Older sister struggles to describe family relationship
Dear Flummoxed: Self-deprecation can be a habit. It's a way of trying to beat someone else to the punch. And yes, parading your own self-loathing makes others uncomfortable.
Your response was polite and natural. You could also say, truthfully, "Well, I don't know how to respond to that."
If you know someone fairly well, you can respond by saying, "I wish you wouldn't talk about yourself that way."
Dear Amy: I was very disappointed by your answer to "Unsure," whose elderly mother was neglecting her hygiene and becoming forgetful. Instead of offering little suggestions about how to "respect" the older woman's so-called rights, you should have insisted that she get screened for Alzheimer's disease.
Dear Disappointed: "Unsure" was a dutiful and responsible daughter; she reported that she went to doctor's appointments with her mother. I took it as a given that the mother was receiving regular checkups and made an assumption that her physician would be screening her for dementia. Because yes, this is a definite possibility, and Unsure should make sure her mother is tested.
(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may send postal mail to Amy Dickinson, c/o Tribune Content Agency, 16650 Westgrove Drive, Suite 175, Addison, Texas, 75001. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.)