DEAR ABBY: I am a gay male. My sister, "Cate," is in what appears outwardly to be a committed relationship, but I know for a fact it isn't.
Her boyfriend, "Darren," invited me out for coffee a few days ago, and while he was discussing some of their relationship troubles, he told me he isn't sure that he's straight. He then proceeded to say he could easily see himself dating me!
I don't know what to do. I want to tell Cate, but I don't want to wreck her relationship. The other problem is, I also feel attracted to Darren, but it's not my place to pursue him. Any advice would be helpful. -- IN A BIND IN NEW YORK
DEAR IN A BIND: Your sister's relationship with Darren was "wrecked" the minute he told you that he isn't certain he's heterosexual and that he has his eye on you. If you and Darren were to become involved, it would likely devastate Cate, and I don't recommend it. Talk to Darren and tell him it's time to come clean with Cate. Then, if he doesn't, a loyal sibling should tell his sister before she wastes any more time on this boyfriend.
DEAR ABBY: I supervise someone I'll call "Kevin." He is lazy, and his work is so sloppy he should have been fired long ago. I and many supervisors before me have tried to no avail to motivate him, but we work in government, and he knows how to game the system. Our unit's reputation has suffered because of Kevin. For reasons beyond my control, we are stuck working together.
I supervise another person who is retiring soon, and I would like to help plan his retirement party. Kevin is also nearing retirement age. When Kevin finally leaves, am I obligated to plan a retirement party for him? He has never lifted a finger for anybody, and he sure doesn't deserve a party honoring the fact that he sat in a chair for 30 years. Or should I not help plan either party? -- STUCK SUPERVISOR
DEAR STUCK: Unless party-planning is part of your job designation, you are not obligated to arrange one for Kevin if you prefer not to, considering what a problem he has been for your unit. A party later celebrating the welcoming of "new staff" would probably go over better.
DEAR ABBY: I've been invited to go away with my son's family, and I don't want to do it. I have done it before, and it never goes well because of my son's mouth. I think he may have an anger issue, but if I say anything to him about it, he gets angry. I can't tolerate his language, and he says he can't change.
I want to be with my grandchildren, but his mouth and his attitude make me timid and uncomfortable, and I end up wishing I were home. I told him I was sorry I couldn't go and why. He says his family is happy, and I should just let it roll off, but I feel I have a right not to be subjected to a week of constant cursing. It feels abusive. Am I wrong? -- WISHING IT WERE DIFFERENT
DEAR WISHING: If the bad language is directed at another person, it IS abusive and disrespectful. If it is used as an adjective, it is "merely" grating and unpleasant. A vacation is supposed to be a time to relax and enjoy oneself. Because you feel your son's language is so bad it would prevent you from doing that, you should not subject yourself to it.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 15-year-old girl in my sophomore year. School is going really good, I'm getting my grades up, I made the varsity lacrosse team, and I have amazing friends. But our school tells us that during our sophomore school year, we should start to look at colleges. Neither of my parents went to college, and I'm not sure what I should be doing to prepare. I'm only an average student, and I don't really know what I should ask my guidance counselor or look for in a college. What do you think I should do? -- STUDENT IN NEW YORK
DEAR STUDENT: That your parents didn't go to college doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't. If your grades need improvement, ask your teachers what you need to do to earn better grades. Make an appointment with your guidance counselor and explain exactly what you have told me. When you do, I am sure the person will be glad to help you.
DEAR ABBY: My best friend is being married, and the wedding invitation lists the attire as "black tie." I understand this usually means the men should wear tuxedos. Several of the men who have been invited have told me they plan to wear dark suits instead. Is this appropriate for a black tie event? I suppose there's no way to force anyone to wear something they don't want to, but I'm wondering if black tie is a requirement or a suggestion. -- WEDDING ATTIRE ETIQUETTE
DEAR ATTIRE: If an invitation specifies "black tie," it means that formal attire is preferred. The rules of etiquette dictate that guests should comply. However, breaking a rule of etiquette is not a felony. If these invitees prefer not to go to the expense of renting a tux, ask your best friend if he/she would be offended if they wore dark suits and conservative ties to the wedding instead.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 70-year-old male former teacher and social worker. I stopped dating 30 years ago because the only women I had loved had all dumped me. I felt I was only a temporary convenience to them.
