Coming to the defense of the immoral?

Dear Amy: I’m asking for advice for my younger sister, “Stella.”

Like a lot of people right now, Stella is using a social media account delivering “X-rated entertainment” to make extra income.

Our older cousin “Candace” is married to “Ted.” They have three kids. Ted is about 17 years older than Stella.

Stella found out that Ted has subscribed to her account. She learned this because he sent her a bunch of messages saying he is always checking her out at family functions. He called her his “dirty little secret.”

We are both very disturbed by his behavior and aren’t sure what she should do next.

Should Stella tell Candace? Stella told our mom in hopes that she would have some advice and to potentially ward off any uncomfortable future family gatherings.

Our mom thinks it’s possible that Candace will take Ted’s side and it could make things worse.

Stella and I both agreed that we would want to know if our significant other was doing this.

I encouraged Stella to take screenshots of his messages in case she needs any proof in the future (which she did).

Stella blocked his account and let her friends on the website know so they can block him, too. One friend did notice that he was paying for some of her content, but only the content that included Stella.

Should my sister keep this secret, or let our cousin know what her husband is doing?

— Concerned Big Sis

Concerned Big Sis: “Ted” is a creep. More on that later. But your question partly concerns whether “Stella” should notify your cousin “Candace” because her husband Ted subscribes to Stella’s “X-rated entertainment” account.

If Stella is providing pornography behind a paywall, I would assume that many, if not most, of her customers are somebody’s husband/significant other.

I’ll draw an equivalence to a medium like Penthouse magazine. If Stella is hired to pose for Penthouse, then should your cousin’s husband be “outed” because he bought it at a newsstand? No.

Your mom knows about Stella’s groove, and so I would imagine that this acceptance would override any extreme family awkwardness.

Ted’s choice to harass Stella should not remain anyone’s “dirty little secret,” however.

Even though Ted might have thought he was engaging in some creative and sexy role play, having a relative inform her of her role in his fantasy life is … creepy! Stella should respond directly to Ted, shutting him down. And, depending on how he responds, to deny him the pleasure of having her as his “dirty little secret,” she should feel free to out him.

You should assume that Ted’s wife will side with him. But, since his harassment is indefensible, I don’t think the rest of the family should worry too much about him or his feelings. (c) Ask Amy

Oh my gosh. Really?

Like a lot of people right now, Stella is […] delivering “X-rated entertainment” to make extra income.

So, a lot of people are (allegedly) doing this, and that makes it okay? Wow! Way to slide down the slippery slope of justification. That escalated quickly!

The issue seems to be whether or not to tell Ted’s wife. Now, the point of telling her would be to enlighten her about Ted’s extramarital creepiness, right? We can’t guess as to whether his wife Candace already knows about his shady goings-on, so I think she should be told. She deserves to know what Ted’s up to.

Should Stella tell Candace? […] Our mom thinks it’s possible that Candace will take Ted’s side and it could make things worse.

I must be missing something here. The point of telling Candace is to alert her to her husband’s lack of morality, so who cares which “side” she chooses? The info about her husband is hers to do with as she pleases.

Speaking of sides, I’m not on Stella’s side here. She’s showing evidence of having no morals and no self-respect. I find this baffling. It’s so alien to anything I’d ever do that I can’t intuit the appeal. Money? Obviously, but… still. I… yeah, no. Just no.

Further, Stella needs to understand in no uncertain terms that being a professional [bleep] comes with several risks and unpleasant interactions. What did she expect? There’s a direct cause and effect here.

And why couldn’t Ask Amy recommend that they get Stella to do something more virtuous with her time? Right, coronavirus. Still. No. If Stella has a caring sister and a caring mother, she could (in theory) live with them and save on rent. But she’d rather [bleep] it up for money. And this is acceptable?

It seems as if Stella is setting herself up to be harassed and then playing the victim when it inevitably happens. “Poor me. I’m trying to earn money to support my family [or myself] and these horrible men are coming onto me.” No, no, no. There’s no virtue or sainthood in being a sex worker. It’s immoral.

I would like to add, though, that I don’t judge any sex workers who were sexually abused as children/teens. I think they’re more likely to become sex workers due to what they went through, and it’s part of the process of trying to come to terms with the sexual abuse. I do, however, judge sex workers who are just looking to make an easy buck. Just because you can make money a certain way doesn’t mean you should.

Let’s check in with Annie Lane! She’s always tackling the big issues. (Forgive my sarcasm.)

Dear Annie: I, as well as many others, do not understand why television shows have to play music when the people on the show are talking. I may not have the best hearing, but it is very difficult to understand what the actors are saying. Sometimes, the music covers up their voices completely. If I want to listen to music, I’ll turn on the radio, not the TV. If there is something you can do to convince them to stop playing the music, that would be awesome. — What Did You Say

Dear WDYS: I wish I had that kind of power! As it is, I’m happy to print your letter to raise what awareness I can, because you’re not the first person to write to me about this problem. For what it’s worth, some hard-of-hearing readers have reported that closed captioning makes watching TV far less frustrating. Also, some televisions come with a “Clear Voice” audio setting that might help. (c) Annie Lane @

Wow, that’s… not controversial at all. [Eyeroll.] How anticlimactic! Well, we all know that if Annie Lane tackled the sex worker question, it would be disastrous.

I can’t muster any enthusiasm for this issue despite my best efforts. Annie Lane’s other questions from today’s column were along the lines of, “Should I go to the party?” and “How can I quit watching the news obsessively?” I chose the above question to highlight because… I’m not sure why. It was a tossup all around. Nothing rose to the top. (For the record, Annie Lane advised against going to the party. Take from that what you will.)

