Auntie Dote is HBI's answer to the usual, treacly, self-help advice columnists.

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Ask Auntie Dote
The Auntie Dote for what ails you...
From: Tamaritha
Subject: AUNTIEDOTE: How do I cut off relationships?

Dear Auntie Dote,

I admit that I am nowhere near being a Heartless Bitch. I've dragged myself like a doormat through various interpersonal relationships (har har har), got myself an anxiety disorder and depression and was put on pills, failed a bunch of subjects at university, so I'm looking at another two years to complete my degree. Oh how I hate my combined law degree and the bourgeoisie latte-sippers clacking on their laptops while sprouting elitist bullshit, and I dread going into a profession where I am forced to treat them as my colleagues or superiors, but that's a different story.

Maybe not. Maybe your choice of career path and developing depression and an anxiety disorder (!) are related. It could be that when you entered university, you entered for the first time a high-pressure arena of adult expectations, and for some reason or bunch of reasons, you didn't feel prepared to handle it, so you balked. Balking, i.e. dumping not just a class or a relationship but EVERYTHING that you've chosen to take on, is your way of telling you (and, screaming at those around you) that....something is too much here. It's the old saying, you can lead a horse to water. Your gut seems to be telling you: uh uh. Now, instead of balking and setting yourself up for failures that will be hard to recover from later in life, it would be much better to change your environment and figure out what you NEED to be doing. You need to succeed at something, doesn't matter how small, and seek what you need to do so. It wouldn't hurt to work on your social networks of support, whether that's sympathetic friends or family (I doubt you have much going on here, because you're signaling that you need HELP pretty desperately, like a flaregun S.O.S.), or let's say, professional counselors or school resources to help students. DON'T just wallow in these failures and assume you can't do better; you seem to know you can.

I've tried to fix up what I was doing wrong. I went to counselling, eventually got myself off the dopey pills, picked a cat up from a shelter, managed to pass all my subjects last semester, basically reached back up to what normal, average people manage to do. However, I couldn't cut off the poisonous relationships, and now I am looking at the prospect of going back to square one, or even worse - activate the university's 3 subject failure rule and get kicked out.

Hm. Activating the rule. Well, you obviously want to avoid that, can you take a leave from school? Or get help in whatever subject it is? Why are you in "poisonous" relationships you can't cut off? You seem to be telling me that's what you need to do, so...put an ad in the paper, write a letter, send a singing telegram, but find SOME way to cut these off.

You picked up a cat from a shelter--now that is interesting. It's your way of saying, here's the proper way to care for a creature, this is what every creature deserves. So, do for yourself what you are doing for this cat. Give yourself shelter.

My father is an abusive, alcoholic parasite.

Now we're getting to it.

My mother is a hardworking but completely airheaded bint whose idea of success in life is becoming a trophy wife (let's just say that she was tricked into marrying my father).

Oh, dear. That's a bit contradictory. We don't want you to buy in to the idea that anyone is so airheaded that they are "tricked" into making major life decisions. Buy instead into the idea that everyone, airheads included, are RESPONSIBLE for their own choices. Maybe now you don't have to hate your mother ("completely airheaded bint"), you can just distance yourself from the bad values and choices SHE made.

Listen, you have pain, I can tell. That's understandable, ok and valid. But choose not to be the victim of this. You are in the blessed position of ALMOST being clear of your family of origin. Now, use all this as MOTIVATION to get away and make your OWN choices--differently. Don't lose your independence just as you are on the verge of taking it. That's what will happen if you mess up college and you know it. So, find a life preserver, whatever it is. Don't imagine yourself as the spawn of an airheaded bint and an abusive alcoholic, think of yourself as a very independent YOU with tools and brains and the best social advantage possible (college) to build an independent life from them. That's going to be the only way you can get over this. So look, I can't cure your pain, but I can tell you that spending your own paychecks, having your own apartment (with friends?), and will make you FEEL truly safe as well.

This is your chance to get away. Something inside you is saying, "eh, I don't know if I can, if I deserve it, if I'm smart enough, if I'm better than they are." You can be, if you WANT it bad enough.

They believe that since they have invested oh so much in their bright daughter, she had better work herself to the bone to pay off their mortgage,

Um, excuse me? That's NOT in the contract. Once you are a full-fledged adult, you do not have an obligation to support your parents if they're fully able-bodied, as it sounds.

then when that's done, sell her off to some other family to improve business and social connections for them.

Hey listen, they don't OWN you. They just spawned you. You can technically move away with no forwarding address, once you have your degree. DO NOT let them guilt you into the same "trap" [sic]. Stay in counseling and keep at this! Do not fall asleep at the wheel!

Heck, they've even got the age worked out (26). Neither of them have heard of birth control, considering that I have two younger brothers, one's in the final year of high school this year, and the other's just starting grade 2.

Hey, again...I don't believe there are laws that they can arrange your marriage for you. Screw them. You're going to really enjoy doing whatever the hell you want and coming home for holidays, just to spite them. Girl, they cannot touch you once you're outta there, so quit hanging in the doorway, GO!

I live in the family house.

I see. This is a heavy burden. You're going to have to work twice as hard to do well in school and get OUT of there. But get out, you must.