Since then, I haven't been romantically involved with anyone so I would not be dumped again. However, I am lonely for female companionship and afraid I'll die without ever having had another girlfriend.
I'm not attracted to women my age, and I don't see younger women being attracted to an overweight old guy who isn't even scraping by on Social Security. Dating services don't screen their members. Is there a solution for this problem? -- HOPELESS IN MISSOURI
DEAR HOPELESS: I'm sorry women in your age range don't qualify, because it would be easier for you if they did. To be appreciated for the person you are, you will have to meet through mutual friends, church or an activity you enjoy -- something that will allow women to see the strengths you have.
However, if that doesn't open some doors and some hearts, because you're looking for unconditional love, consider adopting a puppy.
DEAR ABBY: My middle-schooler noticed that the family of one of her classmates is struggling financially. The boy wears eyeglasses with a crooked frame and one missing lens. His clothing and shoes are shabby and worn.
Not knowing the student or his family, I know my options are limited. They rely on public transportation, and none of the other students know where they live.
Education is paramount to getting out of this jam. Without something as simple as glasses, I'm afraid it can't be done. Do you have any recommendations on how to help get this student a pair? Since I don't know the family, how do I even offer a ride to an optometrist's without fear of being labeled a kidnapper? -- TRYING TO HELP IN THE WEST
DEAR TRYING TO HELP: A diplomatic way to handle it would be to discuss this with your daughter's teacher or the school principal. I agree a child who can't see the blackboard has little chance of academic success. If you would like to provide transportation or pay for glasses for the boy, speaking with school staff would be the path with the least potential for embarrassment.
DEAR ABBY: I am currently in a relationship that's great except for one thing. She knows what "buttons" to push to make me angry, and she'll continue to push them.
No matter what I do, she's in my face. It just seems she wants to argue until I reach the point of exploding. I try to walk away, go to another room, ignore her, tell her she's making me angry -- yet she continues. I'm all for being able to walk away and then talk about it later -- and I have confronted her on this. What do I do? -- FRUSTRATED IN FLORIDA
DEAR FRUSTRATED: What do you do? You break up with this toxic individual who enjoys goading you to the point of exploding, and find a woman who is a lot more compatible.
DEAR ABBY: I'm 29. I had a son six years ago and left my ex because he didn't want to be a father. He chose to party instead. I had to file a name change for my son, and custody was hard to fight for because the father refused to show up.
Since then, I've worked two and sometimes three jobs just to stay ahead. My child hardly sees me. I work so much that my son has stopped calling me "Mommy" and instead calls me by my name. I feel hopeless and that I'm working for nothing. Have I made a mistake working so much? -- MOMMY IN MARYLAND
DEAR MOMMY: If you are working those long hours in order to pay your bills, you are doing what a parent is supposed to do -- providing for your child. Because your ex isn't doing his share, get on the internet and research "child support for single mothers." Resources are available to help you.
As to your son no longer calling you "Mommy," I would have to ask where he got the idea he would call you anything else. (Have you asked him?) Rather than accept it, make clear that he has only one mommy, you are it, and you will not tolerate being called anything else.
DEAR ABBY: I've been seeing someone for six or seven months, but we have been together for only three. He's quite the package, except he can't handle confrontation and doesn't communicate well. His way of handling uncomfortable conversations is to avoid them, while I, on the other hand, tend to be very communicative.
Is there a way for both of us to be happy when dealing with difficult conversations? Is there anything I can do to make him more comfortable with them? I should add that he hasn't been in a relationship in forever. I'm happy with him, but communication is important to me. -- VERBAL IN THE WEST
DEAR VERBAL: Has it occurred to you that this man may not have been in a relationship "in forever" BECAUSE he can't deal with uncomfortable conversations? For many women, that would be a deal-breaker.
