Subscribe for 17¢ / day

DEAR ABBY: When I was a teenager, there were many times when I made things awkward. It continues today. I try to have normal conversations with people, but when I do, I have nothing to say. My mind goes blank, so I keep quiet and walk away. I feel like the odd person out each time and like I'm not good enough, and it really sucks.

The only time I'm successful socially with people is at work because I'm kind of forced to be. I really want to make friends and possibly get a girl in my life, but it's almost impossible to do with my social skills. This is so depressing and disappointing that I'm almost ready to quit trying. I need some tips and guidance. Do you have any? -- FRUSTRATED GUY IN FAIRBANKS

DEAR FRUSTRATED GUY: I think so. If you think you are alone in having this problem, you are mistaken. The majority of people have the same insecurities you do. No one is born knowing how to be social. Social adeptness is a skill like any other. It can be learned and, with some practice and effort, polished until it becomes second nature.

You don't have to be handsome to be well-groomed. You don't have to be brilliant or witty, either. Part of being social is showing an interest in other people. Ask them about what they think and encourage them to share their interests and opinions. And when they tell you, be a good listener. Cultivate your own interests and you will have something to talk about with others.

My booklet "How to Be Popular" contains tips on how to approach others, and what to say and what not to say when trying to make conversation. It can be ordered by sending your name and address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds), to Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mt. Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. When you receive it, don't read it just once. Keep it on hand for reference because it contains many helpful suggestions about how to be the kind of individual others find interesting and attractive. Be courteous and show kindness to others. If you do these things, you will find the results you're looking for.

DEAR ABBY: I was divorced three years ago after being married for 28 years. My ex-wife and I had spent the previous 10 years in counseling. I currently go to post-divorce counseling, and my counselor agrees that I was mistreated by my ex and our adult children, who treated me more like an employee.

I have begun seeing a much younger woman, and two of my kids say any relationship with them is predicated on my dating someone "my own age." I feel this is wrong, and that it's a continuation of them treating me as a servant/dad, versus as a person. My counselor suggests walking away for a bit, to establish new boundaries. Your thoughts? -- BUTLER DAD IN TEXAS

DEAR DAD: I think you should listen to your therapist.

DEAR ABBY: When did it become someone's right to walk into a business with a pet? People walk in and never ask. Some of those animals hike their leg, and their owners giggle and never offer an apology or to clean it up. Dogs have jumped up on other customers while their owners stood there and said, "Don't worry. He won't bite." The last customer came in with a full-grown German shepherd!

I've gone through training on service animals, and these are definitely not service animals. What happened to common courtesies? -- TAKEN ABACK IN OKLAHOMA

DEAR TAKEN ABACK: The demise of common courtesies happened right around the time when people began believing they were the exception to the rules. When ADA legislation was passed, it was so that people with disabilities would have access to things that able-bodied people take for granted. What you are experiencing is an abuse of that law by dishonest, uncaring individuals who have no sense of shame.

DEAR ABBY: I am really upset about something my best friend did involving a cruise that's planned for next February. Because of financial setbacks, we can no longer afford the trip. She went ahead and paid for our cruise. I was so upset I called the travel agent and tried to cancel the trip but was informed it was nonrefundable. So now we are locked into a cruise that's still going to cost us $1,500 or more in other expenses while we are on the cruise.

I like to pay my own way and have never asked anyone for help or money. She said it was "a gift, not a loan" and I was being ungrateful, so I finally accepted the "gift." Now I'm going to have this hanging over my head. It's putting us in more financial trouble, so we are trying to get a loan to cover the extra expenses. I don't think I can enjoy the trip now.

Am I ungrateful? She's been my best friend for more than 40 years and I don't want this to affect our friendship. What should I do at this point? -- EXPENSIVE "GIFT" IN THE WEST

DEAR EXPENSIVE "GIFT": Your generous friend acted on impulse, without considering the fact that even with her paying your fare, the cruise would still cost you money. Forgive her for her mistake, take the trip and do your best to enjoy it so you don't ruin the trip for her.

DEAR ABBY: My father is nearing the end of his life. I'm an only child with no family nearby. When my mother passed away, many people reached out to me, and I know their intent was to comfort me. However, most of the time I ended up comforting them! I would try to escape by saying things like I had a task to take care of, but when people are crying hysterically on the phone or in my kitchen, they don't seem to hear. How can I politely tell people like this that I'm not their therapist, and they are not comforting me? -- TAKING CARE OF DAD

DEAR TAKING CARE: All you need to say is you can't talk right now, and you will call them back later. Period. Then hang up. If someone is having an emotional meltdown in your kitchen, you have the right to tell the person you can't deal with it right now, you'll visit with her -- or him -- "another time," and guide them to the door.

