DEAR AMY: I recently ended a six-month relationship with a girl who often drank to the point of blacking out and from time to time took recreational drugs.
While the warning signs were there from the beginning, there was also an amazing connection, and we shared some wonderful moments. She was truly great on many levels, but her off-the-rails behavior sort of terrified me. Looking back I feel like perhaps I was too harsh. I miss her a great deal. Did I make a mistake?
— Lonely in LA
DEAR LONELY: Each of us has his/her own personal threshold of what can be tolerated. If you are with someone whose behavior "sort of terrifies" you, then, yes, your choice to end the relationship and tolerate the attendant loneliness seems to me like an important act of self-preservation.
Furthermore, I think any relatively sober person would feel frightened and unsure to be with someone who drinks to the point of unconsciousness.
Alcoholics are like everybody else: sometimes amazing, loving, smart, charming, funny and compelling. Unfortunately, the fallout from addiction can be tremendous for loved ones. It is a depleting, depressing and lonely life to be with someone long term who engages in such dangerous behavior.
So, no, I don't think you made a mistake, not at all.
DEAR AMY: I have made a conscious choice to not have contact with my grandfather. He was a womanizer and mistreated his children. This isn't your typical serial cheater. He committed several exploitive acts toward women throughout his lifetime (the details are dark and unsettling).
The choices he made resulted in total alienation from my mother and me. I was only 17 when my mother passed away, and my grandfather's behavior at her funeral left an indelible impression. He hides behind a facade of charm, Christianity and good deeds.
I have a young child and understand his desire to be in our lives, but I don't want this. My daughter has four grandparents she is very close to. Recently, he inquired as to why I keep my distance. He also sent me a newspaper clipping pertaining to grandparents' rights.
When I received his letter, I felt bad, but it and the article felt like a form of emotional manipulation. I don't feel the desire to reconnect. I do, however, want to answer his letter. What would be an appropriate way to respond? How can I convey my decision and remain neutral?
DEAR UNSURE: I don't know if your grandfather's choice was deliberately manipulative, but I can certainly see how you would see it that way. The most neutral thing to do is to respond to his contact, saying, "I received your letter and newspaper clipping. If I choose to reconnect with you I'll certainly let you know."
DEAR AMY: I read your response to the "A Refined Palate," the man who couldn't stomach eating a friend's terrible cooking.
At last, someone had the courage to rein in a foodie. Thank you on behalf of all of us who are just regular cooks hoping to have friends over now and then.
I have been cowering in the corner as some of my erstwhile friends have become more and more "refined" to the point of being totally intolerant of ordinary home cooking.
They wax on and on about rarefied offerings at restaurants, and at home increasingly insist on particularities in water (always bottled), wine, miniature vegetables, artisanal breads, unsalted butter, flavored vinegars, flavored olive oils, baby lettuce — and that's even before you dare to offer a main course, which had better not be red meat. Yikes.
I have become so intimidated that I no longer invite people over for dinner, knowing it must be so special that it can't be comfortable. I'm now nervous of accepting dinner invitations, because I am indeed afraid of having to reciprocate and offend the tender sensibilities of people like Refined Palate.
When did fellowship, politeness and gratitude disappear in exchange for competitive dining?
— Marilyn in Illinois
DEAR MARILYN: You are one of a small handful of readers who agreed with my takedown of this oh-so-refined writer. I think I share your basic orientation. Thank you.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.