Annie’s mailbox: You don’t have to sit in silence

  • March 1, 2013

Q. I am 60 years old and have a cousin the same age. “Kevin’s” conversations are sexist, racist, immature and extremely self-centered. He mocks people who recycle and told me helping others is “a waste of time.” His takes on current events and politics sound like drunken barroom rants. I find myself walking away from him shell-shocked.

I know we are supposed to keep away from toxic people, but Kevin and I had many wonderful adventures together when we were young. We still have our past memories and a few subjects in common. But I’m afraid he is taking my silence during these rants for tacit approval. Does he need to be challenged? Am I being idealistic to think he might change, or should I just try to keep my distance? – Florida Cousin

A. Kevin may never change his narrow-minded views, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit in silence. If you don’t want to cut him out of your life, understand that he is going to say things that bother you, and it’s perfectly fine to tell him so. It doesn’t require confrontation. Simply say, “Kevin, I strongly disagree with you and don’t wish to discuss it further,” and then change the subject. If he persists, you have the option of ending the conversation altogether. In time, either Kevin will understand which subjects are off-limits, or you will be spending a lot less time in his company.

Q. I am the youngest of seven children and the only one who didn’t marry young. I am also the only one who attended college. I am graduating in May and mentioned to my parents that I hoped to have a small graduation party with family and close friends. One friend already offered to make my cake.

You can imagine my disappointment when my parents said it was silly to have a graduation party, and they’d rather spend money on a wedding whenever I get married. Annie, I wasn’t asking them to spend money. I just wanted to use the hospitality of their home because my college apartment is a few hours away. I’ve worked hard for my degree, and I’m hurt by their lack of excitement. I want to share my happiness. I don’t need gifts. Would it be against etiquette to throw myself a party? – Puzzled

A. It is OK to give yourself a party, but please don’t mention your graduation until after your guests arrive. You don’t want to give the impression of, “I’m so fantastic and accomplished – bring presents.” Simply say you want to have a party. You can then tell them during the event that you are celebrating your degree. Another option is to get together with your classmates and have a group celebration, whereby you are essentially giving a graduation party for one another.

Email questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254


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