Dear Annie: I am 15 and the oldest of four boys. During one of many fights between my parents, my mom left the house with my brothers and me, and we spent the night at a shelter.
Our grandparents told our father that we have no values because we went with our mom. They say we are old enough to know better. This makes us feel guilty about the fights. Now my grandparents refuse to see us even for our birthdays, because they say we are not loyal to the family and don’t deserve them.
Annie, we are losing our family and our grandparents all at once. Our school guidance counselor tells us it’s not our fault, but we feel like outcasts. We are no longer invited to any family events with our cousins. We feel abandoned. – Scared in Massachusetts
Dear Scared: Your grandparents don’t know how to fix the situation with your parents, so they take their frustrations out on you. You are an easy target and can’t fight back. Shame on them.
If you have other family members who are not part of this manipulative blackmail, please get closer to them. Otherwise, “family” can mean many things — including good friends, teachers, neighbors and others who take an interest in your life and are good influences. Lean on them. And continue to talk to your guidance counselor, who obviously understands the problem and can help.
Dear Annie: I am a working professional woman in my 50s. For some reason, my dentist, a man in his 30s, calls me “dear.” The first time he did this, I was mortified and didn’t know how to respond to such a condescending remark. I like my dentist. He’s otherwise a competent professional. How do I respond in an appropriate way to this inappropriate manner of addressing me? – Need To Know in Saskatoon
Dear Saskatoon: Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he addresses all of his patients as “dear,” regardless of age or gender. He probably has no idea that anyone finds it offensive. You need to speak up. The next time he does this, simply say, “I’d prefer that you call me ‘Miss Smith,’” or however you want him to address you. You may need to do this more than once, but we assure you, he’ll eventually get the message.
Dear Annie: The letter from “New Yorker” really touched a nerve. When he was 11 years old, he made an insulting comment to his sister’s friend, and his mother keeps bringing it up year after year. He’s now 35.
When I was 10, my 5-year-old neighbor stole some silver coins and blamed me. Everyone believed him, including my family. The police were called, and my family had to replace the coins. In the 33 years since, the boy admitted to the theft, and both he and his brother apologized to me. It doesn’t seem to matter to my family, though. I became a New York state trooper, serving honorably and earning many commendations, awards and community accolades. But many family members still bring up this theft and act like I did it.
My grandmother is in a nursing home. My brother gave her his old TV, but she didn’t want it, so he took it back. My aunt saw it was missing and said, “Jane probably took it. She likes to steal.” This type of thing bothers me to no end, but I realize I will never be able to change these attitudes.
My response varies upon my mood, but my favorite was my reply to my aunt about the stolen TV: “I thought you knew I had to steal to support my drug habit.” Her shocked expression was priceless. – Not-Guilty Jane
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.