Dear Annie: My son’s best friend, “Travis,” has started to call me by my first name. For as long as I can remember, I was “Mrs. Thomas.” But yesterday, when I brought over lunch for the boys, Travis said, “Thanks, Susan.” I thought it may have been a joke and chuckled a little and put down the plates. But the next day, I drove Travis and my son to hockey practice. When he got out of the car, he said, “Thanks for the lift, Susan.” It appears that this is the new normal with him. Later that evening, I asked my son whether he had noticed that Travis had called me by my first name. My son said yes. He said that Travis’ dad told him that because he got a job at a local bookstore and gets a paycheck, he can call adults by their first name. I don’t want to tell anyone how to parent, but that rule strikes me as ridiculous, especially because they are 15 years old and he had always been respectful up until that point. Should I tell Travis that he needs to call me Mrs. Thomas, or am I being too old-fashioned? — His Elder
Dear His Elder: You’re not being old-fashioned; you’re simply being aware. Anytime you notice a change in the behavior of your teenage son or his friends, it is important to take note.
Now that you know that it’s his father’s wish that he use the first name, you know this new habit isn’t from a lack of respect. That said, you have every right to be called what you like to be called, especially in your own house and when you are driving the kids around. Next time Travis calls you Susan, smile and say, “Travis, I preferred it when you called me Mrs. Thomas.”
Dear Annie: The following is an open letter to my husband.
After over 40 years of marriage, I realize I am like a trained dog. Old-fashioned me always believed that any marriage was valuable and all problems could be worked out. I can’t remember the year when we last went out for dinner or even out for just a fast-food sandwich. I really can’t remember the most recent time we went anywhere together. We’ve never taken a vacation, but that’s OK. I’ve almost begged just to go for an afternoon drive or to tag along when you have to run errands. You ignored my requests, and seeing as I never ask anymore, I guess you figure all is well.
I’ve forgiven you for your affairs, but I haven’t forgotten. The hurt is still there. Do I trust you? No. Do I love you? I do, but I doubt your love for me.
Your thoughts are that I am so lucky because you provide and you don’t physically or verbally abuse me. The silent abuse is emotional abuse, which may be the worse pain. You believe I am a strong woman, because I never complain. You think there are no problems. Well, because you don’t like talking about them, I’ve learned to handle them myself. You have said, “I can’t read your mind.” But when I do try explaining that I am unhappy being on my own, nothing changes.
I don’t want sympathy, because I knew all these years that I would keep getting what I was taking. And I didn’t want to be a failure by giving up and divorcing. If only I could go back 40 years! — Older and Wiser
Dear Older and Wiser: An open letter’s not very open if it’s kept secret from its addressee. You need to tell your husband how you feel and either work together to rectify things or move on. Life is way too short for grudges.
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