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Section: behavior, children, family, marriage
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I have always maintained it's the thought that counts when it comes to gifts. In that light, I'd like to know what you think. Over the years, my husband, our children and I have received an odd selection of gifts from my in-laws. They are always used -- from their attic, a thrift shop or a fire sale, or otherwise recycled. We have laughed it off, decided that they are eccentric and disposed of the gifts. I can understand used books, clothing, jewelry and toys, but last Christmas, they went a bit too far. Our teenage son received an assortment of used aftershave -- complete with mildew on the bottles. He just laughed and tossed it in the trash. My husband and I, however, felt insulted. These people are financially well to-do. They see our children only when they visit on birthdays or Christmas. They stay through dinner and leave just before dessert is served. Then, we don't hear from them until the next major event. When we ask them to spend more time with the grandchildren, they make all kinds of excuses for why they can't manage it. After being rebuffed numerous times, our children have stopped asking about them. Ann, if it's "the thought that counts," what thought can there be behind such insulting gifts? I hesitate to ask them, because I do not want to hurt my husband, but I would appreciate your opinion. -- Daughter-in-Law in Englewood, Fla.

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Section: addictions, behavior, marriage, marriage
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I have been reading your column for a long time, hoping someone would write in about my problem, but it hasn't happened, so here I am. My husband is 52 years old. We have been married for 15 years. Although I was a willing and responsive partner, I realized early on he wasn't particularly interested in sex after the newness wore off. He said he would rather make the moves -- then didn't. Then I had to be the aggressor, or absolutely nothing would happen. A bigger problem, however, is his thumb sucking. It started about a year ago. When I enter the room, he will jerk his thumb out of his mouth. He does this while watching TV or after dinner when he reads the paper. I'm concerned because it seems to be getting worse with time. I find this very distressing, but there are many positives to our relationship. He is a hard worker and a wonderful grandfather, and he acts as if he loves me dearly. I am too tired for a major life change and too humiliated to discuss this with anyone but you. Please respond in print. -- No Name, No City

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Section: health-and-wellness, gender
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I feel compelled to respond to the letter from "M.J. in Sarasota," who decided to have a hysterectomy to make absolutely certain she would never get ovarian cancer. She still needs to be careful. I was diagnosed with fibroid tumors in 1988. Even though there was no family history of ovarian cancer, I decided not to take any chances and had a complete hysterectomy. Eight years later, I was shocked to discover I had Stage III ovarian cancer. Many women do not realize that malignant cells in the ovaries can spread through the surrounding tissue. Even if the ovaries are removed, ovarian cancer can still develop elsewhere. It is important to continue watching for signs of the disease. I am enclosing a list of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, and I hope you will print it for all the women in your reading audience. -- Shirley in Orlando, Fla.

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Section: relationships, mental-health, family, health-and-wellness
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
A few years ago, you printed a poem in your column. I do not remember the name of it, but some of the lines were: "Kisses aren't promises" and "Even sunshine burns if you get too much." I would dearly love to have another copy of that poem because it touched me deeply. I hope you can find it and print it again. -- L.B. in Cordova, Tenn.

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Section: manners, marriage, work
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I was invited to the wedding of a close friend last fall. Instead of giving my friend and her husband money, I commissioned a local artist to make a gift for the couple. The artist told me it would take about a month for the work to be completed. I wrote my friend a note apologizing for the delay and explained that I was having something special made for them. It has been three months, and the work is still not finished. I spoke to the artist, but he won't give me any answers. Should I give the couple a check, apologize again and tell the artist to forget it? Please tell me what to do. -- West Orange, N.J.

