Dear Margo: I am the middle sister of three daughters. We’re all grown and have gone our separate ways, but our family keeps in touch via Facebook and a yearly family reunion. Year after year, something has been troubling me, and I don’t know how to address it. The youngest of us is outgoing and dominates all conversations. Though she can be the life of the party, her comments are most often ill-informed and, frankly, a lot of hot air. My older sister, however, is precisely the opposite. She is shy and contributes little to the conversation, preferring to listen, but when she does speak, it is always to offer correct and useful information.
I love both my lively sister and the shy one, but I’ve noticed that our father shows a preference for my younger sister while belittling my older one — telling her (no matter what she says) that she’s wrong, which is seldom the case. My sister takes this personally and then says nothing for the rest of the conversation, but later she will look up the information she mentioned and show it to Dad to prove she was right. He never apologizes and instead spends all his time praising the outgoing one.
He might favor my little sister because he, too, was the youngest child in his family. But it seems childish of him to act like that, and it hurts to see my older sister diminished. Recently, she has stopped participating in the online connections, and I’m afraid she may become estranged as the years go on. I try to make peace, but I’m not sure how to broach the subject. — Dealing with a Cordelia, in Connecticut
Dear Deal: Wow, wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age, does it? I actually think you need to have a talk with everyone involved. I would tell the lively sister that you think it would be in her interest to tone down her entertainer quotient and raise her accuracy level. (That can only be a plus in the outside world, as well.) You might mention that her hot air, I mean “opinions,” restrain the eldest sister and you fear the family will be splintered. I would tell your father his obvious favoritism is painful and punitive, in addition to not being fact-based. You might tell him, too, that you fear an estrangement if changes are not made. And I would tell your older, smart sister that you share her discomfort and hope she will not disconnect, if only for your sake. — Margo, interventionally
Too Cute by Half
Dear Margo: Several months ago, I hired a painter who convinced me to pay in full and then never finished the job. Initially, he gave all kinds of excuses (weather, injury, etc.), but now he doesn’t even return my calls. Yesterday I posted an item for sale on Craigslist and heard from a guy who will send me a cashier’s check. Would it be wrong to give him my painter’s name and address? It would cause trouble for the painter if he were dishonest enough to deposit the check. — Sometimes Karma Needs a Little Help
Dear Some: My, that’s an elaborate get-even plan. I had to read it twice to figure out what you had in mind. I would suggest you call the Better Business Bureau instead. Should you go through with what I consider a harebrained scheme, you could well be guilty of entrapment, not to mention using the U.S. mail system to commit a fraudulent act (a felony). If you want to cause the painter a little indigestion, leave a message that unless he finishes your job or returns your money, he can expect to see you in small-claims court. Sometimes angry people need a little time out. — Margo, rationally
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