Dear Annie: I have lived with "Gene" for almost 15 years, although we are not married. When we first met, we each worked and had a normal life. We bought a great house in the country and had lots of family around. Then Gene was fired from his job for stealing. No charges were pressed, so he decided to retire and travel. He said I was welcome to join him or stay home.

I decided I loved him and nothing else mattered. We've been traveling in an RV and have had a good time, but I want stability. Gene has some good qualities — he does dishes, helps with laundry and can fix anything. The flip side: he doesn't pay his taxes, refuses to get his vehicle licensed, has no insurance, and often won't pay alimony to his ex-wife. He drinks every night and has a horrible temper.

If Gene asked me to marry him today, I could not. I don't want to hurt him, but I want more. Is that so bad? I believe I could have a much more meaningful life without him, but is that any reason to leave? — Really Lost in Arizona

Dear Arizona: Well, yes. You've matured, and Gene is stuck, trying to avoid the real world. If you stay in this situation, things are not likely to get better and you will become even less contented than you are now. You deserve to have a satisfying life, with a law-abiding citizen who shares your values and desires. Try couples counseling to see if a compromise can be reached. If not, it may be time to move on.

Dear Annie: Please help me with an embarrassing situation. At the age of 60, I've suddenly become a spitter. I cannot seem to converse without spraying my poor victim. My dentist says it must be the prescriptions I'm taking, but my doctor says that's not the case. Any thoughts? — Ocean Spray

Dear Ocean Spray: Did this problem start shortly after you began taking these medications? If so, your dentist could be right and you should ask your doctor if you can make a substitution. Also ask the doctor if the spitting might be related to a loss of muscle control or a sinus problem that is interfering with your breathing. At your next dental visit, ask if your bite is off or if there's a gap in your teeth that wasn't there before. If you wear dentures, they may need to be refitted.

Until then, now that you are aware of the problem, make an extra effort to speak more slowly, swallow more often and keep a handkerchief handy.

Dear Annie: I am a hairdresser at a neighborhood beauty salon. Yesterday, a woman came into the shop to get highlights and a haircut. This is a two-hour process. Unfortunately, she brought along her 6-year-old son, 4-year-old daughter and 3-week-old baby.

After five minutes, the two older children were bored and the baby was hungry. This is a very busy salon, and apparently, the woman assumed the other customers would amuse her two older children while she fed the infant. And she's doing that while I'm working on her hair!

This woman made her appointment two weeks in advance. Surely she could have found a baby sitter. Don't you find this rude? — Utterly Speechless in Connecticut

Dear Speechless: It's not only rude, it is dangerous for the children. Beauty operators work with a number of harsh chemicals, not to mention sharp scissors and hot dryers. Children should not be running around in salons, and holding an infant on your lap while the hairdresser is coloring your hair is the height of parental irresponsibility. We know it's not always easy to find a sitter, but when you can make an appointment weeks in advance, there's simply no excuse to bring the kids.


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailboxcomcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.