Ask Amy: Advice for the Real World

DEAR AMY: I recently had skin cancer removed from my face and took four weeks off of work to recover.

I told people at work that I was on vacation.

I have a very noticeable scar on my face now. I will be returning to work shortly.

I am a very private person, and I know people will ask what happened.

Do I tell the truth? Keep it vague? People are curious, and I know they will keep pumping me for answers. If I say little, I know the “rumor mill” will go into overdrive. — Recovering

DEAR RECOVERING: You have every right to keep your medical situation private. But you and I both know that sometimes this is almost impossible, certainly when you have a noticeable scar.

I suggest you tell the truth, not only to satisfy people’s curiosity (in order to move on to other topics), but also because you have an important opportunity to advocate for people to get regular cancer screenings. You say you are very private, but would you be willing to share some basic information? This could be life-changing for people crossing your path.

When you get back to work, you can say, “I had surgery on my face but am feeling great. Do yourself a favor and make sure to get a regular cancer screening.” Otherwise, you should not feel pressured to provide details.

According to the American Cancer Society (cancer.org), skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, an estimated 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer each year.

May 22 has been designated as “No Fry Day” as a way to publicize the dangers of sun exposure. Your willingness to ask this question has already helped raise awareness, so thank you.

DEAR AMY: I have been dating my girlfriend for eight months. We get along really well, except when we are arguing.

My girlfriend has a jealousy problem. When we first met, she asked about previous relationships and I answered honestly. I told her that my ex-girlfriend was pretty and smart, and that she is studying at an Ivy League school. I also told her that I lost my virginity to her.

Now my girlfriend says she feels jealous of my ex. She says she has been dreaming about me having sex with this faceless figure.

She knows it’s irrational, and that she shouldn’t feel this way, but she can’t help it.

She blames her insecurity on the fact that she comes from an Asian family. Her family has always pushed her and compared her with many of her family members: “Why can’t you get into a prestigious school like your cousin? Why are you so fat? Why aren’t you talented?”

She says she feels like she isn’t worth anything. She is also scared of sleeping because she doesn’t want to have that dream.

Every day, I let her know how much I love her and how happy she makes me. She is beautiful and smart. I even changed a few days at work so that I could spend more time with her. I would quit my job if she needed me to, but of course, she says that’s crazy.

We are stuck and don’t know what to do. Do you have any ideas? — Stuck

DEAR STUCK: Your girlfriend knows that what she’s doing is irrational, and she has likely correctly identified the root causes of her extreme insecurity. Growing up in an environment where family members are ruthlessly compared to one another has made her insecure, and having parents who belittled her and called her “unsuccessful” and “fat” set her up for self-fulfilling failure.

In your case, changing your work schedule or altering your life in order to spend more time with your girlfriend puts her insecurities in charge of your relationship. She could see a professional counselor in order to put all of the pieces together.

You should reassure her that you want to stay in the relationship, but urge her to get help.

DEAR AMY: The letter from “Caring Parents” reminded me of the raising of our three children (two girls and a boy). When they treated us like “psycho parents,” rolling their eyes or having tantrums, my wife would simply say, “Well, be sure to save your money, to pay for the therapy you may need for having me as your mother.”

They turned out great, and I give her the credit. — Happy Grandfather

DEAR HAPPY: You’re a fellow eye-roll survivor. Good job!

Contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@tribpub.com Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or like her on Facebook. Dickinson’s memoir, “The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them” (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.