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Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar


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Dear Annie: My husband, "Joe," turned 40 last summer. His cholesterol, blood pressure and weight are higher than they should be, and his doctor suggested he lose 20 pounds. I try to feed him well, but I know he stops for the occasional doughnut.

Joe has never been much into exercise, but I gave him a rather expensive multifunction machine for Christmas and installed it in the family room so he could watch the big-screen TV while working out. He gave me a reluctant 10 minutes a day on his new "toy."

When he complained that his jeans were too tight, I made a note to buy him some loose workout clothes. When he continued to mutter about having "nothing to wear," I frustratingly retorted that he could exercise naked for all I cared. Before I realized it, he did just that — on the machine in his birthday suit and gym shoes. And he exercised for another 30 minutes.

He's now using the machine, stark naked, each day for 45 minutes without any prodding, and he's lost some weight. I think part of it is that our 12-year-old daughter has begun to "coach" his sessions, counting his reps and urging him on.

Annie, we're not prudes. Our daughter has seen both her parents naked and insists it doesn't bother her to watch Dad exercise in the buff. In fact, they joke about it. She started calling him a "Greek athlete." Joe does have Greek ancestry, and he now insists the Greeks had it right and has no intention of dressing.

I'm torn. If I make him wear clothes, I worry he'll stop exercising. Is naked exercise common? Is it dangerous? Is he some sort of closet pervert? Would some busybody consider this child abuse and have him arrested? — Confused in Illinois

Dear Confused: Exercising in the nude is not that uncommon and shouldn't be dangerous unless sensitive body parts are in close proximity to dropped weights or snapped pulleys. We can't tell you whether Joe is overly enjoying his daughter's assistance with his workout.

We are not in favor of it and would insist he wear shorts. But nudity within one's own home is not considered child abuse or indecent exposure. If you are worried about the neighbors, keep the blinds closed.

Dear Annie: My husband and I currently have custody of my 8-year-old grandson, who has a mild form of autism and mental issues. My father tells me all the time what a wonderful job my husband does with him. Why can't he just tell him himself? What should I do? — Frustrated Grandmother

Dear Frustrated: Parents and in-laws often feel awkward complimenting a child to his face, and we suspect that's why your father says these things to you instead. You can sweetly suggest he give the direct approach a try, but please don't make a big deal out of it. And by all means, tell your husband how much his father-in-law admires him. He should know.

Dear Annie: I was happy that "A Mom in Murrieta" pointed out that parenting is different from babysitting.

I am a happily married father of three. My wife enjoys nights out with her girlfriends, and I enjoy nights out with my guy friends. I am offended when someone praises me for "babysitting" my own children so my wife can go out for the evening. I am not their babysitter. I am their dad. No one ever thanks a woman for "babysitting" her children so her husband can enjoy a night out.

Many people misinterpret men spending time with their kids as babysitting, and you didn't help matters. — Love My Kids in South Dakota

Dear South Dakota: What we have here is a failure to communicate. We are using the word "babysit" to mean "take care of the children." (Many readers mistakenly believe it refers solely to a paid position held by teenagers.) Just as we would expect a husband to ask his wife to please watch the kids before running out of the house, we expect his wife to do the same.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. 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



