Dear Abby: I accidentally gave dirty look to relative who now hates me

The face was showing anxiety, not anger, but the person with the sour expression has been ridiculed about it ever since.

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DEAR ABBY: I have always suffered from what I now know is social anxiety disorder. When I have to attend a large family function, I’m extremely nervous and miserable. As a result, sometimes I have had a sour expression on my face (although I didn’t realize it). At a gathering several years ago, I guess I inadvertently gave what appeared to be a dirty look to the in-law of a family member. I didn’t mean to be rude, but I was extremely nervous.

Since then, this person has made a sarcastic remark about me on a family video, and another time as I was walking out of a family member’s home, they made a face or gesture behind my back. (I realized it later because I was wondering why the person I was saying goodbye to looked past me at them and laughed.)

I regret what happened and constantly replay the event and beat myself up over it. However, I feel this person has more than made up for it by their actions. I’ll be required to see this person for years to come. Apologizing is not an option, as the two of us now have a seething dislike for each other. Do I have a right to give myself a break for this? — ANXIETY SUFFERER

DEAR ANXIETY SUFFERER: If someone was offended by a “look” they perceived, they should have approached you and asked what it was about when it happened. Surely other of your relatives know about your discomfort being in groups and could have explained to the person that the expression on your face wasn’t directed at them. Regardless of how you feel about this individual, because you are going to encounter the person with some regularity, it would be in your interest to quit stewing, make the “gesture” (not obscene!) and straighten this out.

DEAR ABBY: My son and daughter-in-law are sweet, kind and loving people. They are good parents to their son, an adorable toddler, and expect another child in six months. They live in an apartment and would like to rent a home to accommodate their growing family.

The problem is they have six cats and a python. Most rental houses don’t allow pets — most certainly not this brood. They have made clear that they will not sacrifice their pets for a place to live. I am very concerned about that many cats and a python cohabitating with a toddler and soon an infant. Please help me reinforce that while it is OK to have a pet, they are not thinking or acting responsibly as parents. — VERY CONCERNED GRANNY

DEAR GRANNY: Have you talked to your son and DIL about your concerns? If you haven’t, you should. According to the Mayo Clinic, exposure to cat feces could cause a disease called toxoplasmosis, which can be passed by a pregnant woman to her unborn child. (Look online for further information.)

In addition, many communities have zoning ordinances that dictate what kind and the number of pets people are allowed to keep on their property. When your son and his wife rent a house, they will be expected to abide by those regulations, or they will be in violation of their lease and subject to eviction.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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