Ask Amy

Ask Amy column

Q. Now that many residences no longer have home phones with the number listed in a phone book and through 411, how do first responders contact a parent or loved one in case of an emergency?

There are six of us in our family. Now that our children are older and newly on their own, they don’t even share our address. All six of us have cellphones with a privacy code. Again, how can someone contact us in case of an emergency? At a recent family dinner no one could answer that question. Help!

Concerned Parents

A. I shared your question with a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department, who responded with the following useful information:


“Today, more people rely on mobile technology and less on residential land lines to communicate and keep in touch with one another. Although this sometimes presents problems in some emergency situations, it is important to remember that each case is unique. In the event of an emergency, law enforcement agencies use various investigative tools and methods to locate next of kin. Police departments have access to public records and databases that are invaluable in pointing first responders in the right direction. In some instances, social media has also been used to identify, but never notify, friends and family.

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“It should be noted that the majority of emergency notifications are done in person. In the case of the Chicago Police Department, if a family member is not on scene, a department member will be dispatched to the victim’s last known residence to notify next of kin. If the information is outdated, our department utilizes every tool at its disposal to locate and notify family.

“We’d also like to stress the importance of having some piece of identification on your person at all times. A simple up-to-date driver’s license or state identification card can help immensely in these situations.

“Last but not least, most new mobile smartphones allow users to set ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts that are accessible from the phone’s locked screen. We would recommend everyone have at least two designated ICE contacts in their smartphones, so that these persons can be contacted in the event of an emergency.”

Q. I’m very accepting of same-sex marriage, and my wife’s sister is married to another woman.


But this woman is very masculine in appearance, and intentionally so — as she seems not at all bothered when waiters at restaurants address her as “sir.”

She has short, straight hair, uses no makeup, walks and dresses like a man, and doesn’t even own a skirt. She is so “butch” that I’m uncomfortable being seen with her. Is it asking too much for a woman — any woman — to at least display some feminine traits when with friends or relatives in public?


A. It is too much to ask that a woman should dress in a more feminine style in order for you to be more comfortable. Unless you are someone reporting on red carpet fashion, there is nothing to be gained by your judgments or pronouncements about how a person presents him/herself.

I would deliver the same perspective to your in-law if she wrote to me saying that she is bothered by the way you or your wife dress and express your gender identification: This is a personal choice, and none of your business.

Make a conscious choice not to care about this — and then don’t care.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at