DEAR ABBY: My husband and I live in a nice home in the desert Southwest with an in-ground pool and guesthouse. Our friends and relatives from back east have an open invitation to visit whenever they please. We enjoyed these visits until recently.
The problem is their ever-present compulsion to be connected to an electronic device. We are not yet retired, but in the past we didn't mind taking a few days off work to spend time with folks who came all the way out here to spend a few days with us. But it seems like nowadays our guests have their noses pointed at a phone or computer most of the time they are here. They have actually missed the beauty of our area, which we are missing work to show them, because they are otherwise engaged.
Is there a pleasant way to ask them to disconnect for a bit while we are enjoying their visit, or should I just get in the grumpy old lady line? I want our visitors to have a good time, but I find this behavior especially rude. -- ALMOST DONE IN THE SOUTHWEST
DEAR ALMOST DONE: It's possible that your guests don't realize how much time they're spending on their computers and cellphones. Because you are so turned off you are considering rolling up the welcome mat, explain to your guests that you have given them an open invitation so you can enjoy each other's company, and you are hurt that they spend so much time on their electronic devices. Nobody gets something for nothing, and it seems the "quid" has gone missing from the "pro quo" you have been offering.
DEAR ABBY: I am a male who was molested 30 years ago. It has troubled me into adulthood. Recently, my boss informed my crew that a convicted pedophile will be working on a trial basis on our shift. The moment he said it, it started setting off triggers in my head, and I am very angry about it.
When I told my boss about my childhood experience, he acted like he didn't want to hear it. Do I have any rights in this matter? I really can't work with a man who has hurt another child like I was. -- TROUBLED VICTIM
DEAR TROUBLED VICTIM: You absolutely do have rights. You have the right to request a different shift, if that's possible. If it isn't, you also have the right to look for another job. If that's the case, it will be interesting to know how many of the other employees will follow you out the door.
DEAR ABBY: A good friend's wife is currently in hospice care and not expected to live much longer. While I was at Walmart the other day, I passed through the card department and, because I was already there, I figured I would purchase a condolence/sympathy card. When my inner circle discovered I had bought the card before she passed, they criticized me to no end. I thought it was an efficient thing to do. I'm not wrong, am I? -- EFFICIENT IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR EFFICIENT: Oh, come on! There was nothing wrong with what you did. Many people buy cards of all types because they think the message is appropriate. You thought of your friend and his wife while you were in the card section, and it is the thought that counts -- not the date of purchase. If you made any mistake, it was in letting it be known that you purchased the card in advance. In a situation like this, discretion is key.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 32-year-old late-deafened adult. I have been deaf in my right ear my whole life, but lost my hearing in my left ear after a tumor was removed when I was 27.
I guess they are right when they say we are never fully prepared to lose things we have taken for granted for so long. I still have trouble communicating with people. I have taken a few sign language classes and four lip-reading classes, but I often feel like I'm no longer part of normal society.
My question is, shouldn't I have adjusted by now regarding how people see me, since I have been without hearing for so long? -- HEARING IMPAIRED
DEAR HEARING IMPAIRED: I have been told that the most isolating disability is being unable to hear. Please do not burden yourself by feeling you "should" have adjusted faster than you have. There is no set timetable for adjusting to any disability.
Because you feel stuck in the process, the Hearing Loss Association of America (hearingloss.org) may be helpful because it sponsors support groups in many states. Please check it out.
DEAR ABBY: Do you think it is fair for me to do all the housework AND pick up dog doo-doo just because I moved into my sister's house with her and her family? They have five dogs and four cats. No one else bothers to do it. I do it to lessen the smell. When I try to say something, they say I am "causing problems." I don't have any animals of my own. -- POOPER SCOOPER
DEAR P.S.: I agree that the task of picking up after an animal -- let alone nine of them -- isn't something most people look forward to. However, if you are living rent-free with your sister's family, perhaps you should consider your chores to be your contribution to the household.
P.S. Because you mentioned that no one else cleans up the animal messes, consider finding more hygienic living arrangements as soon as it's feasible.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 47-year-old professional man who loves children, but never had any of my own. Consequently, I have never had to contend with the considerable cost of raising children. Many of my friends are parents, and I feel the urge to buy their kids nice presents I know they want, or that I never received when I was a child, e.g., a wonderful bike or train set.
What's the protocol for giving an expensive gift (e.g., a saxophone that can cost $1,000) to non-related children without creating awkwardness or obligation? Naturally, I would always check with the parents first. (All of us are white-collar executives and employed, but no one is "filthy rich.") -- GIFT GIVER IN OAKLAND, CALIF.
DEAR GIFT GIVER: The protocol is the one you are already observing, which is to have a conversation with the parents before buying expensive gifts for their children. And when you do, make clear that it is not your wish to cause awkwardness or a sense of obligation.
DEAR ABBY: My brother-in-law found out I smoke marijuana. I have a medical card and some mental disabilities. Marijuana helps with my anxiety.
Although we live near each other, my in-laws now say they don't want me in their homes. The stress this has put on my husband is unfair. His brother obviously has a problem with me.
I never discuss marijuana with anyone and don't carry it around with me. I use it only in the privacy of my home. How should I expect my husband to handle holidays or even regular get-togethers? I really need help. -- UNFAIR IN NEVADA
DEAR UNFAIR: Medical and recreational marijuana are legal for adults in the state of Nevada. I wish you had mentioned how your brother-in-law learned you are using it. That it is being used as an excuse to isolate you is cruel.
