DEAR ABBY: I'm writing because I'm not sure who else to ask. I'm 22, in college, and I'm tired of having to defend what I want to do with my life. My major is liberal arts. I chose it only because I have no passion for any specific area.
When family or friends ask what my major is and I tell them, they generally come back with something about majoring in "unemployment" or making sure I have a "backup plan" in case I don't find a rich husband.
Abby, all I want is to be a mother to my future children and a wife to my husband. I'm tired of defending myself, and I'm beginning to think my desires are not normal. What can I say to people when they question me, and is what I want normal? -- UNSURE IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR UNSURE: What you want is very normal. And the fact that you will complete your college education instead of settling for an "MRS" degree is good insurance for the future.
But keep in mind that although your dream is to be a stay-at-home mother and wife, not everyone who marries winds up living that kind of life. Widowhood, divorce or a spouse's illness can change those plans in a flash and land a woman in the workplace -- where, by the way, a college degree and the breadth of knowledge you're acquiring in liberal arts will help you to succeed. Explain that the next time you are challenged.
DEAR ABBY: My grandmother loves to shop, and she spends a pretty penny buying us grandkids all kinds of gifts -- mostly clothes and shoes. But my grandmother is decades older than we are, and her sense of style leaves much to be desired.
We accept graciously, then usually donate her gifts to Goodwill, hoping that an older person might buy them and enjoy them. A problem has come up, though. Last night, Grandma e-mailed to ask for one of her gifts -- a pair of shoes -- back!
Abby, I gave those shoes away two weeks ago. This morning, I searched at Goodwill, hoping to buy them back, with no luck. What do I tell my grandmother? I know she'll be furious -- and I'm afraid she'll ask about all the other gifts, most of which I don't have either. -- "BUSTED" IN TEXAS
DEAR "BUSTED": I have a strong suspicion that your grandmother already is onto you -- which is why she asked you to return the shoes. Because you have been put into a corner, the best advice I can offer is to level with her and tell her exactly what you have told me. (If you do, she may send you a check from now on.)
However, if she gets mad, remind her that once a gift is given, it is the recipient's to do with as she wishes, and in giving the gifts to Goodwill you wanted to be sure someone got pleasure from using them.
DEAR ABBY: My husband's co-worker died recently in a tragic accident. We're going to be attending a memorial service for him very soon. Because I never met this man, nor was I ever introduced to his wife or family, I am not sure what would be proper for me to say to the grieving family members -- or if I should let my husband express our sympathies since he was acquainted with him.
Thank you for any advice you can offer. -- ANONYMOUS IN MISSISSIPPI
DEAR ANONYMOUS: If you have a chance to converse directly with the widow or family members, all you need to say is, "Please accept my sympathy for your loss." It's short, sweet, eloquent and honest. And it would be better than standing mute while your husband does all the talking.
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