DEAR ANNIE: My father has a bunch of serious medical problems. We've never been close. Dad was a heavy drinker and always yelled at me. He was extremely rude, critical, sarcastic and angry all the time, for no reason. Once, he threw me out of a slow-moving car. I've attempted suicide three times, and Dad refused to visit me in the hospital. I'm still angry about this. I suspect he could pass away soon, and I would like to have some meaningful dialogues before that happens. I also have a terrible secret I'd like to tell him before he dies. Since his health problems started, Dad has changed for the better, but we still rarely talk to each other. How do I begin to tell him my secret? -- Scared Son in Florida
DEAR SCARED SON: Since you and Dad have such a hard time communicating, it might help to bring in a third party to facilitate the initial conversation -- perhaps an understanding relative, mutual friend or clergyperson. You can always start by telling him you care about him and worry about his health. However, we have to wonder why you are so desperate to tell him a "terrible secret." It doesn't sound as if you seek his counsel on the matter, only that you are trying to unburden yourself at his expense. Examine your motives. If telling Dad will bring him some peace of mind and make your relationship better, go ahead. Otherwise, please discuss your secret with someone who can be of assistance or support.
DEAR ANNIE: I am a 17-year-old junior in high school and get invited to various parties. One girl, "Sarah," likes to show R-rated movies. Annie, I am extremely uncomfortable with the content of these movies, but Sarah says she's doing me a favor by making me watch them. The synopses of some of these films make me physically ill. I now avoid Sarah's parties (and sometimes Sarah) so I won't be pressured. I refuse to lower my standards, but I am tired of Sarah jumping down my throat about it. How do I get her to respect my choices? -- Need Suggestions
DEAR NEED: Every crowd has one person who enjoys tormenting those who are easily flustered. Just because you are old enough to watch R-rated films doesn't mean you have to. Instead of becoming upset with Sarah's shenanigans, try being completely bored. Sigh and say, "Thanks for your interest in my education." Smile. Walk away. She'll tire of it eventually.
To write to Annie's Mailbox, send to c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.