Ask Amy: ‘Stepmonster’ from hell makes teen’s life tough

June 22, 2013

DEAR AMY: I am a 15-year-old girl.

My dad married Satan, and now I have the “stepmonster” from hell. She and my dad got into a fight last week, and she has ignored me for an entire week. When I try talking to her, she gives me the arctic shoulder.

I want to confront her about her behavior. She’s speaking to my dad now but acts like I don’t exist. So what am I supposed to do? -- Cheesed Off

DEAR CHEESED: I’m sorry you are having this experience at home. Frankly, I also feel sorry for your father and stepmonster from hell. Stepparenting is the most challenging form of parenting, and you sound like an angry (and possibly grieving) teenager.

All the same, it sounds like the adults in your household could (and should) behave differently. Much differently. For instance, I wish one of your parents had written to me for help. My take is that just underneath the tough outer shell you present there is a confused and tender teenager who really wants to live in a peaceful, happy household.

Unfortunately, I cannot help your stepmother to be more mature and a better parent. I suggest you interpret her “arctic shoulder” as more of a fearful reaction than an angry gesture toward you. For now, stop trying to confront her. Aim for a conversation instead, and ask your father to help you to have it.

You need some alone time with your dad, and your (new) family needs to have some positive experiences together to build upon. Getting through this rough patch could ultimately be one of those good experiences.

If you know you have done something specific to contribute to these problems, you should admit it. Find a way to express your hurt feelings that does not involve blame or name-calling. Write down your experiences and feelings, and consider using your writings as a guide when you’re talking.

Share this Q-and-A with your father and tell him I think your family could use outside help and mediation in order to blend successfully.

DEAR AMY: I am a man in my 50s. With too much time on my hands and a subscription to Ancestry.com, I started looking up the names of kids I went to high school and grade school with.

I found that a girl I haven’t seen since eighth grade will be married 40 years in a few weeks, a major accomplishment since she was married soon after graduating high school (she graduated a year early). She is 57.

Should I send a card with congratulations and a few news items about other kids from the class? I doubt I will ever see her again. My choices are: send a card or leave the past in the past? -- Too Nice in St. Paul

DEAR TOO NICE: Honestly, an anniversary card out of the blue does seem like a strange gesture, unless you also know the husband of this couple and include him in your well-wishing.

Facebook can be a great tool for connecting and catching up with people from your past; your high school graduating class may even have its own Facebook page. This way you can reach out to others and also be contacted by people looking to catch up with you.

I sense a wistful yearning here; this is extremely common at your stage of life, but tread carefully. In order to keep your connections positive you must not leap into the middle of other people’s relationships.

DEAR AMY: I am responding to the letter from “Toker,” the writer who described himself as “an old hippie” addicted to marijuana. He said he got laughed out of 12-step programs because people didn’t consider his addiction “real” or serious enough.

I had the exact same experience when I sought sobriety from my daily pot habit. It turns out that some 12-step programs are pretty cliquish. Fortunately, I found Marijuana Anonymous, which is oriented toward pot users. -- Also Addicted

DEAR ALSO: Dozens of people have responded with stories of being “laughed out of chairs” in recovery programs. I find this shocking but not surprising. Marijuana Anonymous (marijuana-anonymous.org) uses a 12-step model for recovery from pot.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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