While not all men are comfortable with long, heartfelt conversations, the only way to arrive at a compromise is to talk with each other. Give him more time because your relationship is still new. But if he isn't capable of opening up, recognize it as an important red flag if you are contemplating a long relationship with him.
DEAR ABBY: My son's best friend's bike was stolen from our front yard, and I feel terrible about it. Up to this point, he had been careful to put it in our garage or by our front door when he came over.
It was new, and I want to offer to help pay for a new one if we don't find it. My husband disagrees. I know the child's parents don't expect it, but I feel it's the right thing to do. -- FEELING GUILTY IN TEXAS
DEAR FEELING GUILTY: While it would be generous to offer to help pay for the bike, you should not feel obligated or guilty because you did nothing wrong. One can only hope the boy has learned an important lesson from what happened. In the future, he will make sure his bike is safely parked inside your garage and not out where a thief can snatch it.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are 15 years apart in age. We have been together for six years, married a year and a half. He is my entire world, my best friend and soul mate.
When we first met, he told me he didn't think he wanted another child (he has a daughter). I learned to accept it if I wanted to be with him. I had to be OK with being a stepmom and not having a child of my own.
Fast-forward: It's six years later. His daughter (now 14) no longer comes around. (The ex-wife discouraged any relationship between my stepdaughter and me.) I'm finding it harder and harder to cope with the fact that I don't have a child of my own. When I bring this up to my husband, he tells me, "I told you in the beginning I didn't think I wanted another child."
How do I deal with this? It's breaking my heart because she is not around anymore and I don't feel like a mom of any sort. -- LONGING TO BE A MOM
DEAR LONGING: Tell your husband that in the beginning when he told you he didn't think he wanted another child, you agreed because you thought you could accept it, but that as time has gone by, you no longer can. Then tell him you feel an important part of being a woman is being a mother. If he refuses to relent, then as much as you may love him, you may be married to the wrong man, and you will have to move on if you need to follow your biological imperative.
DEAR ABBY: Can you please educate your readers about supermarket etiquette? Every time I buy groceries, I encounter people who push or park their carts in the middle of the aisle with no consideration for other shoppers. I also see them blindly blast through intersections in the aisles and barely avoid colliding with each other.
A few weeks ago, I said to a gentleman, "Pardon me, may I go around you? Thank you." He responded that I was the first person who had ever said that to him! I'm surprised there aren't more cases of road rage in supermarkets.
My suggestion: Why don't we follow basic traffic rules in the supermarket? For example, stay to the right unless you are passing. Yield at intersections to the shopper on the right, etc. Abby, what do you think? Also, what's your take on big kids riding in the grocery carts? -- DISGUSTED SHOPPER IN ILLINOIS
DEAR DISGUSTED: What you describe happens when folks fail to consider how their behavior affects others. When someone blocks the aisle with a grocery cart, the logical way to deal with it is to say, "Excuse me, please," which alerts the "offender" that there are others in the store besides him or her.
Your suggestion that shoppers observe basic traffic rules is a good one -- particularly when it involves observing the speed limit. Charging through the intersections of the aisles could cause an accident in which another shopper is harmed.
As to "big kids" riding in shopping carts, as long as they aren't bothering other shoppers and the store doesn't care, I mind my own business and don't judge.
DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend, "Al," and I have been together for two years off and on. We dated casually for six months before we decided to be exclusive. Unbeknownst to him, I was also sleeping with someone else, "Brandon."
Al and I had a fight and broke up for a few months, and during that time I slept with another good friend of mine, "Marc." When Marc and I decided it wasn't serious and moved on, Al and I got back together.
I didn't feel obligated to tell Al about it at the time, since "technically" I did nothing wrong. But as we became more and more serious, it occurred to me that it was a lie of omission, since we interact with both men on a social level. I told Al, and he isn't handling it well, so now I'm at a loss about what to do.
Honesty and time are key, I know, but he is distancing himself from me. Do I let him go? I am fighting hard right now, but I'm feeling beaten down at every turn. -- WRONG IN THE EAST
DEAR WRONG: Not all relationships last forever. It's possible that this one has run its course.