DEAR ABBY: I am a man who has read your column for more than 40 years and have often thought your advice is reasonable, although not always exactly what I would have advised. Now that I'm retired, I find myself composing little "Dear Abby" conversations in my mind as I go through the day and meet small challenges or hear about them from acquaintances. You know what I mean -- what should Tom do about his abusive daughter, how should I address the neighbors' habit of feeding the deer and squirrels, or what should I do with this latest bit of gossip? I literally ask you for guidance, then argue with the advice I think you would give -- sometimes out loud. Is this a sign of creeping insanity or something worse? -- BLABBERING IN MISSOULA

DEAR BLABBERING: It isn't a sign of creeping insanity. It's a sign that you may need another woman in your life besides Dear Abby.

DEAR ABBY: I recently traveled to Germany to help my 19-year-old daughter settle in for her semester of study abroad. I was in tears the entire trip home, not because I was sad to leave her, but because she kept lashing out at me for anything from using a cotton swab to following proper directions exiting the train, to asking simple -- but, in her mind, ridiculous -- questions. This is not new behavior. Her brother has also observed her overreactive behavior to minor things.

I treated her and her roommate to dinners out and stocked her apartment with groceries, in addition to making significant financial contributions toward her tuition. I'm also splitting the cost of her monthly rent with her dad.

I feel hurt, like she regards me as only an ATM. She wouldn't even let me use her European electrical adapter to charge my phone before leaving for the airport.

Should I convey how hurt I feel and, if so, what are your suggestions? I feel if I have a phone conversation, she will sigh, tell me she doesn't have time for this or accuse me of being a killjoy. If I put it in a letter, I'll feel like a coward, but it will allow me to express my feelings without interruption or protest. -- UNAPPRECIATED IN VERMONT

DEAR UNAPPRECIATED: Frankly, I'm surprised you weren't crying because you recognized your part in creating the self-entitled monster your daughter has become. You should have put a stop to it when she first started "overreacting" with rude, insensitive and ungrateful behavior.

By all means write her a letter, and when you do, tell her she behaved shamefully, it was hurtful, and that you will no longer tolerate it. Be sure she understands she will not get another penny until you receive an apology and assurances that you won't be subjected to that kind of abuse again. Continue practicing tough love until you see real changes in your daughter's attitude. It's the only kind of language she will understand.

DEAR ABBY: After 23 years together, my wife, after spending time with her grown children, brought home photos of her deceased former husband. The photos that bother me are the ones in which they are holding hands. He was the stepfather to her now-middle-aged children. They had 19 years together, and he had a daughter who became my wife's stepdaughter.

The stepdaughter posted on social media that she missed her dad. My wife expressed the same feelings and said she thinks about him, too. When my wife posted those sentiments on the internet, everyone could read it. Those pictures and feelings bother me. Am I wrong for being angry about this? -- UPSET IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR UPSET: It's time to grow up and accept that your wife was married -- I presume happily -- before her former husband's death. If you want a healthy marriage, stop competing with a dead man. For her to express solidarity with her former stepdaughter was no reflection on her love for or her marriage to you. Your feelings are not all that unusual, but you are wrong to be angry. If you need reassurance, ask your wife for it, and I'm sure she'll give it to you. Because she once loved another man doesn't mean she doesn't love you.

DEAR ABBY: I have dear friends and neighbors I really enjoy who have asked me to water their plants and feed the cat when they're away, which is not very often. I enjoy doing these things, and so I always feel awkward when they bring home gifts of jewelry or give me money. I would prefer that they let me do these things for love and friendship, but I don't know how to make them stop giving me things.

Is there something polite I can say to let them know that they should just let me be their friend? I would prefer that to feeling as though I'm being paid for my services. -- FOR LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

DEAR FOR LOVE: Has it occurred to you that your neighbors bring things back for you because they enjoy giving as much as you enjoy doing things for them? If it hasn't, please consider it.

And afterward, if you still feel that their gifts are too much of a quid pro quo, explain that you like them very much and value their friendship, and they don't need to give you anything in return for the affection you feel for them. I don't think couching the message in those terms would be rude at all.

DEAR ABBY: Why do people stay in bad marriages? It causes emotional harm to the children (if they have kids), hearing their parents argue and name-call all the time. Wouldn't it be better to separate? -- UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

DEAR UNHEALTHY: Some couples remain in bad marriages because they can't afford to live apart or fear being alone if they divorce. Others have dysfunctional love-hate relationships that, I agree, are unhealthy for everyone, including the children who grow up thinking it is normal. In my opinion, if couples can't live in peace and harmony, they should separate. However, not everyone agrees.

DEAR ABBY: My husband, to whom I've been married since July of 2016, has recently caved in to pressure from friends to participate in "swinger" behavior. He wants me to be included, but I really don't want to.

