Dear Annie: My husband has a wonderful mother, and I am happy that such a terrific woman raised him. The problem is, she wants me to call her “Mom.” I love her dearly, but I am not comfortable with this. She introduces me as her daughter and signs all of her emails and texts, “Love, Mom.” Any advice on how to handle this situation?
— Uncomfortable Daughter-in-Law
Dear Uncomfortable: It is never easy to start calling someone by a more familiar name. Mom obviously wants to be closer to you. You have three choices: You force yourself to call her “Mom,” knowing that eventually it will become easier and natural; you simply tell her that you think she is terrific, but you would prefer to call her by her first name because you consider her a good friend; you wait until you have children and then call her “Grandma.”
Dear Annie: I found your response to “Nebraska” surprising. She said her friends are not attracted to African-Americans, and you agreed that this is bigoted.
I remember being with friends and checking out members of the opposite sex when I was much younger. My friend might say she thought the blue-eyed blond was a real cutie, and I might say I preferred men with brown hair and brown eyes.
Did that make us bigoted? Did that mean one of us had a prejudice against Swedes and the other against Italians? Attraction is one thing. Willingness to get to know someone based on race or other physical appearance is something else altogether, and there I might agree with your response. All these years later, I’m still married to the brown-eyed man.
— Hat Creek
Dear Hat Creek: Many readers compared this to not being attracted to redheads. But it’s not the same. Selecting an entire group of human beings based on their ancestral heritage is like saying you aren’t attracted to anyone whose great-grandmother was a redhead. You actually provided an excellent example of our point: You didn’t say Swedes or Italians as a group. You said blue-eyed blondes and brown-eyed brunettes. Those preferences occur within many groups, including dark-eyed, brunette Swedes and blonde, blue-eyed Italians, which are plentiful.
It’s not always easy to recognize bigotry in ourselves, and in most cases, it is not intentional. But aside from the obvious fact that people should be judged on an individual basis, “Nebraska’s” friends didn’t say they have a problem with a specific feature — and African-Americans have a range of features. They also did not say they aren’t attracted to a specific skin tone. They said “African-Americans,” making them all the same in looks and personality. You don’t have to be attracted to everybody. But when one pronounces an entire group of people to be unappealing based solely on their racial heritage, what, exactly, would you call that?
Dear Annie: You recommended NAMI’s Family-to-Family program to “Parents at Wits’ End.” I’d like to weigh in on that.
I recently took one of their classes and can honestly say I have a better understanding of what my family member is going through. Before, I was totally clueless as to how to deal with the psychotic episodes and made a lot of mistakes. Thanks to NAMI, I am more informed, feel better prepared in dealing with difficult situations and, with my new perspective, am encouraged that it can and will get better.
— Supporter of NAMI of Kansas
Dear Kansas: Thank you for adding your words of support for this wonderful program.
Annie’s Snippet for Labor Day: Nothing ever comes to one that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.
— Booker T. Washington
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to [email protected], 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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