DEAR ABBY: I have been accepted to a school that's the alma mater of several of my relatives. My mother, several aunts and other family members all belonged to one sorority at this college. They are urging me to pledge there and uphold the family tradition.
They say they had some of the best times of their lives as members of that sorority chapter. The members do well academically, as the sorority insists on it. They made lifelong friends, and their sorority contacts have been extremely helpful personally and professionally.
Although this chapter is very exclusive and accepts only the best-of-the-best, I will have no problems getting in, not only because of my academic record but also because I'm a "legacy."
So what's the problem? This sorority chapter still uses the paddle. Technically they don't haze -- that is, have any initiation stunts -- but they do use the paddle for disciplinary purposes. When I mention my concerns about the paddling to my mother and aunts, they say I should suck it up, as the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. One of my aunts said she thinks the rules and discipline would be beneficial for me because she considers me kind of a "wild child."
Abby, I don't know if you know anything about sororities, but I'm asking for an objective opinion from someone not directly involved. -- POSSIBLY PADDLED PLEDGE
DEAR P.P.P.: I joined a sorority in college, and I never heard of a sorority hitting pledges or active members. Some fraternities may have allowed it, but certainly not sororities.
Whether your aunt thinks you could use the discipline is beside the point. Striking someone with a paddle is assault with a weapon. A young man died a short time ago in Florida because of the kind of hazing this national organization is winking at. Are young women who behave that way really the kind of people you would like to be lifelong friends? If not, then pass on that sorority!
DEAR ABBY: My son is chronologically 12 and the size of an adult, but emotionally he is age 5. He's a moderately functioning child with autism, ADHD and behavioral issues.
Please let people know that just because they can't see a disability does not mean there isn't one. I often get dirty looks and rude comments, and I am extremely frustrated with it. Being nice or ignoring it does no good.
I know my son's behavior can be childish, rude or inappropriate at times. I have been fighting this battle every day since he was 2. I have seen every doctor and therapist available and exhausted every resource I could find, and now we have either aged out or my son isn't "bad enough" to be eligible.
However, he is still difficult to handle, and I still need to buy groceries and run errands. Sometimes that parent you are giving the dirty looks to is near the end of her rope and could use a little compassion or at least silence from the peanut gallery. What you see isn't always what you get. -- STRUGGLING MOM IN LONG BEACH, MISS.
DEAR STRUGGLING MOM: Please accept my sympathy. As you and other parents of children with disabilities deal with the realities of daily living, the last thing you (or they) need is criticism from strangers. If someone makes a comment or gives you a look, you should say, "My son can't help himself; he's autistic." It's the truth.
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.)