Dear Annie: I get together once or twice a year with a group of girlfriends I’ve known since high school. We are at our wits’ end with one I will call Miss Motor Mouth.
We are in our 60s, with families. Miss Motor Mouth has never been married or even been in a relationship. She is very self-centered and talks incessantly about her former job (she’s been retired for three years) and the people she worked with, whom we’ve never met. She loves to flaunt the obscene amounts she spends on purses, clothing and wine, and how many millions her brother is worth. It is impossible to discuss anything with the others without her interrupting.
One of the girls has terminal breast cancer. Miss Motor Mouth has absolutely no empathy for this friend because she chose to treat her cancer holistically. We are at the point where, after 43 years, we are thinking of not inviting her to the next gathering because we can no longer tolerate her incessant blather.
Would it be better to tell her how annoying she is? She seems oblivious to our feelings. What else can we do?
— Singed Ears
Dear Singed: If you are prepared to cut her out of these gatherings, you may as well tell her why. Don’t gang up on her. One of you should meet her for coffee and explain that she seems to be monopolizing the conversations, and that you are upset by her apparent lack of respect for the woman with breast cancer. Say that you are sure she isn’t intentionally alienating her friends, and ask if she could try to be more sensitive. If she cannot or will not, you don’t have to keep inviting her.
Dear Annie: I want to ask my parents and in-laws to give smaller Christmas gifts to our two boys (ages 2 and 5 months) and instead make a contribution to their college funds. My husband does not feel this is appropriate. While we do not need the contribution, it would certainly be appreciated.
We are already overloaded with toys and know that both sets of grandparents will go overboard on gifts by several hundred dollars. I know my in-laws will be insulted if we donate any of their toys to charity, so I can’t comfortably go that route.
Is it a bad idea to ask them to buy fewer gifts? Can I ask them to limit their spending? Can I ask my parents to donate to the college fund, even though they have already contributed? Or do I just suck it up like usual?
— Louisville Lass
Dear Louisville: By all means, ask the grandparents to limit the gifts. If they ask what the children want, it’s fine to suggest they contribute to their college funds. But in the end, you cannot control how they choose to indulge the grandchildren. We still think donating them is a good idea, and you also can put some gifts away and allow the kids to unwrap them individually at later dates.
Dear Annie: I was pleased by your response to “Ditched in Montreal,” whose friend kept canceling plans at the last minute. You suggested she might suffer from an anxiety disorder. Unless you’ve experienced a panic attack, it’s difficult to understand how debilitating it is. I would describe it as an uncontrollable surge of adrenaline that makes you feel as though you’ll die if you don’t get somewhere safe.
As someone who has had this condition for eight years, I can attest to how hard it can be to attend public gatherings. The only place that felt safe was my home. It took medication and regular contact with my doctor to get my anxiety under control. It also helped immensely to have understanding friends and family.
Montreal’s friend likely accepts invitations because she would like to go, but becomes more and more anxious as the event grows closer. I hope Montreal makes the effort to help.
— Better Now
Dear Better: We do, too. Thanks for the backup.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.