Dear Annie: I just found out that my brother, who I thought was in graduate school studying to be a teacher, is actually working as a prison guard. I’m the only one in the family who knows. When I phoned him to get the details, he told me that he’d quit school after one semester because he never really wanted to be a teacher. He said our parents bullied him into graduate school when he had trouble finding work after his college graduation. Prison guard was the first job he could get.
I asked him why he is leading this double life. He said our parents told him that graduate school was “not negotiable.” So he figures they can live with their delusions. At family dinners, Mom and Dad ask him about school, and he says, “Fine, but dull.” Then they drone on and on about the importance of attending school since he couldn’t find a job, and our grandfather makes a point of telling him how easy he has it compared to serving in Korea. Like we care. If they don’t want to hear what my brother says, they shouldn’t ask.
I agree with him that my parents are narcissists. They live in total denial of their kids’ lives. For my 30th birthday, they gave me a check and said, “We didn’t know what to give you since you don’t want to go to culinary school.” I never expressed a desire to go to culinary school. I once taught myself to cook something, and they became obsessed with the idea that I should be a chef. I have zero interest.
Here’s my concern: What happens if my parents find out about my brother? He says, “That’s their problem.” I wonder if he’s doing this so he can make them look like idiots when the relatives find out. Should I keep his secret?
— New York
Dear New York: This is your brother’s secret to divulge, not yours. However, the two of you seem overly focused on your parents’ reaction. You are both too old to be doing things behind their backs or letting them believe things that are not true. Please be honest with them and urge your brother to do the same. If they don’t like it, it’s time you learned to handle the fallout. It might be very liberating.
Dear Annie: I have been with my boyfriend for a month. We are both young, and I understand that we may move apart, but for now, I am struggling with some questions.
He feels it is OK to smoke pot, although I know he hasn’t done it for a long time for my sake. He also thinks it’s OK to have sex right away when you date someone. I strongly disagree with him on both of these issues. Should I stay, or should I go?
— Needing Advice
Dear Needing: Smoking pot is still illegal, except in those states that allow it with a prescription. It also can be habit forming, which means it would likely be an issue for you during your entire relationship. And any guy who pressures you for sex before you are comfortable doing so is not the guy for you. These are not insurmountable issues, and you can discuss them openly with him and see how it goes. But if you continue to disagree and still feel uncomfortable or unsure, it’s time to let this guy go.
Dear Annie: This is in response to “Judy,” who became separated from her husband while trying to board a shuttle bus. When a group gets separated with some ahead and some behind, the proper etiquette is for those in front to rejoin the group behind them. Why should people who properly queued up be displaced by the laggards who weren’t paying attention?
— Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
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