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March 21-27, 2007

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Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Dear Sydney, how do I get rid of a stalker without moving, changing my name or changing my appearance? I have a problem with attracting needy men who, after being rejected by me, turn into stalkers. They won't leave me alone no matter how mean, nice, rude, beautiful, ugly, stinky, dirty, bad or good I am. They come to my work, corner me in the hallway outside of work, follow me to my car. They never leave me in peace. I've changed my name, cut and dyed my hair, changed my style of clothes, even my car. I've just moved for the last time, and won't change anything about myself ever again! Help!--Serial Stalkee

Dear Stalked: You've just moved to a new place, and it's not too late to change this pattern. Go forward into your new town with confidence that you will never be stalked again. First, examine why this keeps happening. Do you find yourself attracted to men who are predisposed to stalking? Are there some commonalities that you can map? Some stalker characteristics? Or are these otherwise "normal" guys who just freak out when they meet you, as if you exude some kind of "stalk me" scent? Pay close attention to your interactions with people, especially to potentially needy men, and see if you can adjust your interactions from the very beginning so as to better avoid another bad situation. This is not to say you bring this on yourself. No one deserves to be so disrespected. But there is the reality that when you are interacting with another person, the only one you can really control is yourself. Take a self-defense class, if you haven't already. Make all potential dates pass through a rigorous screening process. Make it known from the very beginning that you are not a victim (practice looking tough in the mirror). Don't have sex with anyone until you trust them. And in this new town, insist on having relationships with people who have your best interests in mind.

Dear Sydney, in response to "Family Meltdown" (Ask Sydney, March 7), this woman can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. The only way she can have any genuine influence on her children's relationship is to mend her relationship with her own sister and parents. To attempt to influence her children, without "living" the very thing that she is attempting to espouse, will be thoroughly conflicting and, without a doubt, will further alienate her children from each other and from her. She is creating the likelihood that her immediate family relations will breakdown further because she is not doing her very best to resolve her own serious conflicts. The only means for her to feel better is to deal with the reality of the situation and her contribution to it (without blame or guilt). Many wonderful and powerful gifts are on the outside of resolving issues like these, and "magic" can be experienced in a way that wouldn't be otherwise available had these normal and perfectly determinable challenges not existed in the first place. I hope this is received as it is intended, which is to offer a new perspective and a bit of insight.--Another Take on It

Dear AT: My assumption is that if "Family Meltdown" has been unable to reconcile with her family members, there must be a reason for it. Ideally, you're right: it would be most helpful if she could provide her children with a solid foundation of familial love, setting a good example and perhaps cashing in on a holiday meal or two. It is also true, as you say, that some of the challenges we face make us stronger. But challenges can still be pretty shitty, and the reality is that some people end up with family that in no way, shape or form deserves to be labeled as such. If this is the case for FM, then there might be nothing she can do to change things. For her sake, I hope that this is not the case and that she will read your letter and realize that there is another way to go about making things better.

Dear Sydney, what's going on with the calls I keep getting from someone in India trying to get me to sign up for some credit card? They've started using non-Indian names, like "Tom Smith" or "Shelly Davis" when they introduce themselves. Every time I get a call, I feel ashamed to even be living in a country where companies feel like I won't accept a credit card deal from someone with an Indian name! Like if the telemarketer says his name is Joe, I'll think he's calling from Iowa. Every time I get one of these calls, I want to apologize to the person, and tell them that even though I don't want the card, I would like to support them in using their real name, and that if there's a petition going around, I'd sign it. Is there anything I can do about this? Am I the only one disgusted? --Embarrassed American

Dear Citizen: The first step in dealing with this name-changing business, which I agree is offensive and embarrassing, is to ask your telemarketer for a U.S. address where you can write to the company. Send a note, explaining that you will never accept a credit card offer from a company that forces its employees to adopt new names. The only way to instigate change is to make your voice heard. Recently, I was told by a telemarketer from India that she would need to record our conversation in order to help fight "the war on terror." I told her that I didn't believe in the war on terror and apologized for my country. She seemed confused, and our conversation went nowhere. Maybe it was the connection. Next time I receive such a call, I'll write as well. That makes two letters the company will receive, which is at least a start.

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.