Dear Amy: I’m an involved aunt. I travel three hours, each way, to stay involved in my adult sister’s children’s lives.
I work two jobs, am heavily involved in my community, spend time with my aging parents who live in a different state, but often take PTO to ensure that I’m an active aunt. I truly love that role.
I can’t remember the last time my sister, alone or with her family, traveled to see me.
She finally did travel to my city but chose a time in which she knew I’d be away (I was spending the holiday with our aging parents).
When I suggest dates to visit me, the 9-year-old niece always has a sports obligation (she’s involved in three sports.)
I’ve mentioned that spending time with family should be important, but sports always take precedence. Maybe sports are a convenient excuse?
I feel like she could make it happen if it was a priority. While I want to stay involved, and I want to be involved as much as I can, this arrangement feels off-balance and my efforts aren’t reciprocated.
Always Shows Up
Dear Always: You can try to communicate with your sister about this, but — speaking as a very involved aunt, myself — your sister will likely never reciprocate, even if you have children.
My overall point is that you and your sister have different wants and needs, and different ways of being in a family.
Being an aunt/uncle is a true joy, if you’re oriented that way (and you obviously are). As the kids grow, you will have the opportunity to forge fun and special bonds with them.
But a child involved in three sports will always have a conflict. I don’t see this as an excuse so much as a flaw in our youth sports programs and how they fail families.
In my view, you should actively engage your sister more in ways to stay connected and helpful to your parents.
Dear Amy: How should I address an email or letter to someone I don’t know well who uses “they” as a pronoun? My specific problem is determining how to appropriately address my business emails and letters without assuming excessive familiarity, since I may not know all of the recipients well.
I continue to use “Dear Ms. Surname” and “Dear Mr. Surname” as my default for people who identify as she/her and he/him.
Only today did I realize that I am completely at a loss as to how to be equally considerate of people who identify as they/them. Thank you for your guidance.
Dear Stumped: I love your question!
Remember when “Ms.” was all the rage? As in inciting all the rage? Well, Ms. now seems slightly stodgy.
A gender-neutral form of address that has emerged (to replace Ms. and Mr. and Sir/Madam) is “Mx.” I like it! It’s got that edgy: “Sorry, I can’t talk right now because I’m out wakeboarding” vibe.
(There are other honorifics to choose from, including the always-elegant “M.”)
If you know the person’s name but don’t know them well enough to simply address them by their first name, you can use both first and last names: “Dear Stacy Glockenspiel…”
When you receive an email reply, the person’s preference of address will likely be noted in their signature line. Many people lately also note their gender-address preference (they/them, she/her, he/him, etc.).
For first-time contact with a department, you can address your email: Dear Hiring Manager, or Dear Human Resources Rep, or Dear Friendly Recruiter.
I’ve heard of some people using the salutation: “Dear Gentleperson.” Using this might take some extra confidence on your part. It has a certain Jane Austen flair, with a touch of whimsy — but I like it.
Dear Amy: Regarding your inadequate suggestions to “Sad and Alone,” whose father had recently died:
After my sons died, Christmas lost everything that had made it fun and meaningful. Then one year my daughter, some friends and I collected gloves, hats, blankets and wool socks, and went downtown where there were people living on the street.
The first year we brought 100 hamburgers. Last year we had 300 burritos in a big cooler on a dolly.
Then we just wandered around chatting with people, prayed for a few people, offered people what we had. Since then, that has been our Christmas. The warmth, fellowship, camaraderie with fellow citizens … wouldn’t trade it for any gift in the world.
Dear Carol: You are a true Christmas Carol, and I thank you.
You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.