Niece not nice; causing rift in family

A few years ago, my husband and I moved across the country to help with his aging parents.

Dear Annie: A few years ago, my husband and I moved across the country to help with his aging parents.

Everyone welcomed me, with the exception of one niece who has gone out of her way to let me know that I am not part of this family.

When this niece visited us as a teenager, she treated me the same way, but I attributed it to her being young. I even sent her money while she was in college and gifts for her birthday and Christmas. I thought she would outgrow her aversion to me, but she hasn’t. It may be due to the fact that I am reserved, quiet and not outwardly emotional. Or it could be because I am from a different culture.

Some time ago, this niece said something quite hurtful to me in front of my husband, and he took her to task for it, even though I asked him not to. When the girl denied any wrongdoing, her mother believed her, and this has created a rift between my husband and his sister. We are now at the point where she no longer invites us to family functions.

I’ve explained to my husband that this is about his niece’s problem with me and doesn’t mean his sister doesn’t love him. But that hasn’t helped him come to terms with the estrangement. His father is dying, and my husband thinks we should move away when his parents are gone.

I worry that his niece’s prejudice will keep him from ever having a relationship with his sister. I’ve tried to stay out of it and let the family work through these issues themselves, but now I feel I need to talk to them about what they are doing to my husband. Any suggestions? — Washington

Dear Washington: How sad that this spoiled brat of a niece is destroying her family, and her parents allow it. Your motives are good, but it would be best if your husband talked directly to his sister. He should say that he is unhappy that there is an estrangement and ask how to make it better. We hope his sister cares enough to work on it.

Dear Annie: I am a young adult with parents who are quite a bit older than me. For the past several years, I have watched them fall behind the times, particularly when it comes to the clothes they wear. Instead of keeping up with modern trends, they wear outfits that were in style 20 years ago. They rarely buy anything new. I have bought them nice clothes as gifts, but they still wear the same old stuff.

This can be embarrassing when we go out or have guests over. I’ve been hinting for years that it’s OK to give some of this stuff away and buy some new pieces, but they ignore me. The way they dress makes them look older than they are. I don’t want to hurt their feelings. Am I being overly critical? — Frustrated

Dear Frustrated: Your parents are comfortable in their old clothes and see no reason to spend money for the sake of style. Try a different approach. Start with Mom. Tell her she would look 10 years younger if she updated her wardrobe. Take her shopping with you, and let the salesperson help her select one age-appropriate piece. A couple of compliments and she could be hooked. But if not, don’t force the issue.

Dear Annie: This is in response to “M,” who was concerned that her dentist’s staff was trying to sell her their electric toothbrushes.

I have been a dentist for more than 25 years and am very prevention-minded. My hygienists use an electric toothbrush only as a last resort for patients who will not or cannot use a regular toothbrush. The person who wrote should run, not walk, from that dentist’s office. They are simply selling products to help their bottom line. — Earl

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

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