Dear Annie: I recently remarried and became a stepmom to my husband's three daughters. My concern is his oldest, "Kallie," who is 14.
A few months ago, her father picked her up for our weekend, and she was terribly sad. When he asked what was wrong, her younger sister piped up with, "Her girlfriend broke up with her." Kallie thought her dad would be upset, because her mother berated her and said that being gay is wrong.
Kallie's current school district is more well-to-do than her previous one, and she is having a harder time fitting in. However, she has had two boyfriends. I asked her whether she still wants to be with girls, and she replied that she likes everyone and considers herself pansexual. She recently chopped off her long hair and has taken to gender-neutral clothes. She also has an "everyone hates me because of how I look" attitude.
A few weekends ago, Kallie posted online that she feels we are forcing her to go to church. Her father told her attending church allows us to spend time together but she does not have to go if it makes her uncomfortable. She then told us that her mother and the people at her church berate her for her beliefs. When she comes here, she only wants to sit in her room, read or play on her phone. When we say we miss her, she will come out and watch TV with us, but soon returns to her room.
I worry that Kallie may be depressed or suicidal. I want her to see that our home is a safe place. Her mother won't let us have her for any time beyond what the courts allow, which means counseling isn't going to happen. I'm sure we could notify the school of our concerns, but we fear it would make things worse. Any ideas? — Worried Stepmom
Dear Worried: Kallie knows that your home is a safe place, which is terrific for her. But she lives primarily with her mother. Could your husband speak to his ex-wife about Kallie? Could they discuss better ways to handle her issues? Would the ex consider giving primary custody to Dad?
Meanwhile, be supportive of Kallie in other ways, exclusive of her gender issues. That should not become your main focus. Let her know you value her as she is, because surely she has many wonderful qualities. If she feels secure, the other problems will work themselves out. And please contact PFLAG for information and resources.
Dear Annie: I patronize a restaurant where a small group of older men sit around and drink coffee. They are very loud and often rude and seem to enjoy gossiping. For instance, should an overweight person walk in, these men think nothing of pointing it out. These men aren't exactly small themselves. I find their behavior despicable. Am I wrong to want nothing to do with them? — Somewhere in the USA
Dear USA: These men are rude, but they also could be hard of hearing and don't realize their remarks are audible to everyone. They also may not care. Yes, steer clear if you cannot get them to keep their opinions to themselves.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from Fed Up in Wisconsin, whose 21-year-old boyfriend chews with his mouth open, smacks his lips and speaks with his mouth full.
My niece had the same problem. I could barely stomach sitting at the same table with her. Constant attempts to correct her were fruitless until I got the idea to secretly videotape a meal. When she saw the tape, she said, "That's disgusting!" and asked for help in changing her habits. — Louisville, Ky.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2014. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.