DEAR ABBY: My husband is 56. His daughter, "Loreen," from his first marriage is 35. At times when he gives her a hug (as she's leaving from a visit) he will slap her on the butt. This makes me uncomfortable because it seems inappropriate at her age. I have told him how this makes me feel; he says it's something he has always done with both of his children. (He also has a son.)
I guess I could see it as a playful gesture when they were kids, but at this point I don't think so. It reminds me of the kind of intimacy demonstrated between a husband and wife, not a father and daughter. Am I being too uptight? -- UNCOMFORTABLE IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: You have confused someone getting a "love pat" with someone being hit ON. Yes, I think in this case you are being too uptight, unless there is something else you have observed that you haven't told me.
DEAR ABBY: I'm 16 and have a 13-year-old sister I'll call "Becky," who is mentally retarded. My mother recently tried to force me to promise that I'll always take care of Becky when she and Dad die or can no longer take care of her.
I think it's unfair to saddle me with a lifetime obligation like this. I have had to make many sacrifices because of Becky. I have to share a room with her and sleep with her in a double bed because she's afraid to sleep alone -- even though we have a spare bedroom. I have never had a sleepover because Becky gets too upset with someone else sleeping in our room. I could go on and on.
I think I should be free of Becky as an adult. There are other alternatives for challenged individuals. Mother says it's my obligation because she's family. I don't believe it should be my lifetime obligation just because we're born to the same parents. What do you think? -- NO THANKS! SACRAMENTO, CALIF.
DEAR NO THANKS!: You appear to be very angry, and with some justification. You have already had too much responsibility thrust upon you. Your sister should have been taught to sleep by herself years ago, because eventually that's what she will have to do.
Your family obligation to your sister isn't necessarily the kind your mother is trying to coerce you into. If and when your parents become too incapacitated to care for Becky, a group living situation might be healthier for all concerned. Your sister may not have a life of her own until she makes that transition. Consider how lonely it must be for her to have no socialization beyond your parents.
While you do not have to keep your sister with you, you do have a moral obligation to see that she's well cared for. In that sense, your mother is right. But you certainly have a right to pursue your own life, career and family without anyone laying a guilt trip on you. And you do not have to sacrifice your happiness, or sleep with your sister, for the rest of your life and/or hers.
DEAR READERS: Today marks the lunar New Year. It's the Year of the Rat. Those born in the Year of the Rat are imaginative, charming and generous to those they love. Gung Hay Fat Choy!
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