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It’s not uncommon for troops to be a little nervous in accepting gratitude for service.

DEAR ABBY,

I have known for a long time that once both of my parents were gone, I would cease contact with my brothers. My problem is how to explain it to other family members and friends. I don’t want to go into the details about my reasons. I feel it would hurt my parents if the truth were out.

One aunt keeps asking why and insisting I should make amends. Abby, one brother went to jail for murder, and both of them are child molesters. Neither is a person I would want in my house. They have stolen from me, and there’s no love lost between any of us.

I’m not good at lying and don’t know what to say. Is there a way to ask them to stop asking about my brothers without telling them anything? I don’t want to be rude.

— FAMILY DRAMA

DEAR FAMILY DRAMA,

You could tell these people the subject is closed, but they may not respect your wishes. Frankly, I can’t understand why you feel it would hurt your two (dead) parents if the truth was told. They are beyond caring now, and if people knew what your brothers are capable of — murder, theft and child molesting — they might prefer to protect themselves by also distancing themselves. I know I certainly would.

The burden of gratitude

DEAR ABBY,

Recently, at a local doughnut shop, I created what I’m afraid was an awkward social situation as I was placing my order. Three military servicemen in uniform came in and stood in line behind me. As the cashier rang me up, after a few moments of mulling it over, I told them I was thankful for their service and politely asked, “May I please buy your coffee for you?”

I was shocked when one of them responded, “I’d rather you didn’t. We make pretty good money, you know.” He then proceeded to say he always tries to “avoid situations like this” because “a lot of service people take advantage of civilians who offer them things for free.”

The other two seemed to share his sentiments, but agreed to let me pay. Each one shook my hand and thanked me before leaving, but I could see I had made them uncomfortable.

I truly am thankful for the services of those in uniform and never intended to offend them in any way. Next time, should I donate to a military support charity instead? I don’t want to offend anyone again.

— OFFENSIVELY PATRIOTIC?

DEAR PATRIOTIC,

It is not rude to thank someone for the job he or she is doing. You did nothing wrong. Your offer was gracious and generous, and in no way an implication that those individuals couldn’t afford to pay for their coffee.

However, some people find it difficult to accept the “burden of gratitude,” and the person who lectured you may have been one of them. Please recognize that and do not allow what one man said to change what you’re doing.

Let’s talk about who pays

DEAR ABBY,

My son is graduating this year. To celebrate, I would like to have dinner at a restaurant with a group of friends (adults) and their children. However, I’d like them to pay for their own meals. How do I address an invitation to such a get-together?

— NOT A FREE DINNER

DEAR NOT FREE DINNER,

You could put on the invitation that this will be a “no host” celebration. Or, rather than issue a formal written invitation, simply call your friends and describe what you have in mind.

Answers can’t be forced

DEAR ABBY,

One of my best friends just got engaged and I’m invited to the wedding. My problem is, my ex-best friend is in the bridal party, and I don’t know how to act if I see her and have to talk to her. She terminated our friendship without giving me a reason. Not only that, she has been spreading lies about me to mutual friends, some of whom now refuse to talk to me.

I have no idea what I did or didn’t do. No one knows why she is spreading rumors, and I don’t want there to be drama at my friend’s wedding and bachelorette party. What can I do?

— UNSURE IN THE WEST

DEAR UNSURE,

If your former best friend is unwilling to explain why she ended the friendship and has been spreading false rumors, you can’t force her. Obviously, her malicious lies haven’t had any effect on the bride.

Go to the party and the wedding, mingle with those who haven’t chosen sides, be gracious and steer clear of the nasty bridesmaid, if you can. That way, if there is any drama at either function, you won’t be the person who created it, and the person who will look bad will be the troublemaker.

Do that somewhere else!

DEAR ABBY,

Could you please explain why so many people blow their noses at the supper table? You would think older folks would know better, but it seems like they are the worst offenders. I see a lot of this in restaurants or the cafeteria. I not only consider it rude but also gross.

Why can’t people excuse themselves from the table and leave the room to do it? I generally go to the ladies room or, if I’m home, go into another room. My mother and brother do this — and it’s disgusting! What is your view on this? Maybe you could teach some of these folks some manners.

— GROSSED OUT, Florida

DEAR GROSSED OUT,

Please don’t think you are alone with your frustration because I’m asked this question a lot. I agree that listening to someone honk like a migrating goose is unpleasant.

That’s why the rule of etiquette states that those who need to clear their heads excuse themselves from the table. If someone must perform this function at the table, it should be limited to tiny dabs with a tissue to prevent a drip.

Growing up too fast, doc

DEAR ABBY,

I am the mom of two sons, ages 13 and 14. When I took them for their annual physical last summer, their pediatrician said this would be the last year I would be in the room while he examined my sons.

I don’t understand why I should have to leave if my children are OK with my being there. My sons are comfortable with me, and I am an only parent. It seems to me that more and more rights are being taken away from parents. Am I out of line for feeling this way?

— OFF-LIMITS

DEAR OFF-LIMITS,

Yes, if you trust your sons’ doctor, which I hope you do. By ages 13 and 14, your sons are maturing into manhood. As their hormones and bodies change, they may have questions and concerns they would be more comfortable — and less embarrassed — talking to a male doctor about than their mother. Privacy in the examination room would give them the chance to do that.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Jeanne Phillips, who writes under the pen name Abigail Van Buren in honor of her late mother, who created “Dear Abby” in 1956. She can be reached by visiting www.DearAbby.com or by writing to P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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