Annie's Mailbox: How do I get sister to respect me?

Dear Annie: My sister “Justine” has invited me to go on vacation with her three times. The problem is, she consults with my other two sisters and their husbands to come up with the date and place without any input from me. She just phones with the information and expects an immediate reply. Given the short notice, my husband and I have not been able to go.

I don’t understand why Justine can’t give me a little more choice in the matter. Last time, she called on my cell phone and expected a “yes” or “no” answer while I was in the car. She had airline information up on her computer screen and was ready to book the flight. Annie, I have seven grandchildren that I help take care of. I needed to consult with my daughters and check my calendar at home.

I feel like an afterthought. Or maybe she doesn’t want me to go and is hoping that the short notice and lack of options will make me decline. I am the youngest of four sisters. We also have three brothers, who are never asked to go. Sometimes I think that might be less hurtful.

There have been other occasions when Justine has said derogatory things to me in front of others. I am so taken by surprise that I never have a good comeback. I don’t want to cause any family turmoil, but would like to be treated with some respect. How do I do that without causing hard feelings?

— Left Out

Dear Left Out: Justine is accustomed to bossing her baby sister around. Talk to her, as well as to your other sisters, and explain the vacation problem. Ask if they could please give you more options when selecting a date because you would love to go. And when Justine insults you, call her on it. You don’t have to be clever. Practice the phrase, “Why would you say such a hurtful thing?” and repeat as needed.

Dear Annie: My stepdaughter, “Hannah,” is getting married soon. The problem is, her mother is pushing Hannah to let her stepfather walk her halfway down the aisle. Her father will then walk her from there to the altar. My husband is devastated that when people turn around to see the bride, they will see her with the stepfather first.

What are the guidelines for such a situation? My heart breaks to see my husband try to deal with this without sharing his thoughts with Hannah.

— Sad on a Happy Day

Dear Sad: It is not uncommon for stepfathers to walk the bride partway down the aisle. It is how a bride can show gratitude to someone who helped raise her. And Dad still gets to take Hannah to the altar. Mom, however, should not be pressuring Hannah one way or the other, and neither should Dad. Brides are under enough stress. Support your husband by helping him accept Hannah’s decision, whatever it is, and by assuring him that it does not detract from his importance in his daughter’s life. We hope Hannah will tell him this, as well.

Dear Annie: I read the responses to “Still the Mom,” but I guess I’m in the minority. I wish I had never met my biological mother.

She was quite pretty but terribly vain, and believed a woman was defined by how many men she could attract. She was a gossip and a troublemaker with a sordid past, which took years for me to detach from my own identity. Despite it all, I tried to have a friendship with her, but she wasn’t interested. I was rejected all over again.

Worse, I was 18 when I found her, and my adopted mother blew a gasket. She thought I didn’t love her and made my life miserable.

— Not Always Greener

Dear Greener: Doing a search for a birth parent is always a risk because not every situation works out as anticipated. What is truly sad, however, is your adopted mother’s inability to be supportive when you needed her. We hope things are better now.

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