DEAR AMY: I’ve very recently started writing about my life, sharing my story with my friends, family, and people in my community. I am an adult in my mid-20s, married and pregnant with my first. I’ve just published my first story, covering ages 6 to 11. I am receiving lots of positive feedback. However, my parents, and in particular my mother, are disturbed by me sharing ”our” private life. I mention my parents in my story, but my focus is on ME, not them. My mom thinks I’m speaking very negatively of her. My sister has tried telling my parents that there is nothing negative about the story, only that it’s private. I said that for anyone to grow as a person, they need to face things that could be difficult and sad. I’ve told her that she may be feeling guilty about some of the troubles I went through when I was young, but that I don’t cast any blame on anyone. My mom has made it very clear to me that she is NOT OK with me sharing it, and that if I do, I should NOT share it with our family chat group, because she does NOT want to see it, and will NOT read it. She is very angry! Should I not be sharing my life story? Am I infringing on my parents’ privacy? Leaving them out would render my story useless, no?
Want to Connect
DEAR WANT: Let me quote the late, great Nora Ephron, whose advice I sought when I was writing my first memoir: ”You get to tell your own story,” she said. ”What you shouldn’t do is tell anyone else’s.” You own the story of your childhood. But, for instance, you should not write about your parents’ marriage, or about that time your sister didn’t get invited to the prom. Those stories belong to them.
I’ve now published two memoirs, and what I’ve learned is that everyone holds a different truth. And — I assure you — most people (including me) do NOT want someone else to write about them, and every memoirist (including me) faces family consequences about what they’ve written.
What you should NOT do is insist that family members read it or discuss it with you. (Many, if not most, of my family members have not read my books.)
Stop telling your mother how to feel or how to interpret what you’ve done, but accept that she is upset. Instead of sharing full text on your group chat, you should publish on a blogging platform (I use Tumblr), and share a link: ”Here’s my latest installment. If you’re interested in reading, click here.”
DEAR AMY: Well, I met a great gal. We seem really good together most of the time, but here’s the rub: She has a dog. ”Buster” is a nice dog, but is not very well-trained. The big problem occurs at bedtime. Buster wants to share our bed, and is uncontrollably insistent about it, whining and disturbing us throughout the night until at some point my gal gives up, and then Buster is in bed with us and I must deal with it, or go sleep elsewhere. Apparently, Buster gets to sleep with her at home, so hey, why not at my place? This ruins intimacy, and it is hard to sleep. She apologizes, but is doing nothing to train this dog to accept the floor/dog bed. Am I out of line to want our bed to be dog-free?
DEAR DOGGONE: You could provide some ”alpha” style leadership — or at the very least, be less peeved and passive — if you found a good dog trainer who could work with the three of you (you, she, and ”Buster”).
Working with Buster together — as a couple — would put you on the same page, and provide you both with the same tools and techniques to communicate with and retrain the dog.
I agree that having an animal sleep in bed with you can be a major sleep and sex killer. Working this out ”as a pack” will be good for your relationship.
DEAR AMY: Kudos to you for so authentically responding to critics after you made an error about ammunition in your column [Dumfounded Father]. I read your essay about gun violence. You corrected your error and then wrote beautifully about your motivations for wanting stricter gun control. I was very affected by what you wrote.
DEAR GRATITUDE: Scores of readers have responded with kind notes of support. Thank you all.