DEAR ABBY: I retired after a 40-year career. A friend from work, "Bernie," is the same age I am (62) but is still working.

Six years ago, I had a serious health crisis. Three years ago, Bernie survived a heart attack. Since then, Bernie worries incessantly about dying. He exercises rigorously and eats a strictly vegan diet. I like to spend time with him, but I'm more casual about diet and exercise.

Neither of us is going to be a GQ model, regardless of how much we diet or exercise. I say life should be enjoyed, but Bernie is too busy obsessing, compulsively taking medicine and working out.

Today he invited me out to supper. Instead of going to a restaurant, he said he was cooking another of his (not-too-tasty) vegan meals. I don't want to offend or discourage Bernie, but I hate his cooking. What should I do? Would a steak and a baked potato kill him? -- PAUNCHY BUT HAPPY IN KENTUCKY

DEAR PAUNCHY: Because you enjoy Bernie's company, call him and tell him you would love to come to supper, but because you are a carnivore you will be bringing your own steak and potato with you, so fire up the broiler.

DEAR ABBY: My mother died from a heroin overdose when I was 8. As a mother with children of my own, I often find myself getting upset when people say nice things about her -- things that would normally make people feel good, such as, "Oh, she would have been so proud of you," or, "She was such a great woman." I feel that if she was such a great woman, she wouldn't have chosen drugs over her (or our) well-being. How can I let go of the anger I feel toward her when everyone else sees her only in a good light? -- MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT MOM

DEAR MIXED FEELINGS: I'm sorry for the loss of your mother at such a tender age and under such tragic circumstances. Far more is understood about drug addiction today than was known when you were a child. We now know that addiction can be less about a lack of character than a medical problem.

I seriously doubt that when your mother gave herself her final fix she realized it would be her last. While I sympathize with your anger at being cheated out of her presence in your life, it would be better for your own quality of life if you could accept that she was a human being and fallible. A licensed mental health professional can help you work through your anger, and I hope you will talk to one soon.

DEAR ABBY: We host many gatherings in our home during the year, including picnics. We have a downstairs bathroom that is intended for guests. But twice now, I have encountered guests using my upstairs bathroom. I have never offered it, and I'm offended that they take it upon themselves to go uninvited into private territory. I would never do that in someone else's house. Am I wrong, or are they overstepping the boundaries here? -- WONDERING IN THE EAST

DEAR WONDERING: To use your upstairs bathroom without asking your permission is overstepping. The exception might be if the downstairs bathroom was in use, and the need to get into one was urgent.

DEAR ABBY: I recently went to the movies with a couple of friends. At the concession stand, I bought popcorn. They did not. However, as we sat down, they eyed my popcorn as I was munching. I didn't offer them any. I figured they could have bought their own if they wanted some. Should I have? It's been bothering me ever since. Was I selfish? -- MATINEE MUNCHER

DEAR MUNCHER: The polite thing to do would have been to offer them some of your popcorn. As to whether not doing so was selfish, the answer is: "Mmmmhmmmm." (I'd say it more clearly, but my mouth is full.)

DEAR ABBY: My three best friends over the last four years recently decided to start a business together. They said I was more than welcome to join them, but financially I wasn't able to swing it. I work part-time, so I have been helping them when I can.

When we get together for dinner once a month, most of their conversation focuses on their business. But recently they discussed a shopping trip they took together. They went on a day I could have gone, but I was not invited. Should I take this -- and other similar incidents -- as a hint that our friendship has run its course? -- FEELING LEFT OUT

DEAR FEELING LEFT OUT: Talking about the shopping trip in front of you was insensitive. However, you may not have been invited because your friends were afraid you might be embarrassed it you could not participate in the shopping. You mentioned that their business arrangement is recent. They may be discussing business because that's what is on their minds.

Don't write them off or withdraw just yet. You can always do that. Wait to see how things play out.

DEAR ABBY: Help! I'm a 67-year-old man being relentlessly chased by a 68-year-old woman. I have told her I want to date other women and will be moving out of the country at the end of the year. Despite this, she is constantly trying to maneuver me into an exclusive relationship, probably ending in living together. I don't want to hurt her, but I'm at a loss as to how to get her to back off. -- HAPPILY UNCOMMITTED

DEAR UNCOMMITTED: Here's how. Tell her you can't handle the pressure she's putting on you and end the relationship NOW.

DEAR ABBY: I am in a predicament. My therapist is great, but sometimes I think she shares too much. Last time I went, she was running late. When I finally got into her office, she told me the previous patient was nonverbal and had painted her nails during the session. Later in the session, she confided that years ago she had been date raped.

Abby, I am in counseling because my father raped me when I was 15 (I am now 24). Her sharing has me worried because I don't want her telling others what I say or do during counseling. Further, her story of the date rape scared me. She described a situation that is not uncommon for me to be in, and it caused something almost like a flashback in me. I think what she did was insensitive, to say the least.

I have nobody else to ask, so what should I do? I'm getting counseling for free now due to my income, and it took months to get set up with a counselor. Should I report her or accept that this was a mistake and say nothing? If I need to report her, how would I go about doing that? -- CONFLICTED ABOUT IT

DEAR CONFLICTED: You should change therapists because it appears this one has more problems than you do. As to what agency you should report her breach of professional ethics to, contact the state organization that has licensed her to practice.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069

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