DEAR ABBY: While I am not from the South, many of my relatives are. They all were raised in medium to large cities, not rural areas. I'm embarrassed when they use crude terms and call their parents "Ma" and "Pa" in public. These are well-educated people, but they come across sounding like hicks and buffoons.
They think it's funny, but no one outside our family does. If someone laughs with them, it's because of embarrassment or discomfort. No one else is willing to speak up and when I try to, they make me feel like I'm a spoiled brat.
If these people were from rural areas or uneducated/uncultured I'd understand, but they're not. The sound of their "fake hickness" is like fingernails on a chalkboard! Please help. -- KEEPING IT REAL IN LAGUNA BEACH, CALIF.
DEAR KEEPING IT REAL: I'm sorry that visits from your relatives are so painful for you. However, I see nothing wrong with calling one's parents "Ma" and "Pa" if those are the names they have been called all their lives. Believe me, I have heard parents called much worse.
The best advice I can offer would be for you to grow a thicker skin and, if that doesn't work, spend less time with your relatives. With your attitude, you'll be doing them a favor.
DEAR ABBY: Should I be a bridesmaid in my best friend "Carla's" ex-husband's wedding? I'm still friends with him, which is fine with Carla. I have also become quite close to his fiancee, "Jenny." We have a lot in common and have been hanging out for some time. Jenny has asked me to be in her wedding.
I haven't talked to Carla yet to see how she'd feel about it. I don't feel like she'll be completely honest with me. Would I be stabbing her in the back if I'm in the wedding? I need advice, and quick -- the wedding is soon! -- FRIENDS WITH EVERYBODY
DEAR F.W.E.: Because you're concerned about Carla's reaction to your being a part of her ex-husband's wedding, you should address your question to her. My gut reaction is that if it feels to you like it could be stabbing her in the back, it might be perceived that way.
DEAR ABBY: What is the protocol for office romances? I have seen so many flings and love affairs go on. Sometimes it's fine, but other times it has caused a big distraction.
A supervisor dating a subordinate is probably frowned upon, but what if they're in different departments? Should an office romance be kept secret, or out in the open so rumors won't spread? I have never been a part of this, but I have seen plenty. What's right and wrong? -- CURIOUS IN THE CUBICLE
DEAR CURIOUS: There is no "protocol." Most companies discourage office romances because they're a distraction and make workers less efficient. If they happen between a supervisor and a subordinate and it doesn't work out, it could lead to accusations of sexual harassment and an expensive lawsuit. So while the temptation may be there, what's "right" is to avoid them and what's "wrong" is to indulge in one because it's risky business.
DEAR ABBY: When closing window blinds for the night, is it normal or proper to close them with the blades or slats in the upward or downward position? My wife and I disagree on this. I maintain they should be closed in the upward position. What do you or the experts say? -- IN THE DARK IN TEXAS
DEAR IN THE DARK: I have never encountered this question, so my staff and I experimented with the mini-blinds in our office, which has many windows. Tilting the slats up blocked more light than when we tilted them down. However, this is not a question of what is "normal" or "proper." It's a matter of what works best for you.