Dear Margo: My mother "did her best" to ensure that both of her children grew up to be straight, conservative Christians. Well, my poor little brother greatly disappointed my mother with his homosexuality (and being vocal about it), and our father also felt his expectations were not met. In any case, my mother's "plan" totally failed, because I ended up an agnostic lesbian. The only member of the family, including my extended family, who supported me was my aforementioned brother. He, however, became very depressed and took his own life. I believe this was due to our parents' emotional abuse, which I was not able to completely escape myself.
Despite the backlash and lack of support, I entered into a relationship with "Natalie." I knew she was bisexual, but I also knew she was monogamous. She was a great girlfriend, but when tragedy struck, I felt it was unfair for her to be caught up in all the family turmoil, so I ended things between us. Now, a few years later, I find out she's getting married next month — to a man. That was bad enough because I felt somewhat betrayed, but my mother took the opportunity to remind me that Natalie's marrying a boy, "so there's hope for you yet!" I don't know what to do about this or anything. — Really Bummed
Dear Real: There is nothing "to do" about any of this except ignore your mother, whose idea is nonsense. Her wish, I guess, is understandable for a conservative Christian, but it is a hope entirely uninformed by reality and fact. As for feeling betrayed because Natalie ended up with a man, I remind you that she is, as you stated, bisexual. This denotes an attraction to males and females. For marriage (at least her first marriage), she chose a man. I do hope you find a suitable girlfriend and get your life going again. — Margo, positively
When Playing Along Is the Solution
Dear Margo: Two years ago, due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to move in with my grandmother. She's 77, and I'm 27. She has memory loss associated with the elderly, but on top of that, she has a third-grade comprehension level due to leaving school at 13. She is also deaf, and there was very little in the way of education back then for the deaf.
Lately, I've been noticing that she wants to use me as her interpreter. She's developing the habit of using me to "finish" her thoughts, as in: "I want to talk about this, but 'Sarah' will talk to you about it." It's turning into something of a battle between us. Both of her sons know about the problem and have gently reminded her that I am not a professional and she shouldn't use me as one. I am not a mind reader, and neither are her children, but she refuses to listen.
Short of blowing my top (which, so far, seems to be the only way to make myself understood), what can I do? I've tried talking to my dad, but he doesn't want to hear that his mother is slowly getting worse. His fiancee has tried to pitch in, but she's not getting anywhere with him, either. — Really in a Bind
Dear Real: Your grandmother's limitations, added to what sounds like early-onset dementia, make her immune, as it were, to rational thinking. And the hearing loss doesn't help matters. Since the other people involved are essentially putting their heads in the sand, it falls to you to manage the situation. I suggest you do this by talking about anything you want, either taking a cue from what you think might be the subject, or just saying, "Ah, yes, Gram's having one of her unfinished thoughts." There is no point to getting into it with someone who is clearly impaired. — Margo, pragmatically
Dear Margo: Since my father died eight years ago, I have become increasingly close to my mom. She is 81; I am 49. We have become best friends and do almost everything together. We spend a good deal of time together every day and call each other when we're apart. I work as a freelancer, so my work hours are flexible, and I spend virtually all of my free time with Mom. Over the years, I have come to appreciate her as a woman and a friend.
While I am very happy with this arrangement, I am afraid of the future. I have no close friends; my work is satisfying, but random; and I dread the day when I find myself alone. Given my mom's age, I know she will not be with me forever — and I can't stand the thought of her dying. It's to the point where I have trouble sleeping and have nightmares of her being gone when I do fall asleep. I hate saying goodnight each evening for fear of being away from her. She feels the same way and tells me I'm the best daughter she ever could have hoped for.
I know life goes on, but I don't know how I will adjust and reconcile myself to my mom not being there. I'm usually an upbeat, positive person, but I don't know how to cope with this tremendous fear of impending loss. — Fearing the Future
Dear Fear: By my reckoning, you are almost 50 years old with no friends except for an aging mother. While it is lovely that you have come to appreciate her and love spending time together, there is something a little off about your insulation, along with your fear of the inevitable. Forgive me, but yours is a neurotic, immature approach to realism, and I would suggest for your mental health, both now and "after," that you see a therapist who could be useful in getting you on a healthier, less troubled emotional track. — Margo, conventionally
Dear Margo: My husband and I are having a difference of opinion, and I wondered whether you could help us out. We are planning a vacation this summer with our 18-year-old daughter, our family friend of 32 years and his 17-year-old daughter. The plan is to share the cost of a cabin, but each family would pay for their own food and entertainment.
Now there is a possibility that our friend will not be able to come, in which case we would pay the entire cabin cost, but I suggested we still have his daughter come. My husband says if we invite her, then we should be responsible for paying for all of her food and entertainment. I think it would be appropriate to ask her dad to send funds with her to pay for the things that we were planning to do if he were going to be there. Can you tell me what the proper etiquette is for this situation? — Summer Planner
Dear Sum: I think your issue is not so much about etiquette as it is about common sense and hospitality. Since the young woman would be a pal for your daughter, and should she show up unaccompanied, I think the proper thing is for your family to pay for her food and entertainment. She is, after all, one person. There is a chance that the friend may, in fact, show up, but should he not, my bet is that he will send his daughter with funds. If she offers to pay her own way for some things, that could be an on-the-spot decision based on what you think would make her feel more at ease. — Margo, comfortably
Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dearmargo. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.