DEAR ABBY: My 87-year-old mother is narcissistic, self-absorbed and extremely cruel. Her physician has consulted with my sister and me and verified these challenging traits. When she says something or acts out, she'll say, "I am who I am, so don't expect me to change."
How can my sister and I deal with the needs of an elderly parent who continues to verbally and emotionally mistreat us and others? My sister is beginning to react in a defensive, angry manner (rightfully so), and all I do is cry and feel guilty for wanting to get away from her. -- REACHED WIT'S END IN LOMA LINDA, CALIF.
DEAR REACHED WIT'S END: Because your mother is behaving the way she always has, her unpleasantness can't be blamed on old age. The next time she acts out and tells you, "I am who I am, so don't expect me to change," respond by saying: "That's right. You are who you are, but I don't have to subject myself to this. If it happens again, I'm out of here." Then follow through.
If that doesn't discourage her unpleasant behavior, consider hiring a social worker or licensed caregiver to see her needs are attended to. That's not abandonment; it's self-defense.
DEAR ABBY: I recently came out to my family as transgender (male to female). However, they still call me "gay." I have told them repeatedly that "transgender" and "gay" are not the same, but they won't listen. They accept and love me "as I am," and I'm grateful for that. But I need them to accept me -- the real me -- as I am in my heart.
I am biologically male and there are people in my life who don't care about that; they care about me as a human being and want to spend their lives with me. It hurts when my parents keep calling me "gay" and their "son." Please help me, Abby. My heart is hurting. -- GIRL NEEDING ADVICE
DEAR GIRL: Believe it or not, your parents may need as much or more help than you do. Although you have told them you are transgender, they do not appear to fully grasp that gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things.
A terrific educational resource for them would be PFLAG. It's an organization made up of parents, families, friends and straight allies united with gay, bisexual and transgender people. Part of their mission is education, and there are chapters in all 50 states. Contact them at www.pflag.org. Their literature will help your parents understand.
DEAR ABBY: I am a man in my 40s. My girlfriend and I have known each other for four years, but have grown much closer over the past few months. She's divorced with no kids.
I have asked her to stop going to a gym that she regularly visits. In the past, she had sex with a guy from there. He no longer goes there, but she craves that environment. She says she goes to keep in shape. I say she made a name for herself there, and requested she go to another gym. What do you think? -- JEFF IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR JEFF: "Made a name for herself"? That's an antiquated phrase I haven't heard in a while. Because you asked, I will offer a few thoughts:
The individual this lady had the fling with is long gone. I doubt at this point whether anyone at that gym cares or remembers. If the "atmosphere" has you worried, go with her, and I'm sure you will quickly realize that the members go there to tone up rather than hook up.
A word of advice: The harder you try to control your girlfriend the further you'll drive her away, so stop acting like a dumbbell.
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.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)