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Section: manners, money, relationships, addictions
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
What can I do, short of outright rudeness, to convince an in-law that I do not want her discarded clothes? I don't want her new clothes, either, because her taste is so different from mine. Unfortunately, nothing I say seems to make any difference. My daughters feel the same way about this woman's clothes. We are all short, small-boned, short-waisted ash blondes. Our "benefactress" is a tall, slim brunette who looks terrific in colors none of us can wear. She is also a shopaholic with an eye for what looks best on her and has plenty of money to spend. Even when she buys something new for one of us, it is in her style, not ours, the color looks hideous and the shape is all wrong. We end up wasting a lot of time returning things. I have tried to tell this relative tactfully that I don't want any more of her clothes, but she continues to bring over dresses, coats, blouses and so on. Some people would say this isn't anything I should complain about, but it's beginning to irritate me, and I'd appreciate your help. -- Perplexed in N.C.

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Section:
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
My boyfriend and I have been together for almost two years. Generally, we have a great relationship, except when it comes to his mother. She has started calling my house three or four times a night. (We do not live together.) Most of the time, she calls about nothing -- she heard a funny story about a neighbor, she saw something good on TV and so on. Whenever I visit my parents, she calls me at least twice to find out if "everything is OK." She also calls our friends to find out if my boyfriend and I are getting along. The phone calls aren't the only way she butts into our lives. She has questioned the amount of time we spend together and what my parents think about it. I tried planning a party for him, and she decided to take over the guest list, the menu and everything else. (I ended up canceling the whole thing.) She has made it clear that her son is not to move out of town, no matter how good an offer he gets, because the family must "stay together." Although I am a college graduate and earn $50,000 a year, she thinks I should go back to school and get a doctorate. Ann, I want a future with this man, but I don't want to end up with a mother-in-law who tries to run my life. Please advise. -- Mothered Out in Iowa

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Section: health-and-wellness, money, work, relationships
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I am a male escort working on my master's degree at a university in Washington, D.C. I take out women (usually my mother's age) and am well paid. There is no sex involved. These women simply need a decent-looking, well-dressed guy to take them to various social events at which they would feel ill at ease if not accompanied. Very few friends know about my "moonlighting," which is the way I want it. I have met some interesting, intelligent women in my work, most of them widowed or divorced. Three of these women would like to marry me. Marriage is out of the question. I am gay. Should I tell them? It would be easier than trying to make up reasons for my lack of interest. Yes or no, Ann? -- Mr. X in D.C.

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Section: relationships
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I've been going with a wristwatch salesman for 16 months. He takes me to the most expensive places, and last year for my birthday he gave me a beautiful watch. Something weird is going on, and I can't figure out what's at the bottom of it. His stenographer is overly interested in our personal business. She wants to know where we go, how much he spends and what we talk about. Last night, I'm sure I saw her following us in her car. The night before, she sat directly behind us at the movies. I asked my boyfriend to explain this. He said he didn't want it to "get around" because it'd be bad for business, but she's his first cousin. He claims she's very competent and he can't tell her off because she might quit. He asks that I be patient and overlook her odd behavior. What do you make of it? --Shadowed

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Section: mental-health, depression, family, children
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I must respond to the letter from "Sad Sister in N.C.," whose schizophrenic brother refused to take his medication. My heart goes out to her. In your response, you said those who refuse to take medication might have to be forced to have their condition monitored by a doctor. My son was struck with this illness at age 24. He was newly married, with his own business and a beautiful home -- and he lost it all. I was told he was an adult and I could not hospitalize him without his permission. He refused to get help because he didn't think he was sick. In desperation, I called the police and said my son had threatened me with bodily harm. They put him in a mental facility that did nothing but hold him for a few weeks and then let him go. After four long years, I filed a conservatorship for my son and turned him over to the state so he could receive the medical attention he needed. He was put in a state facility for six months, where he was taught about schizophrenia and the need for lifelong medication. I bless the doctors and nurses at that hospital for giving me back my son. The laws need to be changed to get these young adults the help they need. They are often not able to make this decision on their own. I hope your column will trigger a move in the right direction. -- San Marcos, Calif.

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"Keep in mind that the true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good."
-Ann Landers