35 Comments | Post Comment
LW1 Maybe your husband could try exercising in a toga for modesty. (oops that was Romans!) Just make sure none of daughter's friends are over when he is exercising, because in his own home or not, I don't think you're allowed to be nude in front of other people's children.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Elizabeth
Sun Apr 11, 2010 11:03 PM
Ew. Just ew. I've long believed that we wear clothes, not to keep from exciting people sexually, but to keep from turning them off sex completely. Very few people look better without clothes than with them. I wouldn't want to use that machine after he does. Ick.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Joannakathryn
Mon Apr 12, 2010 1:07 AM
According to Webster's to babysit is "to care for children during a short absence of the parents" - note, not parent, but parents. Sorry, ladies, but your use of babysitting is incorrect and unfair to the fathers. You never hear about a mother "babysitting" her own kids, but the phrase is used for fathers. It is a sexist remark and you ladies need to step up and acknowledge this.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Amelia
Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:44 AM
Are you crazy? A man exercises in the nude in front of his 12 year old daughter, and you think that's okay? That is not okay, that is CREEPY!!! A normal 12 year old girl would run in horror at seeing her dad naked, not count reps. Something is wrong here, this family needs help!
Comment: #4
Posted by: Barb
Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:55 AM
Wow, Barb, the Victorian attitude towards nudity is still prevalent! I think you all need to stop and ask yourselves just why nudity is so offensive to you; especially parental nudity? These are the people who conceived you, birthed you, changed your diapers. If dad and daughter and comfortable with it, what's the problem? A penis does not always have to be an instrument for sex. Sometimes, it's just a body part. I am not a nudist, and I have to admit that my first reaction when I read LW1's letter was revulsion, but upon further thought it really isn't "creepy" or "abnormal", although it is a bit unusual. Remember, it's just a body and people were naked for ages before clothes were invented............ Annies, you are so wrong about the babysitting thing and you ought to admit it. Have you seriously ever heard "babysit" used that way to describe a MOTHER taking care of her children? Dictionary defines "babysit" as: "to take charge of a child while the parents are temporarily away." Your attempts at justification are pathetic.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Zoe
Mon Apr 12, 2010 6:25 AM
LW1: This letter is a joke, right? The Annies got bored and decided to throw in a ringer. It took considerable effort to wipe the image of that man nude on a treadmill out of my mind. It also is, indeed, creepy.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Barbara E.
Mon Apr 12, 2010 6:29 AM
Re: the daddy exercising in the nude while his daughter counts the reps, I would say first that the letter is probably a fake. Something about it is just a little too silly. I don't think the Annies made it up, but a reader may have. Letters like that often get sent to multiple advice columns, so I wouldn't be surprised to see it again, in all its glorious silliness, in Dear Abby or some place soon. ----------------

With that said, if I'm mistaken and it is real, it is truly nothing to get flustered about. Some families are comfortable with nudity. Adding exercise to the equation does not suddenly make it terrible. If there's a "God," then God made us nude. And frankly, if the man was getting some kind of sexual charge out of the situation, men being men, it would be obvious for the eye to see. I grew up in a family in which people often walked around in the nude.... I had two brothers.... my dad was also often nude.... I was often nude.... it was just a comfortable way of living. There was nothing sexual or untoward going on. We knew enough to put a robe on when neighbors dropped by. We were not officially "nudists," but if we had been, so what? I would say we grew up having a healthier attitude toward our bodies than most folks I've met. It was just being naked, for Pete's sake. The equation of being nude, with being sexual, is one of those prudish American things that gets really tiresome after a while. ------------------ Re: Frustrated grandmother, I think the grandmother who wrote in, is frustrated because her dad is telling her constantly that her husband, not herself, is a such a good (surrogate) parent to her grandchild. To understand her frustration, imagine a parent constantly saying to one child, "Your brother is great at that sport!" "Gee, your sister sure is a snappy dresser!" or something like that, day after day, and expecting you to pass the compliments along, but never complimenting you.
Comment: #7
Posted by: sarah morrow
Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:07 AM
Some families have no issue with nudity, some do. I knew a family that were simply nudists. Of course they put on clothes for visitors but around their own home, they were basically always naked. We all thought it weird at first, but they are normal enough people so, whatever. If this particular letter is a fake or not, somewhere out there dad is exercising naked in front of the family.

In regards to "babysitting" - we refer to it that way when men treat it that way. If I say I need to run to the doctor and you treat having to watch the baby like the greatest imposition ever foisted upon you, of course we're going to say you're babysitting because that is how you're treating it. When you stop treating it that way then we start being more normal, stating things like "she's with her dad today". Men are the ones who will normalize this by behaving as thought taking care of their own children IS natural for them.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Mich
Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:19 AM
Re: sarah morrow--- i believe frustrated grandmother's point is that her father tells her that her husband does a good job instead of just telling the husband himself... (she was not frustrated that he wasn't telling HER that SHE was doing a good job)
Comment: #9
Posted by: me
Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:35 AM
I also thought LW1 sounded like a fake letter. If not, ew. I'm surprised the daughter would be so comfortable with it; most girls that age would be totally grossed out by seeing their dad neked. LW3: I also agree that the Annies need to step up and just admit that they got it wrong by using the term "babysitting" when referring to the dad.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Jennifer
Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:59 AM
Hi, "me," you may be right, but, I'm just puzzled as to why that would be such an issue for her. If someone tells me someone else is doing something well, even if they say it often, I wouldn't look at that alone as a serious enough problem to write to an advice columnist about :) (Unless they're simultaneously ignoring how well I'm doing). (But,that may just be me :) If you're right, I think the best response might be smiling and saying, "He's right over there hon, tell him yourself."
Comment: #11
Posted by: sarah morrow
Mon Apr 12, 2010 10:03 AM

