DEAR ABBY: I am a Christian who is passionate and vocal about being an ally to the LGBTQ community. I have close family members and friends who are part of that community, so I never waiver in my support or understanding. I am also a feminist. These beliefs are deeply a part of who I am and how I live my life.
Recently, my boyfriend's mother and I got into an argument about my support and advocacy for the LGBTQ community. She's very conservative and opinionated, and her viewpoints are outdated. She has denounced the women's movement and scoffed at the idea that men and women aren't treated equally in this day and age.
I tried my best to make good points, but the conversation ended with her telling me I need to pray because my beliefs aren't consistent with my faith. This has alarmed and offended me because my boyfriend remained silent while his mother chastised me. Now I'm worried about our future. If we have children one day, I would never want them to be exposed to such hatred and ignorance.
When I expressed these concerns to my guy, I got the classic, "Well, that's just how she is" response. How can I have a healthy relationship with my boyfriend's family if we are at such odds with our core beliefs? -- OPEN-MINDED IN THE SOUTH
DEAR OPEN-MINDED: You can't. There are none so blind as those who will not see, so don't waste your time trying to get your boyfriend's mother to see the light. And don't hold your breath waiting for your boyfriend to defend you because when it comes to prying open her perspective, he's not up to it. You should have another conversation with him about this, but if you make no headway, recognize it's time to move on.
DEAR ABBY: My grandmother had beautiful but simple emerald jewelry. When I was 10, she told me that because I was her only grandchild who shared emerald as a birthstone, when she died, the jewelry would be mine.
Fast-forward 30 years. A year before her death, my grandmother asked my mother if there was anything of hers we wanted. Mom immediately mentioned the emerald jewelry for me. Grandma then informed Mom that we were "too late," she'd already given it to my aunt, her daughter-in-law. I never let on to my grandmother how upset I was, but I was devastated. A year later she passed away at 86. It's not her fault that she forgot she'd promised the jewelry to me.
My aunt has no daughters, and the odds are slim that she'll have grandchildren. I don't want to ask her to give me the jewelry. My grandmother was precious to her, too. But would it be wrong to ask her to not promise it to anyone else, and to leave it to me in her will? -- HOPEFUL IN CANADA
DEAR HOPEFUL: You wouldn't be wrong, but it will require a delicate touch. Not only should you do it, you should do it soon, before she does exactly what you fear.
DEAR ABBY: I have been seeing this guy for nine months. We had a good relationship, but then it hit a bump in the road. He was told some false information about me, and instead of giving me the benefit of the doubt, he immediately assumed it was true. He said nasty things to me, called me horrible names, and we didn't speak for a month. Once we came back into contact, I forgave him for falsely accusing me and put the episode behind me.
My mother is not as forgiving. She told me I can do better than him, and I should forget about him altogether. I tried to explain how I feel about him and how I want to move on from it. She hasn't had a change of heart and says she does not approve of him. So now I sneak around with him and leave my mother out of the loop.
I want to respect her opinion, but I do not want to give up the guy I love. I don't know what to do. Help! -- TORN IN MASSACHUSETTS
DEAR TORN: I can't salvage this romance and neither can you. There's a term for people who call others "horrible names and say nasty things" to them. They are called "verbal abusers," and the effects of what they say can be lasting. An example would be the way his accusations have affected your mother, who thinks her daughter deserves better, and your relationship with her.
Sneaking around is immature and dishonest. A guy who would help you do that is nothing to brag about. If he loved you as much as you say you love him, he would have apologized not only to you but also to your mother. If he had, she might have changed her opinion about him.
DEAR ABBY: This is a message about our senior population. Our children grow up, marry and have children. Each grandchild is special. We love them and adore being with them. Then the grandkids grow up and have little ones of their own. By this time we're old and sometimes need help with housework, yard work, or just would like to get out of the house to go eat or shop. We still have feelings, and we're not dead. But while it may not be intentional, it seems there is no time for the elderly.
