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5:30 PM Mon, Nov. 12th

Dear Annie: Left out of the group

Dear Annie: My elder brother, his girlfriend and I have always been very close. Let’s call them “Ryan” and “Beth.”

We used to text and call one another often and even hang out a lot. But a few months ago, I introduced my friend “Donna” to Beth. And for the past few months, they’ve been hanging out more and more. Now they are the ones who hang out and talk a lot, leaving me out of the picture. Ryan and Beth always tell me that I’m still their best friend and that Donna isn’t even really that close to them. They say she has been so rude and hurt them so much.

I just don’t understand why I’ve been left out after they promised I would be their best friend or why I’ve been replaced with someone who has supposedly been mean and rude to them — and someone who was my friend to begin with. — Feeling Replaced

Dear Feeling Replaced: I gather you’re in high school, because that’s when most people experience something like this. Your best friend suddenly finds a better friend; or two friends start dating, and you go from third amigo to third wheel; or you get to your crew’s lunch table and find there’s not a seat for you; or, perhaps more apt these days, you find out a new group text has been made, and you’re not included.

Though the experience is pretty much universal, I know that doesn’t make it any less lonely to go through.

But you need to stop worrying so much about Donna, Beth and Ryan. Focus instead on expanding your horizons by making new friends. The bigger your world the smaller your problems will seem. And by the way, Ryan isn’t going anywhere. He’ll always be your big brother, a built-in best friend.

Dear Annie: I was interested to read the comments from the woman who volunteered for a crisis hotline. She said, “If you want independent children, help them to learn to solve their own problems.” I agree, but now there is an umbilical cord that reaches from Mom to her adult children all around the world. It’s called a cellphone.

Had an argument with your spouse? Call Mom. Hard day at work? Call Mom. Feeling sick at 11 p.m.? Call Mom. It never ends. Problems that, for the adult children, end up being solved in a day or two must worry moms indefinitely. I feel sorry for them. We have independent sons, but even so, our cellphone is off except when we need it. — A Free Mom

Dear Free Mom: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a child’s talking to his or her mother after a hard day, no matter whether the child is 15 or 50. It’s only if this relationship becomes codependent that it’s regressive and unhealthy. But I do hope your letter inspires some other parents out there to turn their phones off and not feel guilty for needing space.

Additionally, I agree that routinely venting to your parents about marital problems is unwise, not just because it might make them resent your spouse but also because it prevents you from talking out those problems with the person you should be talking to: your spouse.

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