Dear Annie: I am a 45-year-old single man. I have three children: two sons from my marriage, both in their 20s, and my daughter, who is 14, from an ex-girlfriend. When my oldest son was thrown out of his mother’s home, I had him move in right away.
He got a good job, and I added him to my insurance and charged him $100 a week for rent. That was really to help out with the insurance and to teach him responsibility.
Well, after a few years, there was a nightmare one night. My son’s friends were over, and unfortunately, he had too much to drink and smoke. He blacked out and started attacking his friend’s younger brother. He started attacking me as well. After an hour of trying to calm things down, I had to call the police to have him removed for the safety of everyone in the house. Well, my son remembers that he spent the night in jail. When he got out, he came to my place and grabbed his belongings, and his mother picked him up.
This was a year ago, and since that time, neither he nor my other son will visit or even talk to me. The worst part is that they are ignoring their sister, who lives only two miles away from them. This really hurts me, and I have reached out, trying to mend fences and come to an understanding. Neither of them will respond.
When my daughter texts them, they mostly ignore her, or when they do answer, they give her a hard time. She is as ashamed of them as I am. I have even touched base and told them via text that they only have one sister and they need to be there for her, as they are her older brothers. Be mad at me, but please, be there for her.
What else can I do? My daughter visits on a regular basis, and I love our time together. I want the boys to join us, but they won’t answer any invitations. They haven’t even met the dog I adopted. Do you have any advice? I don’t want to give up, as they are my children. — Lost Dad in Massachusetts (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com
Oh, geez. I haven’t even bothered to scroll down and read Annie Lane’s advice yet, but she’s clearly up to her old tricks. The only questions she ever answers are easy ones. I can predict her exact advice here: you did what you had to do, don’t blame yourself, keep reaching out gently to your sons, and know that you’re a wonderful father. Blah-blah-blah-blah-freakin’-blah.
Shall we take a look here?
Dear Lost Dad: Your sons are not taking any responsibility for their actions. Instead of thanking you for calling the police, and hopefully helping them clean up their act, they are blaming you for the night spent in jail. It was your son who committed the assault, not you. The anger they feel might be old anger they felt toward you for the divorce or other things when they were young.
But now that they are adults, they must take responsibility for their actions. They are acting very entitled. As for your daughter, just continue to love and appreciate her. Hopefully, your son will get into treatment for his drinking, and once he is sober, he will realize that what you did was for his own good.
Continue to tell both sons how much you love them, even if they push you away.
Yeah, I think I called it. But she threw in a touch of idiocy or two. No one ever thanks their parents for having them arrested. Seriously? It would be great if the son could be civil with his dad, but let’s not get carried away here. As if he’d ever be grateful to have been arrested! Groan. At best he’ll realize it was his own fault, but he’s never going to thank his dad for it!
And… that’s today’s column! No second or third letter.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A couple who recently assumed a leadership role at my church announced that they wanted to become better acquainted with the families of the congregation. They scheduled 30-minute chats with individual families before and after church services.
They interviewed my husband and me using a prepared script of six pages, which included questions about our marriage, our psychological states and our disabled adult child. We replied truthfully to their questions.
I felt almost as if I had gone to a physician’s office and undergone an unwarranted exam, in which we were judged, graded or evaluated. I also felt deceived since I was expecting a conversation, not a one-sided, in-depth interview.
This couple used their church status to obtain information that wasn’t their business. My relationship with my husband doesn’t involve them. My adult child’s activities are not their concern, and neither is my mental state.
The wife now approaches me after services and tries to converse about my interests or activities that were revealed during the interview. I am polite, but distant. I don’t want to make an enemy of this person.
How do I make her understand that I would prefer her to leave me alone? I am not angry with her, but I do not care to have these conversations.
GENTLE READER: If you will forgive Miss Manners for contradicting you, you are angry at having been interrogated — and understandably so. But as you willingly cooperated up to this point, the couple is going to be perplexed if you give them the cold shoulder now.
You are left with two alternatives. The first: Each time you are approached, you can apologize and explain that you cannot talk now. This is less combative, but requires you to be always on the run. The second option is to write a letter — to the couple or someone higher in the church hierarchy — clarifying that since the interview was both more formal and more personal than you had expected, you trust that any information shared will be held in the strictest confidence — like any other intimate information revealed to church personnel. (c) MISS MANNERS
Yeah. I get it that Miss Manners pointed out that he is indeed angry, but I think what he meant was that he’s trying not to hold a grudge or seek revenge. Like, he’s upset about it, but he doesn’t want to make a federal case out of it. But I sure would. [Snort.] Ugh.