We may say we're fine and don't mind being alone, but it IS lonely at times. No one calls to say hello or ask if we need anything. How long does it take to make a call? It would be nice if each family member called once a week or came by once a month. The love we've always had for family is still there and strong.
Children and grandchildren, please think about this and remember: The most important thing you can give your elderly relatives is your TIME. Time is the most precious gift of all and doesn't cost a thing. Someday you will be old, too! -- WISE WOMAN IN NORTH CAROLINA
DEAR WISE WOMAN: I'm printing your letter because it carries a message that some families need to hear. That said, I am a strong advocate for individuals who advocate for themselves. Because your children and grandchildren don't call, perhaps it's time you picked up your phone and called them to check in and see how they're doing. And if you are not fine and need help with something, ASK for 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: Recently, my friends threw me a party for my 34th birthday. A number of them brought their children (ages 2 to 6 years) to the Saturday afternoon event.
When I began opening my gifts, several of the children started throwing tantrums because they were not being given gifts. I thought this might be a good learning opportunity to gently teach the children that it was not their birthday, but someone else's special day. However, some of the parents began insisting that I let the crying (and by this point, screaming) children open my gifts(!). Instead, I stopped opening gifts, put all the presents up on a shelf and began serving cake and ice cream and handing out balloons and other party favors.
This satisfied some of the children, but others were still screaming. One of the parents then began berating me, saying that I was "the biggest child" for not "sharing." Needless to say, the party ended early and with some hurt feelings. Was I wrong to not allow small children to tear open my fragile and expensive birthday gifts? -- IT'S MY SPECIAL DAY
DEAR SPECIAL DAY: You did nothing wrong. The parents of the children who were throwing tantrums were wrong. They should have removed their offspring until they regained control of themselves rather than demand you allow their little angels to tear apart your packages. Your mistake was in not having an adults-only party, but after this experience, I'm sure it's one you won't be making again any time soon. Those parents owe you an apology.
DEAR ABBY: I'm 18 and was best friends with "Sam" for two years until we started dating 10 months ago. It has been so much fun. He is the first person I have truly loved.
When we first started dating we weren't exclusive, and he hooked up with my best friend. We all go to school together and see each other every day. Since then, I'm uncomfortable being around her.
I have expressed my feelings to Sam, but there's nothing we can do. I often feel hot and cold about our relationship and get close to breaking up with him. I have considered therapy, but my family can't afford it. What can I do so I don't hurt myself and him? -- HURTING IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR HURTING: You didn't mention what you and this young man plan to do in the fall, but if it involves continuing your education, your paths may diverge at that time. In the meantime, you and Sam should be free to see others because, if your emotional needs were being met, you wouldn't be blowing hot and cold about the relationship.
DEAR ABBY: I started sucking my thumb when I was 1. My parents tried for years to break my bad habit, but it wasn't until I started going to slumber parties at 16 that I stopped.
I am now 27, and a few months ago I woke up with my thumb in my mouth. Since then I have caught myself sucking my thumb in the middle of the night. It seems to happen when I'm really tired.
I am now in a committed relationship and would die of embarrassment if my boyfriend saw me doing it. How can I stop once and for all? -- WET THUMB IN THE SOUTH
DEAR W.T.: I have heard from other adults who suck their thumbs, so comfort yourself with the thought that it's not all that unusual.
One way to fix the problem would be to not allow yourself to get overly tired. Another would be to coat your thumbs with a bitter or bad-tasting substance at bedtime. (Some people find the taste of nail polish deters them from thumb-sucking.) You could also apply hand cream and wear cotton gloves to bed. However, if that doesn't do the trick, simply level with your boyfriend and ask him if it's a deal-breaker.
P.S. You were able to quit the habit for 11 years. Something triggered your return to it. Consider keeping a journal to identify what is going on before your thumb-sucking episodes so you can gain insight into what may be causing them.
DEAR ABBY: I co-signed a college loan for my grandson. Unfortunately, he didn't earn passing grades and was kicked out. He frequently misses loan payments, and I end up getting a late payment letter.
