DEAR AMY: I am a teenage girl stuck in a dysfunctional household. My parents can’t stand the sight of each other. They complain about the other one to me and my younger brother. All of this has taken a mental and emotional toll on us. I have developed pretty strong anger issues and have broken many doors and light switches, becoming enraged when my parents scream at each other. My brother has panic attacks due to this, and I am often the one consoling him during their heated arguments. I can’t sit them down and ask if they can divorce; my dad barely makes enough money to cover our tuition, and I can’t hurt them like that. I leave for college in two years, but the thought of leaving my brother behind brings me to tears. I really need some sort of guidance and advice.
DEAR TROUBLED: I am so sorry that your home life is like this. Every kid deserves better, and yet sadly many homes are like yours.
If you have a favorite teacher, librarian or counselor at school, it could really help to talk this out, and receive supportive guidance from an adult.
You and your brother should dive into every outside activity you can. This achieves multiple objectives: minimizing your time in the household, developing expertise and hobbies (and hopefully having fun) and forming relationships with people who will be in your corner.
You and your brother should write a letter to your parents. Work on it together. Describe exactly how their behavior makes you feel — how scared, angry and vulnerable you feel when they fight with each other, and how wrong it is for them to trash each other to you two. Ask them to stop.
In terms of your brother’s future, first of all — thank you for being a brave protector and a champion to him. If things at home don’t change, or if they get worse, it might be best for him to live elsewhere. Don’t keep this a secret — friends or other family members might offer him a safe haven once you’ve left the household.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I recently got into an argument about him visiting one of those restaurants where the waitresses are scantily clad. I hate those kinds of places with a passion, and he knows this. I think those types of places objectify women, and I feel like when he goes there (he doesn’t do it often, maybe once a year) he comes home and compares me to the tight young bodies he just saw on display. I have friends that go to these kinds of places with their husbands and it doesn’t bother them, but I just can’t get behind that. I can’t be the only woman out there who feels this way. Or am I just too insecure?
DEAR INSECURE: Go ahead and hate these places with abandon, but, please, not because of your own insecurities. Hate these places because a woman has to stuff herself into a ridiculous outfit and be objectified, and possibly outright harassed, just for the joy of doing the hard work of slinging burgers and beer. And she does all of this so she can put herself through law school, support her spouse or feed her kids.
You’ve already expressed your opinion on this. You don’t get to control where your husband has lunch or dinner when you’re not with him. Understand that there are almost unlimited ways for your husband (or you) to objectify people — actually or virtually (it doesn’t take a trip to Hooters to see sexy women).
It sounds like it would be best for you if he simply didn’t tell you about his annual excursion. You could say to him, “Patronize whatever restaurant you want, but please don’t tell me about it.”
DEAR AMY: “Dad of a Transgender” wondered how to respond when someone who doesn’t know he has a transgender son asks, “How are your girls?” One way to reply is to say, “Linda is doing great. Jane goes by John now, and he’s doing great, too!” and leave it at that. Most people will get the picture without needing an explanation. As a gay man in the work force, I mentioned “my husband” and used the pronoun “he” when we all spoke of our home life. I “came out” to my co-workers without ever saying, “I’m gay,” and nobody requested further details.
Getting the Message Across
DEAR GETTING THE MESSAGE: Well done.