Dear Annie: I've been close friends with "Jane" for years. Recently, Jane said she feels I do not listen or validate her problems but instead offer her unsolicited advice when all she wants to do is vent.
I apologized for not being a good listener. But, Annie, she complained to me that she is losing her job and her house and wants to leave her husband.
My "unsolicited advice" was that she seek counseling. Jane became angry and said she doesn't need counseling.
When Jane told me she needed to clean her garage but felt overwhelmed by the mess, I offered to help.
I said we could do a few hours at a time and be done in a couple of months. She again became angry and said her plan was to hire strong men and have it done in a few hours.
The last time she "vented," she said her daughter, "Lilly," misses a lot of class because she has stomach problems, dizziness and keeps injuring her feet. Annie, I've never seen this girl so much as limp, and when her mother isn't around, she's absolutely fine.
When Lilly was little, she told me she wanted to be a boy, and as a pre-teen, she dresses like one. She bullies other girls and often goes to school with dirty hair and has body odor.
I work with troubled children and families, yet when I suggested to Jane that Lilly's constant illnesses may be stress-related, she became defensive and said it was probably an ear infection.
Recently, a mutual friend who is a counselor confided to me that she thinks Lilly might have sexual identity issues. How do I present this to Jane without her accusing me of attacking her?
- Friend with Good Intentions
Dear Friend: You can't.
Jane is in denial about herself and her daughter. She also has made it quite clear that she doesn't want to hear your advice, suggestions or opinions.
When she vents to you, simply nod your head sympathetically. Anything more will get her dander up.
The school should be paying attention to Lilly's constant illnesses and discussing the possibility of stress with Jane. You might bring it up to the school counselor.
Dear Annie: I live in a 55 and older community. At some of our events, the emcee thinks nothing of having a benediction ending with "in Jesus' name." The people here are a variety of different religions, and some are atheists.
I have confronted the emcee, saying his prayer is inappropriate.
I suggested that he say his grace at his own table and not subject the rest of us to his religious beliefs. Any other suggestions as to what I can do? I can't let this go.
- Not a Christian
Dear Not: It is inappropriate to give a specific religious blessing in a nondenominational setting.
Either the blessing must go, or every group should be permitted to give its own version.
You need to speak to whoever is in charge of arranging these events and ask that the practice be stopped.
We understand that those who agree with this man's religious views see no harm in it, but it is terribly offensive to others. There is no reason to create ill will in your community over something easily remedied.
Dear Annie: "Thought I'd Found the One" was dating a divorced man for three years.
They traveled, spent weekends together and got along well, but he didn't want to live together.
My husband and I have been married for 15 years, and we've never lived together.
We both were divorced and comfortable in our own homes and with our "alone" time.
We find it a treat to see each other for midweek date nights, and we enjoy traveling and weekends together.
Another couple we know just bought side-by-side condos. The commitment to each other doesn't have to mean being together 24/7.
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.