Dear Annie: My niece, “Susan,” is 23 years old and in college. After four years, she still hasn’t picked a major. She is quite intelligent, but lazy and immature. She is socially awkward and has lost friends because of her negative attitude.
My problem is, Susan wants to “hang out” with my 15-year-old daughter. She invites herself over whenever she likes. My daughter is a terrific, normal girl who excels in sports and school and has many friends. She doesn’t want to hang out with a 23-year-old cousin, and we don’t want her to, either.
We try to make excuses, hoping Susan will eventually get the hint, to no avail. Her mother doesn’t get hints, either. It sometimes puts us in an awkward position because she is so persistent. I am tired of being expected to accommodate Susan because she is family. That shouldn’t be a free pass for forcing my child to be around someone who is neither age appropriate nor a good influence. I don’t want my daughter’s “half-full” optimism to be drained by someone who always thinks the glass is half-empty. Suggestions?
— Annoyed Mom
Dear Mom: What you call “lazy and immature” is much more complicated. When we hear that a young person is intelligent but socially awkward, it could be Asperger syndrome. The fact that Susan likes to hang around with your 15-year-old daughter indicates that she is uncomfortable with her peers. If her mother is the same way, it is likely to be an inherited trait and environmentally reinforced behavior.
Please stop hinting to people who don’t get it. Talk to both Susan and her mother. Say that you think Susan is smart and you love her, but that she would benefit from finding more appropriate friends. Suggest they talk to Susan’s physician about an evaluation.
Dear Annie: Please address a common breach of basic table manners. I see folks who should know better use their index finger to push all sorts of food onto their forks. This includes beans, rice, peas, etc. There is always a perfectly good knife alongside their plates, but they don’t use it.
“Finger food” is one thing, but this extends the definition too far, and it is absolutely disgusting. Are some people so lazy that they are not willing to pick up their knives?
— Mr. Manners
Dear Mr. Manners: Maybe, but we will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they simply do not know any better. In addition to one’s knife, it is permissible to use a piece of bread to push such things onto a fork, but it is not good manners to use your fingers to do so. If these people are your children, you may correct them. Otherwise, you will simply have to hold your tongue and set a good example.
Dear Annie: I hope you have room for one more letter about bridal couples who neglect to pay the pastor or the organist.
Our church solved the issue of wedding fees by printing a booklet with prices and church policies. The booklet is given to couples who want to marry in our church. The fees for the pastor, organist and custodian must be paid at the rehearsal.
— Church Musician
Dear Musician: We’ve heard from a great many church organists and pastors who have said that these fees should be mentioned at the time the couple inquires about holding the wedding, and that the money should be paid in advance.
Dear Readers: Tonight is The Compassionate Friends’ Worldwide Candle Lighting for children who have died. Please light a candle this evening at 7 p.m., local time, and remember them with love.
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.
— Creators Syndicate Inc.