DEAR ABBY: I am fed up with my father's hoarding. Junk is piled everywhere, and our cat has twice gotten hurt in the piles. If there is a spare corner, junk is thrown in it. When I try to say anything, Dad gets defensive over his "stuff," and my mother defends his "pack rat" ways. She says they are his things, not mine.
I'm extremely embarrassed when friends, relatives or neighbors visit. I have offered to help clean, but he refuses to get rid of anything. What do you do when someone doesn't believe this is a problem?
- Embarrassed in Pennsylvania
DEAR EMBARRASSED: There is nothing you can say that will fix your father's problem because it's a psychological disorder. Even if he was willing to do something about his hoarding, it would take the assistance of a mental health professional and a support group to help him let go of his "stuff" because it would be like letting go of a part of himself.
If you're still living at home with your parents, all you can do is keep your own space as neat and organized as possible and not allow your father's problem to affect your self-esteem. Once you can afford to live on your own - move. After that, if your father's hoarding continues to the point it becomes a danger to your parents' health or a fire hazard, quietly notify the fire department or health department, which then may be able to intervene.
DEAR ABBY: I was diagnosed with breast cancer at a very young age and underwent a double mastectomy. Fortunately, I am cancer-free.
My husband was totally turned off by my appearance, and hasn't touched me sexually in many years. I have no desire to leave him, but I'm wondering how many other women have gone through the same thing. We have lost so much of ourselves, and when we need our husbands the most, they turn the other way!
- Anonymous in Wisconsin
DEAR ANONYMOUS: I strongly suspect that you're not the only woman this has happened to. We live in a society that has sexualized breasts to the point that it has caused many men to forget there are real people attached to them. While a life-threatening illness has caused some males to turn away, it has reminded other men what is really important in life. I am sorry your husband is one of the former.
I am throwing your question open to my readers. I am sure the responses it generates will be educational for everyone.