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DEAR ABBY: Last night, on a popular television reality show, the host repeatedly addressed a 70-something-year-old participant as "young man." I have seen it many times before, of course -- young man, young lady, sweetie, dear, etc.

In my opinion, this borders on disrespect, regardless of the good intentions behind it. My parents actually stopped shopping at a local grocery store because the staff was always calling them "young people." They were embarrassed, and I don't blame them.

I know people are trying to be nice, but I wonder how many seniors feel the way my parents do. Can't people extend kindness without being patronizing? -- JENNY IN PASCO, WASH.

DEAR JENNY: Many people feel exactly as your parents do. You would think that people would be more sensitive, but many service personnel in their 20s, 30s, 40s and older make the same mistake. The way to combat it is to speak up when it happens, or, as your parents did, stop patronizing the establishment. (Nothing hits home like a sagging balance sheet.)

One woman I know told me recently how she handled it when a young server in his 20s called her "young lady" as he was taking her order. (She's 50.) Her reply: "Well, little man, I'll have the ..."

DEAR ABBY: I am 11, and there is a boy I like. I'll call him "Cole." He knows I like him, and for Valentine's Day he gave me a necklace and earring set. All my friends, and even my mother, think that we are boyfriend and girlfriend. But I don't know for sure. I think the boy should ask the girl to be his girlfriend before they are officially boyfriend and girlfriend. Am I right or wrong? -- PERPLEXED IN MESQUITE, TEXAS

DEAR PERPLEXED: Sometimes boys are too shy to make a formal request. However, when a boy gives a girl a gift on Valentine's Day, you can be sure it means he has special feelings for her. I vote with your friends and mother.

DEAR ABBY: I am due to have my third baby, delivered by the same doctor who delivered my first two children.

I know some women who, after the birth of their child, have sent flowers to the doctor's office as a thank-you. I also know some women who have given the flowers they received in the hospital as gifts to the nurses' station and delivering doctor.

Is it customary to send a thank-you to an obstetrician, or am I thanking them with my "business"? (And they are certainly paid handsomely for it!) Also, is passing along flowers received in the hospital a traditional thing to do, or is it cheap and tacky? -- EXPECTING IN LYONS, COLO.

DEAR EXPECTING: Leaving the bouquets is not tacky. Many patients leave them for hospital staff to enjoy after they are discharged. Some do it out of gratitude and generosity; others because they don't want the hassle of transporting the flowers.

You are under no obligation to send flowers to your doctor after the delivery. However, after three children, it would be a gracious gesture to write your doctor a note of appreciation for the way you have been treated during your pregnancies and deliveries. Money is no substitute in conveying that message.

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