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DEAR ABBY: I enjoy reading your column, especially letters regarding young girls and their social skills. I have two granddaughters who have the normal drama, mostly with other girls. I worry their social skills are getting sidetracked.

I am interested in ordering your booklet about popularity. You have such a good way with words, and I'm sure the girls would find it helpful and enjoyable reading. They are the only grandchildren I have, and I'm trying to give them insight and help them along to become fully functional, successful adults. Is it still available? -- LINDA IN TERRE HAUTE, IND.

DEAR LINDA: Yes, the booklet is still available. It was written in response to thousands of questions from readers over the years who were not naturally socially assertive and contains many useful tips for polishing social skills. It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. You will find the booklet covers a variety of situations and is meant for people of all ages. Everyone wants to be the kind of person others find interesting, attractive and worth knowing better. (If parents, teachers and clergy know someone needing help in this regard, it might make an inexpensive gift that could help change the course of that person's life.)

The key to being well-liked by both sexes is: Be kind. Be honest. Be tactful. Don't be afraid to give someone a compliment if you think it's deserved.

If you think you're not beautiful (or handsome), be well-groomed, tastefully dressed, conscious of your posture. (People who stand tall project self-confidence.) If you are not a "brain," try harder. If you are smarter than most, don't be a know-it-all. Ask others what they think and encourage them to share their opinions.

If you're not a good athlete, be a good sport. Be generous with kind words and affectionate gestures, but respect yourself and your family values always. If you think "putting out" will make someone like you, forget it. (It won't work, and later you'll be glad you didn't.) If you need help, ask God. And if you don't need anything, THANK God!

DEAR ABBY: My husband refuses to wear headphones. This means that when we sit in the living room together, I must put up with the blaring noise of whatever he is watching.

I do a lot of writing, and in order to think, I need silence. I have tried earplugs, but they don't muffle enough of the noise. Now, when I have had enough, I leave the room. This results in us being in two separate places, which he hates. Is there another solution I may be overlooking? -- LOUD IN MAINE

DEAR LOUD: You might try noise-canceling headphones. However, if that doesn't work, because you need to "hear" in your head the sentences you are trying to write, you may have to do your writing when your husband is not at home.

DEAR ABBY: I have been living in my current home for eight years and frequently receive letters addressed to previous occupants, including medical bills and notifications from the DMV. (I don't open them; the envelopes have return addresses.) How long am I obligated to stick the letter back in the mailbox with "Return to sender"? I'm getting the impression the former occupants use this false address to avoid paying their bills. It makes me feel dirty and complicit when their mail comes to me. -- COMPLICIT IN MARYLAND

DEAR COMPLICIT: Why are you jumping to the conclusion that what's happening is nefarious? The former occupants may have forgotten to turn in or renew their change of address notice, or change the address on their driver's license. Stop feeling guilty for something that really has nothing to do with you. The next time one of those envelopes arrives, instead of writing, "Return to sender," write: "Not at this address."

DEAR ABBY: We have an adult relative who seems to feel it is appropriate to color a picture out of a coloring book in lieu of a gift or money for graduations, weddings, etc. She also seeks approval from everyone at these events to comment on how beautiful it is, to praise her for her coloring ability and how much time it took. We are tired of getting coloring book pictures as gifts. How can we get her to stop? -- MIFFED IN MINNESOTA

DEAR MIFFED: You may be tired of receiving those artistic efforts, but to say that to the relative who gave them to you would be beyond rude. Accept them graciously, and thank the person for the "time and effort" it took to complete them. What you do with them afterward is your own business.

DEAR ABBY: A longtime friend of mine, "Mia," married a little over a year ago and moved a few hours away. They have been having trouble in their marriage, but have been trying hard to make it work. Mia is now pregnant, and her baby is due next month.

Over the past few months her husband has been messaging me on Facebook. He hasn't said anything overtly sexual, but it is clearly flirtatious. I don't know him well, so I either don't respond or give one-word answers.

I feel what he's doing is inappropriate, but I'm unsure how to proceed. He's extremely sensitive and reactive to rejection. I'm afraid if I confront him, I will no longer be welcome in their home. I'm also worried that if I tell Mia, she'll be devastated and our friendship will be ruined. Any advice would be appreciated. -- ANONYMOUS READER

DEAR ANONYMOUS: If you deal with this directly, your friend's husband will likely deny it and become defensive and punitive. Unless his flirtation becomes overtly sexual, continue to ignore it. Do not respond immediately to his messages. If he asks you why, say you are busy. If you feel you must comment, keep it casual, remote and brief. And always ask him to relay regards to his wife. It may remind him that he's married.

DEAR ABBY: Under what circumstances do you ask your adult offspring (still living at home, working, doing their own laundry, somewhat feeding themselves) to contribute money toward household expenses? -- JUST WONDERING IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR JUST WONDERING: At what point? I recommend you do it tonight!

