Dear Annie: I wrote to you several months ago. I’m “Trapped by Parents.” I have a disability that has caused me to have great difficulty in both obtaining and retaining jobs. The resulting lack of income has forced me to live with my parents. My parents are obsessed with the idea that employment is the only answer. Yet many others have suggested that I apply for Social Security Disability Insurance. My parents have the key to the safe-deposit box with the needed documents and have been refusing to let me access it. I took your advice and quietly ordered my own copies through the relevant agencies. Meanwhile, I have applied for disability and will soon have a hearing. Should I be successful in obtaining it, do you have any suggestions about how to tell my parents? — Behind Their Backs
Dear Behind: The best prophet of the future is the past, and considering the way your parents held your documents hostage before, I think you’d be wise to keep your plans to yourself for the time being. You are an adult, and you do not have to disclose your every decision to your parents, especially when it would very likely create further tension and strife for everyone involved. It’s not dishonesty; it’s privacy. Perhaps you can be more open with them in the future, once you are settled and have established healthy boundaries. Best of luck with your hearing.
Dear Readers: Recently, I printed a letter from “Paulie,” who wonders why people sometimes say “I apologize” instead of “I’m sorry.” She thinks the former is less sincere than the latter. I told her that I was sure I’d hear from a lot of readers on this subject, and hear I did. The following are a few different takes on the topic.
LONGTIME TEACHER: As a schoolteacher for 28-plus years, I always tried to get children to own their responsibility in situations and “apologize” or say “I’m sorry.” And I reminded the person who was receiving the apology not to say “it’s OK” but instead to say “I appreciate your apology, but I’ll believe that you mean it when you change your actions.” Words are nice, but they’re meaningless unless the individual truly shows he or she is sorry by choosing not to repeat the offense.
JSH: I grew up in the rural South. The word “sorry” was sometimes used to reference someone who was considered lazy or unmotivated. For example, “a sorry, good-for-nothing slob.” So I was taught to use “I apologize” to make amends instead, as the word “sorry” carried a very different connotation that one should not use to describe his or her own character.
M. BROWN: “Sorry” is an adjective; “apologize” is a verb. Linguistically, verbs are stronger than adjectives, because verbs state actions and adjectives just modify nouns. So an act to “apologize” conveys a stronger position than feeling “sorry.”
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.