Dear Amy: When I was 14 I came out as gay to my parents. We lived in a small town in the South.
I was beaten, kicked out of my home temporarily and forced into reparative therapy. I left home the day I turned 18 and, needless to say, at 27 years old my relationship with my parents is strained at best.
I have always gone home for major holidays and maintained contact with my family, but recently I have set new limits on our relationship. I have been with my partner for three years now and want to spend major holidays with him. They will not allow him to come to family events like Christmas and Thanksgiving.
I have now told my parents that I will have very little contact with them and will not be returning home until they can accept me for who I am. I have convinced them my homosexuality is not a conscious choice, but they still see me as "mentally ill" and also a sinner.
Why would I invite them to a wedding they don't think should be legally allowed to take place? Why would I allow them around my future children?
Am I wrong for setting these new limits? Have I stooped to their level by cutting off family members because I feel differently than they do? Should I be the bigger person?
— It Got Better
Dear It Got Better: Given your parents' mean, abusive and overall terrible parenting, being the bigger person isn't a very tall order.
Invite your folks to share your life on your terms — and let them struggle to make choices that up until now only you have been forced to make. If you marry your partner, invite them to attend. Then this issue really becomes one of them dealing with their own prejudices and anxieties.
Being inclusive sometimes means being kind toward people whose views are repugnant — but you should only do so if it is physically and emotionally safe for you.
I suggest this not because you owe your parents anything, but because you redress a little of the wrong done to you if you can move forward by behaving as you wish others would behave.
Dear Amy: I love all the major things about my girlfriend, but there's a minor thing that bugs me constantly: her table manners.
She eats with one arm resting beside her plate (I was taught to keep your arms off the table) and often uses her fingers instead of a knife. I know these are unimportant things compared to all that I like about her, but I wonder if she could change these habits.
She is a very defensive person and might take any suggestion as a criticism of her upbringing, which was lackadaisical and left her with more to worry about than bad table manners.
We're middle-aged people and I know this is probably more about me than it is about her, but I want to bring it up, hopefully in a subtle and positive way.
— Politely Pondering
Dear Pondering: Using one's fingers instead of a knife could be challenging when trying to slice through the beef Wellington this Christmas, but I think I get your drift.
Don't be subtle. Ask, "Can I mention something that bothers me? I don't like it when you rest your arm on the table or use your fingers instead of a knife."
That's it. Don't expound about how you were raised versus how she was raised. She may choose to tell you about a habit of yours which she doesn't like. Accept this graciously. If she gets overly defensive, then that is a far more serious bad habit than the way she holds her fork.
Dear Amy: "Miss Dialer" asked why people return cellphone calls from callers who have not left a message and whose numbers they cannot identify (i.e. "Someone from this number called my phone").
I am a landlord. Frequently people interested in renting call but don't leave a message. Returning these calls means I am contacting a potential renter.
Dear Landlord: I received a huge response to this question. Thank you for providing one explanation.