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by Abigail Van Buren

Golden Rule Is One Lesson Freshman Has Yet to Learn

DEAR ABBY: My son, "Steve," is 18 and will be going to junior college this fall. He will commute back and forth to school and has a part-time job that pays very little.

Steve is basically a good kid. He's not into drugs or alcohol, but he is stubborn and bullheaded. Whenever he needs gas money, clothes ironed or lunches made, I'm usually there to help out. However, when the shoe is on the other foot and I need help with chores and things around the house, he always manages to wiggle out of it, dump the task on his younger brother, or be "too busy" with his friends to stop and help me.

When I try to talk to Steve about it, he gets an attitude and ignores me, or walks away from me, then runs off to be with his friends. If my husband or I try to discuss this with him, he says now that he's 18, he's a man.

Abby, I am thoroughly disgusted with Steve's attitude. What should I do to get him to help around the house? -- TIRED MOM IN MANITO, ILL.

DEAR TIRED MOM: You've done more than enough for this new "man" in the family. I suggest that you make yourself unavailable when Steve needs gas money, clothes ironed or lunches made. Should he ask why, tell him in no uncertain terms that adults are supposed to live cooperatively with each other, and unless he's prepared to cooperate with you and his father, he can assume complete responsibility for his own needs.

DEAR ABBY: This has bothered me for the past 12 years.

I have been married almost 43 years. After our last child moved out, my husband had a midlife crisis. To be specific, he had an affair with someone half his age. Abby, she was younger than two of our children. Out of this affair came a baby. We had DNA testing to be sure it was his.

My question: What is this child to me? What should she call me? She calls me by my first name, which irritates me. Please do not print my name or location. -- IRRITATED

DEAR IRRITATED: The child is not related to you, and if there's a formal designation for someone in your situation, I'm not aware of it. Assuming there are warm feelings between the two of you, select a nickname for her to call you and ask her to please use it.

DEAR ABBY: "Steamed in Boston" complained about food servers asking if he wanted his change back. In my opinion, asking customers if they want their change in order to save a trip back to the table is unprofessional.

My first job as a food server was in a restaurant where the owner forbade us to ask that question. A fellow server told me to say instead, "I'll be right back with your change." That way, the customer could reply, "OK," or, "Keep the change," with no toes stepped on and nothing left in doubt. -- EX-FOOD SERVER IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR EX: Many servers wrote to offer the same suggestion. One said that 90 percent of the time the customer will reply, "There's no need to return the change; it's for you."

Servers reported that the question is used to determine if a trip back to the table is necessary, because they are often swamped, and not having to return to the table saves them time for another customer. To that, I respond, "There are no shortcuts to quality service."

(Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.)

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