DEAR AMY: I have a neighbor who is usually kind, thoughtful and pleasant. He will go out of his way to help anyone. He presents an image as a helpful, caring person to everyone in the community, but some of us see another side. He is belligerent when he deals with his immediate family, especially his wife. She will leave the house, sometimes in tears, and walk around to give him time to cool down. She has occasionally shared what has happened with me. Sometimes the physical or emotional abuse involves their teenage daughter. He seems to expect perfection from them and is quick to criticize. He hates being late. Shortly after he and his wife were married, he became exasperated by her repeated tardiness. They were going to be late for a game with friends. In an attempt to hurry her, he gave her a shove at the top of the stairs and she fell down them. She was bruised and in pain. On other occasions when he's been angry, he has hit her or thrown things at her. I have offered to discuss his behavior with him, but she is not willing. She tells me I can only bring this up if I personally witness something. She may be afraid that he would retaliate because she shared information about the abuse with me. I am afraid for this family but don't know what to do.
DEAR CONCERNED: Your neighbor is a bully and an abuser. Giving one's wife a little shove down the stairs should lead to jail time, not a reputation as a "nice guy" in the community.
From the way you word this, it seems that the wife is practically begging you to report him -- but she is afraid of retaliation.
The fact that she is open with you about this violence is a very important first step. Invite her to your house and ask her to talk to a counselor from the National Domestic Violence Hotline while she is with you. The group's excellent website (thehotline.org) offers online and telephone help, 24 hours a day: (800) 799-7233. Because she has a daughter at home she may try to stay in this marriage, but at the very least she needs violence counseling and he needs anger management for his explosive temper.
If you ever witness any kind of violence between them, you call 911 first and explain yourself later.
DEAR AMY: Responding to the letter from "Older Sister" about bargaining for better prices, I am a craftsperson. Most patrons are lovely to work with, but you would be surprised at how abusive some bargainers can be. I strive to maintain a calm exterior and politely decline, but honestly, it's not easy. It is also difficult to shed the after-effects of such an interaction, especially when someone who can easily afford an item pushes me to accept less than minimum wage just so they can brag about getting "a deal." Consensus among my peers is clear. When subjected to predatory bargaining, most feel insulted, repulsed, or at least deeply saddened to witness such selfishness in a fellow human. There is also an unfortunate practical effect: Aggressive bargainers can manage to "beat down" a price, but merchants eventually may need to make up the difference by raising prices. The system devolves and the polite customers end up subsidizing this regrettable behavior. -- Crafty
DEAR CRAFTY: Many readers thought I was too easy on the well-off sister who bargains for everything, pointing out that it is usually more well-heeled customers who try to squeeze an extra nickel out of a deal. I agree that this is obnoxious.
DEAR AMY: Oh, my God, that letter from "Old but Young Man" made me crazy! He has had sex with his wife for 50 years and now -- due to illness -- she doesn't feel like it, and he is feeling sorry for himself! And the poor guy has to turn to porn. He should be grateful he still has his wife and they can kiss and cuddle. There are many of us out here who would love to be able to do just that, and sex wouldn't even enter the picture. Count your blessings, buddy. -- Miss Her
DEAR MISS HER: Amen, brother.