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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have a tattoo on my forearm. It's my deceased son's name, with angel's wings and a halo. Because of where it's placed on my arm, I wear long sleeves or three-quarter sleeves to work. If I feel it might "peek out," I wear an Ace bandage over it.

I am a bank branch manager and I'm sometimes asked, "What happened to your arm?" when the bandage can be seen. I feel telling the person I have a tattoo defeats the whole purpose of keeping it covered, and I don't want to lie. What is the proper response? -- TATTOOED FEMALE PROFESSIONAL IN INDIANA

DEAR PROFESSIONAL: Does having a visible tattoo violate the dress code at your bank? So many people have body art that it's no longer considered shocking. If no rule prevents it, I see no reason to hide it -- and if you're questioned about its significance, tell the truth. If there is a rule that discourages it and you are asked about the Ace bandage, just smile and say, "Thank you for your concern, but it's nothing serious."

DEAR ABBY: For the past few years, my "Aunt Maude" has given birthday, holiday and graduation gifts she has picked up at yard sales. These "gifts" are neither usable nor are they age-appropriate.

My sister "Hallie" is being married soon. We would like Aunt Maude to attend without feeling she needs to buy a used gift. Money is not an issue for her, but she thinks she is buying a personalized gift when, in fact, it's something that will be discarded. Our family would rather she attend with no gift than a yard sale item. What's the best way to handle this? -- BLUSHING BRIDESMAID

DEAR BLUSHING BRIDESMAID: The subject of wedding gifts can be a sensitive one. To imply that someone's gift is unacceptable would be extremely rude. However, a way to approach this might be for Maude's sibling to suggest to her that Hallie has already received more "things" than she can use, and that the most meaningful gift Maude could give her niece would be her presence at the celebration.

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend says all his friends think I am "stuck up." He told me (loudly) that I come across as rude because I'm not outgoing enough. More than once, people have asked him what my deal is.

I am quiet and reserved when I'm around new people, but once I'm comfortable, I do open up. I know I can sometimes come across as being unfriendly, but the way he presented it to me left me crushed. Shyness can be misperceived, and I try to be nice to everyone. I'm loyal to a fault and the first to offer help to friends, family and especially my boyfriend.

While he had a valid point in what he said, I am now questioning the effect his approach has had on our relationship. Am I justified in feeling so hurt, or should I just suck it up? -- PICKED APART IN UTAH

DEAR PICKED APART: Sometimes it's not what someone says, but the way it is said that is hurtful. Because your boyfriend's tone was loud and angry, it's understandable that you felt attacked. If it happened in public rather than in private, he was tactless. But if you're going to have a relationship with him, his friends will have to be a part of it. And rather than scolding you, he should have explained to them that you need time to get to know them.

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