DEAR ABBY: I grew up the third of four children. Both my older brothers chose to go into engineering (the field my father is in). I rocked the boat and opted to go into education. All during college and after, my parents continued to tell me I had chosen the wrong career and would never have any money.
Ten years later, I'm still getting constant comments about my career choice and financial status. They make little jabs like, "... but we know you can't afford it," and, "Is this too expensive for you?" which echo at family gatherings to the point that neither my husband nor I want to be there.
We both work hard and, while we might struggle, we never ask for financial assistance. How can I get my family to stop these comments? They're hurtful. -- EDUCATOR IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR EDUCATOR: You are being picked on not only because of your career choice and its salary level, but also the fact that you didn't fall into line as your siblings did and do what your parents wanted.
Much as we might wish to, we cannot dictate the behavior of others. If you have told your family their comments bother you and they persist, you will have to focus on the importance of the field you chose and the contribution to society you are making. And attend those family gatherings less often.
DEAR ABBY: "Lonely Widow in Ft. Myers, Fla." (May 16) asked why friends ignore a woman when she becomes a widow. I experienced the same thing when I was widowed at 50.
There are several reasons why friends drop you when your spouse dies. One is fear of their own mortality. Another is perhaps the husband (or wife) was the social one. Or the women are afraid you are going to steal their husband.
I was hurt at first, but then I realized they were not true friends. I now have new friends who are widowed, divorced or married, and I'm enjoying every minute we share. -- JOY IN NEVADA
DEAR JOY: I am glad for you. Many readers wrote to share their experiences and their thoughts on that letter. Some suggested that friends may not invite the woman because they don't want her to feel like a "third wheel," but advised "Lonely" to speak up and tell them that, indeed, she would like to be included. Others thought people assume a widow is emotionally needy, so they don't want to be involved with her.
Some readers also wondered how often "Lonely" and her husband had invited single women to join them for a meal, weekend outing or evening event while he was still alive. The answer to that question could provide insight.
A majority of those who wrote agreed with me that it's important that "Lonely" cultivate new interests, and along with them, new friends. One reader's church formed a group for widows that includes monthly lunch outings at different restaurants. Another suggested that "Lonely's" senior center friends should start inviting each other out for various entertainment options. She should also be encouraged to meet people in different locations, or even consider moving for a fresh start.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)