DEAR ABBY: I'm a 25-year-old guy with a unique problem. My father has been dating a woman since I was 16 who has a daughter my age named "Emma." Over the years Emma and I became good friends -- then more than that. We hooked up a few times. About a year ago, I told her I had developed feelings for her, which drove her off pretty fast. We haven't talked since. She now lives in another state with her boyfriend, and I'm happy for her.
With the holidays here, Dad expects me to go to all of the events and get-togethers. I made up excuses last year to avoid them, but don't think I can do that again. I want to escape the awkward interaction with Emma and her boyfriend because I still have feelings for her. I don't want to disappoint Dad, but I don't know how to handle this. Help, please. -- RUNNING FROM THE HOLIDAYS
DEAR RUNNING: You don't have to attend "all" the events and get-togethers, but you should attend a few. When you do, consider bringing a friend with you and minimizing the contact you have with Emma and her boyfriend. Observe the social amenities, keep the conversation brief and casual, and concentrate on the rest of the family.
While the initial contact may be painful, this is no different than any other romance that didn't work out. The awkwardness will pass if you concentrate on something else.
DEAR ABBY: I have been living with my daughter and her family for two years because I lost my job. I don't pay rent, but help out with the utilities and buy my own groceries. I also baby-sit for them several days a week. The only money I have is an inheritance my father left me to live on, and it is dissipating quickly.
I have met a man and have fallen in love with him. I plan to move in with him soon. The problem is my daughter and son-in-law owe me money. They promised it would be repaid, but when I ask when, they give me the run-around. (They always have money for tattoos, movies and concerts, though.) They also expect me to baby-sit for them on weekends, but that's the only time I can see my boyfriend.
How do I tell them I want to live my own life? I want to be free and not have to worry about them needing me to baby-sit and making me feel guilty about it. I'm afraid they'll say that because I lived with them, they no longer owe me the money. I don't know how to tell them without it turning ugly. Any suggestions would be appreciated. -- FRUSTRATED IN K.C., MO.
DEAR FRUSTRATED: I presume your daughter and son-in-law have met your boyfriend? Announce the good news that you will be living with him; it shouldn't be shocking. Ask again for the money that they owe you. Be pleasant, but firm, and don't let it escalate into an argument. If they say they don't have it, ask them to sign (and date) a note promising to repay it at a later date. That will be your proof that a loan was extended. If they refuse, with no proof that you loaned them money, you won't have leverage to force them to pay up.
As for the baby-sitting, do it when it's convenient for you. If they want their "freedom" on some weekends, let them pay you instead of a sitter and work off part of their obligation that way. But insist on cash.
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