DEAR ABBY: I often go to the movies with my friend "Valerie." During the movie she puts her phone on mute, but I can still hear when it vibrates. Val acts embarrassed by it, but she never turns the phone off.
As soon as the movie ends, Val will check her phone for the message. (It's never anything that couldn't wait.) Then she returns the call and talks to the caller all the way out of the theater and to her car where we say our goodbyes.
The last time we went to a film, I met her at a cinema miles from where I live, battling rush-hour traffic. When I arrived, she was standing in line with her exercise instructor. They spent the extra hour before the movie began discussing workout techniques, completely ignoring me and the instructor's husband. Val also "had" to place a call to a co-worker while we waited.
When Valerie calls me, she'll interrupt me in mid-sentence to take a non-emergency call from family. She promises to call me right back, but never does. Abby, I value her friendship, but I'm tired of her rudeness. I'm not good at confrontations. What can I do? -- SECOND BANANA
DEAR SECOND BANANA: The relationship you have with Val is not what I would call friendship. Friends enjoy each other's company and enjoy talking with each other. Friends are sensitive to each other's feelings. With each of the actions you have described, Val is demonstrating that you -- and your feelings -- are less important than what she impulsively decides to do at the moment.
Under the circumstances, I don't think it would be "confrontational" to tell this woman that your feelings are hurt and why. From where I sit, she has treated you like nothing more than a seat partner.
DEAR ABBY: What does it mean when a spouse refers only to himself when talking about things that involve the two of us as a couple? Example: We're building a house, but he never says "we" when talking about it. He'll say, "my house," or "I'm not going to pay that much."
When I mention this to him, he gets angry and says, "You know what I mean." Well, I don't because I always say "we" when referring to financial matters or anything else that pertains to both of us. Am I being petty? -- TEAM PLAYER IN OHIO
DEAR TEAM PLAYER: Yes, if you take this personally. In the grand scheme of things, this isn't worth picking a fight over. And if you're smart, you will choose your battles.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are invited to my dad and stepmom's house for almost every holiday. There are usually 25 to 35 people at these events. After dinner, the "girls" are expected to clear the tables, wash the dishes and clean the kitchen. I don't mind volunteering, but my stepmom INSISTS. No dessert is served until everything is clean.
When I invite guests to my home, I ask them to leave the dishes and "let's enjoy ourselves." I believe that when you invite people over, you should not expect them to work unless they volunteer. Am I wrong to feel this way? -- STUCK IN A CYCLE
DEAR STUCK: You are entitled to your feelings, but what you are describing are two different styles of entertaining. Your father and stepmom are traditional in their thinking, as demonstrated by the gender-driven division of labor. While I agree that your stepmom could be less heavy-handed in her approach, it is her house, and on their turf, the hosts get to make the rules. If you really resent being conscripted when you attend these gatherings, perhaps you should attend fewer of them.
CONFIDENTIAL TO PAULINE PHILLIPS IN MINNEAPOLIS: It's your birthday, Mama -- 91 amazing years. You have taught me by example all of the important life lessons, and I love you with all my heart. Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)