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ANNIE”S MAILBOX: Mom’s venting is helping no one

Saturday, June 4, 2011

By Kathy Mitchell

and Marcy Sugar

Dear Annie: My mother was physically and mentally abused as a child. I know because I have been listening to the horror stories since I was 5 years old. I am now in my 40s and, quite frankly, am running out of compassion for her.

First of all, I resent her dumping this on me when I was so young. Second, I know plenty of people who had rotten childhoods, but they eventually made peace with the past and stopped whining about it all the time. I understand venting as a part of the healing process, as I have been in therapy myself. But I don’t get any sense that my mother is trying to heal.

We can’t have a conversation without her bringing up some awful incident or begging me to tell her why my grandparents didn’t love her. She tells the same dreary stories over and over almost word for word, and it sounds like self-pity to me. I don’t know why my grandparents didn’t love her. And she abused me, too, in exactly the same ways, but won’t admit it.

Is there a polite way to tell her to grow up and shut up? Or am I just being a witch? I suggested therapy, and she nearly screamed the house down proclaiming she’s not “nuts” and doesn’t need “a shrink.” Any suggestions?


Dear Indiana: Your mother isn’t “nuts,” but she absolutely needs therapy. She cannot let go of the past, nor has she found a healthy way to deal with it. She is also being abusive to you by bringing this up over and over and expecting you to somehow take away the pain. The next time she starts up, tell her it is too difficult for you to listen to her childhood stories and you will no longer be her emotional punching bag. Then leave. If she needs to vent, she should talk to a professional.

Dear Annie: Are people no longer taught common courtesy? I am a neatly dressed senior citizen. Due to an accident, I have nerve damage to my face. Even though I have had extensive reconstructive surgery, the disfigurement is still visible. I have tried to make the best of what life has handed me and rarely think about it.

However, I was walking through an upscale department store, not far from the cosmetics department. Two clerks there began staring and laughing. I was embarrassed and continued walking briskly when one of the Store Bullies yelled mockingly, “May I help you?” although I was no longer near their section. I was so humiliated that I left and have no intention of ever returning. I will take my business where I am treated with respect.

I find this behavior totally lacking in class, consideration and intelligence. What should I have done?

Looks Aren’t Everything

Dear Looks: You should have taken the names of those rude clerks and reported them to the manager. They are damaging the reputation of the store and should be reprimanded, not only for the way they treated you, but because they will behave this way toward others unless told to stop.

Email your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

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