Dear Annie: I'm 27 and have lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease. My condition is usually under control, and I live a normal life. The problem is, I'm very sensitive to perfume, air fresheners and cigarette smoke, and with my medications, I can't drink alcohol.
A lot of my girlfriends throw candle parties and cosmetic parties or go out drinking, all of which involve things I react badly to. I typically decline these invitations, suggest something else or go along and stay silent so I won't be a wet blanket. At a recent cosmetic party, I stupidly allowed a friend to smear makeup on me after being goaded into it. Within seconds, my face and scalp were burning, and I jumped up and stuck my head under the faucet. Everybody laughed, except the hostess, who was "deeply offended." I haven't been invited to any parties since.
It upsets me that my friends, who have known me since we were children, don't seem to care that the majority of their plans include activities that will make me physically ill. I have offered to host get-togethers at my home, but one of my friends told me my house "smells funny." When I ask friends, family or co-workers to lay off the perfume or air freshener, I hear, "You're the only one who complains." Even my sister douses herself in a perfume that gives me hives and then gets insulted that I don't want to hug her.
How do I explain to my friends that their idea of fun literally makes me sick? I'm starting to feel very left out because of my disease. — Shouldn't Be Limited by Lupus
Dear Not Limited: Your friends seem a bit immature, which makes them too focused on their own enjoyment and less sympathetic toward you. Do they know you have lupus? (Saying that you can't drink or are sensitive to cologne might seem optional to them.) When you can participate without too much risk, you should make the effort, but otherwise, we recommend you start looking for better friends. For additional assistance and support, try the Lupus Foundation of America (lupus.org).
Dear Annie: A co-worker and her husband are expecting a baby in late December and decided to throw themselves an elaborate baby shower. They have plenty of friends, relatives and colleagues who could have given them a shower. I have never heard of giving one for yourself. Isn't this rude? — Flummoxed in Florida
Dear Florida: The idea of showers (bridal or baby) was for friends to help a new couple stock their home or prepare for the new child by voluntarily gifting them with things they would need. This sweet, helpful welcome has somehow morphed into the idea that people are entitled to demand gifts for every occasion. Throwing oneself a baby shower smacks of greed. It says, "I expect you to give me presents."
However, it's possible that none of their friends offered to help and they thought it would be OK to do it themselves. Whether to attend is up to you.
Dear Annie: "Old Enough" didn't want her parents to visit her in Europe during her son's spring break because he needed to study for his SATs. That letter took the cake.
During the lifetime of one's parents, children should adjust their schedules to accommodate those who sacrificed so much for them. What a lame excuse about the son wanting to study for SAT and AP exams. There are plenty of places he can go to study without interruptions. — Parent
Dear Parent: We disagree. Children should, of course, make accommodations for their parents whenever possible. But when Mom and Dad can visit at any time and deliberately choose to come on precisely those days that their daughter has asked them not to shows a lack of consideration and respect. Parents who want to maintain a healthy relationship with their children should not stomp all over them.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please 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.