If reading from our Annie Lane column from Page 9 in our Thursday edition difficult, we’ve included a larger print version below.
~ The Stranger in My House
by Rose Madeline Mula
A very weird thing has happened. A strange old lady has moved into my house. I have no idea who she is, where she came from, or how she got in. I certainly didn’t invite her. All I know is that one day she wasn’t there, and the next day she was.
She’s very clever. She manages to keep out of sight for the most part; but whenever I pass a mirror, I catch a glimpse of her there; and when I look into a mirror directly to check on my appearance, suddenly she’s hogging the whole thing, completely obliterating my gorgeous face and body. It’s very disconcerting. I’ve tried screaming at her to leave — but she just screams back, grimacing horribly. She’s really rather frightening.
If she’s going to hang around, the least she could do is offer to pay rent. But no. Every once in a while I do find a couple of dollar bills on the kitchen counter, or some loose change on my bureau or on the floor, but that certainly isn’t enough. In fact, though I don’t like to jump to conclusions, I think she steals money from me quite regularly. I go to the ATM and withdraw a hundred dollars, and a few days later, it’s gone. I certainly don’t go through it that fast, so I can only conclude that the old lady pilfers it. You’d think she’d spend some of it on wrinkle cream. God knows she needs it.
And money isn’t the only thing she’s taking. Food seems to disappear at an alarming rate. Especially the good stuff — ice cream, cookies, candy … I just can’t seem to keep them in the house. She really has a sweet tooth. She should watch it; she’s putting on the pounds. I think she realizes that, and to make herself feel better, I know she’s tampering with my scale so I’ll think that I’m gaining weight, too. For an old lady, she’s really quite childish.She also gets into my closets when I’m not home and alters all my clothes. They’re getting tighter every day.
Another thing: I wish she’d stop messing with my files and the papers on my desk. I can’t find a thing any more. This is particularly hard to deal with because I’m extremely neat and organized; but she manages to jumble everything up so nothing is where it’s supposed to be. Furthermore, when I program my VCR to tape something important, she fiddles with it after I leave the rom so it records the wrong channel or shuts off completely.
She finds innumerable, imaginative ways to irritate me. She gets to my newspapers, magazines and mail before me and blurs all the print; and she’s done something sinister with the volume controls on my TV, radio and phone. Now all I hear are mumbles and whispers. She’s also made my stairs steeper, my vacuum cleaner heavier, all my knobs and faucets hard to turn, and my bed higher and a real challenge to climb into and out of.
Furthermore, she gets to my groceries as soon as I shelve them and applies glue to the tops of every jar and bottle so they’re just about impossible to open. Is this any way to repay my hospitality?
I don’t even get any respite at night. More than once her snoring has awakened me. I don’t know why she can’t do something about that. It’s very unattractive.
As if all this isn’t bad enough, she is no longer confining her malevolence to the house. She’s now found a way to sneak into my car with me and follow me wherever I go. I see her reflection in store windows as I pass, and she’s taken all the fun out of clothes shopping because her penchant for monopolizing mirrors has extended to dressing rooms. When I try something on, she dons an identical outfit — which looks ridiculous on her — and then stands directly in front of me so I can’t see how great it looks on me.
I thought she couldn’t get any meaner than that; but yesterday she proved me wrong. She had the nerve to come with me when I went to have some passport pictures taken, and she actually stepped in front of the camera just as the shutter clicked. Disaster! I have never seen such a terrible picture. How can I go abroad now? No customs official is ever going to believe that the crone scowling from my passport is me.
This piece first appeared on May 8, 1997 in the Andover, MA Townsman and has been reproduced in an Ann Landers column in October of 1999.