Dear Annie: I am having a problem with my mother-in-law and my husband. She is a control freak who wants to control my husband. His sister died a year ago, and his mother told him she wanted to have a memorial dinner at our house. She never spoke to me about it. In fact, she doesn't speak to me at all, due to a prior bad experience.
After she sold her house, she moved in with us. She was with us for over a year, even though it was only supposed to be for a couple of months. She told people that I had put her out, and she continues to talk like this about me. My husband will not speak up about anything. I don't want her here again, not even for a visit. She is a miserable woman. We have been married for 23 years. How do I handle this situation? — Ready for Divorce
Dear Ready for Divorce: Instead of being ready for a divorce, try showing some empathy. Your mother-in-law lost her daughter. No matter what age she was when her daughter passed away, she has outlived her child, which is the ultimate nightmare for any parent. Please show her some patience and love. She may not have wanted the memorial dinner at her house because the memory of her daughter was too raw and painful. As for her gossiping about you, try to cut her some slack. I really think it's time for you to change your perspective on your mother-in-law from a miserable woman to a mother who lost her daughter and is still grieving.
It sounds like your husband wants nothing to do with any of it — because he feels helpless in knowing he cannot control either of you. Tell him your feelings and ask for his help. You might be surprised by the results.
Dear Annie: Recently while waiting in line in a store, I heard the young clerk, maybe high school or college age, say, "Hi, Sweetheart" to the 40-ish woman ahead of me. Whether it bothered her or not wasn't apparent. Sure enough, the young man addressed me with the same "Hi, Sweetheart." I am 65. I quietly said, "I am not 'sweetheart,'" and let him know his greeting was very inappropriate. I smiled while leaving and said, "Thank you and have a good day."
Surely, the young man meant no harm, but stores that have staff working with the public should give them sensitivity training for addressing customers. Calling all women "sweetheart" can be seen as patronizing and stereotyping to women as negative words that some use for people of different races. Some women may think it's OK or even cute, but why take the chance? Just teach staff to say, "good morning," or "afternoon" — or something else generic — to everyone and smile. — Ma'am Would Be Fine
Dear Ma'am: Thank you for your letter. While it doesn't make it the right thing to do, I think most people who refer to you as "sweetheart" are doing so out of kindness. They are most likely just trying to be friendly. I hope that brings you some comfort the next time it happens.
I am printing your letter as a reminder to people that calling someone "sweetheart" or "honey" is usually not the best way to go.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]