It’s horrible when this sort of thing happens. It’s like when I’m on the phone with a scammer:
Scammer: We can eliminate your credit card debt, because the credit card companies have no right to charge anything over 6% interest.
Me: Great, sign me up!
Scammer: Can I have your credit card number, please?
Me: No, I don’t see that happening.
Scammer: But why? I can lower your debt!
Me: I’ve just got been playing along out of boredom. I don’t feel like being scammed today. Good effort, though.
Scammer: [Swearing and telling me off]
Me: Thanks, bye. [Hangs up.]
Meg’s dad: [Bursts into laughter]
You do almost have to wonder if the church people are identity thieves. They may have asked questions geared toward getting answers to security questions. Like, I was answering security questions last night to rebook my upcoming flight to Saturday. One question was, what’s your favorite instrument to play? And I looked at the drop-down options and thought, hmm…. the ocarina? Really? No, surely I chose the piano.
Because there are so many ocarina players out there, am I right? [Facepalm.]
At any rate, I think it’s good to be on the lookout for Nosy Nellies in order to prevent this sort of thing from happening. I’m not blaming the letter writer, not remotely. I think we’ve all been there, and it’s just not a good place to be. I’m an open book, but even so, I get squeamish when asked personal questions from someone I just met who seems to be nosy.
Like, one time I was seeking out a therapist. This was circa 2007. I interviewed one therapist, and she gave me a page of questions to answer for her. We’re talking tiny font, single spacing, both sides of the page. These questions were outlandish, and I didn’t want to answer any of them: Did you enjoy your first sexual experience? Are you afraid of sticky things? Have you ever been mistreated by a clown? What do you look like naked? Do you shave your pubic hair? Do you ever have the desire to engage in bestiality? All the freakin’ time. [Eyeroll.]
Actually, that reminds me. My dad had the opportunity to serve in Air Force One with the president for one ride when he was younger and in the army. He turned down the opportunity because one of the questions they asked him was if he’s interested in bestiality. He was offended by that question and passed on the chance to ride in Air Force One. Quite frankly, I don’t blame him.
So, yeah, anyway, I ran screaming from that therapist after refusing to answer the questions. Then there was another therapist I saw once—a man—who asked me if I’m promiscuous. (I should mention that I look like a schoolmarm. A spinster, if you will. An old maid.) I said no, and he was visibly disappointed. I didn’t return to his office, either.
It can be hard to put walls up against nosy people when you don’t see it coming, and when you don’t have a mental preparation for such things. If you’re the sort of person who’s uncomfortable being direct and saying, “Hey, I’m not going to answer that! Are you kidding?” then a good strategy to have on hand would be to lie outright.
Now, where was I? Sonya came home and we took a walk, but it ended in urinary disaster. My bladder can’t handle the cobblestones and the fact that I’m fighting off a cold. Oh well.
Oh, right, lying. Is that what we were discussing? Okay, if you feel put on the spot, then lie. That’s my take on it.
Nosy person: So, do you have good mental health?
You: Absolutely. The best. [Said with a straight face even if you suffer from debilitating panic attacks on a daily basis.]
Nosy person: What’s your sexual orientation?
You: I’m straight. [Said even if you’re in the closet with no intention of coming out to a gossipy church wife.]
Obviously the best option is to tell the person off soundly, but if you’re too timid or taken by surprise, I highly recommend lying. Being evasive also works.
I had this one experience once. This is trigger-worthy regarding physical abuse. I was working at the reading center when my coworker, Rhonda, who was sort of my supervisor (in an unofficial way), asked me if I’d ever been spanked as a child. She asked in a gay and jovial voice, as though the topic was cheery and mischievous. Like, “Did your parents ever give you spankings when you were bad?” Giggle, giggle.
I decided to hit her with some hardcore honesty because I didn’t appreciate her levity, to say nothing of her nosiness. “My parents used to beat me while I was naked,” I said.
Her face drained of color. She never raised the issue again.
But that was strategic on my part, because I was trying to send her a message or two. In good news, she seemed to get the messages.