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by Abigail Van Buren

Generation Gap Can Cause a Failure to Communicate

DEAR ABBY: My fiancee said, "Shut up!" during a recent conversation with my mom, using the phrase in the same way people say, "No way!" or, "Get outta here!" to express friendly disbelief.

Mom didn't say anything and gave me no reason to believe she was offended; however, I find talk like that better suited to friends and siblings -- not parents or future in-laws.

As soon as we were alone I asked my fiancee to please not use that expression with my parents. She said she'd try, but warned me that it might be hard to stop herself. A frequent reader of your column, she also said you probably would have told me to let it go. I suggested we find out. Should I have said nothing? -- POSSIBLE PRUDE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

DEAR POSSIBLE PRUDE: Your fiancee is mistaken. I would never advise someone to ignore something that could be offensive. You were right to speak up. For people in your parents' generation, "shut up" has a different connotation than with younger people and could be considered offensive. I hope your intended will take your suggestion to heart. However, in case she should slip, explain to your folks that the phrase is used commonly and isn't meant as an insult -- as jarring to them as it may be to hear.

DEAR ABBY: I have had the same group of friends for 20 years. They are an affluent group -- doctors, lawyers, etc. -- and very social. My best friend got wind of the fact that I had gone out with an African-American man. She confronted me, told me we could no longer be friends and then kicked me out of her house. If I call her, she hangs up on me.

We had a loving, longtime friendship. It has been five months now and no one has called. I am sad and shocked. I always thought of her as my best friend, and my other friends who were also dear to me are shunning me as well. What should I do? -- OUTCAST IN THE SOUTH

DEAR OUTCAST: I know this has been painful, but you need to recognize that in spite of their educational and financial advantages, your friends' thinking hasn't changed despite nearly 50 years of improving race relations. You grew; they didn't. For your own sake, you must accept that you and these people are on different paths and will never agree on this. Look elsewhere for companions who think more like you do. Believe me, there are many out there.

DEAR ABBY: With the holidays here and family gathering to celebrate, some will be overnight guests. Although we have had pets here in the past, my wife and I are older now. Our home has been remodeled and we no longer have pets because we don't have time to properly maintain an animal. We also travel frequently and don't want to leave a pet in a kennel.

My point is, if people are guests during one of these gatherings, please check first to see if pets are welcome. I know some relatives may feel their pet is one of the family, but they need to consider it may be a burden for the homeowner.

Thanks for getting my message out, Abby. -- "THE OLD GUY" IN WISCONSIN

DEAR "OLD GUY": Excuse me? What if the family members your message is intended for happen to miss reading my column? Because you want to ensure the message is received, the most effective method to do that would be to speak up and make your wishes known in advance -- especially in a case like this one.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)