Dear Annie: I’m 23 and work at an office at a medical university. I got out of therapy about a month ago and returned to my job, feeling better than ever.
I’m taking antidepressants, and they’ve been working well.
My co-workers are friendly, generous people, and we get along.
The problem is that I have nothing in common with any of them.
They are all women who are substantially older than I am and married with children.
The general chitchat is totally out of my range of interests. This is OK during the regular workday, but when I’m invited to join them for lunch, I never want to go.
Sometimes they insist and I agree, but I never have a good time. I rarely have anything to say, and when I do, I must struggle to make myself heard.
And if I manage to speak, they stare at me. Even their sense of humor is different.
My work and school schedules give me neither the time nor the money for more therapy.
I’ve tried to find other friends, but most of them are school friends, so they are free when I’m busy and vice versa.
What should I do?
— Sad Outcast in El Paso
Dear El Paso: The art of making friends is simply learning to make someone else feel special. You do this by being a good listener, making eye contact and asking her to talk about herself.
Lunchtime conversation doesn’t need to be scintillating, nor does your participation require more than a smile and a nod. Your mere presence is a sign of friendliness.
You also could see if steering the conversation toward books, movies, TV, music or art will give you more common ground.
Please don’t give up.
Dear Annie: My husband and I are victims of a “home invasion.”
My 60-year-old sister, one of 13 siblings, recently arrived at our house, unannounced, with her roommate and her large dog. (We have a cat.)
They said they are touring the country visiting relatives and have no idea how long they will be staying. My sister and I have never been close, and I seldom see her.
Her dog is terrorizing my cat, and she insists he be fed from a piece of our good china.
As I speak, she is washing her sixth load of clothes in three days.
When we go out to eat, they never offer to pick up a portion of the check, and when we’re at home, they never clean up.
Our guest room is a mess, and we want them gone.
I love my family, but how do we get rid of these freeloaders?
Should we warn the next victims of this world tour or mind our own business?
— Sleepless in St. Augustine, Fla.
Dear Florida: When your sister showed up at your door, it would have been reasonable to ask how long she planned to stay.
So ask her now, making it clear that you’ve enjoyed her company, but you need a break from the noise and mess, and it’s time for her to visit someone else.
And by all means, warn the next stop on the tour.
Dear Annie: I’m writing about “Worried Mom in the Midwest,” whose 16-year-old was not interested in grades above D’s and C’s.
I had the same problem with my son. He didn’t listen to all my begging and pleading, so I saw a psychologist, and then my son went with me.
First, absolutely no driver’s permit until the grades were above a B. If the grades came down, the car could not be driven until the next report card came out.
I had the counselor deliver this ultimatum, and we drew up a contract.
He just finished his junior year and is on the honor roll and can’t wait to go to college.
Expect them to behave, take away the things that mean the most, and show them you are the boss.
— Didn’t Back Down in Florida
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.