DEAR ABBY: I am a general surgeon. When people learn my occupation, I am frequently peppered with questions regarding general health matters.
At a recent dinner party, the hostess interrupted my conversation with other guests three different times to ask my opinion about trivial health concerns. Twice she dragged her young daughter over for me to examine in front of other guests -- first, for a minor bump to the child's leg (which left no mark), and again to show me a nearly healed scratch on the child's arm.
The last straw was when she halted conversation at the dinner table to announce that she had a "scratchy feeling" in her chest, and would I go to the car for my stethoscope in order to listen to her lungs?
How can I extract myself from these situations without giving the impression that I'm callous to naive onlookers? -- HARASSED M.D. IN DES MOINES
DEAR HARASSED M.D.: I'll give you the same advice I gave to the computer expert who was also continually bombarded for free advice: Assume a serious expression and say, "Hmmm. You know, that COULD be something serious. You should make an appointment with (your internist, your pediatrician, etc.) and have it checked out where there's all the latest equipment needed to do a thorough assessment."
DEAR ABBY: I am 13 and have been fighting with my mom. You might think "typical teenage problem," but it's not like that. Mom has a bad temper, and I inherited it. The difference is I've learned to control it and she hasn't.
When Mom gets mad at someone, she's not shy about dishing out stern words -- and if she gets really upset, she'll take it out on me for the next couple of days. Not only does she criticize, but she yells, curses and sometimes hits me.
Mom helps out at school, and when she overhears my friends joking around about what a loudmouth I am, she gets upset. When we're home she'll say stuff like, "Your classmates were insulting me by insulting you."
Other times, however, she can be super nice. After a yelling match, she usually puts herself down by telling me what a loser she is -- and then apologizing profusely. But a week later she's at it again. Abby, what's up with my mom? -- CONFUSED IN MUNSTER, IND.
DEAR CONFUSED: She may be overwhelmed or have emotional problems that should be evaluated by a doctor. You have described a classic cycle of abuse.
If you have a trusted adult in whom you can confide -- a relative, school counselor or family friend -- who could talk to your mother and suggest she get professional help, it would carry more weight than if you approached her yourself. Please don't wait.
DEAR ABBY: Five years ago I married a widow with two adult daughters. I was divorced with two adult daughters of my own. Now there are two weddings in the works -- one for my daughter and the other for my stepdaughter.
My wife thinks we should contribute substantially more to her daughter's wedding because mine has "more family" behind her. I say our financial assistance should be the same for both. Do you think I am being unreasonable? -- FATHER OF THE BRIDES IN MONTANA
DEAR FATHER: No, I do not. Unless you give equally you will be accused of favoritism, and it will cause resentment that could outlive you.
Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds)
to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111; (816) 932-6600