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What can we do to get our freeloading brother out into the world?

Dear Annie: I am one of six boys. We are all very different. My oldest brother, “Tanner,” just turned 20. He is more of an introvert, and we realize this, but he has done nothing with his life and shows no interest in doing so. He doesn’t have a job and refuses to look for one. He also hasn’t applied for college.

We’ve tried everything from coaxing and bribing to threatening, but nothing has worked. My parents are at their wits’ end. We’ve tried talking to him and asking why he has shown so little interest in anything and why he won’t even help with housework when he’s home all day. He just sits, stone-faced, and can’t provide a reason for being a freeloading slug.

I am out of high school and have a part-time job. My parents both work, and so does my 16-year-old brother. Please tell me what we can do to help get this kid out into the world. — End of the Rope

Dear End: Has your brother been screened for depression? Is there a possibility of drug or alcohol use? Any of these things could be contributing to his lethargy and lack of motivation. If he is simply freeloading, the easiest way to fix that is to make him support himself and be responsible for his own living arrangements. But he sounds depressed to us. Your parents can visit HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org for screening information.

Dear Annie: I had emergency gall bladder surgery last July. Thinking it was indigestion, I ignored the symptoms until the pain became severe.

Here’s what flummoxed me: While I was in the hospital, my husband called a close friend to let her know. She said she would be right over. I was in a lot of pain, had an oxygen tube in my nose and also was dozing off from the medication. She swooped in and immediately started grilling me, asking why I had oxygen, who did the surgery, and on and on. She kept asking more probing questions until she made me uncomfortable, as if I were wrong to have had the surgery in the first place.

I tried to change the subject, asking about the memorial service for a friend. My husband then made a stupid, flippant comment about open caskets, and my friend just exploded and ran out of the room. I haven’t heard from her since. We live in a small town, and whenever she sees me, she scuttles away.

I sent her a note to find out what caused this rift, but she ignored it. I think she’s ashamed of her behavior, and rightly so. I’m not interested in renewing the friendship, but I am still angry at how she treated me. I wish my husband had asked her to leave the hospital when she couldn’t stop criticizing my doctor. Should I try to speak with her? — Sadder but Wiser Behind the Redwood Curtain

Dear Sadder: There are people who react poorly when confronted with a friend who is ill. Some become so distressed that they lose control of their behavior. Others need to be in charge of your care and resent learning about it secondhand, becoming irrationally angry. You are not likely to get a satisfying explanation, and she doesn’t seem willing to admit how inappropriate her behavior was. Forgive her and then move on.

Dear Annie: I want to respond to “Frustrated in Louisville,” whose husband constantly interrupts her.

On several occasions, I’ve been asked a question, only to have someone else answer it or interrupt my answer. When this happens, I simply say, “It’s tough being a ventriloquist, but the best part is having your dummy speak for you.” After the usual laughter, the offending person learns not to do it again. Of course, this might not be the best response to a spouse. — Ventriloquist in Ohio

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. 

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar


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