Woman feels urgent need to constantly please her mother, refilling plastic bottles is not a health hazard

Published 10:46 pm Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dear Annie: Can you please tell me why a successful, loving, 54-year-old woman cannot seem to get past her 86-year-old mother’s ongoing insults?

My mother talks about overweight people in every conversation (I am overweight). She won’t come to visit unless I have parties for the entire family (about 20 people) and invite them to my pool.

I used to have the family over often, but I now prefer quiet, one-on-one time with friends and family. Mom has come within 10 minutes of my house to visit other people. When I’ve asked why she didn’t stop in, she tells me to “have a party” if I want to see her. My solution is to visit her once every two weeks.

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I am one of four siblings, and Mom makes it clear that the eldest is her favorite. My mother doesn’t respect me for who I am. She only wants me to be someone she can control. Mom has given all of us a lot of money over the years, but there are always strings attached. If I don’t do things her way, she lets me know.

Why does it bother me so much at this age? Why do I need to feel accepted by her? Why does my mother have such a hold on me? — The Other Daughter

Dear Daughter: Because she’s your mother, and you’ve been trying to gain her love and approval your entire life. Withholding those things is what gives her control over you. Your mother may not be capable of changing her attitude, but you can change yours. Please consider talking to a therapist who will help you work on your unhealthy emotional responses to Mom’s behavior.

Dear Annie: I just heard that you should never refill a plastic water bottle or sports drink bottle because the used bottles release toxins. Is there any truth to this, or is it just an urban legend? — K.W., Lincoln, Neb.

Dear K.W.: Reusing plastic bottles is fine — as long as the bottles are properly cleaned in hot, soapy water, and air-dried thoroughly. The FDA has found no evidence that toxins are released by reuse. The main concern is the development of bacteria, either from improper cleaning or from sharing the bottles.

Dear Annie: Please publish this as a public service for all charitable groups that accept donations of used goods.

I am a minister at a large church in a resort area. We have many well-to-do members, but also a large segment that is just barely getting by. We have devoted a room of the parish hall as a place where people can come and get free clothing and shoes. The problem is that some people use it as the local dump.

Twice in the last week I have arrived to find a pile of broken furniture and dishes and other assorted items that are damaged beyond use. Most of the clothing is completely worn out, with stains and holes. My custodian spent over an hour throwing this trash into our Dumpster. Unfortunately, we had more garbage than space and had to pay $80 for an extra pickup. I understand from other ministers and charities around the area that this is a constant problem. One fellow told me that trash pickup is his third largest expense.

Please remind your readers, when donating items, to bring only things that are in usable, good condition. Our clients may be poor, but they have pride and do not want to wear worn-out clothes or sit on rundown furniture. They already have enough. — Running a Church, Not a Dump

Dear Running a Church: Too many people think the less fortunate would be happy with anything, or that somehow they have a talent for repairing broken appliances and mending torn clothing. We hope readers will take a good look at their gifts to make sure they are in usable condition. Thanks for the reminder.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.