Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus Tokyo Olympics The Article Core Values iPad Weather Story ideas Archive Puzzles Obits Newsletters

OPINION | DEAR ABBY: Errant expression leads to yearslong misunderstanding

by Abigail Van Buren | July 15, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

Dear Abby: I have always suffered from what I now know is social anxiety. At large family functions, I’m extremely nervous and miserable so, sometimes I have had a sour expression on my face (although I didn’t realize it). At a gathering years ago, I inadvertently gave what appeared to be a dirty look to the in-law of a family member. I didn’t mean to be rude.

Since then, this person has made a sarcastic remark about me on a family video, and another time as I was walking out of a family member’s home, they made a gesture behind my back.

I regret what happened and beat myself up over it. However, I feel this person has more than made up for it by their actions. I’ll be required to see this person for years to come. Apologizing is not an option, as the two of us now have a seething dislike for each other. Do I have a right to give myself a break for this? — Anxiety Sufferer

Dear Anxiety Sufferer: If someone was offended by a “look” they perceived, they should have approached you and asked what it was when it happened. Surely other of your relatives know about your discomfort being in groups and could have explained to the person that the expression on your face wasn’t directed at them. Regardless of how you feel about this individual, because you are going to encounter the person with some regularity, it would be in your interest to quit stewing, make the “gesture” (not obscene!) and straighten this out.

Dear Abby: My son and daughter-in-law are good parents to their son, a toddler, and expect another child in six months. They live in an apartment and would like to rent a home.

The problem is they have six cats and a python. Most rental houses don’t allow pets — most certainly not this brood. They have made clear that they will not sacrifice their pets for a place to live. I am very concerned about that many cats and a python cohabitating with a toddler and soon an infant. Please help me reinforce that while it is OK to have a pet, they are not thinking or acting responsibly as parents. — Very Concerned Granny

Dear Granny: Have you talked to your son and DIL about your concerns? If you haven’t, you should. According to the Mayo Clinic, exposure to cat feces could cause a disease called toxoplasmosis, which can be passed by a pregnant woman to her unborn child.

Many communities have zoning ordinances that dictate what kind and the number of pets people are allowed to keep on their property. When your son and his wife rent a house, they will be expected to abide by those regulations.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren,also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles,CA 90069 or visit


Sponsor Content