Closed captions are my salvation for television viewing, but it’s worth noting that there’s been a huge change in television audio since the 1980s. Watch anything that’s on today, and you’ll notice how hard it is to make out the dialogue. Then, go watch an episode of The Facts of Life, and you’ll be floored by how carefully and clearly those actresses enunciate. It’s mindblowing. Despite my hearing loss, I never need captions to watch The Facts of Life. It’s similar with Murder, She Wrote: good diction and stellar enunciation. Today’s actors and actresses don’t even try. Good pronunciation is no longer valued in Hollywood.

Whimsical goal setting.

Okay, so as of right now in my time zone, it’s 11:26 PM on Dec 31. So I thought I’d set some whimsical goals for next year. For clarification, my “usual” goals involve weight loss, writing, saving money and paying off debt, and general productivity. Let’s get funkier!

In 2021, I dare myself to…

  • Tip a street performer, even if his performance is only so-so
  • Tip double if he does anything involving an open flame
  • Go back to Prague
  • Blow my nose in public while wearing a mask, and no one will know!
  • Kiss a Santa or someone else while standing under the mistletoe
  • Maybe try to watch less Hallmark Christmas movies involving mistletoe

Oh my gosh. I was watching a Hallmark Christmas movie, and this woman tugged off Santa’s beard to kiss him, and I was like, hey, let’s not get all kinky up in here! Is it just me, or was there something sexy about that, like that kiss scene with Spiderman when MJ takes off part of his mask to kiss him upside down?


  • Demand a price check on some bananas, just on general principle
  • Take a ballet class for which I don my tights and tutu… none of those boring black yoga pants for me!
  • Play truth-or-dare like I mean it (any takers? No?)
  • Convince a catfisher to send me money
  • Tell Senator Rand Paul that his name is backward
  • Join the mile-high club (longtime bucket-list item)
  • Defy gravity
  • Become airborne
  • Experience radioactivity… or just turn on the television (see what I did there? I shouldn’t be encouraged!) 😀
  • Fight to return cursive instruction to the classroom
  • Test my DNA to find out how much Native American Cherokee ancestry I have
  • Test my sister’s DNA to prove that she’s not human
  • Casually use “pronunciate” instead of “pronounce” in a sentence (or “conversate” instead of “converse”) and see if anyone calls me out on it
  • Email her royal highness, Queen Oprah, to ask her if her refrigerator’s running

Ooooh, four minutes until next year! Here we go, everyone!!

Have a nice life when you go back to Connecticut!

DEAR MISS MANNERS: On a recent Saturday, after eating lunch, I walked out to where my car was parked on the street. A car pulled up near me and the woman driving asked, “Are you leaving?” I responded, “Not yet.” I realize, in hindsight, that she must have misheard me as saying “Yes.”

I got in my car and got ready to brush my teeth. You see, I have an orthodontic device, and, pursuant to my dentist’s instructions, I have to take it out to eat and then brush my teeth before I put it back in. I had water bottles set up in the car for the purpose of rinsing and spitting.

As I was brushing my teeth, the woman in the other car pulled up in front of me. As I brushed, she occasionally inched closer to my car. Finally, she did a three-point turn and parked on the other side of the street.

This all happened within a matter of minutes. As she walked by, she shouted to me, “I thought you said you were leaving.”

“I said, ‘Not yet,’” I responded.

She then said that I could have pulled up and let her have the spot while I brushed my teeth, and that what I did was rude.

“Really?” I said. When she said “yes,” I responded, “Have a nice life.”

She then said, “Go away! Go back where you come from!” (That was kind of an odd thing to say. This took place in New York, and I’m from Connecticut.) I left, so that was the end of the exchange.

Most of the people I have told about this incident thought that I had the right to keep the spot until I was ready to leave. One friend told me that what he says in such a situation is, “I need a few minutes,” which would be less likely to be heard as “Yes” than what I said.

However, one friend said the kind thing to do would have been to give her the spot and then brush my teeth elsewhere. Honestly, that did not cross my mind at the time. This friend also thought that our exchange was ridiculous for two adults. What do you think?

GENTLE READER: The etiquette around parking spaces is closer to that of checkout lines than that of rental apartments. People at the back of a line can expect those in front of them to make reasonable efforts to expedite things. People moving into a new rental can have no reasonable expectation that you will clear out weeks before your lease expires.

Miss Manners realizes that the person coming and the person going may have different ideas of what is reasonable. Whatever your own definition was, it will go over better if you acknowledge the other party’s needs by appearing to go as quickly as you can. The other party is then expected to refrain from glaring or showing other obvious signs of displeasure.

Had your response to “Are you leaving?” been, “I’m so sorry. I’m almost ready but I do need a minute,” you might have avoided the subsequent unpleasantness. (c) MISS MANNERS

This is so entertaining! It’s like play-by-play drama. He said, and then she said, and then he said… I’m riveted.

Here we have a letter writer from my own heart, one who narrates his life like it’s a story to be shared and in fine detail, complete with dialogue and commentary from his friends. I love this guy! (Granted, I’m not sure why I’m assuming his gender as male, but why not?)

While I agree with Miss Manners’ theories and techniques for avoiding unpleasantness, I disagree with her analogy of expectations. No one should ever lay claim to a parking spot that someone else is presumably about to vacate. Just trust me on this–it will only lead to heartache. Just find someplace else to park, or at least don’t breathe down the exiting driver’s throat.

I think my beef with it is that as a paranoiac, I don’t want to be forced into answering a question being asked of me by a complete stranger, and a stranger with an agenda at that. I’ve never been in this position, but if it were to happen to me, it would go like this:

Complete stranger: Are you leaving?

Me: No. 

And then I’d leave, probably while fighting off waves of macabre laughter. (Sometimes it’s disgustingly entertaining, being me.) It’s just… you know… I hate being put on the spot to 1) engage in a social exchange, and 2) give something to someone who’s being grabby.

