Dear Annie: How do we deal with our sister “Michelle” who says and emails hurtful things to each of us at the most inopportune times?
I have three other sisters. “Debbie” called me this evening in tears. She recently spent a week in the hospital after surgery on her leg. She’s now in a rehabilitation facility and still has a long recovery ahead of her. Since we live many hours away, she has been keeping us updated via email.
Today, Debbie received a terse note from Michelle, saying she did not want to receive any more of these group emails. There was no acknowledgement of the tough time Debbie has been going through. I was not surprised. Michelle did a similar thing to me when I underwent cancer treatment several years ago. It seems she likes to kick us when we are down.
We find Michelle’s behaviour heartbreaking and difficult to accept. Why does she push us away? Every time we reach out or try to include her in a discussion or even voice an opinion, we get slammed or completely ignored. She cannot sympathize and is becoming more and more distant as time goes on.
We would like a relationship with her, but it seems this is not possible. On the rare occasions when we see her, she is aloof, won’t make eye contact and barely participates in conversations. Is she mentally ill? No healthy person could do such cruel things. — Heartbroken Sister
Dear Heartbroken: Michelle seems incapable of participating in the sisterly give-and-take that the rest of you expect and enjoy. She finds it overly attached rather than comforting, helpful or supportive. She could be jealous, short-tempered, insecure, unkind or completely self-involved, but none of those things necessarily makes her mentally ill. We suggest you back off and try to accept Michelle as she is and, unless she exhibits clear signs of deterioration, ignore the rest.
Dear Annie: I used to be friends with a girl who lived across the hall from me in college. “Toni” was a nice person, but had little command of written English and often came to my roommate and me to proofread and correct her papers.
Toni has now become a Facebook friend, and I recently learned she is a special education teacher in a public elementary school. It is obvious her writing skills have not improved at all. She admitted to me that she got her job because she knew the principal, but I have no idea how she has kept her position.
I’m tempted to call the Board of Education, but don’t want to rat her out. Yet, if it were my kids learning words like “alot” and “lastnight,” I would only hope someone would intervene. What should I do? — Spell Check Is Your Friend.
Dear Spell Check: It’s possible that Toni checks her spelling more carefully in the classroom than she does on Facebook. It is also likely that poor spelling would have been noticed by some of the parents, as well as school officials (who are also known to check Facebook pages). Instead of assuming she is incompetent, send her a lighthearted note, saying you notice her current spelling isn’t much improved from her college days, and that you trust she is more conscientious in the classroom.
Dear Annie: I am writing in response to “Midge,” who complained that a young woman who was recently awarded a scholarship hasn’t written a thank-you note.
I, too, was a recipient of a similar scholarship. When I applied for this money, one of the requirements was to write a note to the main benefactor to thank her and let her know how I was doing. I honestly had no idea that I needed to do this until it was listed as a requirement. — Grateful
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.