Q. Overcoming a Phobia: I am 58 years old and in excellent health. I understand that good health is a gift for which one should be very grateful. My doctor wants to do blood tests. I was able to have blood drawn two years ago, but failed terribly last week. Unfortunately, I have an extreme fear of hypodermic needles. I would like your advice about methods to overcome this fear. As a child, my parents were in an occupation that allowed them to have veterinary equipment. They had hypodermic syringes suitable for treating cattle. Several times, my father used one them to traumatize me for the sole pleasure of seeing my terror. My mother never spoke out against this or other stuff. Sometimes she seemed amused as well. For the most part, I've sorted things out. Other than this one issue, I don't think that I have any psychological baggage. It is 2013. Things that happened in the ’60s really have no importance now. Giving them importance returns power to one's assailant. I've come to the point where I can receive an injection without trouble as long as I don't see the needle. But, bring those blood vials out, and it is 1964 and I am a terrified 8-year-old boy again. Do I just tough it out until I am successful?
A: I'm hoping that your father was only sadistic enough to make you watch him use this scary equipment, not that he was psychopathic enough to use it on you. I shudder at what went on during your childhood. Of course you have a good reason to be phobic about needles, but you have a clear understanding of the cause. I think you should explain to your doctor that you have a problem with blood draws and that you need to be able to lie down, close your eyes, and listen to music while the procedure is being done. Believe me, they will have dealt with other patients like you and they should be very sympathetic about making this procedure are painless as possible.
Q. Re: Bra dilemma: Come on, Prudie, this girl is not going to start wearing bras because her boyfriend's annoying mother tells her to. The mother needs to learn that other people's personal style is not under her control.
A: And the girl doesn't need to learn to dress appropriately for being a guest on someone else's vacation? I disagree that no older woman can say something helpful to a younger one. Sure, the girlfriend's style gets her a lot of attention, but as she makes her way in the world it's not going to be the helpful kind.
Q. Roommate Is Obsessed With My Interracial Romance: I moved into my dorm early because I am a student athlete; my roommate is also on my team. When I started putting up pictures, she deduced that my boyfriend is African-American while I am Caucasian. Since the discovery, she has made comments like, "My dad would shoot me and then him if I dated a black guy," and "I bet if you had kids they would be models." I know she's from a very conservative part of our state, so at first I tried to ignore her comments. But she seems taken with the novelty of an interracial couple—she asks me if I have crushes on various black celebrities—and it's starting to get on my last nerve. What's a nonconfrontational way to let her know she's crossed a line with me and, if we're going to live together peaceably for the next year, she needs to retreat back over it?
A: This is part of the out-of-classroom education that can make the college experience so valuable. You can say something like: "Jenna, you've made it clear that interracial romances are outside your comfort zone and exotic to you. But my boyfriend and I are just two people who love each other. I'm uncomfortable myself with your constant questions and comments about race. So please, let's put a lid on it. Thanks."
Q. Unhealthy Relationship: My fiancé and I have been together for three years. She comes from an abusive background and often acts out. Recently she has started hitting me and even spitting in my face when she is angry. I feel that because I didn't stop her the first time, that I have told her that this is acceptable behavior. I seriously considered calling the police after her last fit, which included removing my clothes from the closet and taking my house keys off my key ring. I want to leave BUT, she has a child. He was a few months old when we met and started dating. I'm the only other parent he has ever known. I feel like I need to stick it out for him. There is no chance of my getting custody, so he would be left with an explosive, unemployed and unbalanced mother. Should I stay or should I go?
A: You cannot stay and take it, especially not under the guise of protecting her son, because you will both end up being abused. This is another terrible situation in which there is nothing to do but call in the authorities. You can report her behavior to you to the police and concurrently call CPS. Even if this mother keeps custody of her child, she needs to come under the attention of a social worker.
Q. Invading Personal Space: How can I best handle my mother-in-law and sister-in-law who, whether visiting at my house or theirs, follow me everywhere I go? Literally the bathroom is my only refuge! Two recent examples—last night at a family dinner I got a spoon out of the drawer and turned around and bumped into SIL because she was on my heels; MIL followed me into my bedroom and sat in the corner while I changed the baby's dirty diaper; SIL followed me into my bedroom after I said I was going in there to change clothes. This is really becoming uncomfortable for me. Help!
A: It's possible mother-in-law and sister-in-law are actually your FBI handlers, and the dirty diaper may just be an NSA listening device. You have to get them to back off before they back you into another corner. If you're going to the bedroom to change, for example, and one of them is on your heels, just stop and say, "Did you want to talk to me privately about something?" I hope you get a "No," but if you get some kind of ambiguous answer then say, "Well, if there's nothing to discuss, please excuse me because I want to change in private," or, "It's easier to deal with the baby if someone else isn't in the room. So I'll see you back at the dining table." If that doesn't stop this, get more blunt: "Is there some reason you're always following me?"
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Correction, July 29, 2013: Due to a production error, Monday's article originally included the chat letters intended for Tuesday. Those letters will still be published tomorrow.