In my neighborhood, there’s a bigger issue of people who park and then let their lights run and/or their engines idle. Whenever I go to the gym, it’s after dark, and when I exit the gym and get into my car, I’m constantly afraid that the lit-up cars are going to start moving and crash into me as I drive past them due to incompetence on the part of the drivers. I also worry while getting into my car that their cars will start at the wrong moment and run me over. They could put my mind at ease (and save the environment) by, I dunno, turning off their cars…? But that’s too much to ask. [Eyeroll.]

And often, I’ll be walking LuLu around the block after dark, and there’ll be a car or two in the parking lot across the street. The cars will just be sitting there with their bright lights shining all over me and LuLu. I often take the opportunity to make a few rude hand gestures to practice my shadow puppetry.

(Kids, don’t try this at home.)

And sometimes, a car will face me and LuLu directly while it’s exiting the parking lot across the street. The car will stop instead of pulling onto my street, and its lights will be blinding me. I’ll just stare at the car, like, dude, you’re really irritating me. Keep driving. Don’t just stop your car there. There’s no traffic in sight. You can pull out anytime. Any day now. 

My steely death glare eventually inspires them to take action and drive away into the cold, dark night.

I don’t know why, but it’s a huge pet peeve of mine.

But anyway, I think the lady who got mad at the letter writer was being a bit entitled. I understand that she wanted a parking space, but it would really vex me to have to interact with a stranger about such a thing. And if said stranger misheard me, I wouldn’t want that to become my problem, no matter what, hard stop. (And I’ve had hearing loss since birth.) It was presumptuous and pushy of her to ask in the first place. That she misunderstood his answer and glowered at him as he practiced good dental hygiene and then lectured him is disgraceful and lacking in proper decorum.

If you want to poach a parking spot, that’s fine. But don’t be pushy to the point of asking a stranger if they’re done with the spot and then criticizing the stranger when you misheard his response. That all seems so wrong to me. “Have a nice life,” was a good comeback.

[If you’d said,] “I’m so sorry. I’m almost ready but I do need a minute,” you might have avoided the subsequent unpleasantness.

No… you need to mince words when someone’s driving. What if there’s a car behind her, waiting to drive past? I think it needs to be short and simple. One thing I’d recommend as someone who’s hard of hearing would be to nod or shake your head effusively as part of the response.

Meg’s off the chain.

Small problem. I’m schizophrenic, right? Well, apparently my good friend Ash, the psychic, has discovered an app that takes her face and puts it all over movie stars and other fictional characters. She has one image of herself talking to herself as two main characters from Labyrinth, a movie I used to like. And she has videos of movie scenes, like from Pirates of the Caribbean, that now feature her face on the main characters’. She makes a beautiful Johnny Depp.

The option of snoozing her for thirty days seems extreme. Any chance she’ll get tired of this within a day or so? Seeing the wrong faces in the wrong places is sort of… unhealthy for my brain.

Oh, gee, she’s still at it. Okay, I snoozed her.

Some of the worst commercials are ones where faces are messed up, like if noses are talking to ears, or that sort of thing. It’s hard to explain the stress of it, but I guess it makes me feel like… like I’m on the brink of losing touch with reality if I keep exposing myself to surreal images. It’s scary. It doesn’t feel right.

I’m not sure why it would scare me. I haven’t ever lost touch with reality that badly. Oh, don’t get me wrong. If I go off my meds, it’s worse than disastrous. But I’ve always had some grasp on reality. A few times I’ve hallucinated, but all of those times I knew that my mind was at war with me. There was no doubt in my mind that the sensations were an issue with my messed-up psychological or psychiatric state.

But the human face is supposed to be a certain way. There’s no deviation from that. There should be two eyes, a nose, a mouth, etc. And faces aren’t meant to be interchangeable. You can’t switch faces with someone else for a day. It’s just… wrong. It goes against nature.

I’m not sure why I’m so upset over it. Hmm… maybe some advice columns will distract me.

Dear Amy: I’ve been texting back and forth with my deceased husband’s cousins for years.

Okay, that’s funny. There’s a right way to read that sentence, and there’s a wrong way to read it. HA HA H AH AHA! Oh my. So… we’ve been texting our husband’s dead cousins? Nice opener.

They have been extremely supportive toward me. They all traveled to see and support me, attending his memorial service last year. Overall, a very friendly relationship. I love them a lot.

Today — as usual — I was included in their text conversation, which veered unexpectedly into some comments about how victimized they feel because of the results of the U.S. presidential election. Their political leanings have not come up before.

They don’t strike me as unintelligent people, but they are all very conservative, politically and religiously.

I do not agree with their comments at all.

Should I just ignore and not respond, or should I comment? I’m not happy about this.

I do not know how to respond without offending them.If I do, what should I say?

— Text Challenged

Text Challenged: If you don’t think these cousins are “unintelligent,” then don’t assume their intelligence is somehow in play because of how they voted, how they worship, or how aggrieved they feel.

They are upset. They believe they are victims of what has been proven — over and over again — to have been a fair election.

Irrational, yes, but if you voted for the Democrat candidate in 2016, you might remember how it felt to be declared a citizen of Loserville, USA. You might have felt like a victim of some mysterious process. Nonetheless, you had to get on with it, just the way these very nice and supportive people will have to get on with it.

If you find they are including you in multiple political text conversations that you would rather not participate in, you could respond: “Just letting you know — It’s been an exhausting year. I’m hoping to take a break from politics. Feel free to exclude me from those discussions. I’d love to chime in on just about anything else.” (c) Ask Amy

Oh, brother. Are you freakin’ kidding me? As a Republican who supports President Trump, um… hello… letter writer, YOUR CANDIDATE WON! So quit being a whiner because the rest of us are disappointed and uncertain what to believe about it. WHEN YOUR CANDIDATE WINS, YOU DON’T GET TO TELL OTHER PEOPLE TO GET OVER IT. If I recall, when President Trump won, the liberals were so freakin’ gungho about losing that they spent four years trying to destroy him. And now that the Democrats have won, the conservatives aren’t allowed to MERELY EXPRESS THEIR DISAPPOINTMENT ABOUT IT?!?!

