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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. My wife and I live in a conservative part of the country, and our problem has to do with the rudeness of strangers in public.

We are a same-gender couple and we do not make a show of affection in public. However, that doesn’t stop people from scowling or sneering at us.

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When people are staring or glaring, I tend to smile at them, and my partner tends to wink. Both are vaguely effective in stopping stares. But I’m wondering if you could recommend a better way of dealing with it. It gets so old. Fed Up

A. There is no response to scowling better than a smile and a wink. You two sound like treasures.

However, you should not feel you always have to respond positively when you’re out in public. It is not your job to charm or win over doubters, haters, scowlers, or sneerers. Simply going about your business with a neutral attitude should be enough.

Q. I live in a wonderful city that people like to visit. How do I say no to people who invite themselves to my house? For example, I have longtime “friends” with whom I have little in common who e-mail once a year to say they’re coming.

This year they actually termed it “our annual trip to your house.” Unbelievable! They are loud and negative, and talk about people I don’t know from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. without stopping; it is beyond stressful, especially considering that I love my privacy.

I’m a widow, but they used to drive my husband nuts too. It’s not about the expense (although I feel I have to come up with new things for them to see and do); it’s about the invasion and the assault to my ears.

Sometimes they tell me not to worry about taking them touring, that we can just “stay home and visit.” That is 90 percent of the problem. How can I tell them that the hotel is closed -—permanently? Over-visited

A. The nice thing about e-mail is that you can compose your response carefully. I’m going to try to help. Try writing, “I have many great memories from your annual visits, but honestly I’m just not up to having you stay with me anymore. I have gotten to a point that I treasure my privacy; having houseguests is too much for me. If you visit the city, I’d love to see you for an afternoon. Let me know if that would work for you.”

Q. You published my letter recently. When I read your response (to my question about my son who is angry with me for charitable donations I’ve made and plan to make), my first reaction was, “How dare she?”

How dare she tell me I am being manipulative? And yet, I see it. I have long said that I would keep learning until I draw my last breath. This is another learning experience for me.

My deepest thanks!

Charitable Mother

A. Thank you so much for getting in touch to let me know you read my answer to your query. Oftentimes I wonder if people who write to me see my response. I especially appreciate that even though you did not necessarily like my response, you are open to it.

Your money is your own to spend as you please. Your choice to force your son to react to your spending (even when you knew he would react poorly) made me wonder why you would repeatedly confront him with it. So yes, this did seem like an attempt to manipulate him.

I applaud you for facing this reality and thank you for getting in touch.

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