I never saw my father work out nude but many many times I saw my father naked. we often went camping and more than once ended up with the whole family skinny dipping. I was never abused or anything like that. Being nude was just part of life. And my family actually was pretty conservative when it came to sexual matters. Nudity was not considered sexual though.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Sterling
Mon Apr 12, 2010 10:35 AM
Sorry, Zoe, but your assumption that people walked around "naked for ages before clothes were invented" is not true. Why would human beings, who are subject to cold, heat and all the rest of the elements go for "ages" without "inventing" clothes? We are smarter than that, but the real truth is that Adam and Eve were never even naked. They were clothed with the Glory of God, and when they sinned, the light went out and they saw they were naked. So they were ashamed and hid themselves from God. But God "invented" clothes in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:21) when He killed an animal (sorry PETA, take it up with Him) to clothe Adam and Eve because He knew they had to leave the Garden and face the real world. Where did you get the idea people walked around naked for ages? That doesn't make any sense.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Pam
Mon Apr 12, 2010 10:47 AM
I can't believe the Annies answer about the naked exercising dad! I am not a prude either , but I can't help but wonder what is going on in that family. Dad can exercise naked all he wants but not with his 12 year old daughter " watching". There is nothing prudish with plain old common sense.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Deborah Johnson
Mon Apr 12, 2010 10:58 AM
Re: Pam. Umm, okay Pam. Whatever you say....
Comment: #15
Posted by: Chris
Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:01 AM
Ok, now I've read it all! Nothing wrong? Excuse me! How disgusting! A 12 year old? Someone has to start setting this country back to decency! What is wrong with these people? I know I'm alright but I'm very afraid for this family. There is no excuse for this it's ugly!
Comment: #16
Posted by: sue rosenthal
Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:54 AM
Re: sarah morrow- i agree. I dont understand why that's really a problem (and certainly not a large enough problem to write to an advice column)
Comment: #17
Posted by: me
Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:22 PM
If I exercised in the nude my workout might jump from 15 minutes to 45+ minutes, too :) I'm not sure how comfortable it would be to work out nude. I need to lose to much weight for that right now and the jiggling would not feel good. I think I'll stick with the support of clothing until I drop a good 50 lbs. Other than the jiggling issue I see nothing wrong with the situation. If the Mom has any true belief that something sexual is going on she can always sit in on the workouts, too.
Comment: #18
Posted by: Michelle Keane
Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:35 PM
Pam, if you're going to go on about the glory of God clothing Adam and Eve, well, even my most logical argument won't work. In reality, people walked around naked when we were still hairy enough to keep us warm and when we were still in Africa with no need of clothes. Perhaps the hair is the glory of God and you offend Him by shaving your legs ;)
Comment: #19
Posted by: Zoe
Mon Apr 12, 2010 2:11 PM
Pam, if you're going to go on about the glory of God clothing Adam and Eve, well, even my most logical argument won't work. In reality, people walked around naked when we were still hairy enough to keep us warm and when we were still in Africa with no need of clothes. Perhaps the hair is the glory of God and you offend Him by shaving your legs ;)
Comment: #20
Posted by: Zoe
Mon Apr 12, 2010 2:11 PM
I thought I was highly sensitive to dishonesty. But that's different from having some kind of problem and being too stupid to know it. Dana is a raving nutter.
Comment: #21
Posted by: OccamShave
Mon Apr 12, 2010 4:23 PM
Marcy and Kathy you said it yourself "sensitive body parts" No matter where or whom this occurs this is a 12 year old child and this is the crime of exposure. "Pull the curtains!" Yep he will be arrested. Is it ok because it is her father and not another adult male relative? The "child" says she doesn't mind" Since when was a child able to determine if she was being sexually abused or not or make decisions about it. I watched Oprah today and the subject was that children do not understand and cannot make decisions regarding anything to do with sex or as you say "sensitive body parts" How do you or anybody else know if this father has been interested in his 12 year olds "sensitive body parts" I believe sensitive means not to show. This is sick I would not have answered I would have reported it and you bet that father has broken the law and would be arrested.
Comment: #22
Posted by: Lila
Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:00 PM
Dad should not be doing anything naked with his daughter around. What kind of man would want to do that? Certainly no man with morality, decency, and common sense. That pervert needs to cover up, pronto.
Comment: #23
Posted by: Nicodemus
Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:15 PM