This letter writer is a massive snowflake. Look at her complaint! She almost doesn’t have one. And the fact that Ask Amy took her seriously is pretty darned telling. I’m surprised the letter writer didn’t say she was “triggered”, as if her cousins-in-law’s emails were setting off her PTSD, or something. You’ve got to be kidding me.

I don’t know if the election was rigged or not. I think a lot of people don’t know. But regardless, the chances of Trump fixing it (if the election was indeed rigged) and overtaking Biden’s presidential win are slim to none. So even if I were on the other side of this, I wouldn’t judge conservatives for being uncertain about what to believe or how to react. I’d allow them to feel the disappointment of the loss.

As a Republican, I’m not going to spend the next four years of my life plotting and scheming to destroy the new president. Why? Because I have a life, and I have better things to do. Did the liberals take that attitude when Trump won? No, they didn’t. Chew on that, letter writer. And by all means keep communicating with your husband’s dead cousins.

(For those of you who disapprove of my political leanings, try to understand that I’m usually able to keep a lid on it.)

They don’t strike me as unintelligent people, but they are all very conservative, politically and religiously.

Right. I’m pretty stupid myself, thanks. My IQ’s only around 140. I only scored 790 out of 800 on the logic and analysis portion of the Graduate Record Exam. But yeah, despite those things, I’m pretty stupid.

I do not agree with their comments at all.

That’s fine!! We don’t have to agree! But their comments aren’t trigger-worthy, and they’re not harmful. It’s simple disagreement over one candidate or the other. They didn’t… go on any racist rants? They didn’t… go on any homophobic rants? No? They didn’t… call abortion fans baby killers? No? They just expressed their disappointment at the outcome of an election? Really? And we’re feeling too sensitive to handle that today? Awwww. Their side lost. Your side won. Get over yourself. Or would you rather have President Trump win, if you don’t have to deal with hearing your dead cousins’ opinions? (No, really, I’m asking. Priorities, people.)

Should I just ignore and not respond, or should I comment? I’m not happy about this.

Yeah, I think you should spell it out for them that President Trump lost. After all, they’re in denial (due to their conservative stupidity) and need to be told rather firmly that they’ve lost. Oh, and then report back as to how they react. Thank you.

I do not know how to respond without offending them.If I do, what should I say?

Okay. “My candidate won, and yours didn’t! Nanny, nanny, boo-boo!” That should cover it.

Well, now I’m even more riled up. Oh well. It is what it is.

You know, since these cousins are dead, it’s not too surprising they voted for Joe Biden. OHHHH!!! BOOM. That’s what I’m talking about!

Here’s to lost opportunities to help people!

Dear Amy: I’m a woman, currently dating a man younger than me.

He pursued me relentlessly before I agreed to go out with him.

On our first date, I leaned in to kiss him and he got a terrified look on his face and blurted out, “I’m gay!”

I immediately left and avoided him for days.

He convinced me that he was just trying to shock me, and was just messing around.

Okay, sure — maybe that’s true, but every single time we’re together he brings up different scenarios, and asks me things like, “What would you do if you caught me kissing this guy or that guy?”

I asked him the other night why we never go to his place and his answer was, “I don’t know, maybe I’m gay.”

I’m pretty open-minded, but this really is getting old.

I believe he might be closeted and in denial.

Any thoughts?

— Unsure

Unsure: My thoughts: If you try to kiss someone and he recoils in terror, saying, “I’m gay,” then he’s most likely gay.

If he consistently brings up scenarios where he speculates about your reaction to him kissing this guy or that, then he’s at least gay-adjacent or bi-curious.

If you ask him why you don’t go to his place, or why he didn’t finish his entree, or why he likes the color green and he says, “I don’t know, maybe I’m gay,” then — yep.

My point is that according to you, just about every question you ask him — regardless of the topic — seems to swing around to him being — or not being — gay.

There are probably many great reasons this man wants to date you. But he also seems eager to find ways to talk about his own sexuality.

You could ask him if he is at a sexual crossroads. Would he like to talk about it in an honest, noninvasive way?

If you want to be sexually active with him and he finds all sorts of reasons to avoid or evade physical contact with you, then it’s time for you to make a decision about being with him, based on your own desires, and not his. (c) Ask Amy

Is this letter writer for real? Can she tell a cat from and a dog, or a spoon from a fork? What level of ignorance could possibly account for her inability to tell that her date is gay?

I have no clue how she could be so ignorant, but it’s frustrating as all get-out. This guy is begging and pleading with her to validate him, but she’s too clueless to offer him that. For that reason, I feel sorry for him. It can he hard to have some sort of sexual difference from most people, and it can be helpful to be told, “You’re okay the way you are, and it’s all good.” But this letter writer’s too clueless to give that gift to this poor guy, so here’s hoping he finds it from someone else.

Yeah, the letter writer seems hung up on the mystery, which is mind-boggling since the answer’s so obvious. It’s like that old sketch on Sesame Street where Bert says to Ernie, “Hey, Ernie, you have a banana in your ear,” and Ernie replies, “What? I can’t hear you. I have a banana in my ear.”


The letter writer needs to realize that this isn’t about her, and then she needs to be there for this guy. Obviously there won’t be any romance here, but she’s already figured that out and is now treating him like a novelty in a curiosity shop. Ugh. Not cool. Tell him it’s okay!! Geez. The letter writer strikes me as being sort of amused by this situation, which is coldhearted and somewhat inhumane. She should at least try to imagine what it must be like to be in a sexual minority.

Good night, John Boy. No, really. Go to sleep and leave me alone!

