DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I started working on my ancestry on my dad's side -- no problem. But, when I started on my 80-year-old mother's side, she clammed up and tried to stop me. She started crying when I asked her questions about her family tree, and I thought she was crying because she missed her folks. Ha! It turns my mother is really a bigot, which disappoints me. She isn't white enough for her liking, and neither am I, I guess. Her grandfather was a black gentleman from the States, which I find very interesting and not at all off-putting (explains my curly hair). Now, she's embarrassed because she passed for white all her life and wanted it kept that way. Who the heck cares in this day and age? She wants me to quit but I want to go on? Do I owe her that "respect" as she calls it? Frankly, I'd like to meet any American family we might have. -- Curiouser and Curiouser, North Kildonan
Dear Curiouser: You're an adult, probably in your 50s, so continue your ancestral hunt, but don't pass on each new piece of information to your mother as it comes, and stop asking her for stories. You can get juicy family information elsewhere. There are many other sources in families, particularly the aunts and uncles who aren't so conservative, and their sons and daughters who heard the stories coming down. Some of those people might balk at talking, or they might not know anything, but the odd person will turn on like a tap and not turn it off until you're ready to quit listening. Bring a tape recorder. If you come up with something exciting -- like you're related to the Obamas -- Mama might want to hear it after all.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: Last night I witnessed my mom slapping my father across the face. He just stood there and took it. Then my mother went upstairs to her room, and started crying. My father went out to the car and took off, gunning the motor. An hour later he came home and went to his room. About 20 minutes later my mother came down the hall and went into his room and shut the door. I went into my closet and plastered my ear against the wall. All I could make out was a bunch of low talk and then my mother saying clearly, "And if you ever see that woman again. I will leave you and take our daughter." I'm 16 and my world is falling apart! Should I talk to my mother? Would that be enough to split them right apart, knowing I already know? I'm their only child. By the way, they've had separate bedrooms for two years now, but she visits and I've heard them having sex. -- Nervous and Scared, South End
Dear Scared: Because your mom knew you were in the house when she slapped your dad, she took a chance you'd hear or see. Go ahead and speak up. If a breakup is about to happen, you're not the cause of it, even if you ask about what you saw. The problems are between your mother and father, not caused by you. Don't think, "If I had behaved better or had done this or that differently, they'd still be happy." That's simply wrong, because it's their adult romantic relationship that's in a mess, not the family relationship involving you. You're probably the bright part. If they split up. you will still have parent-child relationships with both of them. Your school counsellors can also help you cope with fallout from the confrontation.