December 2, 2023

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Dear Annie: Should I feel obligated to attend a concert sponsored by my company?

Dear Annie: Like so many others, I lost my old job because of COVID-19. I was a waitress in a small restaurant and bar. Now, I work in a yarn mill. I am not unfriendly with my co-workers, but don’t socialize with them, as we have very little in common. There is a former co-worker, who now is having modest success musically. She is playing in regional venues and appeared on statewide PBS. She is somewhat of a local hero. I am not a fan in the least! I heard from mill management that she was a very poor employee, and, more importantly to me, I heard from teacher friends that she was a very neglectful parent. She will be playing a concert at the mill after work. They’ll have a catered meal for us that we can eat while watching the concert before going home. I would much prefer to leave after the work is done, as I am not a fan of her’s and would rather spend the time with my family. Would I be rude to leave? — Heard Enough

Dear Heard: As soon as you clock out, your time is your own. I see nothing wrong with going home to your family. It’s also the safer option, COVID-19-wise.

As an aside, though, I encourage you to celebrate your co-worker’s musical success, because it will be much better for your health than resenting it.

Dear Annie: I, as well as many others, do not understand why television shows have to play music when the people on the show are talking. I may not have the best hearing, but it is very difficult to understand what the actors are saying. Sometimes, the music covers up their voices completely. If I want to listen to music, I’ll turn on the radio, not the TV. If there is something you can do to convince them to stop playing the music, that would be awesome. — What Did You Say

Dear WDYS: I wish I had that kind of power! As it is, I’m happy to print your letter to raise what awareness I can, because you’re not the first person to write to me about this problem. For what it’s worth, some hard-of-hearing readers have reported that closed captioning makes watching TV far less frustrating. Also, some televisions come with a “Clear Voice” audio setting that might help.

Dear Annie: I have a salaried job and can mostly work from home. I have fared better during this pandemic than many people, but right now I feel like butter that’s been spread over too much toast. I find myself obsessed with current events — constantly refreshing Twitter or turning on the news. I scroll through my phone in bed. And it’s the first thing I look at when I wake up. I feel so hopeless, but I can’t stop looking. — Fading Fast

Dear Fading: First and foremost, make your bedroom a phone-free zone. Having our phones around keeps our brains engaged and makes it difficult to fall asleep and get high-quality sleep. And quality sleep is essential to mental health.

Secondly, go on a news diet. Set a certain amount of minutes or a certain window of time during which you’ll check the news, and steer clear of it otherwise. (There are even apps designed to help with this: The program SelfControl allows users to block themselves from accessing certain sites for a designated amount of time.) You shouldn’t stick your head in the sand, but you shouldn’t stare straight into the sun, either.

Lastly, you’ll feel less depressed about the general state of the world if you feel you’re doing your part to improve it. Figure out which causes you care most passionately about, and get plugged in with a relevant organization in your area. As Muhammad Ali said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

View prior ‘Dear Annie’ columns

“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 for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to


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