Dear Annie: My son has been dating a girl for a little over three years. My husband and I really like her. Our son loves her. Here’s the problem: I have asked her before to help in the kitchen with meal preparation and cleanup, and she refuses.

They come once a week for meals, and we eat in front of the TV while watching shows. Everyone brings their dishes to the kitchen, but I’m left with the cleanup. Once, when I asked her for help, she said that she is company and wouldn’t expect me to help at her house. They were here for Thanksgiving, and my mom asked her to join us at the table and visit, but she declined, saying she was OK where she was. My mom was hurt and upset.

I’m planning a big Christmas dinner and want the girls to help with cleanup and to sit and visit after the meal. How can I get her to get involved in the kitchen work, both before and after, and to put her phone away and sit and visit with us? — Disappointed (c) Annie Lane @

Don’t do it, Annie Lane. Don’t do it. Don’t go there. Don’t you dare say that the son’s girlfriend is being immature, and don’t you dare add that the letter writer needs to set a good example for her, as if she’s a mindless idiot who can’t think for herself. Don’t criticize her, Annie Lane. Just don’t.

Okay, I’m going to take a deep breath and read her advice here. Care to come along for the ride?

Dear Disappointed: Staring at your phone and texting while at your potential in-laws’ house is very rude. The polite thing to do is ask the host if he or she needs help, but it is also polite for the host not to expect the guests to do all the work. Have a talk with your son and ask him to help you out in the kitchen. Maybe his girlfriend will catch on and want to jump in. Her behavior toward your mother was also very rude, so address this with your son, too. Perhaps there is a reason he hasn’t married her yet.

Epic, epic, epic fail. But parts of it were ludicrous to the point of hilarity, so there’s that.

Annie Lane is clueless. She doesn’t understand the level of social pressure (which often feels akin to peer pressure) involved with trying to impress your significant other’s family. It’s hard. It’s overwhelming and just… exhausting.

When Grandma said, “Come join us at the table and visit,” it put the girlfriend on the spot and pressured her to maintain conversation with people who aren’t her family. It doesn’t sound like she was rude. I’d call her reaction unsociable. That’s not the same as being rude. Being unsociable involves feeling socially awkward or uncomfortable and trying to make nice without perfect success. Rudeness, which I’m not seeing here, would’ve been a response like, “Shove it up your windpipe, Grandma. I’m watching some TV here.” That would be rude.

While I agree that it’s poor form to deny Grandma’s request at socializing, I can just speak from experience and observation that trying to get in the good graces of another family is horribly overwhelming. It’s one part social awkwardness, three parts culture shock (because how many families are similar, much less instantly familiar?), and five parts divine guidance from a higher power.

And, um, the gender roles are running rampant with this letter writer. I  approve of Annie Lane’s advice that the letter writer should freakin’ ask her son for help, but then Annie Lane veered into the inane with this zinger:

Have a talk with your son and ask him to help you out in the kitchen. Maybe his girlfriend will catch on and want to jump in.

Right, because if the boyfriend’s doing it, it must be super-fun!! Amiright? [Facepalm.] That might work with a preschooler, but with adults? I doubt it.

I’m planning a big Christmas dinner and want the girls to help with cleanup and to sit and visit after the meal.

Okay, this isn’t The Waltons. Yes, Mary Ellen became a nurse and Erin became a teacher and Elizabeth became a missionary, but in real life, “girls” shouldn’t be doing cleanup. “People” should be. “People” in a generic and non-pejorative gendered sense, unlike “girls”, who I roughly define as being females between the ages of five and eleven.

How can I get her to get involved in the kitchen work, both before and after?

Okay, this isn’t Cinderella.

I knew Annie Lane would bomb this one. I know a case can be made on the other side of this, but if I were in the girlfriend’s shoes, I could only pray to be so assertive. And things will get worse for her, because the family members will get ornery and start being passive-aggressive and trying to get rid of her.

Perhaps there is a reason [your son] hasn’t married her yet.

Shove it, Annie Lane. Ugh.


Dear Amy: I am a 63-year-old widower. My late wife died nine years ago. Dating has been brutal.

I dated a lady for two years. She is a nurse and is deeply involved in public health during this pandemic. It is overwhelming for her.

I tried to support her with gifts, books, and home-cooked dinners. Over time, our relationship went from intimate to wearing a mask and no touching.

She hinted around and told me that I don’t have to stay in the relationship. I told her we could make it. She continued to pull back.

Finally, I called her on it. I left that evening angry.

I took a day and realized I wasn’t angry with her but with covid. I wrote her a card, bought her flowers, and left them on her porch.

She is now ghosting me like an angry 15-year-old.

How do I resolve the pain of ghosting? I’m proud that I gave the relationship 100 percent. Yet the emotional pain of the instant cutoff of communication and the pretense that I do not exist is difficult.

How do I deal with that? Should I send her a letter? I need/want some sense of resolution. Heck, my house has a lot of stuff from her on the shelves!

— Left

Left: Your relationship might be yet another emotional casualty of covid. You seem to believe that this breakup was sudden, but it wasn’t. Your girlfriend provided multiple signals over a long period that she was pulling away from you.

Yes, write to her if you believe it would help you, understanding that it won’t change the outcome. Put the things she gave you into a box. Put the letter (or a copy) inside. Pour yourself a drink. Close the lid. Raise a toast to the end, and resolve to let time do its magic, to heal this loss. (c) Ask Amy

Wow, I feel sorry for this guy.

It feels as if he got demoted. That’s a concept I haven’t thought of since I was a kid. As kids, we could get demoted in school or extracurriculars. I was forever being demoted in ballet class because I had no natural ability.

As an adult, being demoted–as a concept–has left my mind. Until now. Huh.

So, this guy had a great relationship with this woman, and he was getting laid, and they were all happy, and then the coronavirus came along, and everything changed. She saw the devastation of it from the front lines and pulled away from the letter writer in a strict physical sense at first: no more sex, we’re wearing masks here, and I’m going to socially distance from you.