The other female has lesbian tendencies that make me uncomfortable. Her boyfriend is juggling two partners at once, alternating nights for each one. My husband has told him he can do whatever he wants in front of us, which I find awkward and embarrassing.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

I don't want to be a spoilsport, but I feel he is being unfair to me. How do I put the genie back in the bottle without ruining my marriage and friendships? We've lived together since 2005, and the pressure is getting worse now that we're married. -- NOT TO SWING IN THE USA

DEAR NOT TO SWING: If your vision of marriage is a union between two people only, then the man you married is not someone with whom you should spend a lifetime. Do not allow yourself to be coerced into anything you are not comfortable with, and that includes threesomes. Much as you might wish it, you are not going to change your husband, which is why it may be time for you to revisit this subject with him and the help of a licensed marriage and family therapist.

DEAR ABBY: I dated a longtime friend, "Austin," for about four months. He had a history of drug use, but had been sober for about four years before he stopped attending meetings.

I have two children from my previous marriage. He knew when we started dating that if he relapsed, the relationship was over. He did, so I ended it then and there. Austin begged me for a second chance and for my help.

I have known his family for as long as I've known him, which is 20 years. He swore up and down to me that he wouldn't relapse again, but he did and died from an overdose. Austin's family blames me for his death because I didn't answer his calls or messages. How can I explain to them there was nothing I could do? -- FAULT ISN'T MINE

DEAR FAULT: You were under no ethical or moral obligation to answer Austin's texts or messages after his relapses. Save yourself the frustration of trying to point out the truth to his family. Austin's relatives are in pain right now, and in denial as well. They are blaming you rather than their son because the truth -- that Austin was responsible for his own actions and his own death -- may be too hard for them to face.

DEAR ABBY: I am a retired lady who often eats alone in restaurants. When I arrive, the host or hostess usually greets me and asks, "How many?" When I reply, "One," the invariable response is, "Just ONE?" I find the question demeaning and rude.

I have responded with things like "Isn't one enough?" or, "If you prefer groups, I can go elsewhere." I have even mentioned to managers that it would be more appropriate if they trained their hosts not to say "just." Can you offer a better response I can give? -- PARTY OF ONE

DEAR PARTY OF ONE: I think you are handling the situation as well as it can be handled. Sometimes people don't stop to consider the implications of what they are saying. It's impolite for a host to ask, "Just one?" because in some cases the reply could be depressing and cloud the dining experience.

DEAR ABBY: My 18-year-old granddaughter ran away twice last year. She's now living with her boyfriend and refuses to have any contact with her dad. I know my son is very strict, and I'm pretty sure she could just no longer live by his rules. Her mom passed away eight months ago, and my son is all she has besides her sister.

She opened a Facebook page. I was able to write to her a couple of times and she responded. She isn't answering my messages now. I suspect her boyfriend is controlling and is preventing her from contacting her family. I'm also afraid she may be involved with drugs now. She and the boyfriend were recently arrested for shoplifting, and this just isn't typical of my granddaughter.

I have trouble sleeping at night worrying about her. I know she's an adult, but I don't want her to give up on her family who loves her. Do you have any suggestions? Should I go to the house and try and see her, or must we just sit back and wait for her to grow up? Any advice will be appreciated. -- WORRIED NANA

DEAR WORRIED NANA: Do not just sit back. By all means, visit your granddaughter! She needs to know you love her and will be supportive if things don't work out with her boyfriend.

Because she's 18 and now considered an adult, you can't force her to reunite with her father, whose heavy-handed parenting may or may not be the reason she left home. But you can, however, point out that if she needs something, there are better ways to go about acquiring it than shoplifting. You should also encourage her to find a job. If she does, it will increase her independence, not only from her father, but also her boyfriend, if it becomes necessary.

DEAR ABBY: I was recently diagnosed with a stage four cancer. My surgeon has offered me an opportunity to be part of a clinical trial, which my family is aware of. They do not, however, know the details of how far the cancer has spread.

The prognosis for patients in this trial is about two more years. My wife thinks I should share this information with my extended family and friends immediately (although there are few signs that I'm ill). I prefer to remain silent until the disease catches up with me and my time gets closer. Your advice or reader response would be greatly appreciated regarding this very emotional decision. -- KEEPING IT TO MYSELF

DEAR KEEPING IT TO YOURSELF: I'm sorry about your diagnosis. I'm sure when your letter is published there will be a tsunami of reactions -- both pro and con -- from readers.

Of course your wishes should be respected, but since you asked, I am inclined to agree with your wife. Your illness affects not only you but also the rest of your family and friends. If you reveal your prognosis now, it will give the people who love you an opportunity to step up to the plate and offer emotional support, not only to you, but also to her and your family.

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

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
0
0
0
0
0

Load comments