DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: My sister and I have been conflicted about our parents for a long time. Throughout our childhood our dad used to beat us and our older brother. We vividly remember him coming into our room at night and strangling us and screaming in our faces because we were talking. I was around four at the time and my sister was six. Our mother did nothing about it and sometimes even watched! These days she remembers it as trying to "diffuse" the situations.
They think they were model parents and even encourage me to punish my one-year-old the same way they punished us. They talk down to us and my dad has given me an inappropriate racist nickname. He smacks us around the back of our heads as he walks by (we're in our 20s now).
My mother has never praised us for any of our accomplishments and calls us failures because we didn't go to college. She has always been competitive with my sister and me; for example, borrowing our clothes and saying she looks better in them. This has caused us to have very low self-esteem as adults.
Our parents also encouraged us to smoke from young ages (14 and 16). We have recently quit smoking, but our mother mocks us. We can't stand their attitudes and I don't want my daughter to be their next victim. We've been thinking about cutting them out of our lives and we'd like your unbiased opinion. -- My Sister's Sick and I'm Tired, Winnipeg
Dear Sister: You and your siblings can walk right out of this cage for good. Your presence now is voluntary. You are adults and have the choice to spend time with your abusive parents or get away. You also have your own child to think about. Do you want your child to see your parents continuing to assault and humiliate you, calling you racist names and hitting you?
Consider the geographic cure -- simply moving far enough away the abusive parents can't afford the ticket -- and you take back your life. You will decide if you ever want to see them or not back here in Manitoba. Your children should never see these grandparents alone and you have to make sure that your kids don't learn by watching what your parents do to you.
Don't continue to allow the abuse. Hitting you on the head or anywhere else is assault, so inform your father you will call the police and charge him if it ever happens again. Calling you and your sister "failures" is mental abuse. Don't let these physical and mental beatings continue, and don't tell yourself that leaving town is "running away." When you leave a place where bad things happen, you are liberating yourself and any children you might have.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: At work I am seeing dishonest things going on, and people are covering for each other. If I tell on them, they will know who did it; then I will be in a worse situation. I could quit and go back to my old job any time, but it would be for less money. I feel sick and awful seeing this happen. What should I do? -- Scaredy Cat, Selkirk
Dear Scaredy Cat: No amount of money is worth feeling dread on the way to work and the whole day feeling upset. The cumulative stress can make you ill. Call your old place of work and ask the boss if they could give you a raise if you came back. Don't go crawling back, whatever you do. Also look for new possibilities where you could make a better wage. There is no point in staying where you are -- nothing good can come from it. When you leave you may want to spill the beans to the boss, or at least lay out some hints so he or she can "discover" the dishonest dealings.
Please send your questions or comments c/o email@example.com or mail letters to Miss Lonelyhearts c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6