Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. I am a high school student. My math teacher has been telling us stories that are in the news. I wouldn’t normally be seeing this as a bad thing, but the stories he tells us are grotesque and very disturbing.

After reading the “highlights” of the article, he mocks them! He read us a story about an athlete who killed himself. I thought this was very sad, but my teacher said how dumb it was that because this athlete didn’t get a medal, he killed himself.

In addition to reading these horror stories to us every other day, he sometimes shows us pictures to go with the story.


I feel awful in that class with a teacher constantly mocking the dead. It’s impossible to concentrate on the actual lesson he’s teaching with all this running through my head. I want to tell him to back off, but he’s the type of person to tell the whole school about it. Also, I don’t want to make a big deal out of this. That would be even worse because everyone would know. I’ve tried plugging my ears and shutting my eyes. What should I do?


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A. You need to see this as a big deal because it is a big deal. Your teacher has strayed very far off the lesson plan, and is introducing his own personal and disturbing thoughts and imagery, which definitely don’t have anything to do with math. He’s soaking up class time and distracting you (and other students).

I realize you don’t want to raise this issue with him, but this is important. Your parents, guidance counselor, and school administration should know what is going on.

Q. I have a serious problem. My neighbor, who is this very old lady, asks me to take her garbage out every time I pass her front door to get into my apartment. She doesn’t say “please” or “thank you” and she just expects me to take her garbage out every time!

I’m a nice guy and don’t like to be rude to old people, but now I’m getting anxiety attacks every time I have to go back to my apartment.

Nice Guy


A. If you really, truly want to be a nice guy, you will simply accept that this encounter will happen and open your heart to be your neighbor’s garbage-helper. If you accept this as your little neighborly “mitzvah,” your anxiety will be relieved because you won’t feel ambushed. You'll expect it.

You can control this process by introducing yourself. Also ask her name. Then you can say, “Well, Mrs. Clark, how about you leave this bag outside in the morning and I’ll take it downstairs on my way out. Would that work?”

Q. You sure do get some tough questions, Amy. They really get me thinking.

You had a letter from an “Upset Uncle,” who had a family of six visiting his home. On their last night they went out to dinner and left Uncle with the check.

But what if Uncle had suggested going out to the restaurant in the first place — and the family was more or less trapped into going there? What are you supposed to do if you are a guest and your host suggests an expensive meal, which you can’t afford?



A. I think the answer is to always do your best to be honest — even when it’s awkward. This “Upset Uncle” said that he was happy to pick up the check, but he didn’t like the assumption that he would do so. Mainly, he wanted to feel appreciated — which is really what we all want.

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