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Thu, April 18

Dear Annie: Don’t break this cardinal rule of dinner conversation

Dear Annie: We have all been told to avoid discussions of politics and religion when dining out with friends, and for many years I found this easy to practice. But lately, it seems that many of my friends insist on talking about politics. Some are in favor of our current president, and some are opposed. The one thing they both have in common is that they are adamant that they are right and the other side is wrong!

Whenever I suggest we talk about something else, they want to know where I stand and insist that I agree with them. Frankly, I don’t have strong political opinions and just want to change the subject. But when I have said that, they always jump on me, saying that the issues are so important today and I must express agreement with their side. It is almost as if our friendship is at stake. Do you have any suggestions for how I should handle these political zealots from both sides of the political spectrum? — Peacemaker in Pittsburgh

Dear Peacemaker: Your intuition is so good — that taking sides in a political argument during dinner is fraught with danger. In his classic book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie pointed out that arguing during dinner is a lose-lose proposition. If you lose the argument, you lose; and if win the argument, your guest feels inferior and you lose again. There is a reason that we have been advised for many years — long before the current political controversies — to avoid discussions of politics and religion at dinner with friends.

Dear Annie: Several years ago, I suffered from severe back pain. I had sciatica that went from my lower back to my foot. I remember trying a hundred different treatments, including shots, and any relief was only temporary. Then a friend told me about Dr. John Sarno, a pain treatment specialist at New York University. I read his book “Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection,” and it changed my life!

After reading that book, I found more books by Dr. Sarno, as well as some lectures on DVD. I was never his patient; I never even met the man, but gradually — as I followed his treatment advice — my sciatica disappeared, and I have not had back pain since.

I am writing this letter now because I read that John Sarno died June 22 at the age of 93, and I hope you will print my letter as a message for any of your readers who are suffering from chronic pain. That includes headaches, back pain, sciatica, fibromyalgia and gastrointestinal problems.

The radio “shock jock” Howard Stern had terrible back pain until he saw Dr. Sarno. After Sarno’s death was announced, Stern said, “I suffered horribly from back pain for many years ... and he really saved my life.”

Plenty of other celebrities — including Anne Bancroft, Larry David and John Stossel — have said similar things about this great man. I am writing this to alert any of your readers who are in chronic pain to check out the works of Dr. John Sarno. His advice could change your life, too. — Grateful in Green Bay

Dear Grateful: Thank you for your inspiring letter. Dr. Sarno has many devoted fans like you, yet his treatment is still considered controversial by some in the medical establishment. He died one day before his 94th birthday and the release of a new documentary about him, called “All the Rage (Saved by Sarno).”

Send your questions for Annie Lane to To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


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