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Annie's mailbox: Show pity toward vicious gossip

Also, tell potential employers in advance about bankruptcy

Dear Annie: Five years ago, we moved to a small town. Initially, it was hard to meet people, but then I found "Inez," who was organizing a women's group.

At first, things went swimmingly, but I noticed that Inez gossiped a lot about her friends and their children. I wondered if she was doing the same to me. When I foolishly confided that one of my children had ADHD, she excluded him from all group activities. She also flirted outrageously with my husband.

Last year, I discovered Inez had told these women some things about me that were untrue. I began avoiding her, but Inez asked what was wrong, so I told her the truth. I expected an apology, but instead, I got a verbal explosion. Since then, she has initiated a frightening campaign of lies, rumors and back-stabbing.

I have tried ignoring her, but she just keeps it up. Worse, some of these women believe her lies, giving me dirty looks and icy glares when I run into them. Another woman from the group who absolutely detests Inez has told me she is too scared to stand up to her.

Would a slander suit shut her down? How can I make her stop? — Perplexed

Dear Perplexed: The problem with a slander suit is that you must be able to prove, in court, that Inez said these things about you and that her comments caused you monetary loss. The threat of a lawsuit may be enough to get her to back off, but if it actually goes to court, and you lose, her vitriol will know no bounds.

Better to show withering pity for Inez. To the women you encounter, say, "I feel so sorry for Inez, poor thing. She is such an unhappy person." You will not be saying anything unkind, but you will be giving the impression that Inez is pathetic. Any vicious retaliation on her part will only reinforce that image.

Dear Annie: Last year, I filed bankruptcy because I went through a divorce, and the loss of a second income was an economic hardship. The bankruptcy already has been discharged, yet employers are reluctant to hire me. I have a college degree, great work experience and a neat appearance, yet I am constantly being passed over.

I have had several terrific interviews in the last few months, but then the employer does a background check into my credit and I get a rejection letter. I had to move back to my hometown after the bankruptcy to live with my parents, but I want to get out and earn my own money. I know I will be an asset to any employer, but what can I do to get them to see past my credit record? — The Unemployed

Dear Unemployed: You may be wrong about the reasons you are being rejected, but if you're convinced the bankruptcy is the problem, don't wait for that background check. Tell prospective employers up-front at the interview that you filed for bankruptcy due to your divorce and that you hope it won't influence the company's decision to hire you. Good luck.

Dear Annie: My daughter is graduating from nursing school in December, and my son is getting married in February. We are having a party for our daughter, and the reception for our son and his new wife will also be at our home.

Is there a tactful way to request that parents not bring young children? Some of our relatives have very unruly kids who have done some real household damage in the past. These same parents do not supervise their kids, so it's up to me to keep them away from the pool. Please help. — Hostess in California

Dear Hostess: Phone these parents and say, "We are so sorry we cannot accommodate little Susie and Jimmy at this party. We wanted to call so you would have plenty of time to find a baby-sitter."

Dear Annie: My father turns 80 this year, and my three siblings and I were thinking of giving him a birthday party. We are doing this mostly out of obligation, as none of us enjoys my father's company and hair-trigger temper.

My father lives four hours from me and even farther from my siblings. He has been married to my stepmother for 20 years, and we all adore her. My stepmother has a son, "Leo," who is married with children and lives close to my father and his wife.

I mentioned to my father that we would like to have Leo and his family at the birthday party, and Dad exploded. He said if Leo comes, he will not attend. He went on to say he hates Leo and never wants to see him again.

My stepmother told me that Dad has felt this way for many years. She admitted that it makes her nervous when Leo calls because just the mention of his name sends my father into a tirade.

Annie, my father has never been a reasonable man. He is selfish and angry, blaming everyone else for his bad decisions. I hate to see my stepmother suffer so much, even though I know it is her choice to stay with my father. I would rather not have this party because we are doing it only out of guilt. What do you say? — Disgusted in the Northeast

Dear Disgusted: If you choose to have this party, you do not have to include Leo. Your stepmother will understand. However, there is no reason you must celebrate this way. We vote to tell Dad the distance between all of you makes it too difficult to plan events. Take him out for a fancy dinner instead.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Concerned Neighbor in Pennsylvania," who thinks her neighbor, "Nancy," may be overdosing her elderly husband, "Tom," to keep him docile. If this is happening, it is abuse and needs to be reported. The neighbor can notify the local Area Agency on Aging so a Protective Service Investigation can be done. The number is in the phone book.

I am an employee of our local Area Agency on Aging and have been involved in many similar cases. Make no mistake, this is abuse. — Case Manager in Pennsylvania

Dear Case Manager: If Nancy is indeed withholding or overdosing Tom's medication, she needs to be reported, and we hope the neighbor is willing to make the call.


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.