DEAR ABBY: I have a friend, "Charlene," whom I met through a local charity organization. We have many things in common, including the fact that we're both retired, and we enjoy each other's company. Charlene is slim (not skinny), very energetic and fit for her age.

The problem is, it's impossible to share a meal with her. As soon as the food is served, Charlene starts a constant commentary about "how big the portions are" and how she "couldn't possibly eat" what is before her (it doesn't matter how little is on the plate). Often, she DOES actually eat most of her meal. Then the ongoing comments start about how she was such a pig, she won't be able to eat another thing all day.

I don't know if she thinks she's setting a good example (I am not slim), or if she has some psychological issues surrounding food. I am tired of this routine. Is there any way I can ask her to stop without hurting her feelings? -- SICK OF HEARING IT IN IDAHO

DEAR SICK: I can see how sitting through repeat performances of those refrains would get old fast. Of course there's a way to get her to stop. All you have to say is, "You know, when you say that, it prevents me from enjoying MY meal, so please don't do it when you're with me."

DEAR ABBY: I have been selected to attend a symposium in New York that will be attended by one or more members of the British royal family. While I feel no animosity toward the royal family, some of my ancestors died fighting for freedom from English rule during the American Revolution.

I think it would be a grave dishonor to my ancestors to address the royals as "Your Highness" or any other term that suggests they are above me, especially since this gathering will take place on U.S. soil. How can I address them in a way that would be respectful, but would not demean the sacrifices of my ancestors? -- KEN IN OHIO

DEAR KEN: Be polite and gracious. Do not raise the subject of the American Revolution, because I am quite sure they are already well aware of it. To smile and say, "It's nice to meet you," would not dishonor your ancestors or embarrass the sponsors of the symposium, and that's what I recommend you do.

DEAR ABBY: I am the mother of a large family. On Sundays, some of them come over to visit me. Sometimes they'll get into arguments and get really angry.

Because this is happening in my home, what position am I to take? I was told by one of my daughters that I should not allow them to come here anymore. Because I am not involved in the argument, I don't feel I should do that.

I enjoy my daughters visiting me. I don't want to tell them they cannot come to their mother's house. What do you advise? -- MOM OF MANY IN THE WEST

DEAR MOM OF MANY: You're the mother. If your family's heated arguments make you uncomfortable -- and a pitched battle would qualify -- you are within your rights to tell them you prefer they argue elsewhere because it upsets you. I do NOT advise you to exercise the "nuclear option" by banishing them from the premises, because to do so would be an overreaction.

DEAR ABBY: I have been in two relationships. The first was with a girl a couple of years older than I am. We were together for several years before she cheated on me and dumped me. I was crushed. The next girl was a few years younger. She did the same thing after we were together a year.

What am I doing wrong? Fidelity is important to me, and they both knew it from the start. How can I avoid this in the future?

I have never been a controlling person. I was always fine with my girlfriends going out with their friends without me if I couldn't go for some reason. (That's how they ended up meeting the other guys.)

The people in lasting relationships I've seen watch each other like hawks, and never allow their significant other to be in the company of the opposite sex without them. Is this normal? Should I be like them? That seems controlling, but clearly, my "no boundaries" relationship style has backfired on me. -- CHEATED ON IN NEW YORK CITY

DEAR CHEATED ON: Few things can ruin a relationship or a marriage like obsessive jealousy can. Watching one's partner "like a hawk" is stifling. It will eventually drive the person away, as you will see as you continue to observe the couples you have mentioned. Please don't try to change the person you are because YOU are just fine.

I believe that in relationships there has to be a certain amount of responsibility. If someone is mature enough to be involved romantically, that person should be willing to admit if things aren't working out. Being cheated on is painful, and being dumped is equally so. Not every relationship leads to marriage, but rather than sneak around to avoid a frank conversation, it's better to practice the Golden Rule.

DEAR ABBY: I am in a predicament. My therapist is great, but sometimes I think she shares too much. Last time I went, she was running late. When I finally got into her office, she told me the previous patient was nonverbal and had painted her nails during the session. Later in the session, she confided that years ago she had been date raped.

Abby, I am in counseling because my father raped me when I was 15 (I am now 24). Her sharing has me worried because I don't want her telling others what I say or do during counseling. Further, her story of the date rape scared me. She described a situation that is not uncommon for me to be in, and it caused something almost like a flashback in me. I think what she did was insensitive, to say the least.

I have nobody else to ask, so what should I do? I'm getting counseling for free now due to my income, and it took months to get set up with a counselor. Should I report her or accept that this was a mistake and say nothing? If I need to report her, how would I go about doing that? -- CONFLICTED ABOUT IT

DEAR CONFLICTED: You should change therapists because it appears this one has more problems than you do. As to what agency you should report her breach of professional ethics to, contact the state organization that has licensed her to practice.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069


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