My father refuses to work a single day or give his dole money to help out the household accounts, my mother lives in her normative world and pulls out the "I was abused enough by your father, how dare you abuse me too" card whenever I argue with her about her stupid ideals and fiscal management, the older of the two boys believes that he could somehow make do with a processing line job until he inherits the house (eldest son, you see) and the younger is diagnosed with ADHD.

Ok, well, even if you love your siblings their upbringing is not YOUR responsibility. Please, this is like the oxygen mask on an aircraft, PLACE YOUR OWN MASK FIRST. There is nothing you can do for them anyway if you flounder and fail to grow your own wings.

This is Sydney, Australia. Interest rates, food and petrol prices have been rocketing ever since I started bleeding from my crotch.

Fair enough. Can you make some friends in college to room with, perhaps? Just wondering, maybe as a long-term plan. Form a collective with others that is NOT your family. You've got to survive, and to do that you must get out. That will also clear your vision and lift your spirits quite a bit.

I work 5 shifts a week on top of uni to pay for my own stuff, as well as contribute to the mortgage and cover my parents' irresponsible spending.

Wow. Well, if you move out, you need not pay any more rent to the 'rents. Just think and start strategizing about it. Necessity is the mother of invention.

I do not even have a drivers' licence because my parents refused to help out with the required hours of assisted driving, forcing me to pay for driving lessons to fill the hours up.

Yes, I see. It's a tough row to hoe, but when you finally make it-- when you're finally accomplished, determined, with all the things you've earned to make it on your own, you're going to feel 10 feet tall. Oh, you're going to be a Heartless Bitch all right.

Just from the beginning of this year, my parents now owe me $5000 aside from all the other money they've taken on the side.

I think you need to stop lending your parents money. They can't force you, actually. If you're threatened with violence please take steps, whether it's a lawyer or police.

The entire family (barring the ADHD bro) is pressuring me to work 7 days. If they ever see me at home, they complain about how much fatter (and therefore uglier) I got,

This is how they keep you working for them. Yes, it seems to be a disease that is nurtured in families, abusive language and behavior, the younger men do learn it from the older and etc. You need to turn off the part of your brain that hears this stuff, and replace it with another message about yourself.

I really think you need to get out of that house, ASAP, are there no shelters you could look into? How about university administration, are there any dorm rooms that could be made available based on your circumstances? Failing that, how about a student house where you could move in? Don't be ashamed about revealing the abuse, be as loud as you can be about it. You deserve shelter as much as that kitten.

and how laziness should be combatted with a brisk job in designer sportswear at 6 in the morning, then slinking into a pencil skirt and shiny heels before going to work. Mind you, they're not going to pay for any of these props, because the lack of them just shows how much I am wasting my life.

You don't have to do what they say. They will resist like hell and become EVEN WORSE when you start displaying a spine, so I recommend you quietly arrange someplace to go, then simply go.

They are my family, I only ever get one of them.

They've already given you everything they are ever going to give you. You don't owe them anything.

If I quit on them now, I ruin one ungrateful asshole and one relatively grateful brat's life.

Bah. You're not ruining anyone's life by leaving! They want you to think that. You're ruining your OWN life by staying, (and wallowing in self-pity over it) and if they demand that of you, what kind of "family" are they to you? They've crippled your self-esteem. Or...have they? You seem to know the score.

I also would be ruining my life, since the current economy has made absolutely sure I would not survive a day on my own.

I think that's an excuse you tell yourself to avoid taking responsibility for the decision to leave. You need to find friends out there. If you can support a family of bloodsuckers, you can work with a collective of students to support yourselves easy enough.

While it's deeply ironic that pooling the entirety of my resources to keep 5 people live a comfortable existence is easier than letting one person live frugally, this is also the reality.

I smell another excuse. Pool your resources! Just move to another pool.

I need to stop enabling my parents to live irresponsibly, as well as building myself a nest egg to secure total independence in the future.

I agree. Hold that thought.

However, I can't say no to myself when my mum barges in the night before mortgage repayment day and demands $1000, or waits in front of the bank to get $50 to pay for the ADHD bro's headshrinking fees.

Yes, you CAN. You can say NO to her. You can. If you don't you have only yourself to blame for failure. Come on. Don't blame them, stop participating in the blackmail!

I know they are exploiting me, I know they suspect (rightly) that I try to scrimp and save some money aside. I'm just afraid that if I say no, then they really would default on the payments.

So? Try it and see. They'd find a Plan B soon enough. And get a savings account. Put YOUR money in it and do not keep it at home. Do this, ASAP! And don't take your mother with you to the bank machine.

What should I do? Or rather, what can I tell myself to convince myself that I am a Heartless Bitch, and steel myself for a power cut from not paying the electricity bill?

See advice above. Stop making excuses. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You yourself have all the answers at your disposal, just follow through. Remember, Nobody can emotionally blackmail you without your consent.

Thank you for reading through my long letter.


Good luck Tamy. Dropping out of college to get out of this abuse spiral would be like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Part of being an adult is standing up for yourself. You obviously long for independence, grab it. Don't be dragged down by guilt. Save yourself! Please, there is no other real option. You have to grab adulthood by the horns. I think you will find the results empowering. You will have these folks in the palm of your hand as soon as you withhold your vast energies (and earnings) from their control. And please get out of the house if you can. Let us know how it turns out.

Remember: If you want it bad enough, you can find a way. Put all the "ifs" and "buts" aside and just DO IT.


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