Dear Annie: I am a highly educated single woman in my 30s who has made many serious mistakes. I have had overlapping affairs and relationships with my co-workers, some of them married.

I have come to understand that I did this because I enjoyed the attention. I also thought I could use these men to advance my career. As it turns out, I have been mostly unemployed for more than a year. I now think I may never be able to find a job in my field, partly because others know about my involvement with colleagues.

I regret my actions and feel terrible about the impact they have had on others. I want to start over, but don't know how. Should I apologize to those I have hurt or just move on? How do I find employment with my history?

—Miserable and Discouraged in California

Dear California: It's always a good idea to apologize to someone you have hurt. Depending upon the degree of pain you inflicted, you might not be forgiven, but you will feel better for having tried. And if you believe this is a reason you are not finding employment, you should be upfront about it.

Explain to any potential employer that you made some personal mistakes at your previous job but have learned your lesson and want to prove you can do better. You also should get the word out to former colleagues that you are sorry for your prior behavior, you've changed and you're looking for work. If you still cannot find a job, consider continuing education classes to burnish your resume or, if necessary, changing careers. Sometimes you have to clean the slate entirely.

Dear Annie: At every holiday meal at my great-aunt "Bessie's" home, my sister-in-law and her family bring their own plastic containers and, as soon as we're done eating, fill them up with leftovers to take home. They do this before food is offered to anyone else, including my great-aunt, who cooked and served the meal.

We have taken food home as well, but only when Aunt Bessie offered it. She is 72, and it's a lot of work (not to mention money) preparing as much food as she serves. I am stunned that my sister-in-law does this every time and wonder what you think.

—Amazed

Dear Amazed: Does Aunt Bessie usually insist that people take food home? If she cooks a lot, she may not want all those leftovers. However, if your sister-in-law is taking food that your great-aunt would like to eat another day, you should speak up. Next time, bring some of your own containers and put away as much food as you can in Aunt Bessie's freezer, wrapped in individual portions. Tell your sister-in-law you're sure Aunt Bessie would like to have prepared meals available, and that she deserves them after all her hard work. You might even ask her to help.

Dear Annie: I love it when parents of students who are "bright" but not living up to their potential claim their child is bored. If they were so bored, they would do the work expected of them before slacking off. Bored is when you have nothing to do.

You hit a nerve when you suggested the parents work with the teacher to find extra-credit assignments for missed work. Teachers have enough to do without creating independent study plans for lazy students. Let these kids fail the subjects they are so bored in, repeat the grade and maybe then they will learn a valuable life lesson.

—Educator in Pennsylvania

Dear Pennsylvania: Bored isn't necessarily when you have nothing to do. It's when what you are doing holds no interest for you. Grade school students are not always mature enough to think, "I'll finish this tedious assignment because it's the right thing to do." They think, "This is stupid. Why bother?" Making bright students repeat a grade teaches them that school is a drudge and teachers don't care about them. There has to be a better way.

Dear Annie: My friend "Giselle" is intelligent, well educated and honest, but she is a complete Luddite. She shuns technology. Until a few years ago, her lack of computer savvy was not a problem. However, now she is looking to expand her career opportunities and this requires e-mail.

Giselle has many friends, and we set up an e-mail account for her and patiently taught her how to use a computer. We even gave her our old computers and hooked them up.

The problem is, she refuses to pay for Internet access and relies on us to get online, even though she can easily afford the service. We tried to arrange free access, but that requires dial-up and she doesn't want to tie up her only phone line. (Naturally, she doesn't have a cell phone.) We've suggested the library, but she is uncomfortable using public computers.

Last week she monopolized my computer for three hours while telling me she thought another friend seemed irritated by her constant requests for Internet time. I explained that most of us now rely on our computers for everything from banking to family mail, but she didn't get it.

We don't want to be rude to Giselle or hurt her feelings, but she's driving us nuts. What should we do?

—The Luddite's Friends

Dear Friends: Giselle may have been a Luddite at one time, but now she's simply a cheapskate. She's willing to use technology but won't pay for it. Tell Giselle she's become proficient enough to use the computer at home and that will require paying for a server. Give her some recommendations. Offer to make the call for her if you like. Be excited when you keep insisting that she absolutely MUST do this, and don't take no for an answer.


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.