If you and Al had agreed you would both be abstinent after the separation, he has reason to be upset. If you had promised each other there would be an accounting of who each of you had been with and you didn't live up to it, I can see why he would be distancing. However, if an understanding wasn't in place, then you were free to be with others and you did nothing wrong.
If Al no longer wants to be with you -- for whatever reason -- you have no choice but to let him go. For your sake, quit allowing yourself to be beaten down and make it as painless for yourself as possible.
DEAR ABBY: Is it wrong to paint my 2 1/2-year-old boy's fingernails when he begs me to? I'm a stay-at-home mom and very close with my son. When I paint my nails (I paint them pink), my son sees me and insists I paint his toes and fingers "just like Mommy."
I see it as all in fun, but my mother-in-law makes snide comments about him being a boy and that boys shouldn't have their nails painted. My husband has also said I should stop.
I know my son will want me to paint his nails only a little while longer. It's not harming anyone, and I'm sick of all the gender barriers. Am I wrong here? -- PRETTY IN PINK
DEAR PRETTY: Your mother-in-law appears to think that polishing your 2-year-old's nails will "make" him effeminate. It's no more valid than her not doing it has "made" your husband masculine. Ignore the snide remarks because you are not going to change her.
Whether your little boy wants you to continue painting his nails pink -- or, for that matter, to wear something pink -- is far less important than making sure he knows you love and support him and it's OK to be HIMSELF. That's the way parents raise confident and successful children.
DEAR ABBY: What is your opinion about elderly parents who no longer drive having to pay their children to drive them to appointments, grocery, etc.? Think of all the times parents drove them when they were growing up. -- RETURNING THE FAVOR
DEAR RETURNING THE FAVOR: Most adult children with a memory would never dream of asking to be paid for driving their elderly parents. A child who would do this must be desperate for money. In my opinion, because they are paying for it anyway, the parents should make other arrangements for transportation.
DEAR ABBY: My husband loaned a "dear friend" some money a year ago. She has yet to pay back a penny. When I ask him about it, he gets mad and tells me it's none of my business. I have hinted to her about some large bills that we have to pay, to no avail.
Other than that, my husband and I have a great marriage and love each other very much. I just don't like her taking advantage of his generosity. I know taking care of his friends gives him pleasure, but he has been burned before and I can see it happening again. I find it hard to ignore. What do I do? -- SICK OF IT IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
DEAR SICK OF IT: I wish you had mentioned whether you work and the money your soft-touch hubby gave his friend was partly earned by you. If that's the case, I don't blame you for being upset.
While I'm not sure you can prevent your husband from doing this, I do think you are within your rights to insist that before he does it he discuss it with you. If he will do that, perhaps the two of you can find an alternative for the person other than giving out money.
DEAR ABBY: My son passed away unexpectedly a little over eight years ago. He was 21. At the time, he had been dating a very nice young lady. We kept in touch for a while after the funeral -- letters and emails mostly, as I had moved out of state -- but things gradually tapered off.
I have been able to keep somewhat informed about her life because of the magic of social media and mutual friends she shared with my son who still contact me occasionally. I recently learned she's being married within the next two weeks. I am wondering if it would be wrong or weird of me to send a congratulatory card to the happy couple. I wish only continued happiness for her and her future husband. -- WISHING HAPPINESS
DEAR WISHING: I see nothing wrong or weird about sending her a nice card, and when you do, be sure to tell her not only that you wish her a happy future, but also that she will always have a special place in your heart.
DEAR ABBY: Would it be appropriate for someone to tell someone else's children to stop doing something dangerous if the parent is not around? I'm talking about kids holding scissors the wrong way or running with them, pushing others, etc.
My children are in their teens now and know that such behavior is wrong. If it were the other way around, I would be grateful if someone cared enough to tell my kids that a behavior is wrong and/or dangerous. -- GLAD IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR GLAD: How else would the children know if they weren't warned? To speak up would be an act of kindness, particularly if they were doing something that could cause harm to themselves or others.
DEAR ABBY: Occasionally, married friends will come to my husband and/or me venting about their marital problems. We have been through a few rough patches during our 12 years of marriage, and during those times, we sought help from family, friends and counselors. Today I can honestly say we are happier than ever and willing to stick through the ups and downs.
