Annie's Mailbox for Jan. 18, 2011: My father's touching is annoying

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Dear Annie: My father has a habit of touching me when he talks. He'll tap my hand or leg, and he often touches my arm when it's unnecessary. I've told him many times that I don't like it, but he gets quite unhappy if I ask him to stop. He's done this since I was a kid, and I'm 33 now.

Once, when I was 13, he kept tapping his leg against mine under the table at an outdoor restaurant. I couldn't tolerate it and moved my leg away. My father flew into a rage, snarling and gritting his teeth and telling me I had a "disgusting habit."

I am going to my parents' house tomorrow and am not looking forward to it. I have to remember not to sit near Dad and to stand at least two feet away when he speaks to me. The problem is that while he's talking, he moves closer and then starts tapping me. It infuriates me that he won't stop no matter how many times I've asked him to.

Here's what I suspect: My father considers me his property. He wants to be able to put his hands on me the way one does with a pet. When I ask him to stop, he is insulted as if his property is being taken from him. I also suspect he taps me because he thinks I'm not listening and needs to keep my attention.

I avoid my parents as much as possible and don't speak to my father unless it is absolutely necessary. Do other readers have this problem?

— Son who is Wondering

Dear Son: It is common for parents to touch their children when speaking to them. In most instances, it is a sign of affection. We can understand, however, how constant tapping could be annoying, although your reaction seems out of proportion. If Dad is tapping your arm to keep your attention from drifting, you can work on getting him to stop, but it requires that you put a lid on your level of hostility. Try talking to him, saying that you love him but it makes you extremely uncomfortable to be touched constantly. Remind him gently when he starts up.

Dear Annie: What are your views on older women dating younger men? I am 56, and he is 36. He first asked me to marry him 10 years ago, but I broke it off, thinking I was doing him a favor. I then married someone else, hoping he would find someone his age. He did, but that marriage didn't last. Neither did mine.

Am I being selfish? Is there any possibility that we could be happy together? My family has given us their blessing, but his is another story. I love him enough to let him go if you think I should.

— Happy but Older

Dear Happy: The only question is whether or not he wants biological children. No marriage is a sure thing. Yours doesn't come with fewer guarantees than any other. Our best wishes and congratulations.

Dear Annie: This is in response to "Gagging in California," who can't stand being around people who smoke. She should be honest and forthright.

When our daughter was pregnant with her first child, she and her husband told us we'd be babysitting every other weekend. It never happened. I found out by chance that my son-in-law didn't want their child around us because we smoke.

Our son-in-law avoids our home whenever possible. I love my grandson, but we are closer to our other grandchild because we get to see him more often. Then my daughter complains that we are showing favoritism.

Had they spoken with us about this in the beginning, it still would have hurt, but at least we could have had an honest discussion. My husband and I thought we raised our children to behave like adults. Obviously not.

— San Bernardino, Calif.

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