Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: Still Trying in Pennsylvania

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: My wife's family lives in Indiana. We usually visit once a year and stay with my in-laws.

Recently, "Dora" had some dental work done, and she will have to wear braces as well as another appliance behind her front teeth for a while. It's sometimes hard to understand her when she speaks, and this makes her extremely insecure.

When we arrived at my in-laws', her father started making fun of the way Dora talks. One night he cooked steaks and kept going on and on about how good they tasted, knowing Dora could not eat steak. Then Dora's sister came over with her children. My wife and her sister have never gotten along and hadn't spoken in two years. Nevertheless, Dora told her sister that she really appreciated seeing the kids. All of a sudden, her sister started making fun of Dora's speech. My wife snapped, and we left the house.

When we went back to get our belongings, her dad refused to apologize and said that if this is the way it was going to be, we should consider him dead to her. We stayed in a hotel that night. Dora was so upset that we flew home three days early.

Annie, how do we handle future visits? Should we just stay away? We would like to be able to write them out of our lives, but we really love the children and want to see them again. -- A.K. in Arizona

Dear A.K.: Your wife is overly sensitive and her family members are ruthless. The combination has escalated beyond common sense. Dora is going to have continuous speech problems until the dental appliances are removed. Her condition may be embarrassing, but it's temporary, and it would serve her well to develop a thicker hide when she's teased. Since her father and sister are idiots, however, we recommend avoiding visits until she can speak clearly again.

Dear Annie: I have been a smoker for 30 years. I have tried to quit so many times, I've lost count. I've tried gum, patches, meds, support groups and cold turkey. Once, I made it to 61 days, and it was a struggle all the way. Some days it wasn't worth getting up if I couldn't have a cigarette. Doctors, and TV and magazine ads say, "Just quit." Well, for me and thousands of others, it isn't that easy.

I'm going to keep working at it, but I want to let nonsmokers know we are not bad people, and we don't smoke to make your life hell. We smoke because we are physically and emotionally addicted to that shot of nicotine. -- Still Trying in Pennsylvania


Dear Still Trying: We admire your efforts to quit, but it often takes more than willpower. Many programs offer methods of alternative coping strategies so you don't reach for a cigarette out of habit or when you are under stress. If you haven't already, please try SmokEnders ( at (1-800-828-HELP (1-800-828-4357), or We'll be rooting for you.

Dear Annie: "Mixed Feelings in North Carolina" has a very valid concern about her husband's decision to reenlist. I am 53 and in Iraq. When I reenlisted during the Gulf War, I was in a slump at work, with no real future. Some of us go into the service and never really get it out of our systems.

The real point is this: If his wife cannot face his leaving for a year or more, she should say so now. And if she stops him from going, she should be ready to live with his resentment for years to come. I would almost guarantee that her husband will be deployed, so they both have to decide how much they are willing to sacrifice.

"Dear John" letters are as popular today as they were 30-odd years ago, and they are just as painful. My wife is wonderfully supportive. She'll tell me when she has a bad day, but she never tries to make me feel guilty. -- S.F.C.

Dear S.F.C.: Your wife is one of the smart ones -- she has learned to accept what she cannot change, which allows her to cope better. Thanks for writing.


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2016. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




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