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Sister fears for young niece being raised in toxic home

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Jeanne Phillips

DEAR ABBY: After many years, my sister and I finally have a decent relationship. I feel I can tell her about almost anything.

My brother-in-law, "Aaron," is an alcoholic, and my sister enables him. When he drinks, his already quick temper becomes worse and he "knows everything." To make things worse, they have a 3-year-old child I'll call "Casey." It infuriates me when I see Aaron's crude, foul-mouthed, "omnipotent" behavior in front of Casey.

There have been times he has used my presence (because I babysit Casey) to drink to the point of impairment. When Casey has a tantrum or is overtired and acts her age, Aaron loses patience with her. He yells at her, slams things down in front of her and storms out of the room.

I'm well aware that children watch and learn behavior from their parents. Daughters will seek out boys, then men who behave like their father, thinking it is normal behavior. How do I approach my sister, who buys Aaron whiskey when he's feeling down, that there's a serious problem here?

My husband and I have a stable home and successfully raised five children. We would be willing to take in Casey until Aaron is truly well. My comments to my sister will be met with fury or maybe hatred, but I will do whatever is best for Casey. I love that little girl too much to see her raised in such a toxic environment. -- BETWEEN A DRUNK AND A HARD PLACE

DEAR BETWEEN: You say your sister slips her husband alcohol when he's down. To me that says he may be using it to self-medicate depression.

You do need to talk with your sister. When you do, explain you are concerned about Aaron's change of behavior when he drinks and the effect it has -- and will continue to have -- on little Casey. Aaron does need help, but so does your sister. Enabling someone, as well-intentioned as it may be, is not helping the person.

Aaron needs to talk to a doctor about his episodes of depression, and your sister could gain a great deal of insight by attending some Al-Anon meetings. You can find one nearby by visiting al-anon.org. Offer to go with her if she's reluctant.

DEAR ABBY: I am in an interracial relationship (I'm black, and she's white/Hispanic). We have been together for a year.

She has met just about all my family and all of my friends, but I have only met four people in her life. She has a lot of friends on social media, but no one knows about me. She never posts pictures of us or even hints anything about me. She is friends with her ex-boyfriend, and she knows about his girlfriend, but he has no clue about me. No one does. I feel like I'm her invisible man.

She comes from a "country" background, and I'm afraid she is embarrassed or ashamed of me. Am I reading too much into this, or should I be concerned that she may not be into me as much as I am into her? We were talking about getting married. -- INVISIBLE MAN IN TEXAS

DEAR INVISIBLE MAN: Something isn't right here. You say you "were" talking about getting married. Are you still talking about it? I find it peculiar that after being together for a year, you haven't met her family, you have met so few of her friends and she has posted nothing about you on social media. The time has come to ask her the reason and whether your romance may have run its course.

DEAR ABBY: When I was younger, I was engaged to a man I'll call "Jake." I was deeply in love with him, only to have my heart broken when he cheated on me, so I broke it off. A short time later, I developed feelings for his brother, "Jed." One thing led to another, and Jed and I are engaged to be married in two months.

When Jake found out I was dating Jed, he grew distant. I figured it was because he was in shock. Recently, he contacted me and invited me to dinner. Thinking it had to do with the wedding plans, I accepted. When we were getting ready to leave, Jake told me he still loved me and had made a terrible mistake. I had had a few drinks, and we ended up having a one-night stand.

I just found out I am pregnant, and I'm not sure if Jake is the father or Jed is. Honestly, I still love Jake, but he can't keep a job, and I don't think he could support me and a baby. What should I do? Should I keep my mouth shut and marry Jed, who has a good job and is faithful? -- BIG MESS IN THE SOUTH

DEAR BIG MESS: You would be doing a terrible disservice to Jed if you marry him while you "honestly" still love his brother. If you do, you will be in for a lifetime of guilt and frustration, and the chances are great that you and Jake won't be able to stay away from each other. While marriage under these circumstances may seem like an attractive solution for you economically, it doesn't take a crystal ball to predict it will be another disaster.

Instead of trying to take the easy way out, straighten your spine, fess up and do the right thing. A paternity test will determine which brother is the father of your child and the one who should support it.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 16-year-old girl and 6 feet tall. I have already been through the worst of my insecurities, and even though I now have some confidence, my height still bothers me. I've always been taller than my peers and blamed my social problems on my height. Someone mentions it every day, and where I work, every other customer comments on it, too.

I try not to be upset over something I can't change. I know people don't mean to be hurtful, but it makes me feel like I stand out too much. I also feel like I'm too big and too awkward for normal activities. My pants are never long enough, and my skirts are always too short. I have to adjust car seats and gym equipment to fit.

Worst of all, it's off-putting to boys. Most of them are shorter and cite it as the reason they aren't interested in me romantically. I know this might seem trivial, but it's my biggest insecurity and hard to overcome. Please help. -- TALL PROBLEM IN NEW MEXICO

DEAR PROBLEM: Many people consider height to be an advantage. You might, too, once you decide to own and take pride in it.

Regarding your difficulty in finding clothes that fit, do some research online and you will discover stores that cater to tall women and men.

I can't wave a magic wand and fix the insecurities of the young men in your community and neither can you. This is why I'm advising you to broaden your horizons and look further for romance because it isn't beyond your reach. A way to do that might be to develop an interest in basketball, a sport that attracts tall people.

When you're older, check into a group called Tall Clubs International. If you are 21 and over 5 feet, 10 inches, you qualify to join and meet other people who won't be put off at all by your height. You will find them by going to tall.org.