DEAR ABBY: I am a short, 5-foot-5-inch high school sophomore. I am small-boned and my voice is high-pitched. I'm terrible at sports, and physical education class is a nightmare. I have become friends with another guy, "Rick," who is much like me, and it helps to have someone who has similar problems.
Because Rick and I hang out together, some of the macho guys have started a rumor that we're gay, and now everyone in the school thinks it's true. Our PE teacher has even made comments to this effect, which compounds the problem.
Rick and I are shunned and have even been physically attacked because of this. We are not gay. We are just good friends who share common problems. We are interested in girls, but they aren't interested in us. When I try to say I'm not gay, they say, "Then who is your girlfriend?" When I tell them I don't have one, they laugh at me.
Rick and I are both "A" students. We keep telling ourselves that we will succeed where some of the macho guys who are obvious losers will not, and we'll have the last laugh. However, this is still a terrible situation for us, and we can't stand the thought of another two years like this. Please help. -- SOPHOMORE IN SACRAMENTO
DEAR SOPHOMORE: If you and your friend haven't already told your parents what's going on, do so immediately. Then you and your parents should pay a visit to the school principal to report that you have been attacked by other students and misidentified as gay not only by your peers, but also by a member of the staff.
It appears that both staff and student body in your school need to be educated about the fact that discrimination, assault and hate crimes are illegal. And if the harassment is not stopped immediately, your families should take this matter to a lawyer.
DEAR ABBY: My 38-year-old married daughter's house is filthy. Her youngest is now in the hospital with pneumonia, and her two other kids are sick all the time. They are constantly coughing, have runny noses, fever and ear infections. I have tried talking to her regarding her housekeeping but she doesn't want to hear anything I have to say.
Her husband has convinced her that they have "more important things to be concerned with" than a clean house. He says they have love, and a clean house doesn't matter. The oldest girl is 11, and she tells me she's embarrassed to have anyone visit her. She has no friends (nor does my daughter) and I am afraid her life will go down along with my daughter's. Can you help me to help them? -- GRANDMA IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR GRANDMA: My first suggestion is to hire someone to clean your daughter's house once a month, if that's doable. The second is to discuss your very real concerns with the doctor who is treating your grandchild for pneumonia. While your son-in-law may think that a house filled with love doesn't have to be clean, if it's so dirty it is hazardous to the health of the children who live there, he is seriously mistaken.
DEAR ABBY: I have an etiquette question my friends and I are wondering about. What is an appropriate response when you find out someone is expecting but she doesn't want to be? "Congratulations" doesn't seem right, but neither does, "You have my sympathy." I feel lost when this situation comes up. Do you have any ideas? -- MELISSA IN KANSAS
DEAR MELISSA: How about, "I heard the news. If there is anything you need, please let me know."
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.)