DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I have an uncle who always gets really drunk at Christmas at Grandma's house and says horrible things to his wife, my auntie, who I love a lot. She used to deal it back when she drank too, but she quit three years ago. I heard the terrible things he said to her last year -- some of them embarrassing and very vulgar. He's a big bully. I reported every ugly detail to my mother (her big sister) after the party last year. This year my mother says she will step in and cut him down to size and kick him right out, if necessary. I am very proud of my mother who is a tiger when she gets mad. But my dad is a wimp and he's asking her not to 'cause a problem and spoil Christmas.' I'm on my mom's side. How can I help her when my uncle brings a big bottle of whiskey and starts up, like he always does. -- Wearing My Big Boots, North Kildonan
Dear Boots: Make a plan with your mother and grandmother to get dinner happening much earlier this year. You mom should get there first, and quietly let the bullying uncle know, before he gets drinking hard that his bullying will not be tolerated by your family like it was last year, and you will all step in. That may be enough to shut him down. Meanwhile, you can secretly water down this uncle's booze bottle, and place protein snacks around him. Alcoholics will sometimes stop eating once they start drinking seriously, to get the buzz on faster and keep it on, but snacks are hard to resist. Your mom should tell her sister to get hold of the keys to the car, if her husband has them. She can pretend to get something she's "forgotten," and then never return them to him. Make a plan with your family -- even dear old dad -- to stand together when your mother tells Uncle to stop abusing her sister, and to "lay off the liquor or leave." Don't be afraid to call 911, if Uncle gets belligerent and scary. Be prepared ahead of time for one dramatic and perhaps difficult Christmas -- where somebody -- maybe even your own family -- will go home early and celebrate there. Cook a chicken at home before the party and have veggies ready to go, in case there's a fight and you have to leave early. Remember, it's not the end of the world if it takes one crazy Christmas for this annual bullying to come to a head and be stopped.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: My boyfriend and I have been together for over a year now and this is our second Christmas together. The trouble is his friends. There is one couple that we socialize with, and my boyfriend was recently best man in their wedding. I think the wife hates me, and quite frankly, I don't feel like spending time with them or giving her a Christmas gift. The wife has done some insensitive things towards me and hasn't made any attempts to befriend me, although I've invited her out on many occasions. I try, because if I don't, my boyfriend will lose his best friend, and I don't want that to happen. I think I've done my part in extending the olive branch. How much more should I do? And, how do I get a "friendly" feeling towards the wife? -- At The End Of My Branch, Winnipeg
Dear End of Branch: Step back! Don't go one step further on that branch for some woman who dislikes you. Re-direct your energies to other people and let your boyfriend give his Christmas gift from the two of you. Take this attitude: She clearly has bad taste in people and she's missing out on the fine person you are. Be open with your boyfriend about you and this lady not liking each other, and be OK and neutral about that fact. Don't fuss anymore. When you're forced to be with this couple, invite another couple or two along. Look, there are people who just don't like the sniff of other people -- shrug it off. Stop thinking your friendship with this unfriendly babe determines your man's friendship with his buddy. That's a fallacy. They will just do more guy stuff together.
Confidential to Grinch's Sister: You have been receiving money every Christmas through your sibling from a parent you don't speak to anymore -- and now that person has stopped ladling out the money to you. How is this money your due? I realize other siblings still get the annual money, but maybe your father got sick of giving it to the one he's not in contact with. There's no need to voluntarily cut yourself out of the will. It may have already happened. As for your brother and his suspiciously friendly behaviours lately, ask him directly why he's being so friendly now. If you think, as the money handler, he is stealing your portion of the money, see a lawyer.