That probably felt like a slap in the face. And from what I understand about male psychology, once you’ve started having sex, there’s no going back. The male gets locked into it and starts to “need” it within that relationship, and there’s no way to go back in time and undo that. (I hope I’m not offending men everywhere. Please feel free to let me know if I’m intuiting that incorrectly.)

She hinted around and told me that I don’t have to stay in the relationship. I told her we could make it. She continued to pull back.

God bless this guy. He tried really hard. He even tells us that!

I’m proud that I gave the relationship 100 percent.

It’s worth being proud of, for sure. Relationships are the most important things we have. But the sad fact is that if the other person isn’t equally committed to maintaining and strengthening the relationship, then… there’s not a damned thing you can do. Not a damned thing.

I think Ask Amy gave him some good insight about how she was pulling away and how he saw it but was in denial about it. He notes that she was pulling away and dropping hints, but he was so committed to making it work that I don’t think he really “heard” her.

Quite honestly, for what it’s worth, I wouldn’t blame the coronavirus. I’d blame her. I can sort of understand what she must’ve been going through, working with coronavirus victims every day, being afraid and overwhelmed, and shutting down; but she lacked integrity in not spelling it out for him. The hint-dropping was cowardly and ineffective. She should’ve broken up with him. Instead, he flipped out and went off the deep end from the frustration of it all, and now he has to live with all that remorse over having acted that way, all because she couldn’t just speak up and say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t handle dating you at this time. I just can’t cope.”

I’m starting to wonder, though, if she’s having a nervous breakdown. She’s stressed out, she was overly fearful of the coronavirus to the point that her own boyfriend felt threatening to her (in a contagious sense), and she seems to have just shut down. Maybe she was struggling and going under, and he couldn’t see it.

Not that I blame him for being oblivious, because if that was the case, and she was struggling, she still shut him out to the point that he doesn’t even suspect it now. Maybe when he called her out, she was fighting off tears or struggling not to come undone. Because I have to say that her reaction to her boyfriend, as it pertains to the coronavirus, seems like a bit of overkill. (Absolutely no pun intended.)

Maybe I’m not responsible enough about preventing contagion, but I interact with my dad (who I live with) without wearing a mask all the time. Now, I get that the letter writer didn’t live with his girlfriend, but they were dating and having sex, for crying out loud. Don’t we have “bubbles”, or whatever? “Pods”? (Not Tide Pods.) I’m not sure what they’re called–groups of people we allow ourselves to interact with freely because of friend groups and family groups.

Yeah, if I were he, I’d write her one helluva letter. I’m trying to be sympathetic to his ex here, but she didn’t prioritize relationships, and that never sits well with me, since I’m a huge champion of relationships. People say, “You can’t take it with you,” meaning we leave behind our riches when we die, but I firmly believe that we can (and do) take our relationships with us into the afterlife and all future lives. But I digress.

I just hope that this guy isn’t being too hard on himself. He tried really hard, but he had nothing to work with. And to me, that’s one of the huge tragedies of relationships: when the other party isn’t as dedicated. It’s one thing I definitely seek out in friends: that awareness of how sacred and meaningful relationships are. But at the heart of the matter, there’s no way we can prevent ourselves from being dumped (one way or another) by a friend or significant other who doesn’t value relationships as much.


Phone calls and emails: a blog post about communications.

Dear Annie: I read your column every day. Of course, lately, the issues revolve around COVID-19 and the problem of being unable to gather for significant events, especially holidays. People seem to be going the extra mile to find alternative ways to “gather.”

I would appreciate it if you could remind your readers that there are those who are alone on all the holidays, not just during this pandemic. I’ve been alone for many years on these holidays and have learned to make the best of it, stay busy and positive. I find ways to perhaps make others less lonely, which has helped me in return.

However, there is always a bit of underlying sadness. I know I would love it if someone would reach out to me with a phone call to say happy holidays or that they were thinking of me. I do have distant family and friends, but everyone gets busy and doesn’t seem to understand how important that 10-minute conversation would be to anyone who is alone.

For that matter, it doesn’t even need to be a holiday or birthday call. Please take 10 minutes of your time and make someone’s day brighter. Whenever someone takes the time to say they are thinking of me, I smile all day. — Appreciating Kindness

Dear Appreciating Kindness: Your letter touched my heart, and I can just picture you smiling all day because someone took the time to call you. The holiday season is a wonderful reminder of how we can all help each other, especially people we know who are alone. That really is the spirit of Christmas. (c) Annie Lane @

Hmm. While I feel sad for this letter writer, I’m a bit frustrated by her (his?) inability to reach out. I finally was able to talk to Sonya earlier this evening. I haven’t heard from her in, like, a week. She’s my best friend forever! I asked how her Christmas was. (She’s been busy and super-stressed over a health issue with her cats. Nothing life-threatening, but stressful and hard to treat already.) She said she was lonely on Christmas. Ugh!! I sat at the computer for several hours on Christmas Day with my social media opened, and she didn’t show. I was hoping she would! (It’s not a huge deal. I always keep social media open whenever I’m at the computer doing anything.)

So I told her I’ll spend next Christmas with her so she won’t be alone. She said, “That sounds great! But don’t you do important stuff with your family?”

Well, yeah, but my dad can spend time with my siblings, and my mom’s across the country now.

But, so, anyway, my point (I think) is that you have to let people know if you’re lonely. Also, you have to let people know how you want to communicate. The letter writer wants people to call her, but… I personally hate calling people. (There might be one person out there reading this who I’ve ever spoken to on the phone… holla! You know who you are!)

