Dear Annie: As a faithful reader of your column, I'm hoping you can help me get the word out about something I have to deal with almost every day. I am a 49-year-old male married to a 37-year-old woman. It's my second marriage and her first. My wife and I are expecting a child this May.
What's my problem, you ask? It is the misconceptions that people seem to carry around with them. You see, my wife is black and I am white. Sometimes when people are introduced to my wife for the first time, you can see that they are taken aback. I even have received scowls from people I don't know when they see my wife and me holding hands in public.
It's the 21st century, people. Interracial marriages are happening every day. Stop assuming that because a person is white, black, purple or green that their spouses are of the same pigmentation. When I look at my wife, I don't see her skin color. I see the woman whom I dearly love and who is carrying my child. That's what other people should see, too. Thanks for letting me vent. Grateful in Illinois
Dear Grateful: Interracial couples are hardly unusual, but there are still areas where they are uncommon, hence the startled looks. That doesn't necessarily imply racism. The scowls, of course, are another story. Thank you for bringing enlightenment to those who need it and demonstrating that love knows no color.
Dear Annie: We have a neighbor in his 60s who has many health problems (according to him). We are 30-somethings with children, jobs and activities. "Mack" calls our house every day, numerous times. If we do not answer the phone, he waits 10 minutes and calls again. This goes on all day, every day.
Mack tells us the same things over and over, and if we remind him that we've heard it before, he gets angry. If we say we are busy, he just keeps droning away as if we never said a word. Mack's wife knows he calls us, and obviously she can't do anything about it, either.
We want to be good neighbors, and we are happy to help in time of need, but we have no desire to sit on the phone with Mack every day. We don't like ignoring the ringing phone, but if we don't answer, he calls until we do. If we answer, we have to listen to the same stories for 15 minutes, and he will still call again later.
We know Mack takes a ton of medicine and he usually sounds drunk, slurring and repeating himself. We also realize Alzheimer's is not out of the question, but are we expected to live like this from now on? Need a Break in Virginia
Dear Virginia: Being a good neighbor does not mean being abused or taken advantage of. And we'd bet Mrs. Mack is thrilled he is annoying you instead of her.
Here are your choices: You can change your phone number and make it unlisted. You can invest in an answering machine and let it screen all your calls. You can tell Mack after a few minutes that you are busy and must hang up -- then do it. Repeat as needed, even if it's 30 times a day. (Pretend he's a telemarketer.)
Dear Annie: This is in response to "Mrs. My Own Name." When I married, I asked my husband if he was going to change his name to mine, and he said, "No," so I chose not to change my name. I use the title "Ms.," along with my own last name.
When my husband and I receive an invitation, it is addressed to both of us using our first and last names. If we receive one addressed to "Mr. and Mrs.," with only my husband's last name, I find an opportunity to correct this with the sender, and that takes care of it. Happy with My Own Name in Virginia
Dear Happy: Good advice. Most people are more than happy to address you as you prefer, provided they know about it. So speak up.