DEAR ABBY: My 11-year-old niece, "Nina," has no table manners. I was surprised at her inappropriate behavior because her parents are well-educated people who were raised with good table manners.
I didn't say anything when Nina slathered clotted cream on her scone with her fingers, but I was disgusted. I did suggest she use a spoon after she scooped rice out of a communal bowl with her hand. Both of these incidents happened in restaurants.
Is there anything I can do when I must eat with this child? I know it may have been wrong of me to correct Nina in front of her mother, but we were all eating from the same bowl. Should I ignore her ignorance of basic table manners and keep my mouth shut? -- LOST MY APPETITE IN HOUSTON
DEAR LOST YOUR APPETITE: By age 11, children should have mastered basic table manners. (Not eating with one's fingers is one of the basics.) Is your niece learning-disabled? If the answer is no, you should discuss this with your sibling. Nina is at an age when she needs to know what's expected of her when she's out in public.
DEAR ABBY: My son came out of the closet last year. My first reaction was to tell him it was OK. (I had already suspected that he was.) I love him dearly and we're a close family. His brothers and sisters also accept and love him.
My husband and I are now struggling because we're not sure how God really views gays and lesbians. To listen to some religious people, my son will go to hell. I can't believe that God would create a person to be this way, then turn His back on him.
I tried reading the Bible, but the wording was hard to understand. I don't want to talk to my pastor about it because, even though I have accepted my son for who he is, I still have trouble talking to people about it because I'm not sure how they'll react. Do you believe a gay person will go to heaven? -- SOMEWHERE IN THE U.S.A.
DEAR SOMEWHERE: I believe that entrance to heaven is based upon a person's character, not his or her sexual orientation. Today, because of modern scientific studies, we know more about homosexuality than was known when the Bible was written, and that sexual orientation is not a "choice."
DEAR ABBY: Our daughter keeps hinting that we should give her money for her in vitro fertilization. We have concerns based on many issues, but the bottom line is we're not sure if she can handle motherhood.
Our daughter's marriage is shaky, and she struggles with many of her relationships and commitments in life. She is basically disabled by anxiety. Not only do we believe we should stay out of this, but we also think they can afford the procedure themselves. We would be happy for them if they had a child, but we prefer to avoid the money connection. What do you think? -- UNDECIDED IN MISSOURI
DEAR UNDECIDED: If you give your daughter money, it would be better spent on counseling and medication to help her overcome her anxiety disorder. A baby will not fix a shaky marriage, and could very well complicate it. Because your daughter and her husband can afford to pay for it themselves, they should not be hitting you up to fund the endeavor.
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