Annie Lane’s easy answers and ambiguous behavior!

Dear Annie: I am an 18-year-old girl living very far from you, but I recently read one of your columns and thought you might be able to help me. I am doing really well in my academics and was just accepted by one of the best engineering institutions in our country.

Everyone around me is proud and happy. But something inside is pinching me.

I broke up with my boyfriend last year, whom I loved with the core of my heart. He was my classmate. Eventually, he told me he loved me, too.

However, after four years of this shy love, we finally got into a relationship that created some of the happiest moments of my life. And his life, too.

But a year later, we found ourselves in a complicated situation and decided to separate. Both of us are depressed, and it’s been one year, and we are not able to move on. Neither of us wants to, yet I haven’t talked to him for a long time. — Ms. Unforgettable (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Oh, geez. This is another easy question for Annie Lane to answer. My guess? “Put yourself out there and see how he feels. You won’t know otherwise. And don’t forget to focus on your studies because everyone’s proud of you.”

Dear Ms. Unforgettable: It sounds like neither of you can forget each other and both of you would be much happier together. At the very least, it sounds worth giving the relationship a second try. Pick up the phone and call him. Life is too short to worry about “what ifs.” See if you can get back together. Best of luck to you.

Well, I overshot with the studies stuff, but I was basically correct. It’s just such obvious advice though! AAUGH!

Dear Annie: My husband is a chronic procrastinator. He puts off everything — from the small things, such as fixing a broken chair, to the really important stuff, such as making a will or getting a medical test. It’s hard to schedule anything because he always waits until the last minute to decide what he wants to do.

Sometimes, I just have to wait because he won’t be pushed to act or make a decision. Other times, I just have to act on my own. I’ve tried the gentle approach and the firm approach. Nothing works.

To be fair, he has a lot of good qualities. He is kind and loving, and he’s a great cook. I don’t expect perfection, but this problem affects not just me but whoever is waiting for an answer from him. That often involves friends and relatives, and it puts me in the middle. I realize that he may never change, but how do I live with this and achieve peace of mind? — Tired of Waiting

Okay, here’s the breakdown of advice and which score Annie Lane will get.

She’ll get an A if she tells the letter writer to quit being the go-between with his friends and relatives. We’ll hope for that. 

She’ll get a B if she recommends a specific form of therapy that could help. 

She’ll get a C if she urges the letter writer to talk to her husband and share her feelings about this. 

She’ll get a D if she recommends counseling for either or both of them (in a generic, non-specific sense). 

Come on, Annie Lane! Aim high here.

Dear Tired of Waiting: People often procrastinate because they are afraid they won’t be able to complete the tasks at hand. Fear of failure promotes procrastination primarily when it reduces people’s sense of autonomy or when they feel incapable of dealing with a task that they’re afraid to fail at.

Don’t bail him out with friends and family who are waiting for an answer. Direct them to ask him again, and tell him and them that you are not his timekeeper. He will then have to deal with the ramifications of his procrastinations.

Holy flip! She scored! She got an A! Woo hoo!! I mean, it wasn’t a huge accomplishment. I thought up that scale in, like, five minutes. It’s mind-numbing that she never tackles anything that requires actual thought.

Let’s see what Miss Manners is up to!

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband of 31 years died after a short illness. I’d always thought we had a good relationship with his daughter. She’s in her 50s and has a very successful career as an elder care social worker.

Over the years, we shared birthdays, holidays and other family events, even though we live in another state. We conscientiously tried to be on good terms with her, her husband(s), children and stepchildren, including overnight visits, outings and gifts.

My husband had divorced her mother when she was 3, and willingly paid alimony and child support for many years; he also voluntarily paid the tuition for her college degree. We believed we had built a good relationship with her.

A week before he died, she came to the door unannounced. I, of course, invited her in to visit her father for perhaps the last time. After she talked with her dad for a few minutes, she sat down with me and began to tell me what a terrible father he was, and how he had been cruel to her throughout her life!

I was stunned. I only knew my husband to be a kind, honest and loving man. I was so shocked and hurt! I explained that I thought her outburst inappropriate and unkind. I wanted to toss her out then and there, but held my tongue and temper and just asked her to leave. I said that her relationship with her dad was not my business, and that I wouldn’t listen to anyone speak ill of my husband — most certainly not when he was lying upstairs on his deathbed!

