DEAR ABBY: My son, "Peter," is in college working on a postgraduate degree. He arranged a date with a young woman while they were home over the holidays. After accepting the first date and breaking it, she agreed to a second one. As Peter was driving to pick her up, he called to double-check her address only to be told she was still at a previous engagement. Naturally, Peter expected she'd call back when she was free -- but she didn't. There was no explanation, no call or text or any further communication.

What is happening to young people today? Do texting and online social networking encourage them to avoid simple human kindness and consideration of others? I think these new devices are giving kids an easy way to get out of difficult and uncomfortable situations. They don't have to hear the hurt of rejection or the sting of their rudeness through a text or a chat page.

Meanwhile, my thoughtful, sensitive son sat home thinking he wasn't important enough for an explanation! At 26 he's beginning to think he should just focus on finishing school and forget the dating scene. And if this is the caliber of today's young women, maybe he should! -- MOTHER OF A GOOD SON

DEAR MOTHER: Your son may be thoughtful and sensitive, but he appears to have unfortunate taste in women. You say he is working on a postgraduate degree? How old was the girl -- because she appears to have the emotional maturity of a young teenager. Nobody likes rejection, but Peter should consider the source. Rather than giving up on dating, he should look for company among women who are at his intellectual and emotional level -- in college or grad school or perhaps a little older.

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DEAR ABBY: I am a 29-year-old female who would like to know why people feel compelled to tell random strangers to "smile."

I was in the market the other night and a man came walking by me saying, "You dropped something," and was pointing to the floor. I looked down and said, "I don't see anything." He then told me, "You dropped your smile."

Abby, I was SO not amused. I turned around going back to my business saying, "Oh, OK." The man proceeded to walk away mumbling, "Don't look so serious. It's only the grocery store."

I hate when people do this. It happens to me a lot and has most of my life. People -- especially seniors -- say, "Don't you dare smile for me, don't you dare!" Or, "Smile! You're too cute not to smile." An old gentleman said, "Oh, she's like ice -- so cold, never smiles."

What can I do if this happens again? I don't see the need to walk around the store or sit at my desk at work with a Cheshire cat grin on my face all day. Any suggestions? -- OFFENDED IN GILROY, CALIF.

DEAR OFFENDED: The man who asked if you had "lost" something may have been making a clumsy attempt to pick you up. That sometimes happens in markets. As to the "older people" who comment on your expression -- or lack thereof -- they may consider themselves so "senior" that they can "coax" you into doing as they would like -- like "coochy-kooing" a baby to make it laugh on cue.

Making personal remarks to strangers is, of course, rude. My advice to you is to distance yourself from those individuals as quickly as possible. Speaking personally, if I was approached the way you have been, the last thing I'd be inclined to do is smile or engage them at all. I'd be offended, too.

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