it doesn’t stick. It always seems that family units are just not interested in anyone but themselves and their lives.
Dear Annie: My wife and I have been separated for four years. We have joint custody of our beautiful 8-year-old daughter. “Lizzie” spends half the week with me and the other half with her mother. It works out well, and Lizzie fully understands that she now has to live in two separate, loving homes. Here’s the problem: When going to gatherings and parties, my mother’s friends and other family members feel the need to say, “It’s so nice that you guys share her right now, because when she gets older, you know she’s going to want to live with her mom full time.” Or, “What are you going to do when she’s a teenager and only wants to stay with her mom?” They then begin to tell me stories about their divorced son or a friend’s son to whom this has happened.