DEAR ABBY: I'm a 22-year-old senior in college. Much of college social life revolves around alcohol. I have no problem drinking responsibly, but I take medication that prohibits me from imbibing alcohol.
Strangers and friends often ask, "Why aren't you drinking?" They either assume it's for religious reasons or I'm uptight. Saying I'm on meds seems like a bit of a buzz-kill.
This is particularly troublesome when I'm invited "out for drinks" at a bar. I never know what to order or say. I hate feeling like I'm obligated to drink, but I don't want to pass on events because of the awkward questions.
What's a quick reply I can give to those who ask why I don't drink? And how can I go out for drinks without actually drinking? -- STILL SOCIABLE AT STANFORD
DEAR STILL SOCIABLE: Order a "virgin" whatever you're being offered. There are many reasons why people don't drink. Among them: They don't like the taste, they don't like the buzz, the empty calories, they're allergic, they don't want to risk a traffic violation with alcohol in their system, or they never started drinking in the first place. To imbibe or not is a personal choice. It's OK to be different. And if you're challenged, it's perfectly fine to just say, "No thanks!"
DEAR ABBY: We live in a very nice neighborhood frequented by walkers and runners. For the second time in just a few months, several women who regularly walk past our home have approached me at neighborhood events to ask about items I can only think were found in our recycling bin. Specifically, how did I like a particular brand of pasta sauce, or would I recommend that bottle of chardonnay?
Abby, our recycling bins have lids and our bin is never left open, which means these women must be peeking inside to check out our eating and drinking habits. I am now so self-conscious about our recycling I have begun burying bottles and cans under the newspaper and watching the bin to catch them in the act. My husband suggested leaving a nasty note on top of our recyclables. Any suggestions? -- FOR OUR EYES ONLY IN MILWAUKEE
DEAR EYES ONLY: Once garbage is put out for collection it is no longer private property. A certain celebrity was embarrassed to learn this firsthand when some paparazzi rooted through her garbage and discovered to their glee some empty containers of meds to treat a private health matter.
It's possible the walkers are just trying to be friendly and strike up a conversation. But if your suspicions are correct, there are several ways to handle the situation. The first would be to delay putting out your recyclables until just before they are to be collected. Another would be to visit a novelty shop and pick up some fake hands or feet -- or a large rubber rat -- and place . them strategically in one of your bins. Or, affix "sweet" Post-It notes to your jars and bottles reading, "This was great!" or, "Don't waste your money ..."
If that doesn't discourage them from inventorying your trash, then there's always the direct approach. Respond with, "Why do you ask?" And when they tell you, let them know how you feel about their answer.
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.)