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11:29 AM Fri, Feb. 22nd

Annie's Mailbox

February 11, 2004

Dear Annie: I have lived with "Gene" for almost 15 years, although we are not married.

When we first met, we each worked and had a normal life.

We bought a great house in the country and had lots of family around.

Then Gene was fired from his job for stealing.

No charges were pressed, so he decided to retire and travel.

He said I was welcome to join him or stay home.

I decided I loved him and nothing else mattered.

We've been traveling in an RV and have had a good time, but I want stability.

Gene has some good qualities — he does dishes, helps with laundry and can fix anything.

The flip side: he doesn't pay his taxes, refuses to get his vehicle licensed, has no insurance, and often won't pay alimony to his ex-wife.

He drinks every night and has a horrible temper.

If Gene asked me to marry him today, I could not.

I don't want to hurt him, but I want more.

Is that so bad? I believe I could have a much more meaningful life without him, but is that any reason to leave? — Really Lost in Arizona

Dear Arizona: Well, yes.

You've matured, and Gene is stuck, trying to avoid the real world.

If you stay in this situation, things are not likely to get better and you will become even less contented than you are now.

You deserve to have a satisfying life, with a law-abiding citizen who shares your values and desires.

Try couples counseling to see if a compromise can be reached.

If not, it may be time to move on.

Dear Annie: Please help me with an embarrassing situation.

At the age of 60, I've suddenly become a spitter.

I cannot seem to converse without spraying my poor victim.

My dentist says it must be the prescriptions I'm taking, but my doctor says that's not the case.

Any thoughts? — Ocean Spray

Dear Ocean Spray: Did this problem start shortly after you began taking these medications? If so, your dentist could be right and you should ask your doctor if you can make a substitution.

Also ask the doctor if the spitting might be related to a loss of muscle control or a sinus problem that is interfering with your breathing.

At your next dental visit, ask if your bite is off or if there's a gap in your teeth that wasn't there before.

If you wear dentures, they may need to be refitted.

Until then, now that you are aware of the problem, make an extra effort to speak more slowly, swallow more often and keep a handkerchief handy.

Dear Annie: I am a hairdresser at a neighborhood beauty salon.

Yesterday, a woman came into the shop to get highlights and a haircut.

This is a two-hour process.

Unfortunately, she brought along her 6-year-old son, 4-year-old daughter and 3-week-old baby.

After five minutes, the two older children were bored and the baby was hungry.

This is a very busy salon, and apparently, the woman assumed the other customers would amuse her two older children while she fed the infant.

And she's doing that while I'm working on her hair!

This woman made her appointment two weeks in advance.

Surely she could have found a baby sitter.

Don't you find this rude? — Utterly Speechless in Connecticut

Dear Speechless: It's not only rude, it is dangerous for the children.

Beauty operators work with a number of harsh chemicals, not to mention sharp scissors and hot dryers.

Children should not be running around in salons, and holding an infant on your lap while the hairdresser is coloring your hair is the height of parental irresponsibility.

We know it's not always easy to find a sitter, but when you can make an appointment weeks in advance, there's simply no excuse to bring the kids.

February 12, 2004

Dear Annie: I have been married to "Justin" for 10 years, and we have four wonderful children.

We live in a beautiful home and have a terrific life.

However, Justin is very controlling and jealous to the point where I am going crazy.

When I tell him how I feel, he says I obviously need medication.

Justin has taken over our money because he says I'm using up his paycheck and he has nothing to show for it.

I am not a spendthrift, but I do buy clothes and school supplies for the children, not to mention the occasional item for myself.

Justin won't pay those bills until we have a fight.

Then he will "allow" me to pay them.

We argue over this every month.

I took a summer job to help out financially.

I made good money, but Justin was so jealous, he accused me of meeting men on my lunch breaks.

He even came to my work place, just to be sure.

If Justin knows I have $10 in my pocket, he will make sure I spend it before he pulls out his own wallet, which invariably has at least $100 in it.

He will say, "I'd rather not break a $20." Consequently, I rarely have any cash on me and am always going to the bank or asking Justin for a few dollars.

Justin tells me that any woman would love to be in my shoes, to have a man take such good care of her.

I love Justin, but I can't take much more of this.

He is unwilling to go for counseling and makes me feel as if I'm off my rocker.

Annie, other than this, Justin is wonderful.

He's attentive, a good father and a very hard worker.

Please help me.

— Losing My Mind in Georgia

Dear Georgia: Read your letter again and then ask yourself how "wonderful" Justin really is.

He sounds emotionally abusive to us, and there is the potential for him to become plenty worse.

He is diminishing your ability to be independent and blaming you for it.

Red lights are flashing everywhere.

You must figure out a way to stay financially autonomous in case things deteriorate.

Talk to a therapist about your situation, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) for suggestions.

Please don't wait.

Dear Annie: You recently printed several comments in response to a letter about the value of pornography.

I read with amusement the response from "New Mexico," who lent his oh-so-brilliant insight by stating that women were "stupid" and "a vex on humanity" and he much preferred porn.

What this scholar seems to forget is that he was born from a "stupid" female.

If it weren't for his mother, we would never have had the privilege of reading the rubbish he submitted.

On another note, you have to feel a little sorry that the guy's life is so pathetic he has to blame an entire gender.

— Florida Female

Dear Female: Quite a few readers were up in arms over "New Mexico" and his little tirade against women.

Some were personally offended and said we shouldn't have printed his comments at all.

We think the readers have a right to see the wide variety of opinions we receive, since they reflect the thoughts of people we might not otherwise encounter — and ought to be aware of.

Dear Annie: What is the proper etiquette after a music recital? Should the student present the teacher with flowers? — Panama, Okla.

Dear Panama: Flowers are appropriate, although not mandatory, for both the teacher and the student.

The student may receive flowers from family members or personal guests attending.

The teacher can receive flowers from the student.

If there are several students playing at the same recital, it is a lovely gesture to present the teacher with a single bouquet from the entire group at the end of the recital.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.

Please write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O.

Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.