DEAR ABBY: I'm a 23-year-old woman who still lives at home. I have been working for the last five years and have saved enough to live comfortably on my own. Unfortunately, my parents have forbidden me to do it because they think I'm being manipulated into it by my boyfriend, that I just want to "do whatever I want" and be out until late (although I'm rarely up past 9 p.m. and they know it), and because I "can't stand them" anymore.
I have no privacy! My mail is opened "mistakenly" and my calls are listened in on even when I politely -- and sometimes angrily -- ask them not to. They have even imposed a rule that I must show them my bank balance weekly.
They have told me I will not leave the house without being married first. I would like to live on my own before I actually marry so I can experience what it's like. This is something I have always wanted to do. If I do move out, they say I'll "bring shame and embarrassment" to the family.
There seems to be a double standard going on here because my older brother has his girlfriend sleep over. How can I accommodate my parents without being disowned? -- FEELING HELPLESS IN ILLINOIS
DEAR FEELING HELPLESS: Your parents have chosen to ignore that you are an adult, self-supporting and entitled to make your own choices. They may be well-meaning, but they are extremely heavy-handed. Their hyper-vigilance -- opening your mail, eavesdropping on your phone calls and insisting on checking your bank balance weekly -- is over the top. They would like you to be "safely" married before you leave their protection.
Is their problem that they disapprove of your boyfriend? If you get a place of your own, do you plan on moving him in? If that's not the case, there is no reason why your living independently might shame or embarrass them.
Not knowing your parents, I can't judge whether their threat to disown you is serious or not. However, if it is, realize it's a form of blackmail, and you will have to decide which is more important -- your freedom or their support.