When You Live on a One-Way Street
Dear Margo: My patience has run out with the three living members of my family. My father, his mother and my brother have gone through periods of not talking to each other or to me. My brother wants nothing to do with my father or our grandmother, both of whom dissed him throughout his life because of the wrongheaded idea that he came from our abusive, alcoholic mother’s affair. My brother, now a high-functioning recluse, has social anxiety and has started snapping at me and pulling away. I finally told him he could seek me out for a change, and I haven’t heard from him since.
After seven years of estrangement, my father and I have been emailing for the past couple of years. (We bumped into each other in a store; if that hadn’t happened, we probably still wouldn’t be talking.) Unfortunately, he is passive-aggressive and capricious like his mother, whom I gave up contacting a decade ago.
The pattern I’m seeing is that I’ve had to seek these people out, and if I don’t make the effort to call or email them, they feel no need to stay in touch with me. When I’ve brought up how they’ve hurt me, the response is defensive — or they just don’t respond. (In contrast, I’ve listened to and apologized to them when they’ve brought up their grievances with me.)
I can’t believe these three are the same people who doted on my daughter when she was born and, for the first few years, were involved in her life and mine. I have been closest with my brother, who formerly treated my daughter and me with the most affection, though he seems more and more like a stranger who doesn’t want me in his life. My question is: Should I give up on the idea that I might ever have real relationships with any of them? — Like an Orphan
Dear Like: What can I say? You just didn’t win the lottery for loving, warm relatives, and it sounds unlikely that anything’s going to change. The handwriting is on the wall, and what it says is Dysfunction Beyond Repair. These people sound damaged, your brother especially. It seems to me that you should work at accepting the limitations you are up against and find succor from friends. Acceptance, I believe, is the key here. These are the cards you were dealt. I hope you can internalize that it was a bad break, but that’s the way things are. — Margo, forwardly
When a Name or a Voice Is Androgynous
Dear Margo: I work in a professional office as the office manager. Sometimes I get calls from people and can’t tell from their voices whether they are male or female. When the name is gender-neutral and I have to put the person on hold, upon return what is a gender-neutral greeting alternative to saying “ma’am” or “sir”? I hate picking up the phone and saying, “Hey…” I don’t feel comfortable saying “Bobbie,” either, as I will not call a client by his or her first name unless they invite me to. Might you have any suggestions? — Shannon in N.C.
Dear Shan: I must say your mention of gender-neutral names reminded me of the famous SNL skit about “Pat.” I salute you for not addressing people by their first names. I myself find it kind of weird, if not presumptuous, when a stranger is on the other end of the line using my first name. (I also sometimes cannot peg a voice as a man’s or a woman’s.) To get around your dilemma, you might begin your return to the call with, “Hello again. Let’s continue.” — Margo, practically
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
COPYRIGHT 2012 MARGO HOWARD
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