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Just the Facts, Ma'am: Judgmental Parents Don't Need the Dating Deets


Dear Annie: I am 37 and divorced. I identify myself as bisexual and try to live my dating life very privately.

The problem is, my parents are quite judgmental and racist. I dare not say anything about my dating partners, who are of either gender and any color. But I am tired of living my life for others. If I choose to go my own way, however, my two children would lose their grandparents. Any suggestions? — Frustrated in Virginia

Dear Frustrated: You aren't giving your parents any credit for being able to accept you as you are for the sake of their grandchildren. You don't need to give them details of your dating life and parade various partners in front of them. No one does. But you should not be afraid to introduce them to someone who becomes a meaningful part of your life, and then give them the time to work through their feelings. You can find support through PFLAG (

Dear Annie: Many years ago, I was disowned by my parents and most of my extended family for marrying against my parents' wishes. I was allowed back into their lives only because they wanted to see the grandkids. Now, with elder care issues, we are struggling with appropriate boundaries. I'd like to offer some suggestions:

Instead of spending every moment yelling at me because I am not there more often, don't do enough and don't measure up to your friends' kids, try saying that you are glad to see me, thanks for the help, etc. I will do more if I feel appreciated.

I need to know about your health problems and your wishes regarding treatment, but couldn't we talk about something other than your aches and pains once in a while?

Keep your expectations realistic. I have kids, a job, a home to maintain, in-laws who also need help and my own set of health problems. I am not going to drive 400 miles twice a week to mow your lawn.

Hire somebody.

Stop trying to manipulate me. The time you claimed Dad was dying so I'd spend all my vacation time with you? That was cruel. It destroyed my trust in you.

If you want honesty from me, then be someone who is safe to tell the truth to. Listen respectfully. Apologize sincerely when appropriate, or explain your point of view and the reasons for your choices. Don't attack me.

Be cordial and polite toward my spouse and kids. If you force me to choose between you, I will choose them.

You say that you are too old and set in your ways, and I have to love you the way you are. You are the one who wants a closer relationship. I am ready to give up. If you want a different outcome, you are going to have to change, too. — Your Son

Dear Son: You obviously have had a poor relationship with your parents for years. We agree that they sound difficult and demanding, but it will be hard for them to change without calm and consistent responses from you, rewarding their appropriate behavior, leaving when they are manipulative or insulting, and teaching them what you will tolerate. Only you can decide whether it's worth the effort.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Hurting Mama," whose son texted her "Happy Birthday." The first time my son sent me a text to wish me a happy birthday, I called him to inform him that if it begins with "Happy" or "Merry," it is not a textable moment. I didn't speak to him in a harsh or mean way, just matter-of-factly. That was two years ago, and I haven't received a text on important occasions since.

This is a bit of a family joke, but everyone now knows when it is appropriate to text and when it isn't a wise move. — A.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to, 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



26 Comments | Post Comment
LW 1 Hey. Being bisexual doubles your chance for a date on Saturday night! Seriously, if your parents are that judgemental do you really want them around your children all that much? They might spend all their time teaching them the same prejudices, and trying to turn them against you.
Comment: #1
Posted by: sarah stravinska
Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:34 PM
LW3: Your family joke isn't funny at all, and I doubt if your son thinks it's funny either. Are you really bragging about this texting "lesson" you taught your son? Sounds borderline ugly to me but at least you accomplished your lofty goal of not getting texts on "important" days, right? Well, at least you weren't mean (sarcasm here).
Comment: #2
Posted by: LouisaFinnell
Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:34 PM

LW3 refers to the second letter on 16 June 2014.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Miss Pasko
Tue Jul 22, 2014 10:23 PM
LW1 and LW2 – You're both adults. Your parents have no power to force their values on you, your spouse/significant other, or your children. You may WANT to have a relationship with them, but you don't NEED them in your life. Especially if they can't show you the same courtesy and respect they do their friends, neighbors and co-workers. Just because someone is related to you, is no excuse for bad behavior. So why are you allowing them to treat you in a manner you would not tolerate from anyone else? And no one is ever “too old” to treat others with respect.

Both of you mention your children's relationship with their grandparents. LW1 is afraid her kids might “lose their grandparents” and LW2 was allowed (seriously?) back into his parents lives only because “they wanted to see the grandkids.” Here's a newsflash – by accepting your parents bad behavior, you're teaching your children that their grandparents actions are okay. Is that REALLY how you want to teach your children to behave towards others?

