DEAR ABBY: I have become alarmed by my mother's recent habit of "Googling" people. She digs up things about my friends and calls to report them to me. The list of those she has researched on the Internet ranges from friends I haven't talked to in years, to an ex-boyfriend of hers against whom she filed a restraining order.
This isn't the first time she has searched for information on people. I find it downright creepy. She claims she's doing it to "protect her daughters from Internet stalkers." But the problem is, SHE'S the one stalking people on the Internet. Often they aren't even people she knows well or was ever friends with.
I'm concerned that this could lead to greater degrees of paranoia and controlling behavior -- to which she is prone -- and I am only seeing a small part of a much bigger problem. What do I do? -- ALARMED IN ATLANTA
DEAR ALARMED: You can't stop your mother from trolling the Internet, which contains enormous amounts of information on just about everybody. You can, however, stop your mother from trying to control your life by "sharing" the results of her searches.
The most direct way to do it would be to tell her when she calls with her latest "news flash" that you're not interested and don't want to hear it. If she persists, tell her you're too busy to talk right now and get off the phone. Your mother may be paranoid, but she can only be controlling if you allow it.
DEAR ABBY: I met the most amazing guy. He's in grad school, has a job, his own home, loves music, movies and good food -- he can even cook.
We exchanged phone numbers, and I was excited about finally meeting a man who could be "the one." And then he casually dropped a bomb on me: He told me he has herpes. I thought he was kidding, but he said: "I live stress-free, so I never break out. Herpes is no big deal."
He left voicemails asking if we can go out on a date soon, and I had to tell him I just couldn't date someone with herpes. My male friends support me, so why do I feel so guilty about this? Is it wrong of me not to date someone because of his STD status? -- FEELING MISERABLE IN GAINESVILLE, FLA.
DEAR FEELING MISERABLE: I don't think so. And it was OK to be honest about your feelings, so stop feeling guilty. While herpes isn't life-threatening, it is NOT "no big deal." And while the young man in your letter may "never break out," the virus is shed all the time. That's how the disease is spread, and it is widespread. If you need more information, I recommend you discuss this with your OB/GYN or visit the Web site of ASHA (American Social Health Association) at www.ashastd.org.
DEAR ABBY: After we laid my mother-in-law to rest, my wife discovered a box of letters her parents had written to each other. Her father was stationed overseas during WWII.
My wife is agonizing over whether to read them or destroy them. Because her mother's passing was unexpected, no instructions were made. Should my wife read them as a way to share the experiences of my in-laws' love for each other or consider them so private they are inviolable? -- STUCK FOR AN ANSWER IN OHIO
DEAR STUCK: Reading them might give your wife new insight into her parents, the challenges they faced and an opportunity to view them in the bloom of their youth. They could also be historically significant. That said, however, if she thinks her mother would have preferred that the letters be destroyed, she should follow her conscience.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)