Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR READERS: Spring may finally have sprung, and to celebrate surviving an extremely long winter, I've stepped away from my column for the next two weeks. My spring break won't involve partying at the beach, but I do plan to return relaxed, refreshed, and with a story or two to tell. In the meantime, please enjoy these "Best Of" columns, culled from 11 years of "Ask Amy" advice.

DEAR AMY: Over the years, my younger sister and I occasionally get together for breakfast. As a single parent of a son (now 23 years old), she has been busy micromanaging his life so that he gets things right. Now that her son is working out of town, she's had more time for our breakfasts. There hasn't been a man in her life for a long time -- until now. I'm very happy that she's happy, but she has been inviting "Brian" to join us for breakfast. I invited her for supper after work at my house, thinking she would stick around and talk for a while. But she cut short our visit and was making a call on her way out the door to meet Brian for a drink. I've sat quietly over the years while she has parented her son, interrupted conversations with me so she can give him last-minute instructions or cleaned while I visited. Am I being too sensitive about this or should I tell her that I would like her undivided attention when we meet? Because I'm asking you, it must be bothering me. Please advise.

Keeping Quiet in the Burbs

DEAR QUIET: Reading your question, I'm wondering when was the last time I had the undivided attention of my sisters. I think it was sometime in the '70s when one of them was chasing me with a hairbrush and the other was egging her on.

If you'll look at your situation a little differently, you may realize that what your sister has given you may be almost as valuable as her undivided attention. My sisters were generous enough to provide me with fantastic nieces and nephews, assorted boyfriends and spouses coming into our lives, and the excitement of new careers, homes and gardens. I've given them the same. Sometimes we focus on them, sometimes we focus on me, and sometimes we just get in snatches of conversations while we're washing the dishes.

Your temperaments might be different enough that she feels she has spent quality time with you when you feel she is just passing through your kitchen.

The key is to talk to her, not in a demanding way but in a way that will encourage her to change her perspective and behavior a little, just as you are changing yours. (April 2005)

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DEAR AMY: I am a 22-year-old with an acne problem. It's not terrible, but I've gone to dermatologists and taken medication and nothing seems to help. It's annoying and it does bother me, but it's not something that really ruins my self-esteem. However, I was approached by a woman I work with and handed a magazine clipping for acne products, since she noticed my problem. I found this terribly offensive -- I wouldn't approach an overweight person with a diet ad or a gray-haired adult with a coupon for hair dye. How should I handle this or comments like this in the future?

Offended in Miami

DEAR OFFENDED: Ick. I'm sorry. People can be jerks, even when they're trying to be helpful.

I'm going to suggest a variety of reactions to this. Choose whatever suits your personality best.

Ironic: "Darla, are you trying to tell me you think I have acne or something?" Innocent: "Darla, I think you dropped this piece of paper near me; do you need it? Otherwise I can throw it away for you." Sarcastic: "Thank you soooo much for the information! I'll take it to my dermatologist and see what she thinks." Honest: "Darla, I know you think you're being helpful, but I find this pretty embarrassing and I wish you hadn't done it." OK. I've given you the script. You do the rest. (April 2004)