LW3 – Your son used his generation's preferred method of communication to wish you a Happy Birthday. So you used your generation's preferred method of communication to reprimand him for not doing things your way. You say, “Everyone now knows when it is appropriate to text and when it isn't a wise move.” Does mean it isn't a wise move to make Mama angry? If so, your behavior was no better than the other letter writer's parents. Be happy that your son actually remembered your birthday and acknowledged it. If you wanted a phone call, you could have just as easily texted back that you'd love to hear his voice as a birthday present.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Woodworker1
Tue Jul 22, 2014 11:55 PM
What bothered me most about the LW1 letter was Annie's response. "You aren't giving your parents any credit for being able to accept you as you are for the sake of their grandchildren." Big time wrong message for the grandchildren. They are getting the message you only accept someone for who they are if you want something. Th parent should accept who the child is simply because it is their child and they love him or her. Thats it.
LW2 It bothered me when you said to hire someone if your parents want their lawn mowed. They are elderly maybe you should make a call to be sure these type of chores are being taken care of. and always remember there were probably times when you were a kid when they wanted to give up, they didn't and neither should you.
As for LW3 I think we all need to be less concerned about whether we get a text or a card and simply be thrilled that someone remembered us at all. I'm sure there are a lot of lonely people in the world with no one who would like to receive any kind of acknowledgement on their special day.
Comment: #5
Posted by: cj123
Wed Jul 23, 2014 3:39 AM
who are you to tell people what a textable moment is? nasty old b*tch.
Comment: #6
Posted by: edna's edibles
Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:05 AM
Re: Comment #6 : "Who are you to..." She's his Mother, and if he is blasting past her birthday, Mother's Day, whatever with no acknowledgement but a text there is nothing nasty about her being direct and telling him straight up that it bothers her. Sounds like a healthy relationship to me.
Comment: #7
Posted by: kim
Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:32 AM
LW1, Gad, why you making it sound like this is all or nothing? this has nothing to do with being bisexual. If you have kids, you shouldn't be bringing your dates around them anyway, so it just goes ditto for your parents. Trust me, no one cares who you're dating as much as you think they do. Go see your parents and keep your dating details to yourself, just like you keep your dating details from your kids. If you must yak on about your sex life, share it with your friends and watch their eyes glaze over.
LW3, Oh, so YOU'RE the one who makes up all rules for texting. Thanks for letting us know.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Jane
Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:50 AM
LW2: I face some of the same issues as you have currently...although my past relationship with my parents was fine. Bottom line is as my parents get older (in thier 80s) they become more like children...they WANT what they WANT NOW! They don't seem to understand what they are asking for (like the 400 miles to cut the grass) When ever they are mean or nasty to me or my sister, I remind her it's just like a child screaming "I HATE YOU" when they don't get their way. As hard as it is, we just have to let it roll off our backs. WHen it becomes too much in any given day, just walk away for that day. Like a child, they are very selfish . In your case it's even harder when the relationship (or the people) were bad to begin with. Bottom line is they are only going to get worse as they age.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Lori Be
Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:59 AM
L3- My mom just writes "Happy Birthday" on my Facebook wall. Maybe she doesn't want to face the fact I turned 40.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Renee J
Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:12 AM
LW1—You don't owe your parents anything. Why you would want to expose your children to a couple of judgmental racists in any case is beyond my comprehension. Look hon, let's face the facts. You're tired of your bigoted parents interfering with your life. They're toxic and racist and you probably shouldn't expose your children to them so it's not going to be a real loss. I think you know what you need to do. It's time you cut ties with your parents. Do it for yourself and for your children.

LW2—Honey, why are you putting yourself through this hell? Your parents aren't going to change because they know they can walk all over you like a cheap rug. The only reason they decided to take you back is because they need something. They're users and they don't care about you. Forget about your little rant. Tell your god awful parents in no uncertain terms to take a flying leap and then go live your life. Who cares what happens to them? Trust me; you'll feel a whole lot better about yourself once you take control of your life back from your parasitic parents.

LW3—People need to start accepting that nothing is sacrosanct when it comes to smart phone addiction. Look around you! Everyone has his or her nose buried in a phone nonstop. If you think you're so special as to warrant an actual verbal greeting on your birthday or other special occasions then you've got another think coming.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Chris
Wed Jul 23, 2014 7:07 AM
LW3: I'm with kim on this one. Some families are close enough that you can tell relatives things like that. Yes, times are changing, but you're never too young to learn that older people prefer a phone call saying "happy birthday" rather than a text.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Gerhardt
Wed Jul 23, 2014 7:13 AM
Woodworker, I think this needs a little extra thought: "by accepting your parents bad behavior, you're teaching your children that their grandparents actions are okay. Is that REALLY how you want to teach your children to behave towards others?"

