KATHY MITCHELL AND MARCY SUGAR \ Annie's Mailbox 'Lena' cannot accept new responsibilities
Dear Annie: Three months ago, our son married a 34-year-old girl, "Lena." Lena is obsessively attached to her family and is not being a wife to our son. She has refused to consummate the marriage, although she wanted a big wedding and professed to love him.
Lena drives to her parents' house every day on her way to work and eats breakfast with them. She stops back for lunch. She usually goes there on the weekends as well and talks to her mother constantly on the phone. She even showers and does her laundry at her parents' home.
It seems to me that Lena cannot accept the fact that she is married and has new responsibilities. She has cooked only three meals in three months. My son buys all the groceries and has cooked all the other meals.
Lena seems desperately enmeshed with her family, and they are allowing her dependency to continue. She suffers from numerous fears and anxieties. She refuses to be alone in our son's house and is never there to greet him when he comes home from work. Our son is no longer the fun, outgoing person he used to be. He is dreadfully sad. We see little hope for this marriage, but he continues to believe that somehow Lena will change.
Our son doesn't want to confront his wife. I doubt counseling will remedy these deep-rooted problems. What should we do to help? Desperate Parents
Dear Parents: We know how hard it is to see your child unhappy. We also assume your son is confiding in you because you know a great many intimate details about his marriage. Nonetheless, you need to step aside. The best thing you can do for your son is urge him to seek counseling, with or without Lena, and decide if the marriage can be improved, and if not, what the best course of action would be. Whatever he chooses, please be supportive without judging his situation or his wife.
Dear Annie: As a Catholic, I have been baffled by the handshaking that goes on during Mass. I always have found it unhygienic to shake hands with others, and then with those same hands receive communion.
However, since the flu season is upon us, our church has suggested that instead of shaking hands, parishioners wish their neighbors peace verbally. I'm hoping and urging the Catholic Church to adopt this new idea permanently. It's much safer and healthier. Trying To Be a Good Neighbor on the East Coast
Dear East Coast: Hands transmit a tremendous number of germs, although the act of shaking someone's hand provides a sense of community and bonding that a verbal expression cannot match. Parishioners who are concerned about getting sick this way should take up the matter with their parish priest.
Dear Annie: My fiance and I are planning the guest list for our wedding. We both come from huge families, and the list is already quite large. We are in our 30s, and many of our friends already are married with young children.
We would like to limit the children to immediate family only. Please suggest a tactful way to notify the other guests that children are not allowed. Also, I am not interested in hiring a baby sitter. A Fretful Fiancee
Dear Fiancee: If the children's names are not on the invitation, it means they are not invited. Those who indicate they wish to bring their children anyway should be told, "Sorry, but we are limiting children to the immediate family only." You might want to reconsider hiring a baby sitter, however, if you are interested in accommodating parents who absolutely cannot leave their children elsewhere.