Dear Annie: My husband and I recently moved to the city where my husband’s family lives. One of his brothers has been married for two years. (It’s his third wife.) “Pete” is a likable guy who often arranges fun activities.
Pete moved into his wife’s house when they married. She had a teenage daughter, a dog and a cat. Pete got rid of all three. He is obsessive-compulsive and doesn’t like to clean up after pets and couldn’t tolerate his wife’s daughter. The girl now lives with her father, who isn’t a great parent, so she sometimes sleeps in the park. We don’t know what he did with the animals. Pete also made his wife sign over her house because she wasn’t paying her portion of the mortgage and bills.
Pete’s wife confides in me, and while she accepts everything he does, she is miserable. My husband and I feel guilty hanging out with Mr. Good Times when he is creating so much pain for his wife and stepdaughter. How do we continue accepting fun invites when we know he is such a control freak? I realize I can’t interfere in his marriage, but I don’t want him to think we condone his treatment of his wife and stepdaughter. The fact that Pete sees nothing wrong with his actions is disturbing. What can we do? — Worried Sister-in-Law
Dear Worried: Abusers often come across as charming guys. But we don’t know what’s really going on. The pets could be fine, the daughter might be OK if her biological father stepped up, and if Pete’s wife wasn’t paying the mortgage, having the house in his name may have been justified. However, all of these things together make Pete’s behavior questionable, if not pathological. If he is forcing these changes onto his wife and she feels trapped, please encourage her to call the Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org) at 800-799-SAFE. And speak up. Tell Pete you find his behavior disturbing.
Dear Annie: My sister and I are trying to plan a nice dinner for our parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. We would like to invite about 30 close family members and friends to a restaurant that our parents like, but footing the bill for everyone’s meal would be difficult. Would it be OK to add this sentence to the invitation: “We chose a restaurant that we think is affordable to all. Gifts are not required. Your presence will be gift enough.” Or do you have another suggestion? — Want To Do the Right Thing
Dear Want: In other words, you want the guests to pay for their own meals. That necessitates rephrasing the entire invitation because you are asking them to host themselves. Try this: “Please join us in taking our parents out to their favorite restaurant.”
Dear Annie: “A Guy in Virginia” asked whether it was OK to look at a woman’s tattoo. I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify sexual harassment. It has a very strict legal meaning at the federal and state level in order to regulate how people behave in the workplace. It has nothing to do with a guy checking out some woman in the grocery.
It’s sexual harassment if the person in authority says, “If you don’t sleep with me, I will fire you” – or not give you a raise, flunk you, etc. It’s sexual harassment if it creates a hostile work environment – a pattern of looking at pornography at work, making lewd comments or sexist jokes, or displaying suggestive calendars or photos. It is not sexual harassment to say, “I like your hair,” although a pattern of personal remarks that make someone uncomfortable would eventually constitute a hostile work environment.
It is not about what happens outside the workplace. So if you don’t want someone to stare at you, don’t wear revealing clothes, get a tattoo or wear pink hair. — BTDT in the Northeast
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.