Dear Annie: I find myself trying to keep every tiny bit of my life a secret since I got married — not because I’m ashamed of anything, but because my in-laws make my business fodder for gossip. Every time I talk to them, it feels as if I am being interrogated. If I slip up and offer a small piece of personal news (such as an upcoming trip), they pepper me with a million pointed questions trying to get details.
I would be much more willing to share if, when I did mention a tidbit, I was told, “Oh, how wonderful for you,” and they didn’t press further or continue to spread my plans beyond present company. Instead, knowing that everything I say will be picked apart and broadcast to the universe, I clam up and am reluctant to say anything at all.
Is there anything I can do to put off their questions in a polite manner while avoiding the impression that I’m being aloof and rude?
— Not an Interrogator
Dear Not: You are under no obligation to respond to questions that are no one’s business, particularly if you know they will repeat the information to everyone.
However, if it is something innocuous (a promotion, for example), you should try to answer their questions honestly. If they tell the universe, you have no reason to be concerned. For other things, practice a sincere smile while saying, “There’s really nothing interesting happening. How have you been?” But we don’t believe your in-laws are being malicious. We think they find everything about you more entertaining than what they are doing, and sharing it makes them feel important.
Dear Annie: I will be sending out wedding invitations soon. The problem is, I don’t know what to do about my grandparents. They are still friends with my ex-husband, who is unstable and a bit scary. Last year, they didn’t hesitate to give my phone number to his girlfriend when she asked. I was furious. They don’t have my new address because I fear they would give it to my ex and he would show up and cause trouble.
I worry that when my grandparents get their invitation, they will give my ex the date, time, place and my return address. The fact that they are family and love me would not stop them. They are stubborn and thoughtless. They adore my ex and aren’t so crazy about my fiancé.
Should I send them the invitation and give them a stern talking to? I doubt it would do any good. Should I give them the information the day of the wedding so they have less time to share it? Of course, that would necessitate asking other family members not to tell them anything, which would be difficult. Any advice?
— Burned by Family
Dear Burned: You always have the option of telling your grandparents after the wedding takes place. But we assume you want them to be there. You could send Grandma and Grandpa a handwritten invitation, omitting your return address and the location of the wedding. Arrange for a friend to pick them up and bring them to the ceremony. On the assumption that other relatives will spill the beans, you also could ask another friend to act as “security” (or hire someone) to guard the door so your ex doesn’t show up uninvited.
Dear Annie: “Happy in Hawaii” recommended that teenagers participate in their school’s community service clubs so they are less influenced by their friends and won’t get into trouble. When I was a child, I learned a saying that I passed on to our four children. I think it helped them to become independent-thinking adults: “Of all excuses this is most forbid, ‘I did it ‘cuz the others did.’”
— Marion, Mass.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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