Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. My boyfriend and I have been together for almost two years. We plan on getting married some day.

Yesterday we found out that his mom and my dad have been secretly dating for about three weeks. Neither his mom nor my father seems to see our problem with this. But if they continue dating and decide they want to get married, doesn’t that mean my boyfriend and I would now be brother and sister?

Is there any way I can talk some sense into them?



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A. If you truly believe that your boyfriend’s mother and your father marrying would magically turn you two into siblings, then — please — do not get married and procreate.

If your respective parents are single and available, then there is no reason they can’t (or shouldn’t) date.

However, while there is nothing you can (or should) do to prevent these two adults from dating, you do have a right to express yourselves. Mainly, you should do your best to communicate your discomfort to both parents. They should do their best to be open with you. But they may not have much to report.

If these two got married and you also got married, you and your guy would become both step-siblings and spouses — otherwise known as “lucky people who can double up on stepparents and in-laws.”


Q. I have a co-worker who has a severe stutter to the point where he sometimes struggles to get his words out. What is the appropriate way to handle a conversation with this person so as to not make him feel embarrassed or self-conscious?

Should I help by finishing the word he is stuck on or just let him finish on his own?


A. Do not finish his sentences. He knows what he intends to say (and you may not) — he just needs more time to say it. Give him the time he needs.

Make eye contact and appear relaxed and neutral. Do your best to manage your own discomfort. Don’t ask him to relax or slow down; instead, you should relax and slow down your own racing thoughts. Don’t bob your head, fidget, cross your arms, or look away.


When it is your turn to speak, you do not need to slow down or speak loudly. You should speak using your own natural voice and rhythm.

Conversing with someone who stutters can actually be a gift; it will teach you how to listen patiently, actively, and without judgment.

Q. “Conflicted” said she was uncomfortable with the fact that her friend took self-serve soda without paying for it. She described this friend of 10-plus years as “an affluent money manager.”

Wow. I would not want to be this person’s client. As a financial planner for 20-plus years, I would not put my client’s money with a money manager who took as much as a paper clip! If this woman thinks skimming soda is acceptable, it would follow that she may be skimming elsewhere.

There have been a multitude of hedge fund managers, bankers, and money managers in hot water recently for unethical and criminal behavior. Perhaps this woman’s name will be on that list soon.

As Conflicted said, stealing is stealing.


A. Dishonesty always starts small. And it’s a dangerous trait in someone who handles other people’s money.

Send questions by e-mail to or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 North Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.