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Ask Amy

Cinderella syndrome bothers reader

Q. Today a lady introduced me to her “daughter, Laura” and her “stepdaughter, Katherine.” Later, on TV, a man was describing his family and said that he had two sons and his wife had three sons.

What is it with this Cinderella syndrome? Either these children are members of the family, or they are not. If I was one of these stepchildren, I would be very distressed. What do you say?

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A. There are times when introducing a child as a “step” is seen as a way to clarify a relationship that people often ask about, regardless of the introduction. For instance, if a parent says, “These are my daughters, Laura and Katherine,” you might be shocked at how often the person will then say (in front of the daughters), “Hi, now which one is yours?”

Another reason to do this is to acknowledge in front of the daughter that she has another (unseen) parent, who is her birth parent. The daughter may feel it is disrespectful to her bio parent if she is introduced as a “daughter” by her stepparent.

Parents of blended families should treat all of their children as “their” children, but there are nuances attached to this that can be challenging for everyone.

Q. I am pretty sure I have social anxiety disorder. I am definitely an introvert. We moved a lot when I was a kid (seven different school districts in four states during 12 years of school) so I was always the new girl.

I always kept to myself. I did not want to draw attention to myself, and I never got attached to people because I figured I’d just be moving again soon anyway.

Looking back I never attended any after-school event, joined a club, or went to a game. I am pretty sure that is why I was never interested in college, though I had good grades; the whole college thing seemed like socializing, and I just wanted to learn.

Now fast-forward 20 years; I only socialize with a few people in a limited capacity. If it weren’t for my partner, I would not even be doing that. We haven’t gotten married because I can’t handle the thought of a “wedding” and being the center of attention. If I agree to go to an event, I just worry about going and try to make up excuses to not go, even if it is work-related.

I can go to a class or seminar but don’t see the point of socializing when it just causes me stress.

What is wrong with being this way? I am told I should “get out more,” but I am not sure why. I am happiest at home with my partner and dog. I don’t think I need fixing. I am happy the way I am.

A. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. Nothing at all.

However, if you have a social anxiety disorder, your anxiety about having to interact with other people will cause you stress and physical reactions related to stress — your heart will race, and you will feel the strong desire to avoid or flee.

If this anxiety is interfering with living your life the way you want to, then you should try to address it. For instance, if you want to advance in your career and if occasional public events, socializing, or networking will help you do your job better, then you should at least try to manage your symptoms.

You can try to do this with deep breathing or meditation techniques. You can build on even small successes.

If you want to get married, get married. For you, a quiet ceremony with only you and your partner (and your dog) might be the definition of the perfect wedding.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@tribune.com.

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