Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I have not spoken to my mother in two weeks. She does not approve of my sexuality as gender-queer and she does not “approve” of my partner. She has sent him vicious and threatening letters, called me at all hours of the day and night and sent a variety of harassing text messages, saying, “You are a joke,” “I want you out of my life” and “You are why I have cancer.” I find this behavior abusive. I would like to have some kind of relationship with her, if possible, but she forces me to choose between her and my partner. I am honestly also very concerned about her well-being. She never used to be this irate or abusive. I tried reaching out to my father, her sister and her doctors to say that I am concerned about her erratic and worrisome behavior. My father responded: “Don’t contact your mother’s doctors anymore. You are making a fool out of yourself.” Is it foolish to genuinely reach out to professionals when you are concerned about your parent’s mental health? I have now taken the higher road in caring for myself and realizing that I probably can’t change her. Do you have any suggestions?
DEAR PARENTLESS: You should not be contacting your mother’s doctors. Even if your concern is genuine, you are not her next of kin (if they are married, your father is), you presumably don’t have a medical directive allowing you to have access to her medical records or make decisions on her behalf, and you are overstepping.
If your mother has cancer, her illness or treatments might affect her behavior. But some people are abusive because they are mean-spirited, or aren’t getting their way — not because they are suffering from an illness. If your mother falls into this category, you should keep your distance.
Stick to the high road. Let things cool down. If she calls you, only stay on the call if she behaves well. Do not reply to any abusive messages, ever. Reach out to people who will open a door to you, not slam it in your face. You have a right to live your life, but for the time being, you should keep your distance from your mother.
DEAR AMY: I work for a company that has a great working environment. We celebrate everything and are always bringing treats for one another and decorating cubicles. Upon being hired, we each filled out a questionnaire, asking what our favorite things are, our favorite cake flavor, etc. When a birthday comes up, this list is sent to everyone in the department so they can each buy a gift for that person. Although I feel very special on my birthday and get lots of trinkets, if it were up to me I’d say “no gifts, please.” I have eight people in my department. If I spend, say, $20 on everyone, that’s $160 a year. This does not include the Christmas gift exchange that has a $50 cap (and mandatory attendance). I’d feel rude and weird telling my boss I don’t want to participate. We are the lowest-paid department and this is unaffordable for some of us. I’d like for the gift exchanges to be optional. I feel like we are all pressured to spend money on one another when we are not friends outside of work. If it weren’t for the questionnaire, gifts would not be given. What do you think?
DEAR OVEREXTENDED: This sounds like an episode of “The Office,” or rather, every episode of “The Office.”
I can well imagine the pressure of not only purchasing gifts for co-workers, but to come up with something from their list of preferences. Most of us can hardly come up with special gifts for family members several times a year.
You should go to HR and simply express your very reasonable concerns about this. I assume your co-workers likely feel the same way. Your department should provide a favorite cake or sweet treat for each co-worker (I love this part of the questionnaire), but discourage gift-giving.
DEAR AMY: “Only Child” was resentful because after a life of sacrifice, her single father had finally decided to share his life with a wife. This 35-year-old “child’s” father allowed her to live her life when she needed to, and now it is her turn to let him live his.
DEAR GRANDPARENT: Exactly. Thank you.