DEAR ABBY: I'm a senior in high school and I have a problem. I'm in a parasitic relationship. A boy at my school, "Dan," believes himself to be my best friend. It is sad because everyone acts as if he is invisible. I noticed that he was an outcast and went out of my way to be kind to him. He latched onto me and now follows me around at school.
I have a boyfriend who is really concerned, but neither of us knows how to approach this. Dan calls me at home and always asks if we can hang out "as friends." (I keep coming up with excuses to avoid it.) Dan is a nice guy, but this has been going on for two years and his attachment has only increased. I have no idea how to let him know our "friendship" has become too suffocating for me. Please help. -- OVERWHELMED IN OHIO
DEAR OVERWHELMED: Because he has been excluded by everyone else at school, it's not surprising that Dan is emotionally dependent on you. However, you have a boyfriend, your studies and a social life, and you need to explain that to Dan when he asks to "hang out." Those aren't excuses; they are facts. Say it kindly but firmly, and do not be defensive. If he persists, talk to a counselor at school.
In a few months high school will be over and Dan can move on and start building a life. Many successful adults weren't popular in high school. Perhaps when he thinks back, Dan will remember you as the one bright spot in a miserable experience.
DEAR ABBY: When I was a little girl, my family's idea of celebrating Christmas was opening some presents and renting a movie. I'm 15 now, and my parents barely acknowledge the holiday.
Last year on Christmas Day, my mother slept until after noon, then handed me $100. Dad did the same. I was grateful for the money, but a little hurt that they put no effort into buying gifts.
I am tired of trying to think up thoughtful gifts while all I get is a check handed to me without so much as a "Merry Christmas." Would I sound ungrateful if I asked my parents to put a little more thought into celebrating the holidays this year? -- NOT SO JOLLY CHRISTMAS
DEAR NOT SO JOLLY: Yes, you would. You might get a better result if you simply told your parents that you miss celebrating the holidays with them the way you have in the past, and ask them why things have changed. I'm sure you will find their answer to be enlightening.
DEAR ABBY: I know the holidays can be a stressful time of year -- and even more so when there has been a death in someone's family.
When a friend or family member loses a loved one, such as a child or close friend, what is the proper etiquette regarding gifts you may have sent or have sitting under the tree? What should the bereaved family do with the gifts? I must admit, I am curious -- especially being a member of the armed forces. -- MARIE IN CANADA
DEAR MARIE: If you are asking whether the gift(s) should be returned to the sender, I am sure the grieving family (or close friend) will have other things to think about that take precedence. Once a gift is sent, it should be up to the surviving relatives to decide whether to keep it or dispose of it -- whether by donating it, selling it or returning it to the sender.
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