Dear Annie: I have no friends and am not sure if I want any. Yet I read all the time about how important it is to have friends in your life.
I have a wonderful husband with whom I do lots of things, and we enjoy being together. I also have two marvelous daughters I see often, and sisters and in-laws with whom I share news, holidays and special events.
On the other hand, I have no nonrelated friends. I recently started a new job and haven't tried to fit in with the crowd there. I have not kept in touch with any of the people I knew at my old job. I don't belong to a church or club or organization, and I don't want to. Things I enjoy, like shopping, going to movies, taking long walks, bike-riding and traveling, I do on my own or with my husband.
Still, I am sometimes envious of people who have lots of friends and a large social circle. The telephone never rings for me, and I sometimes wish it would. No one outside my family would know or care if it was my birthday, or if I was sick and in the hospital.
So, Annie, my question is, is it OK not to have friends if you are otherwise content and at peace with your life? And if I am truly content, why am I writing to you? It's because I worry it means something is wrong with me. You will probably tell me to see a therapist. But before I do, please tell me if not having friends is in some way abnormal or unacceptable in today's society. Friendless in the Midwest
Dear Friendless: Honey, you do have friends -- your husband, your children, your sisters and in-laws. The fact that they are related is irrelevant. The reason friends are important is because they provide social contact and are a source of emotional support, and this is what your family gives you. Are you capable of cultivating a friendship if you actually wanted one? If so, you are perfectly normal.
Dear Annie: I've been invited to visit several friends in Florida this winter. Should I assume they mean for a week or just a few days? Also, should I offer to contribute to the food budget? I want to be a good guest.
These friends live in various areas of Florida. I wasn't planning to rent a car, but feel awkward asking for transportation to the "next stop." What's the right thing to do? E.
Dear E.: How considerate of you to ask. Each invitation is different. Some friends may want you for a weekend, others may expect you for a month. If the length of stay wasn't included with the invitation, it is perfectly OK to ask how long they are willing to have you. Bring a house gift. If you are staying for a weekend, treat them to a meal at a restaurant. If you are staying longer, make at least one trip to the grocery store and pay for the supplies. Explain that you will be going on to Tampa after your trip to Orlando, and could they please drop you at the train station or bus stop. If they offer to drive you, by all means, accept. And be sure to send a thank-you note when you get home.
Dear Annie: I enjoy reading your column and am writing regarding the counseling service contacts you provide for your readers.
Your readers also can find counselors through the American Counseling Association (ACA) at (800) 347-6647. Other providers are counseling clinics at local colleges and universities, which take anyone residing in their respective counties. Payment is based on a sliding scale according to income.
Please mention these professionals when recommending someone for counseling. Robert B. Mayhew, M.S., Ed.S, NCC
Dear Robert Mayhew: With pleasure. Thank you for your assistance.
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