Letting his children know his grandparents is NOT the same as "accepting their bad behavior." What he should be teaching his children is that no one is perfect, everyone is going to have something about themselves that we don't like, and that an adult can learn how to deal with it. After the visit is a perfectly good time to have a discussion about their foibles or prejudices or whatever it is he doesn't approve of.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Maggie Lawrence
Wed Jul 23, 2014 7:49 AM
LW1: People like you make me shake my head. Most people don't tell their parents flat out "I'm straight" yet every person who is gay or bi feels that they have to "come out" even if they aren't in a relationship. I am NOT gay, but even if I was, I wouldn't bring my sex life up with my family and friends until I was in a relationship that warranted an introduction.

My family too is VERY conservative, and I've dated men of many races and religions. I knew that members of my family wouldn't "approve", but it never influenced my decision and I kept my dating life COMPLETELY separate from my family. I still do. To me, the family (INCLUDING YOUR CHILDREN) don't need to know about anybody in your life until the relationship is very serious. To be frank, it's none of their business.

This is not going to be popular here, I'm sure and again, I'm not gay so maybe that's why I feel this way, but I think the LW is coming across as trying to make trouble where there is none. It's entirely possible that s/he would fall in love with someone who would be seen as "appropriate" by her family and then all the drama would be for nothing.

You say you don't want to "live your life for others", well, being discreet about your dating life is not living your life for others. In my book it's called being considerate. When and if you meet someone, deal with it then. In the meantime, carry on.

LW2: Wow, that was some diatribe. I hope it made you feel better.

Lori Be above has some very relative (no pun intended) insight here. Also, start looking into ways to take care of some of these issues without you being there. They want the grass mowed regularly? Well, hire a gardener to come to their house! It will cost you less than the gas for you to drive there. Same with cleaning and other care issues. If you have siblings, try to loop them in to spread the costs.

Stop letting yourself get manipulated into fights with your parents. When they start on a hot topic, gently change the subject, or get off the phone, or suddenly have to do something in the kitchen or next room. Limit your time with them: phone conversations stay at about 5 minutes, visits no longer than a few hours. Don't stay overnight at their house. Get a hotel. ALWAYS have other plans for later that day (even if you have to lie). In short, do what you have to do then get out of there.
Comment: #14
Posted by: nanchan
Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:19 AM
LW3: Well, count me to the choir of "what works for one family won't work for every family"

I think that people need to stop being so sensitive about this kind of thing. I don't care HOW a family member says Merry Christmas/Happy birthday... just as long as they do.

If you want to be offended, there are always reasons out there to help you with that. Life's too short to go searching for them.
Comment: #15
Posted by: nanchan
Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:26 AM
LW1 -- I fail to see how you are "living your life for others" and not, in fact, already "going your own way" right now. It sounds like you are already dating whomever you please, correct? You're simply not telling your parents all about it. Newsflash: that's probably the way it should be anyway unless/until you are dating someone seriously enough that s/he should be considered part of your family. In other words, you can date who you want and simply not tell your parents until there is someone who becomes an important part of your life. I'm not suggesting living in the closet; I'm suggesting establishing healthy boundaries for your private life.

LW2 -- Do you feel better? I hope so, because that will be the ONLY thing your letter accomplishes. I'm pretty sure that the only two people who actually needed to hear that tirade of yours are the only ones who didn't hear it. Even if they are regular readers of the Annies, I can pretty much guarantee they won't see themselves in your letter. If you want to do something about this, you need to confront them directly, not write to a syndicated advice column in hope that maybe they'll see it, recognize themselves and change their ways.

LW3 -- I guess you assume that if someone texts you on your birthday they are automatically not going to do ANYTHING else for you on that day? In my family, it's not uncommon for someone to text a birthday/anniversary/holiday greeting earlier in the day and then also call later in the day. A friend of mine who lives several states away from me always texts me on my birthday because she is never certain that the card she sends me will actually come on my birthday (sometimes it arrives early, sometimes it arrives on the right day, sometimes it arrives late -- regardless of when she sent it), and she wants to make sure that I at least get SOME sort of greeting on the actual day, even though she's already sent me a card. There's nothing wrong with telling someone that you prefer a phone call, but you might want to consider:

1) You are not the Empress of Everything. You have a right to your preferences, but that doesn't mean you will always have everything your way all the time. You might want to consider taking other people's preferences into account every now and again. People are a whole lot more likely to want to spend tine with you (on the phone, in person, or otherwise) if it's not always your way or the highway.