Sonya wanted to talk to me on the phone to discuss my query letter for my memoir. I took that to mean that she must think the query letter is really, really bad. 😀 I was like, “That bad, eh?” (It was pretty bad.) She immediately started backpedaling and saying, “No, I just thought it would be fun to talk!” And I told her that my Skype doesn’t work (which is true–I’ve never figured out how to talk on it), and that phone calls make me a nervous wreck. I felt bad about it, so I told her I’d try to come visit next year, since I’m less of a nervous wreck in person. (Go figure. I’m only comfortable talking on the phone with family members, primarily my parents.)

So I think the letter writer has some unrealistic expectations, and she should try to express what she wants by making phone calls herself or otherwise reaching out. Has she considered email? I highly recommend it. I’m not being sarcastic. I love email! Speaking of…

Dear Amy: “M” was looking for advice as an aspiring journal keeper, and I thought she might be interested in a method that I fell into many years ago.

One thing that has gotten me writing regularly is the daily email correspondence I have with a friend.

This friend started writing newsy emails to me at the beginning of our friendship, and both of us fell into the habit of writing to each other every day.

I copy and save our emails and have files going back to 2004!

We usually write about what happened to us each day and admittedly many of them are not very deep or exciting. However, there have been times that they have been useful when I needed to remember what date something significant occurred.

The best benefit from this has been that my friend and I have gotten to be very close and we each look forward to reading each other’s emails as we each begin our day.

Obviously “M” would need to find someone willing to put in the effort to write back and forth with her daily, but she may want to inquire among her friends and family members to see if anyone else might be interested enough to do this.

In addition, she may still want to keep the blank journal on her nightstand so she can write her more deep and private innermost thoughts, separate from the writing she does with her email pen pal.

— Irene, in Colchester, CT

Irene: What a wonderful and rich way to record your own personal daily history, while at the same time deepening your friendship!

During a pandemic is in many ways the perfect time to strike up a new correspondence.

I’m inspired, and I hope others will also be inspired to seek regular pen pals. (c) Ask Amy

 Yes, yes, yes. I could’ve written this letter, except that my name’s not Irene, and I don’t live in Connecticut. Yes, totally! I love email correspondence! The more the better! It’s a great way of sharing the everyday moments with a close friend. The only way I differ is with this:

We usually write about what happened to us each day and admittedly many of them are not very deep or exciting.

Yeah… I’m more of an emailer who waits until there’s something worth reporting, and then I’ll email someone. The humdrum can hold up an email correspondence when I have nothing to share. Fortunately, my life is consistently unpredictable, and I like it that way! Any sort of boredom or malaise never lasts long at all. That would be odd.

As such, with  my love of email correspondence and blogging, I’ve lost interest in journaling privately. I guess I was more into that as a teenager, and that was before Internet. I love the concept of sharing my life with email friends and following their exploits as well. The day-to-day stuff and all the weird little things that occur are rich with what lies at the heart of our existence: a series of meaningful (or ridiculous, ludicrous,  outlandish, or hilarious) moments.

Oh! I also recommend regular email correspondence for beginning writers who are trying to master grammar, punctuation, spelling, and so forth. What you have to do is write “clean” when you compose an email. Expect yourself to not make any grammatical mistakes (not counting typos necessarily). Because the best way to become a better writer in a strict technical sense is to practice, practice, practice, and to hold yourself to a high standard of grammatical accuracy in the process. One great way to break the bad habit of lazy textspeak is to compose long emails in which you write “clean”.

Sibling discord and the friends versus acquaintances issue.

Dear Amy: So many of the questions to your column involve family members — often siblings — who are locked into their own drama or estranged from each other. As you’ve noted, often these estrangements carry on through generations.

My family has sibling drama, too.

When my kids were small, my husband and I started telling them that they would know each other longer than anyone else in the world, so they needed to love each other and be good friends.

We said that countless times, as little kids, teens, and so on. Now they are adults and have a healthy sibling relationship.

— Healed

Healed: I appreciate the way you recognized the unhealthy pattern in your own family, and so you quite deliberately decided to show your children a different model. Their functioning relationship will be a tremendous help and comfort to all of you throughout your family’s life. (c) Ask Amy

That’s nice, and I certainly don’t disapprove of it, but it takes more than that. My parents were always saying that too when I was a kid: “You’ll value your siblings so much more when you’re an adult. Just trust me.” And my reaction was along the lines of, “Yeah, right.” I felt like they were being… what’s the word… patronizing, or something.

I think a lot of the problem with sibling disagreements stems from general dysfunction, like parents who play their kids against each other, or parents who hold the older kids accountable for everything while letting the baby get by with murder, or parents who don’t mediate sibling arguments or disagreements the right way, etc., etc. I’d guess that the letter writer was a pro at those things, because just telling your kids to value their siblings won’t go far. I know that from experience. That said, I’m not trying to discount what the letter writer wrote. But what she did, the way she raised her kids, is worth way more than her mere words to her kids. Words alone are empty.

I also think that individuality should be taken into account. If my parents had done a decent job of raising my sister (which they sure the hell didn’t), it wouldn’t change the fact that she and I have nothing in common. That’s life. It’s great to have siblings, but there are going to be personality clashes and incompatibilities, and that shouldn’t be glossed over as being unlikely or something you can overcome. In an ideal world, you might be able to get along (although my sister and I sure can’t), but there’s no ideal world in which all siblings are best friends.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I talked to a friend the other day, and he asked me how my health is. I told him months ago that I had had a health scare, but he never followed up. I am dealing with it and really don’t want to talk to him about it, so I brushed off the question. Do you think I owe it to him to give him a detailed update on my health? — Not Your Business

DEAR NOT YOUR BUSINESS: You have every right to keep your health status private. You can share your health journey with whomever you like. You can also decide that you no longer want to tell certain people what’s going on with you. That is your prerogative.

