DEAR ABBY: I'm a 15-year-old girl and a sophomore in high school. Last year I went to school across the country. While I was there, I became best friends with this girl, "Amelia." We did everything together, and Amelia even flew back here to visit my family when school ended and I had to go home.
It has now been a few months since I've seen her, and so much has changed. She doesn't make time to text or call me hardly ever, and when she does, it's always a quick conversation. Because of the time difference and our schedules, I get that it's difficult, but shouldn't she make some time for her best friend?
Amelia and I were as close as sisters, and I can't stand the thought of losing her. I have already called her out a few times, and we are good for a few days, but then she goes right back to pretending like I don't exist. I'd rather not call her out again. Any thoughts? -- FARAWAY FRIEND IN MARYLAND
DEAR FRIEND: Rather than "call her out," it's time to lighten up. Stop trying to make Amelia feel guilty for not giving you the attention she was able to when you were geographically closer. If there's one thing I have learned about friendships, it's that they tend to ebb and flow.
Because you now live apart, concentrate on building other relationships with people close by. This doesn't mean you can't remain friendly with Amelia; it simply means you are expecting more from her than she's able to give you.
DEAR ABBY: The holidays are approaching, and with them a problem. I recently moved back to my hometown after being away for many years, and I was eagerly looking forward to spending the holidays with my daughter. She has just informed me that she's joining a religion that doesn't celebrate holidays, not even Thanksgiving or birthdays. I would never stand in the way of her chosen path, but I'd still like to be able to include her in family get-togethers. I just don't know how. Any suggestions? -- MISSING HER ALREADY
DEAR MISSING HER: Although you will no longer be able to celebrate the holidays with your daughter, you and the rest of the family can still see her and socialize. Talk to her about it and let her set the ground rules. As long as you are respectful, I'm sure she will be glad to give you suggestions about what you CAN do together.
DEAR ABBY: Early this year my son was killed in an accident. A few weeks later I became ill and was hospitalized. My son's widow looked after me all those weeks. She was known at the hospital by her name and also as my daughter-in-law.
One of my doctors, standing close to her and right next to my bed, asked for and was granted permission to ask her a personal question -- "What happened to your husband?" Was it insensitive of him to ask that in my presence? -- UNSURE IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR UNSURE: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your son. The doctor asked for permission to inquire about something personal and it was granted. That said, if the doctor was aware that you had lost your son a short time ago and your daughter-in-law was a widow, the question could have been asked privately because death is often a subject that's painful to discuss when a person is grieving.
DEAR ABBY: My girlfriend and I love each other very much and have been living together with our children for five years. We intend to get married soon. Here is the rub: She's "old school." She believes she should receive a diamond ring as part of the marriage proposal.
I would marry her tomorrow, but I don't believe in spending thousands of dollars on a piece of carbon. I understand that somehow she equates her value/social status with the size of her wedding ring ("I deserve a nice ring"), but I don't agree. I think the expense is unwarranted and, quite frankly, as the person paying for most of it, unfair.
She has offered to chip in and even buy one from a used wedding site, but I'd rather spend that money on something we could both enjoy or at least on something more practical that she can enjoy. I can find the money to buy the ring, but in my heart, I don't see the value or buy into the fantasy the diamond industry has put into some women's heads.
What do I do? Cave in and give her what she wants because I love her? Or push for a compromise, which will definitely be an uphill battle and potentially spoil what is supposed to be a special thing in our lives? -- HUNG UP ON THE RING IN RENO
DEAR HUNG UP: I'm glad you asked. Give her the ring. It will be cheaper in the long run. Trust me on that. And in the future, when she asks what you would like for a gift, tell her YOUR fantasy is that she'll make a comparable down payment on your next car. That way, she can make your dream come true.
DEAR ABBY: My father and his wife are retired and live across the country from us. Dad is hard of hearing and doesn't like to use the phone, even with hearing aids. He also won't text, so we mostly communicate by email.
The challenge is that he and his wife share an email account. She reads every message I send to Dad and often replies without telling him, so I'm never sure if he receives them or not. Also, if we're discussing something sensitive -- like finances or issues with my siblings -- she'll weigh in when it's not really her business. In one case, she posted parts of our discussion on her social media!
I have talked to Dad about this. He says married couples don't have secrets. I suspect he may not want his wife to be able to communicate privately with other people (she's much younger than he is) and prefers the shared email for this reason. Is it unreasonable for me to want a direct line of communication with my father, or must I save up private conversations for the one time a year we are able to visit in person? -- DISTRESSED DAUGHTER IN IDAHO
DEAR DAUGHTER: I'm sorry I can't wave a magic wand and change your father. What's going on should not be blamed on his wife. Because he has made plain to you that he sees no reason for privacy and wants her to be privy to your conversations, saving up those private chats until they are "in person" is exactly what you are going to have to do.
