DEAR ABBY: I’m an artist and budding filmmaker with a B.A. degree. My problems are my job situation and where I live.
My dad has told me that — like him and his father — my brother and I share a similar problem. We all have trouble getting and keeping jobs. We never seem to get ahead or be content or comfortable. On my mother’s side, however, she, her father, her brother and my cousin all have held steady jobs. Why is that?
As an artist, I feel I don’t really fit into any job description. Mom would like me to work for the federal government like she does, but I don’t want to. I have had people let me down the past few years, and I have fought depression and personal attacks from friends and classmates who all told me to give up and get a “real” job. It makes me even more determined to realize my dream, but it’s getting harder. Can you advise me? — SWIMMING AGAINST THE CURRENT
DEAR SWIMMING: I’ll try. Most people work so they can have food on their table and a roof over their heads. Their jobs serve a purpose. I agree with your mother that you should have one — but I wouldn’t presume to dictate what kind.
For your father to imply that you will never get or be able to hold a permanent job is wrong and unfair to you, and I urge you not to fall into that kind of self-fulfilling rut. You can hold a job and pursue your art and filmmaking on your own time, although your success may take longer than you would otherwise like. Many others have done it, and so can you. For inspiration, talk to your mother’s side of the family. You share their genes, too.
DEAR ABBY: I live in a different state from the one where I grew up. Twice a week I call my elderly parents to touch base. While I enjoy speaking with Dad, my mother turns these calls into a trial.
Conversations with her are one-sided. She rarely asks me how I’m doing, and when I tell her things, she ignores or quickly glosses over my news and redirects the subject to herself. She rambles on about trivial events in her life, barely acknowledging me on the other end of the line.
Some days I am patient and tolerate it. On others, my fuse is shorter and I ask her to focus more on conversing with me, which offends her, and she accuses me of being rude.
I am an interesting, successful man who is frustrated my mother can’t connect with me more meaningfully. I don’t see my parents often and would like to be part of their lives. Mom is not by nature a generous person, but the telephone seems to magnify her self-absorption and lack of curiosity. Do you have any thoughts on how to handle her? — LISTENING BUT NOT HEARD
DEAR LISTENING: Yes. It appears that you are seeking validation from your mother that you may have never received from her. It’s regrettable, but at her stage of life, you are not going to change her. She may be rambling because few people are willing to tolerate her self-centeredness. On the days you are feeling more patient, let her ramble on; on those that you don’t feel that way, keep the conversation upbeat but brief.
DEAR ABBY: I have been married to my husband, “Stu,” for 27 years. His brother’s family continues to send invitations addressed only to Stu. When they call to invite us to anything and I answer, they ask to speak to him. He has asked them not to do that.
When RSVPing to the latest invitation to our niece’s graduation party — addressed only to my husband — I said that he would attend as he was the only one invited. I also asked if I had done something to offend anyone. I was told, “No, of course not,” and they were “sorry if there was a misunderstanding,” because the invite was for the whole family.
When we see each other, they are polite. I feel that pushing the point or not attending would reflect badly on me. What do you suggest? I am hurt by years of this treatment, and Stu is just as offended. — HAD ENOUGH IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
DEAR HAD ENOUGH: Either your brother-in-law and his family never learned how to properly address an invitation (i.e., “Mr. and Mrs.” or “and family”), or on some emotional level you were never accepted as a full-fledged family member. As I see it, you have two choices: Continue to attend these events as you have for the past 27 years, or both of you decline and tell them exactly why.
DEAR ABBY: My 17-year-old daughter, “Corey,” is in a two-year relationship with “Greg,” who’s 19 and in the Naval Academy at Annapolis. They have exchanged promise rings and agreed to make this long-distance relationship work. She went to visit him for Thanksgiving and he came home for Christmas. He also returned for spring break. He takes advantage of every opportunity to see Corey.
We live in California and Corey is a junior in high school. Prom is almost here, and Greg has told her he doesn’t want her to miss out on anything. I feel she should not go with anyone else — that it’s a sacrifice you make when you have a boyfriend. Well, she accepted an invitation from a guy “friend” and Greg said he was fine with it. I sent Greg a text message, and he repeated that sentiment.
I believe Greg was thinking she wouldn’t actually go to the prom and he was just trying to be nice, hoping she’d make the better decision. I am stressed that this may ruin her relationship and she’ll be devastated. What’s the etiquette? Is it OK for her to go to the prom with a friend, even if she has a boyfriend? — ONLY WANTS THE BEST FOR HER
DEAR ONLY: If your daughter cleared it with her boyfriend and he said he’s fine with it, then it’s all right for her to go to the prom. I’m more concerned that you took it upon yourself to text your daughter’s boyfriend to “double-check.” Greg appears to be a mature, confident and stable young man. If you’ll stop trying to run interference for your daughter and let the relationship continue to evolve naturally, the romance might actually pan out.
DEAR ABBY is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.