But don’t fault this friend for asking, even if the ask was delayed. At least he did follow up. These days, when the stressors are incredibly high for everyone, time slips by faster than we know it. People are often so absorbed in their own challenges that they forget to check in on their loved ones. Don’t harbor negative feelings about him because he was not responsive in the ways you would have liked. Instead, determine who has the bandwidth to be there for you in your times of need. Share your sensitivities and health updates with those people, and feel comfortable keeping others at bay. (c) DREAMLEAPERS

Hmm. First of all, this is him following up. Second, he wasn’t asking for details. Rather, he was inquiring into her wellbeing. Those questions can be answered without getting into details. “I’m feeling better, thanks,” or, “Oh, it turns out I was worried over nothing,” or, “I might have surgery to repair a torn ligament,” which doesn’t seem overly personal to me, but to each his own.

I had a health scare once. Funny story. (Not really.) When I was working at the reading center, which would’ve been 2001-2004, my vision kept getting blurry as the day went on. It was really scaring me. I’m not a hypochondriac, but I mean, it was really and consistently getting blurry.

So I made an appointment to see an eye doctor at the local health conglomerate building. This was before I had my driver’s license, so Granny Smith was nice enough to take me.

The eye doctor was a real dog. He looked at my eyes and then threw a tantrum. “Who squeezed her in? There’s nothing wrong with her eyes!” He turned to me and scowled. “You just have chronic dry eye. Now, get out of my sight, you troublemaker.”

Granny Smith had to console me as she drove me home. She’d gone back with me and had actually witnessed it. She was appalled. “There was no call for him to do that,” she kept saying. I appreciated her support. After she stopped the car, we talked for a while, because I was distraught. She was a really wonderful grandmother. I don’t exactly miss her, because I sense her with me. (If I didn’t sense her with me, I’d definitely miss her, for sure.)

Anyway, getting back to the letter. On the other hand, I can see how I’d feel that the guy in the letter blew me off if several months passed before he checked in. That’s sort of rude, but it could also be an issue of social levels. For example, is he a very close friend, or is he an acquaintance? With an acquaintance, it could be harder to follow up. That’s not rude as much as it’s… just awkward and not really comfortable. It can be ill-advised to share personal things with acquaintances, because it just never really plays out the right way.

On the other, other hand, I had friends when I was younger who were friends for sure–not acquaintances–who weren’t there for me when I needed them. If that’s the case, it’s good (yet painful) to find out already.

For this letter writer, I’d recommend accepting that the guy in question falls into the acquaintance category. Sometimes, despite how hard you try to get to know someone, they’re never going to leap from acquaintanceship to friendship. It’s just never gonna happen.

That used to frustrate me to no end when I played in the handbell choir at my mom’s Episcopalian church after college, same timeframe as the eye doctor thing. I went diligently each week and always hoped to have meaningful conversations or interactions with the other ringers, but there was a wall up that couldn’t be broken down. I was hungry for friendship, but I just couldn’t break past it. I blamed myself, I blamed them, and then I just realized that it wasn’t there.

In those situations, you’ve got to keep looking for good friends, but elsewhere. Also, it can be unhealthy to continue in the environment and turn the blame inward (I’m too introverted, I’m too shy, they don’t notice me, etc.). It’s a simple fix that a different group or situation could be a better fit.

But I digress. I guess this became about friends versus acquaintances. Anyway, also to this letter writer, I’d urge her not to hold a grudge against this guy. Awkwardness is no one’s fault, except maybe that of the person who initiated it (which would technically be the letter writer in this scenario…). And he was nice enough to inquire into her health when he ran into her again.


Wow. I just had a mindblowing experience pertaining to my weight-loss efforts.

Prior to when I quit eating flour, I obtained large quantities of Kodiak waffle mix. So, ever since I went off the flour, the mixes have been sitting there in the kitchen looking forlorn in their large tupperware containers.

I gave it a lot of thought and decided that I should go ahead and eat the waffles, because the waffle mixes cost a lot of money, and I’m trying so hard to budget. I rationalized it by saying, it’ll be the only flour I eat each day. 

So, being economical, I just now made and ate two waffles: a chocolate one, and an almond poppy-seed one.

I hated them! Yuck.

And it’s not as if I cooked them wrong. They tasted exactly like they were supposed to taste, if that makes sense. I was just like, ewwww. I wasn’t feeling it.

And then I realized, holy flip, I’ve successfully changed my taste buds and my physiological cravings for certain foods… in a good way!!!

Well, that settles it. The waffle mix is out. I wish anything I hadn’t opened it all and put it into tupperwares. (If anyone out there in America wants some free-yet-opened waffle mix, please come and find me. I hate for stuff to go to waste, but I have no idea how to unload it. If you ask nicely, I’ll probably include the waffle iron.)

So, yeah, I’ve been eating more brown rice. For brunch, I add some pineapples and Chinese orange sauce; or for dinner, I add some lean meat and Chinese sesame sauce. I don’t want to eat it twice a day, and I was hoping the waffles could help with that; but I’ll figure something out. I’m sure I can find another healthy meal that I enjoy. Or I could just eat some Lara bars for lunch, etc.

Not only that, but there’s something else going on, too. Ever since I ate the waffles in the past hour or so, I’ve been having an ataxia attack. My hands feel weak and are closing themselves. This is why I went off gluten for a year once, but I don’t think gluten was the culprit. It’s flour! (That makes as much sense as anything.) And I’m thinking, if you want to lose weight, don’t go off gluten. Go off flour. (None of that applies if you have celiac disease. We’re just talking weight loss here. I wasn’t trying to lose weight when I went off gluten, and nor did I. I just had an intuitive sense that something I was eating was messing my body up somehow.)

I’m glad the waffles didn’t work out. I didn’t really feel good about going back on flour. So now I can stay off it and keep up the weight loss efforts.

Oh! Gotta run. It’s time to walk the doggie!! I hope everyone had a great Christmas!!

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