We try to pass along the things that helped us, but a lot of times we'll see one spouse wanting to work on improving the marriage and the other one oblivious or unwilling to do anything about it. I think our experience could help the spouses of our troubled friends see that things can work out by doing something about it, but I never know if or how to approach the subject with them. Should we keep our mouths shut and just be there for the unhappy friend, or is there a proper way to reach out to their spouse with an offer of support in situations like this? -- TRULY WANTING TO HELP
DEAR TRULY WANTING: My advice would be to stay out of the line of fire. If you reach out to the unhappy spouse, who may be unaware that his or her marital problems were revealed to you, it will be regarded as intrusive. By all means tell the person asking your advice what worked for you, but leave it up to that person to convey it to his or her spouse.
DEAR ABBY: What is the etiquette when eating at a restaurant where a piano player is performing? I don't mean the "bar scene"-type piano player who wants the crowd to sing along, but more of a mid- to upscale type of place.
There's a restaurant like this in my town -- the only one with a piano. On one special occasion when we were there, the piano player was playing "Misty" and a woman sitting nearby with her party wanted to make herself heard over him. She began talking very loudly to her group while he was playing the song. I thought it was tacky, and if I had been sitting near her, I would have shushed her up.
Isn't it polite to wait until the piano player is finished before talking loudly at your table? Whatever happened to behaving with a little class in restaurants? -- DEANNA IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR DEANNA: The musician in that restaurant was there to provide mood music for the diners. If they chose to talk while he was playing, it was their privilege. The woman may have raised her voice because someone in her party had a hearing problem. For you to have taken it upon yourself to "shush her up" would have been rude, and for your sake, I'm glad you refrained from doing it.
DEAR ABBY: Am I overreacting to my husband's request that I take down photos of my mom and grandparents when his mom visits? They are displayed in our guest bedroom. I think his request was rude. I wonder if his mother even cares or if he just feels guilty. It's my house, too. -- RELUCTANT IN TEXAS
DEAR RELUCTANT: Rather than remove your family photos, why not compromise by adding a couple of pictures of your husband's mother, too? I'm sure she would be pleased to see them. Problem solved.
DEAR ABBY: I have a crush on a guy I work with. I'm 19, and he's 26. He has a kid, which actually doesn't bother me. I love kids and have taken care of them most of my life. My problem is he has this ex who wants to get back together with him. They broke up because she was staying out all night and cheating.
He used to flirt with me and text me all the time and offer me his hoodie. Now she's sort of back in the picture and he ignores me and doesn't return my texts. But when we see each other he starts flirting again, and we just click. We make sense.
I guess my question is, should I tell him how I feel before it's too late or just keep it to myself? Should I risk everything and go for it? -- UNCERTAIN IN NEW YORK
DEAR UNCERTAIN: Announce your feelings for the guy if you wish, but do not expect him to drop everything and rush to you. If he were interested in more than a workplace flirtation, he would be paying the same kind of attention to you that he did before. Because he isn't, you need to understand that he and his ex obviously have some unfinished business together, regardless of her history of infidelity. Set your sights on someone else.
DEAR ABBY: All my mom does is talk about work. If we are having a conversation, she links every topic to her work and her co-workers. It is alienating my sister and me. When we tell her things about our kids -- her grandkids -- she still relates it to work.
Another thing: She's constantly on her tablet for work or on Facebook. I live seven hours away from her. When we make the drive down, I don't want to watch her on her tablet. If we try to confront her on anything, all she does is cry.
Mom and I had a good relationship before she took that job. Now she's so negative that it's difficult to want to talk to her. Where do I even start? -- MISSING HER WHILE SHE'S HERE
DEAR MISSING: Rather than "confront" your mother, ask her what may have changed in her life since she took that job. Her focus may have shifted because that's the center of her activity. Conversations are two-way, and this may be all she feels she has to contribute on her end. As to her "hiding" behind Facebook rather than carry on a conversation with you, like many people, she may have become addicted to it and unable to tear herself away. However, you will never know unless you ask her calmly.
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