2) You are fortunate that your family has decided to follow your wishes. Indeed, you're fortunate your son didn't decide to just skip contacting you in ANY way on special occasions going forward..

3) If this has become the family joke, you might want to ask yourself if you really didn't come across as "harsh" or "mean" or downright petty -- people rarely make jokes when someone has been polite and/or matter-of-fact with them.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Lisa
Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:35 AM
LW3: Times sure change, but I guess we will always have with us people who are not happy unless they get their special occasions acknowledged their way, OR ELSE! I am old enough to admit that texting is not my favorite way to be in touch with friends and family, but I am always happy to get a text from them. I am thrilled when the nieces and nephews text a "thank you" for their birthday gifts, and I turn it into a chat with them. You sure can't do that with a written note.

LW3 reminds me of my mother. She was downright nasty if sister and I handed her a birthday card, even when we were younger than 10. She wanted it mailed to her. Not sure where we were supposed to get the stamps when we were just young kids. I think she was really angry at our father for his lack of making a fuss, but she took it out on us, and she made every occasion miserable.
Comment: #17
Posted by: Carly O
Wed Jul 23, 2014 9:23 AM
LW1: You should live your life for yourself. But, I don't think you need to make a point of highlighting information for your parents that you know may upset them.. especially when it comes to casual dating. If you develop a more serious relationship.. you will need to be more forthcoming.. and deal with the fallout. Honestly, if your parents can't be civil and accept your choices then your children should understand that the grandparents are choosing this situation.. by their reaction.. not you.

LW3: I'm not coming down so hard on you. If you feel that texting is lazy or impersonal.. you did the right thing by letting your son know that you would appreciate him expressing these kinds of sentiments in person or over the phone. I don't see a big problem with this. I also think texting is a little impersonal and shows little effort on the part of the sender. I get why a lot of older people might find it less than genuine.

Yeah.. I get that you should be grateful the kid communicates with you at all.. but asking your child to make a 2 minute phone call to wish you a happy birthday isn't out of line in my book. Now, if your son has already mailed you a card.. sent you a present.. said it in person in the morning.. whatever.. I don't have a problem with the text.. but if that is the sum total of his birthday effort.. it is a little underwhelming to say the least.

I don't think you are trying to "control the world" or anything.. and you are certainly in no way reaching the level of the lady who wants to be made a princess for the day on her birthday who wrote in not too long ago. I am also assuming you don't go all text mad on people who have a less close relationship with you.

Usually, people (especially women) have problems because they aren't direct enough in letting people know what they expect. You did that.. and the fact that people joke about it.. doesn't indicate you were nasty.. just that they find it funny.. if they were truly scared of your reaction.. they wouldn't dare joke about it.
Comment: #18
Posted by: qhgirl
Wed Jul 23, 2014 9:33 AM
All three letters today are about parents who treat their grown children with disrespect, but the Annies think that the children should move heaven and earth to accommodate their unreasonable demands. LW1 knows that her parents are bigoted racists, but the Annies believe that she should give them a chance to show that they could be tolerant? Don't make me laugh, as LW2 said, they will claim they are too old to change, and they will go on being jerks. Here is a newsflash: if your family acts like jerks, and they continue to act like jerks, there is nothing you can do but see less of them, or none of them. You can only spend so much of your time trying to teach them how to treat you before you realize that it is a waste of time, and they will never change.
Comment: #19
Posted by: Patty Bear
Wed Jul 23, 2014 10:34 AM
Your parents don't need your sexual choices rubbed in their faces. Simply keep your private life private. This is particularly important so your children will have support from their grandparents. They will need it in the future to deal with the fallout from your lifestyle choices.
LW2 Set boundaries and when your parents cross them hang up or leave calmly. I had to do this with Mom and MIL so that I could continue to provide support. Never tolerate bad behavior towards your spouse, your children or yourself. It is important to be clear about expectations and if it causes a rift they are responsible. Being old is not a license to be nasty.
Comment: #20
Posted by: retired
Wed Jul 23, 2014 10:42 AM
LW1: Your dating life should be private and your children don't need to be subjected to your God awful parents. Get some therapy.