Oh, Lila, give it a rest and get off your high horse a. Nudity in the house, with the curtains closed, is in no way inherently offensive. Screaming and ranting about "abused children" as if that should shush the conversation and make everyone kowtow to your silly POV is not a solution. You can be foaming at the mouth with emotion about it all, but that doesn't make you right. Re: your saying that a 12 year old wouldn't know if she or he is being abused, that is a simply appalling statement. Kids that age are quite savvy enough to recognize abuse, and they'll tell you loud and clear... you just need to listen. (Or you could try listening to me. I grew up with brothers, a mother and a father who occasionally walked around in the nude, and I would say that our whole family has a much more relaxed and healthy view about nudity than most folks. Whole families are sometimes nudist, they eat, sleep, watch TV and exercise in the nude.
Comment: #24
Posted by: sarah morrow
Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:30 PM
I really miss the old Ann Landers column. I know, I know...She's been gone a long time.
Everybody looks better with clothes on. Period.
Comment: #25
Posted by: Gary
Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:31 PM
Comment: #26
Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:34 PM
Has anyone stopped to think that this could be healthy? The girl is probably hugely curious about the male body. Seeing her dad naked may very well satisfy that curiosity and prevent her from making huge mistakes with boys her own age. Mom's aware, daughter and dad are spending time together, dad is modelling healthy living and body image. The girl isn't uncomfortable. There is no problem.
Comment: #27
Posted by: Walkie
Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:42 PM
My dad used to gross me out when he sat around in his boxer shorts and undershirt. I can't even go to the point of imagining him......................<cringe>.
Comment: #28
Posted by: Joannakathryn
Mon Apr 12, 2010 10:36 PM
As someone who reads and edits court cases for a living, I can tell you flat out and without any hesitation whatsoever that "Dad working out nude in front of his twelve-year-old daughter" is a sexual abuse scenario in the making. If nothing else, his behavior is that of a crass, ill-mannered pig, and Mom is a fool for putting up with it. I wouldn't be at all surprised if that twelve-year-old isn't already giving him "special" massages when his "muscles" get sore. Put your pants on, Dad, or expect a call from CPS.
Comment: #29
Posted by: Nemo
Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:09 PM
Re: sue rosenthal
I so agree with you Sue! I was disturbed by this "Dear Annie" , as well.
Comment: #30
Posted by: Josie
Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:28 PM
i am a reader of Greek ancestry and I can tell you that this man is nuts. He is behaving terribly and rationalizing his actions by alluding to it being a cultural thing, which it is not. Most Greeks are modest people and would never do such a thing around their children. I am deeply saddened for this twelve year old. She has one creepy father and one mother with no spine. This young girl will have to deal with for the rest of her life.
Comment: #31
Posted by: Josie
Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:37 PM
Re: Jet who are you fighting with? Man I didn't know mental patients have internet access...
Comment: #32
Posted by: tom
Tue Apr 13, 2010 5:52 AM
This is regarding "Confused in Illinois" who didn't know if it was acceptable for her husband to exercise in the nude with his 12 year old daughter assisting. It is obvious to me that her husband is a pervert, grooming his daughter for more inappropriate conduct if he isn't already doing so with her. Their daughter has enough issues at this stage of her life without her own father subjecting her to this kind of sexual behavior, and yes, I did mean sexual behavior. I have a lot of questions also about a mother who would allow this to happen.
Signed: What's to be confused about!!
Comment: #33
Posted by: Kathy
Tue Apr 13, 2010 12:38 PM
This is regarding "Confused in Illinois" who didn't know if it was acceptable for her husband to exercise in the nude with his 12 year old daughter assisting. It is obvious to me that her husband is a pervert, grooming his daughter for more inappropriate conduct if he isn't already doing so with her. Their daughter has enough issues at this stage of her life without her own father subjecting her to this kind of sexual behavior, and yes, I did mean sexual behavior. I have a lot of questions also about a mother who would allow this to happen.
Signed: What's to be confused about!!
Comment: #34
Posted by: Kathy
Tue Apr 13, 2010 1:03 PM
Yes, exactly what is there to be confused about?? As a former CPS investigator, I was very alarmed by they answer given by "Annie" in the column. There is reason to be alarmed here-- this is grooming behavior. And, the fact that the daughter does not feel uncomfortable about it indicates to me that he is doing a pretty good job of it. I am concerned for this child's safety, especially give the fact that the mom seems oblivious and, therefore, unable to protect the child. Annie, please consult some experts and reconsider your answer to "Confused in Illinois."
Comment: #35
Posted by: Anna
Sun Apr 25, 2010 12:31 PM
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