DEAR VETERANS: I salute your service to our country. My thanks to each of you, as well as to the brave men and women still on active duty, some of whom are in harm's way. You personify patriotism and self-sacrifice with your dedication. I also would like to acknowledge your families for the sacrifices they, too, have made and continue to make every day. -- Love, ABBY
DEAR ABBY: Before I met my boyfriend of eight months, I planned a 10-day Japan vacation for next year with my best guy friend, "J." We have been friends for eight years, and have never had any romantic interest in each other. Both of us want to visit Japan because it's on our bucket list.
J and I were both single when we started making plans. Then I met my boyfriend. My boyfriend knew from the beginning that this trip was going to happen next year. Because the date wasn't "set in stone" or paid for until recently, my boyfriend thinks I should have called it off. He says I'm making the trip and my friend a higher priority than him, and his feelings are hurt. He said if I was going with a female friend he wouldn't care.
I still want to take the trip. I feel canceling would be betraying my friend J. Am I being a bad girlfriend? -- TRIPPED UP IN THE EAST
DEAR TRIPPED UP: A "bad" girlfriend? No. An independent one, yes. You say your boyfriend has known about this from the beginning, so this wasn't a surprise to him. If he was more secure about himself and your relationship, he would know that J isn't a threat. Not only should you take the trip, you should also use the time away to decide if you want a life partner as insecure as your boyfriend appears to be.
DEAR ABBY: My husband of 20 years, "Jerry," recently learned about an old girlfriend's death. A Facebook friend informed him about it. The message arrived late at night while I was sleeping, and he woke me to tell me the news.
He is now receiving condolences from friends that he is responding to as though he were grieving. Abby, the old girlfriend and my husband split up on very bad terms. She not only cheated on him but gave him an STD. I am appalled and feel hurt that this is happening. Friends of mine are surprised and suspicious about it.
I confronted my husband and asked him if the situation were reversed and I were the one who died and an old flame started receiving condolences, how would he feel? Jerry said it wouldn't bother him. Is it normal to send condolences to old flames? -- DEATHLY CONFUSED IN TEXAS
DEAR DEATHLY: It's normal to inform others about a death, but considering the circumstances of the breakup, what's going on isn't "normal." It's possible that the messages your husband is receiving are from other Facebook friends who are connected to the sender of the original message.
While it isn't unusual for old friends to reach out to each other after news of a death, to convey it in the form of a condolence to an ex-boyfriend after the romance is long over strikes me as somewhat odd. My advice is to remain calm, don't let it give you heartburn and wait for the emotions to subside with time.
DEAR ABBY: The holidays are approaching, and I suspect many young couples are facing the same problem about where to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have two daughters -- one married and one single. The married daughter's mother-in-law has declared that this is "her" year for Thanksgiving, and next year is "her" year for Christmas. She has three sons, none of whom lives within four hours of her home. All three sons have children.
Don't you think the sons and their wives should decide for themselves if they want to travel for the holidays? They may prefer to spend Christmas morning in their own homes. Also, what about her daughters-in-law's parents? Perhaps they, too, have other grown children who would like to decide what they want to do for the holidays.
My philosophy is to plan my holidays and invite my children. If they can come, great! If not, there are no hard feelings. If all of my children and grandchildren can't be here at the same time, I focus on the ones who are and enjoy the time I have with them. I think the woman is being disrespectful to her sons and daughters-in-law. What say you? -- FOCUS ON A GOOD TIME
DEAR FOCUS: As your letter illustrates, not all mothers-in-law are alike. Some are iron-fisted matriarchs who demand obedience from their grown children. Others, like you, are more easygoing. In my opinion, the woman you have described is less disrespectful than overbearing.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 58-year-old woman, divorced for three years. I was in a loveless marriage for almost 20 years. Over the last three years I have lost 45 pounds and have started going to online dating sites. I'm attractive, so I get lots of attention.
I post nice pictures of myself, nothing sexy. But the kind of attention I'm getting is not what I want. I'd like to meet a man and try to have a long-term relationship. Most of the men "say" that's what they want, too. But to be honest about it, it's not.
How can I come across as a woman who wants an LTR and not a "friends with benefits" or a hook-up? I don't sleep around, so those things just are not my cup of tea. What do I do? -- LOST IN THE ONLINE DATING WORLD
DEAR LOST: If someone wants to move your "relationship" to the next level before you are ready, you need to say you are not comfortable in moving so quickly. It's straightforward and honest.
