Grown son resentful at being put on spot by his selfish parents
DEAR ANNIE: Whenever I’m at my parents’ house and they have guests, they expect me to “perform.” I don’t mean playing the piano or tap dancing. I mean they insist I “tell them that story you told me.” Any story they select.
I feel I’m being treated as some kind of circus freak. This makes me very uncomfortable, and they know it because I’ve told them. They always promise not to do it again, but then they always do.
They can be incredibly selfish. My mother doesn’t want me to speak at family dinners, and lets my siblings bulldoze over everyone. I hated this when I was a kid and still do. Now, whenever she tells people, “Tell them what you told me,” I will say, “I think that story isn’t appropriate for now, if you know what I mean.”
Am I being unreasonable? Did I also mention that my parents interrogate me about my job and then tell me I’m doing it all wrong? We have fights about what I wear to work. The last time, they told me to wear a shirt and tie to a job where I get my hands dirty. And they did it in front of my extended family. What do I do?
— New Jersey Son
Dear New Jersey: You learn to accept your parents as they are, and then set boundaries that will allow you to be less upset.
Your folks apparently think you are a terrific storyteller, but you do not have to oblige. When they ask you to relate something, it’s fine to say, “Not right now,” and then change the subject. A useful skill is to do so while being polite, even smiling. Never lose your temper. Repeat as often as necessary and take your leave if they won’t let up. Save your conversation for friends who appreciate it instead of siblings who talk over everyone. Some parents are notorious for criticizing their children’s choices in everything. Most children figure out how to evaluate what has merit and then ignore the rest, nodding politely instead of arguing. We suggest you practice.