How your husband chooses to handle further contact -- or lack of it -- with his relatives will be his personal decision. Not knowing how close they have been, I can't guess what his next step should be -- except to point out that his first loyalty should be to you.
DEAR ABBY: I'm married to a beautiful woman, "Suzonne." We are bodybuilders and into fitness, so we are both quite muscular.
Recently, my wife cut her hair short. It's a great look for her, and we both love the style. Unfortunately, some people have begun calling her "sir" at work and when she's out and about. Suzonne waits tables a couple of nights a week for extra income. Some of the customers have gone so far as to keep calling her "sir" after she has told them that she's female.
This infuriates me because it's so disrespectful. I know it hurts my wife's feelings, although she has been super strong about it. It's plain when you look at Suzonne that she is a beautiful woman.
How can she nip this in the bud before it starts to make her feel bad? I feel a strong need to defend her, and I don't want to get into a physical altercation with anyone over it. -- HURT FEELINGS IN FLORIDA
DEAR HURT FEELINGS: Because your wife has a muscular build and a short haircut, it's possible some of the individuals who call her "sir" are making an honest mistake. However, for someone to persist after being informed that she is a woman is extremely rude. (It makes me wonder if the offender has a warped sense of humor or is threatened by her muscular appearance.)
When it happens at work, Suzonne should ask her manager how the situation should be handled rather than allow it to continue. But under no circumstances should you get into a physical altercation because of it. Instead, on the home front, continue to reassure your wife that she's beautiful.
DEAR ABBY: My husband refuses to memorize my cellphone number. He says as long as it's in his phone he doesn't need to. I feel he should know it so if he loses the phone or the battery goes dead, I can be reached. What do you think? -- LOGICAL IN KANSAS
DEAR LOGICAL: Experience is the best teacher. I think you should stop arguing with your husband and let him suffer the consequences. An option might be for him to jot the number on a small piece of paper and keep it in his wallet.
DEAR ABBY: My wife passed away two years ago at age 40 after a long bout with cancer. We had three children, ages 7 to 12. I am 44 and engaged now to a wonderful woman. We are planning to have a small wedding with fewer than 50 guests.
While the kids and I are doing well, my late wife's mother, "Karen," is still grieving. She has a forceful personality and can be quite pushy. She lives nearby.
We have not finalized the arrangements or sent out invitations. Karen has been asking if she and my former father-in-law are invited, but we haven't answered her yet. She says she's hurt because she feels we don't want her there.
Is it proper etiquette to invite the parents of a deceased spouse to a remarriage? The only people she would know aside from us would be my parents, who need to bond with my fiancee's family who are coming from out of town. The kids seem to not care either way. If it were me, I'd feel awkward being there. Help! -- LOOKING TO THE FUTURE IN ILLINOIS
DEAR LOOKING: Although your late wife is gone, her parents are still your children's grandparents and therefore should be treated as part of your family. While you might feel awkward if you were in their position, consider how hurt they will be if they are not included on the guest list. The decision whether to attend should be theirs to make.
Welcome them and treat them with kindness. A wife can be "replaced," but a daughter cannot, which is why Karen is still grieving even though you have gone on with your life.
DEAR ABBY: I need advice on how to deal with a friend/neighbor's messy, unkempt backyard. We are getting ready to put our house on the market, and I'm concerned their yard may be a deterrent to potential buyers. Their pool looks like a swamp, and various pieces of lawn furniture are strewn about the yard. Tables are turned upside down and random items are thrown about.
They are friends of ours, but I have no clue how to broach such a sensitive topic without upsetting them. Please help. -- LIVING NEXT TO A SWAMP
DEAR LIVING: Because those neighbors are friends, I assume they are aware that you are selling your home. If you live in an area that's prone to any dangerous mosquito-borne viruses, you would be doing them a favor to point out that their pool equipment needs fixing because still water makes an excellent breeding place for mosquitoes.
As to the state of their yard, your real estate agent may have some suggestions about how to handle that. If you and your spouse volunteer to help your neighbors make it more attractive, they might be receptive. However, if they refuse and you live in a community with a neighborhood association that regulates how properties must look in order to preserve their value, consider bringing this to its attention.
DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend, "Hal," and I have been dating for a year and a half, living together for six months. I'm afraid he feels emasculated. Because I make more money than he does, a lot of the responsibility for paying the bills lands on me. We try to split things down the middle, but recent complications with his job have meant it doesn't always work out that way.
I love Hal. I know he's the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. I don't want money to be a dividing force, but I don't know what to say to make him feel better. This has been the elephant in the room for some time.
Hal helps out with cooking and housework, and because of that, I don't mind putting a little more into the bills. I do not want this to be an issue further down the road. Any advice is appreciated. -- STUCK ON THIS IN VIRGINIA
DEAR STUCK: The problem with elephants in the room is, the longer they are ignored, the larger the herd becomes. It's amazing that two important subjects -- sex and finances -- are such touchy ones to discuss.
Choose a time when you and Hal are relaxed, and then bring up your concerns. Tell him how much you appreciate him in your life and the efforts he makes to make life easier for you, and that you don't want money issues to cause problems between the two of you. He may need to hear you say it. Then encourage him to express his feelings the way you have.
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