I’ve kept my distance since then, though she continues to contact me, asking how I’m doing and wishing me well since she “knows how hard it must be for me to be alone.”

I want to tell her exactly what I think of her poor behavior and ask her to stop contacting me. Every time she does, I relive that painful conversation. Ghosting her seems rude, but I really want nothing to do with her henceforth.

I don’t think any of the grandchildren know about what she said, and I certainly would not tell them, as I would like to continue a relationship with them. Your thoughts on how to put this behind me?

GENTLE READER: Severing familial relationships may be painful, but it is not complex: Stop returning her calls. There is no need to tell her exactly what you think because you already have.

Miss Manners noticed, however, that that is not exactly what you asked. Your phrasing suggests an unease with ending things this way, in spite of your understandable anger.

Two paths lie open: terminating the relationship, or rebuilding it — perhaps on the premise that sometimes a mother (even one appointed later to the task) forgives a child’s transgressions. Etiquette can tell you how to do either, but cannot choose between them for you.

Your first reaction was motivated by loyalty to your husband. After you have had time to grieve, you might wish to consider whether another way of showing loyalty would be to act as you think he would have wanted — which may or may not confirm your current choice. (c) MISS MANNERS

Interesting. It seems ambiguous. I had to think about this one for a while, because I wanted to give the step-daughter (let’s call her Gretchen) the benefit of the doubt–that she was grieving and unable to cope with her dad’s imminent death. But the more I think about it, the more I can’t excuse it. That’s a pretty bad way to act! And it has intent hidden in it, as if Gretchen knew exactly what she was doing. Like, she wasn’t just spontaneously acting out. It’s more like she knew that her dad wasn’t in a position to protect the letter writer, so she went full-on brutal toward her.

Because the situation reminds me of my sister, who’s a total bully. There have been times my sister has bullied me and I’ve begged her to stop, like, “What you’re saying is really hurting me! Stop saying it!” to no avail. That’s what bullies do. You ask them to stop what they’re saying, but they continue. My sister has also assaulted me six or seven times as adults, so trust me, she’s a bully.

See, there’s a desire to give people the benefit of the doubt, but that’s what my parents keep doing for my sister. “Oh, your sister is jealous of you,” or, “Oh, your sister is working through some issues,” or, “Oh, your sister is taking baby steps toward self-improvement,” (yeah, right), or, “Oh, you’re really overreacting, and your sister poses no threat to you.” (That last one after she threw me into a wall and then kept eyeing me downstairs as if she owned me, and she wouldn’t let me pass through the kitchen into the living room where our dad was. Right, she posed no threat to me. Not.)

It’s possible that Gretchen has always been a bully, but she was kept in check by her dad, whose health took a turn for the worse, causing him to lose his control over his bully of a daughter.

She sat down with me and began to tell me what a terrible father he was, and how he had been cruel to her throughout her life!

It just reads to me like a direct attack. Because I also get the sense that the letter writer tried to get her to stop talking, but she refused. I think Gretchen targeted her stepmom with the deliberate intent to distress her. This goes beyond being an energetic vampire and more into the territory of being a downright bully. Even if her dad was cruel to her all the time, that wasn’t the right way to express it. Gracious saints.

On the off-chance that Gretchen was just having a moment (although the evidence doesn’t paint that picture for me), there hasn’t been an apology. That’s also pretty damning, and it suggests that Gretchen felt entitled to act that way.

It bears mentioning that both Gretchen and my sister, the bully, are successful social workers. (I don’t know what it means, either, but it seems bad.)

I’ve kept my distance since then, though she continues to contact me, asking how I’m doing and wishing me well since she “knows how hard it must be for me to be alone.”

Since the letter writer put that in quotes, we can assume that Gretchen is being snarky about it. “Sorry your husband’s dead, ya loser!” Ugh. If Gretchen’s not being snarky about it, it still makes sense that her actions would come off as snarky after her abysmal behavior when she visited her dad. Or, if she’s really not being snarky and I’m misreading the quotes, it’s still not an apology! Ugh. It’s more of a smug, self-congratulatory pretense.

My sense and my best guess is that Gretchen has always resented her stepmom, so after she visited her dad and knew he was dying for sure, she saw an opportunity to attack and lash out at this woman for simply being in the family. I’m seeing so much of my sister in her.

The important thing here is for the letter writer to do whatever’s necessary to avoid losing her contact with the grandchildren. If that means pretending to like Gretchen, ugh.

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