LW2: Uh oh, it's crappy parent day. Why are you allowing them into your life? Do you like being treated like crap? Did you miss it when you were free of them? Stop being a moron. You don't owe your parents anything just because they didn't abort you. Yeeks. I'm starting to feel sorry for your kids because you're a hot mess. You too need to get some therapy.
Comment: #21
Posted by: Diana
Wed Jul 23, 2014 1:14 PM
LW1 -
The Annies say "You aren't giving your parents any credit for being able to accept you as you are for the sake of their grandchildren"? I think I'm gonna be sick. Introduce your black girlfriend to your parents, and all you'll do is make sure your black girlfriend is used for target practice. As for your children "losing their grandparents", some grandparents are not worth keeping at any cost.

This being stated, and considering you are pretty much dating where you want right now and are not exactly being curtailed in any way, I fail to see how you feel you're "living for others". I get the feeling that for you, "going your own way" would involve a lot of vociferous, soap-boxy "coming out". It is not necessary to parade your sex life around with a flashing arrow and a megaphone.

In the meantime, only introduce your partner to your "racist and judgmental" family if it gets serious AND you happen to have fallen in love with the kind of person they would approve of.

LW2 -
1. I suggest you tell them what you're telling us.
2. About some things, if you NEED to ask... why bother, they'll never get it.

Comment: #22
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Jul 23, 2014 1:31 PM
Re: cj123
>>It bothered me when you said to hire someone if your parents want their lawn mowed. They are elderly maybe you should make a call to be sure these type of chores are being taken care of. and always remember there were probably times when you were a kid when they wanted to give up, they didn't<<

If they disowned him, then they did give up on him, and I don't think he owes them anything.

I don't think kids owe their parents for raising them. Having children is the parents' choice, not the child's. In most cases, children will love their parents and want to take care of them when they are old, but this guy's parents are lucky he has anything to do with them after the way they treated him.

Parents have to love their kids the way they are, not the other way around.

I do have an adult son, and he's always asking if there's anything he can do to help us. I've told him that the only thing he "owes" me is to be a good parent to his own children. As long as it's possible, I will always do more for him than he does for me.
Comment: #23
Posted by: Joannakathryn
Wed Jul 23, 2014 1:35 PM
@Joannakathryn -- love what you said in response to cj123. I would add that when the LW suggests the parents hire someone to mow the lawn, that is, in fact, basically doing what cj123 is suggesting -- making sure his parents are getting the help they need with such chores. The problem, if LW is telling it straight (and I'm betting he is, but you never know), is his parents don't want to hire someone -- they want HIM to take care of these chores personally. Even if he lived nearby (and he says they're hundreds of miles apart), that probably isn't feasible for him to do. Hence the suggestion of hiring someone.
Comment: #24
Posted by: Lisa
Wed Jul 23, 2014 2:42 PM
Re: Lisa #24
I can identify with the LW, I guess. My mom fits a lot of the categories he mentions, though she never disowned me. But she does make little digs when you don't visit or call often enough to suit her, talks about nothing but her physical health, is pretty manipulative, and feels she is special because she's 'the mother'. And though she won't come out and say it, she DOES expect her kids to come do stuff for her, though she can perfectly well afford to hire someone. (I know because I balance her checkbook and know exactly how much monthly income she has, plus what she has in savings/investments.)
And I used to let her guilt me into stuff, but no more, since any available time/money I have goes to help my disabled daughter, who has no one else to help and whose income is about 1/3 of my mom's. We've suggested she hire someone to clean; she won't, because it 'makes her nervous' to have someone else in the house and she won't leave while they clean. I found her someone to hire to do yard work, he didn't come immediately one day when she wanted him, so now I get to listen to her badmouth him.
And she never apologizes-----because she is never wrong. Now, the LW obviously has it much worse than I do, and I couldn't blame him for walking away. I don't think I have cause to do that-------but I have managed to get rid of the guilt when my mom complains about how tired she is after doing dishes or vacuuming------I just tell her she really should get some help, but no way will I find someone and have her hold me responsible for their work.
And LW, you wrote an excellent letter-----but I hope you don't expect your parents to see themselves in it and change; no one ever assumes they are the person someone writes in about. Just give as much as you think it's right to give, and walk away if it gets too much.
Comment: #25
Posted by: jennylee
Wed Jul 23, 2014 3:36 PM
LW1 & 2: Good letters today, and good responses from the Annies.

LW1: Jane said it all here: "If you have kids, you shouldn't be bringing your dates around them anyway, so it just goes ditto for your parents. "
@Patty Bear - not sure what column you're reading, doesn't seem to be todays - the Annies said to give them a chance to adapt, but don't put up with their cr*p.

LW3: Grow up. Like everyone else said here. Boo. P.S. I'm probably somewhere near your generation.
Comment: #26
Posted by: Steve C
Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:07 PM
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