Dear Annie: When I married "Martha," a single mother, I joked about finally getting the son and daughter I've always wanted. About three years into our marriage, my "son" appeared in the form of a 30-year-old smoker who stinks from his cigarettes and whatever cologne he uses as a substitute for bathing.
Martha asked me to let "Mitchell" stay until he got back on his feet, and I assumed she meant a few months. We now are running a filthy flophouse so Mitchell can save on rent, buy gadgets for his motorcycle and feed his expensive nicotine addiction. He sleeps most of the day and parties at night, often bringing home some woman or other to share his bed. He is rude to everyone.
We subsidize Mitchell's never-ending cell phone calls, cigarettes, women and hobbies by giving him room and board. He does buy most of his own food, but I resent being his scullery maid and garbage man.
Now Martha wants to sell the house and move closer to her daughter. Meanwhile, I finally have a job I love and don't want to move. I know I owe Martha plenty, but lately, our marriage consists of eating in front of the television. To make things worse, Martha neglects her health, is badly overweight, has terrible halitosis from poor oral hygiene, and I have only a vague memory of sex.
Martha says Mitchell is moving in with his latest lover, but the move better come with a "no return" policy. Thanks for letting me vent. At Wits' End in North Carolina
Dear At Wits' End: Glad to lend an ear, but it doesn't seem enough. Please consider marriage counseling. You have mentioned several problems that need extensive and ongoing work. If Martha won't go with you for counseling, go without her. Your situation sounds depressing.
Dear Annie: I have never been one to deny anyone the right to smoke, as long as it doesn't interfere with my right to breathe. However, upon my return from a recent vacation at the beautiful beaches of Georgia, I'm prompted to ask smokers a question: What makes you think the world is your ashtray?
Why do so many smokers throw their lit cigarettes out of car windows or flick them onto the ground? Do they think someone walks behind them to clean up these little treasures? Do they think cigarette butts are biodegradable? (They are not.)
It's a crime to be in a beautiful spot like those beaches on Jekyll Island and come across cigarette butts in the sand. I would love to hear from your readers why they think it's acceptable to toss their butts away in this manner. Louisville, Ky.
Dear Louisville: Most smokers try very hard to be considerate of others and respectful toward the environment, but there are always a few who don't care or don't think. If we hear from any of them, we'll let you know.
Dear Annie: You have printed several letters from people complaining about the cost of gifts. One need not spend a lot of money to give a meaningful present.
One of the most precious wedding gifts I received was a jar with mementos from our wedding -- a piece of the monogrammed napkin, my husband's boutonniere, a flower from the bouquet, the cork from the champagne bottle. Another friend matted and framed our invitation. It still hangs on our wall.
My sister's favorite graduation gift was a handmade cookbook with recipes gathered from family and friends. Inexpensive photo frames become valued heirlooms when filled with a meaningful picture, and heartfelt letters are always appreciated. Have we forgotten it's the thought that counts? Anyone who complains that a gift was "cheap" lacks manners. Thankful in Texas
Dear Texas: Absolutely. And thank you for making some wonderful and thoughtful suggestions for those who want to give something truly special.
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