It occurs to me that there are many kinds of dating sites, and you may be on the wrong ones. If you have friends who are also in the dating world, ask them which they use. But if you have no luck there, consider meeting suitable men the old-fashioned way -- by being introduced by people you know and who know you well.
DEAR ABBY: My mother is a smart, independent woman -- until she gets a boyfriend. She has been dating ever since Dad died in 1994.
Every relationship starts out well; the guy seems nice. Then he moves into her house and things change. Mom stops thinking for herself and turns into a brainless, spineless puppet. It causes conflict between us because she thinks I'm selfish and trying to sabotage her relationship.
She has had her current boyfriend for two years. I'm 37, disabled and require some help from Mom. So do my grandparents and a family friend Mom takes care of to supplement her income. The boyfriend is pushing Mom to spend three to four months of the year with him in Arizona, leaving those of us who need her without help.
None of these men ever help her out financially. Should I say nothing and let her disappear? What happens to the people who depend on her? -- JUST HER DAUGHTER IN COLORADO
DEAR JUST: What happens to the ADULTS who depend on your mother is they arrange for outside assistance during the time she's in Arizona. And if this is the first time in years that she will have taken a break, you should all wish her well.
DEAR ABBY: One of my co-workers constantly interrupts when I'm having a conversation with other people. It doesn't seem to matter who I am speaking with or what the subject is. She'll interrupt in the middle of the conversation, and everyone must stop and look at her or acknowledge her.
We are in a professional environment, and I feel her behavior is extremely discourteous. The subjects she discusses are things like the sandwiches her husband bought the day before, what they had for dinner that night or whatever is trending at the moment. She never discusses work-related issues.
This happens every day and it's disruptive. Would you kindly share some ideas on how to deal with her interruptions? -- BOTHERED OFFICE GUY
DEAR OFFICE GUY: Obviously, your co-worker was never taught that interrupting while others are talking is rude. Because it bothers you, the next time she does it, tell her it's distracting when she breaks into your conversations and to please stop. If she persists, and other co-workers feel as you do about it, bring it to the attention of your supervisor or HR and let that person handle it.
DEAR ABBY: I am 28 and I'm disgusted with myself about how I talk to my mother when I'm stressed out. I know it's not her. It's me.
My other issue is road rage. When I'm behind the wheel and the cars ahead of me are going too slow or the drivers make stupid moves, I'm annoyed to the point that I sometimes take risky chances to get away from them. I know it puts my life and the lives of others at risk, and I don't want to be like this.
I sometimes wonder why my parents didn't teach me ways to tone down my anger when I was younger. I'm lucky they still love me, even when I snap at them. Do you have any tips on how to control my temper? -- SIMMERING IN SUBURBIA
DEAR SIMMERING: If you think you are alone in having these issues, you are mistaken. We are living in increasingly stressful times that have affected most of us in one way or another. If, however, you continue allowing your stress to dictate your behavior, it may eventually drive a wedge between you and the people you care about.
It's important that you realize anger is a normal emotion. At one time or another, anger is experienced by everyone. Recognizing what is CAUSING your stress and anger can help you to avoid taking it out on others.
It takes self-control -- and maturity -- to react calmly, instead of reacting angrily. Being able to identify what's triggering the anger and causing you to verbalize it can help to prevent an outburst. Instead say, "When you do or say that, it makes me angry." Or try saying, "Mom, I'm stressed right now. Can we discuss this later?" Or, "I've had a really rough day. I need to be alone for a little while." Then go for a walk to help you to regain your perspective. Developing the ability to do this will not only lessen your guilt, but also earn you the respect of those with whom you interact. My Anger Booklet contains many suggestions for managing and constructively expressing anger in various situations. It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus a check or money order for $7 in U.S. funds to Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. As to your "over the top" reactions when you are in your car driving, try to remember that we are all human and make mistakes. I have made them, and so have you.
If you MUST drive during rush hours, try listening to music or an audio book. And count to 10 before you hit the accelerator. Avoid blasting the horn or making rude gestures. (Screaming is permissible as long as your windows are closed.)
People who lose control not only can get hurt in a variety of ways, but also hurt others -- including innocent bystanders. That's why it is very important to be able to express anger in healthy ways.
We are living in a time when the anger level in our society has reached new heights. As we have seen all too often in news reports, explosive anger is the most dangerous of all. Perhaps constructive anger management should be taught in schools to help people more effectively communicate in a healthy manner.
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