Dear Annie: One of our darling granddaughters started to pull out her eyelashes at around age 9. We expressed our concern to our son. Shortly after, we were told that our granddaughter was seeing a counselor to address this behavior. We were so relieved when she stopped. But about a year later, she started again. Now her 9-year-old brother is pulling hair out of his head. He has a bald spot about two inches in diameter.
Our son and his wife have education degrees. The marriage and family appear OK. The kids seem happy, and they do well in school. I recently brought up the counseling to our son, but he said, “We tried that.” He indicated that the kids will stop on their own.
Is stress causing this? How involved should we get? Right now, we feel like it’s the elephant in the room.
-- Blue-Collar Grandparents
Dear Grandparents: Trichotillomania is a disorder that results in compulsive hair pulling. It is currently considered to be a “body-focused repetitive behavior.” There also may be a genetic predisposition, which would explain why both of your grandchildren suffer from it. Sometimes stress, anxiety or fatigue can trigger the hair pulling, but not always.
Doctors do not know the underlying cause but believe it may develop due to a combination of genetic, hormonal, emotional and environmental factors. Appropriate treatment involves cognitive behavioral therapy, sometimes in combination with medication, hypnosis and relaxation techniques. Your son and his wife may already be taking the necessary steps, but either way, you can get more information through the Trichotillomania Learning Center at trich.org.
Dear Annie: I recently learned that a friend’s son died from a heart attack. He was relatively young. I was both saddened and shocked.
I was more despondent that my friend and his current (third) wife did not attend his son’s funeral. They live in another state, but still. It was his son. We’ve been friends for more than 50 years, but it makes me realize he wouldn’t bother attending my funeral, either.
Annie, should I dissolve our friendship? Should I tell him how shocked and disappointed I am? Or should I simply overlook it?
-- Sensitive, Caring Person
Dear Sensitive: While not attending his son’s funeral seems callous, is it possible that your friend has health issues that prevented him from traveling? Might he and his son have been estranged and his presence at the funeral unwelcome? You can let him know that you were surprised he didn’t attend the funeral, but he is under no obligation to satisfy your curiosity. Limiting the friendship because you believe he no longer cares enough about you is a legitimate concern, but cutting off a 50-year friendship because he might not attend your funeral is excessive. How your friend treats you while you are alive is what counts.
Dear Annie: This is in response to those individuals who invite family, friends and neighbors to their home for dinner and then feel slighted because the invitation is not reciprocated.
Many years ago, when invited to someone’s home, I did return the invitation. But it always made me nervous to entertain. I’d lose sleep, worry about what to serve, wonder whether I’d have enough food or whether my dinner would turn out well. I finally decided that it just was not worth the anxiety to keep having people over.
I will occasionally host an informal gathering at my home, nothing fancy. Thank goodness I have friends who know that entertaining makes me anxious. They still invite me to their homes and ask me to bring a salad, a dessert or a bottle of wine. Some of us just aren’t meant to host parties.
-- I’m Not