I am afraid his inattention to this debt will adversely affect my credit. I can make the late payment or pull the money out of my savings and pay off the loan. If I pay off the loan, I plan to deduct that amount from his inheritance.
He's very apologetic about it when I talk to him, but I'm tired of it hanging over my head. How should I handle this? -- TIRED OF PAYING
DEAR TIRED OF PAYING: Your grandson's irresponsibility WILL reflect on your credit if it hasn't already. Pay off the loan and do not co-sign for him again. He should repay the money he borrowed from you as well as any penalties when he begins earning his own money. However, if he doesn't, you are within your rights to deduct the amount from his inheritance.
DEAR ABBY: I have become completely unemotional. I don't feel sad when there is a death. I feel no joy when I see a baby and, in fact, think people are selfish for having children in the world we live in today. When a couple gets married, I also feel -- nothing.
I'm 66 and have a great life with no health or financial problems. I'm friendly when I'm out in public, although I'd rather be left alone. I'm not miserable. I am just burned out on human beings and feel numb. What's up with me? -- ABNORMAL IN ARKANSAS
DEAR ABNORMAL: Have you seen your doctor during the past year? If not, you should, to rule out a physical illness. If there's nothing physically wrong, you may be describing something called "ennui" -- a kind of world-weariness. (An old song performed by Peggy Lee titled "Is That All There Is?" which you can find on YouTube, expresses it perfectly.)
A change in your routine may give you the jolt you need. If you aren't in the habit of doing it, 30 minutes of brisk daily exercise might give you a lift. However, if that doesn't help your malaise, some sessions with a licensed mental health professional may help you understand why you've been feeling the way you do.
DEAR ABBY: Can you and some of your readers give me an answer to a pressing question? I recently remarried, and I still feel like I'm visiting instead of living in my new home. None of my husband's late wife's furniture has been removed to make room for mine. Only a few minor changes have been made. When I suggest any changes, they are ignored. How can I tactfully make my feelings known? -- LIVING WITH A GHOST IN ALABAMA
DEAR LIVING WITH A GHOST: Do that by stating your feelings CLEARLY. This is something the two of you should have reached an understanding about BEFORE your wedding. If your husband continues to ignore you after that, work it out with him with the help of a licensed marriage and family therapist or other mediator.
DEAR ABBY: I recently was rejected for a job that would have turned into a career. I put all my eggs in one basket, so to speak, and told everyone around me during the process that it was looking good. I am humiliated because I now have to tell my peers and co-workers that it didn't work out.
My confidence is shaken, and I don't know what to do. In my middle school years, I used to know what I wanted to do, but somewhere in high school up to this point (25 years old), I've lost my vision, my dream. How can I find my way again? -- IN A SLUMP OUT EAST
DEAR IN A SLUMP: The path to success is rarely straight. Most of us learn more from our mistakes than our successes, so take heart. While this experience has been disappointing, you have learned valuable lessons from it.
If you do not wish to stay in your current job, finding your way again may be as simple as inquiring if career counseling is available at your nearest community college. Ask whether aptitude tests are offered, then research what kinds of jobs are available for someone with your qualifications and interests. And when you are again in the running for a new position, keep it to yourself until you have officially accepted it.
DEAR ABBY: My daughter married into a wealthy family. Since the beginning, her mother-in-law has used money to control her. Although it bothered me, I didn't say anything.
We now have a granddaughter, and the mother-in-law is controlling how much time we get to see her. Unfortunately, my daughter allows her to do this. What can I do? I am heartsick. -- THE OTHER GRANDMA
DEAR OTHER GRANDMA: Your mistake was in not speaking up when you first noticed what was going on. If you haven't expressed your feelings, you should. Whether it will lead to any improvements, I can't guarantee. But if it doesn't, and your daughter continues to allow herself to be ruled by her MIL's checkbook, you will have to accept that the daughter you raised has seriously misplaced values.
You are obviously someone with a lot of love to give. A program that has been mentioned before in my column -- and that might interest you -- is Foster Grandparents, which is sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The website is nationalservice.gov. Click on "Programs" and you will find it listed under "Senior Corps."
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