DEAR ABBY: I have tried to have cordial relations with my neighbors, but do not have particularly close friendships with any of them.
A little over a year ago, a young man started coming to my home on a regular basis whenever my wife was out of town. After a while, he began spending the night with me when she was away.
Evidently, some of my neighbors noticed these visits and started gossiping about it, spreading the rumor that I am gay and that this young guy is my lover. More recently, however, he has spent the night when my wife is present, so now my neighbors think something kinky is going on.
At times I am puzzled by this. At other times I am angry at their arrogance and gall. The explanation is simple: The young man is my son from a previous relationship. Because we were prevented from having contact when he was a child, we are now trying to establish a relationship -- and we are making progress. My wife and other children have been wonderfully supportive in all this.
I really don't want to tell my neighbors what's going on because it will inevitably lead to a disclosure of some things that are really none of their business. But I am troubled by the rumor that I have a young male lover. What do you think I should do? -- I'M HIS DAD IN VIRGINIA
DEAR DAD: If you don't want to let your neighbors know the truth, then you will have to tolerate the fact that they have active imaginations and have drawn their own (mistaken) conclusions. If I were in your shoes, however, I think I'd come "out of the closet" on the paternity issue and put the gossip to rest by having your wife introduce your son around as exactly who he is.
DEAR ABBY: I started working in a medical office a year ago. I handle the financial end of the practice and, because of that, I have a private office. I have six co-workers who assume that I am antisocial because I stay in my office most of the time.
When I come out to socialize, they ignore me and have given me unpleasant vibes. I tried recently to transfer to another medical office, but my boss counter-offered so that I would stay. Out of loyalty to him, I stayed.
Now I have to continue going to lunch alone and sitting in my office all day without anyone saying a word to me. What can I do to feel more accepted? -- EXCLUDED IN ALABAMA
DEAR EXCLUDED: Try a little harder to integrate into the group by bringing some treats to the office for "the gang" and offering to share, or inviting them all out to lunch.
However, if that doesn't melt some ice, have a talk with the office manager because you have described a hostile work environment. If you are the office manager, then let the doctor know what's going on. There are steps your boss can take to rectify the situation. And if it doesn't happen, take the other job and let the doctor know why.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are having a "debate," and I hope you can help. When dining out in a restaurant, is it proper etiquette to ask for a taste from another person's plate? -- WHAT'S MINE IS MINE IN MAINE
DEAR W.M.I.M.: I have never heard of any rule of etiquette that forbids asking for a bite. If you're afraid your husband will take too much, place a small portion on your bread plate and pass it to him.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)