DEAR ABBY: A woman I'll call Betty Jo works in my office. We are only casual acquaintances. We speak in passing when time permits, but she has never invited me to lunch with her or suggested any interaction outside the job.
About three months ago, Betty Jo mentioned that she and her husband were planning a renewal of wedding vows and said she was going to invite me. In my mailbox at work, I found a poorly photocopied version of a formal invitation, with the following handwritten at the top in large block letters: CASH GIFTS ARE CHEERFULLY ACCEPTED!
I did not plan on attending, since I felt that if Betty Jo really wanted me, she could have at least sent me an original invitation to my home.
Two weeks ago, while knitting during my lunch break, Betty Jo came up to me and asked about the item I was working on. She then informed me that since I hadn't yet given her a gift, I could complete my knitting project and give that to her! Abby, I was flabbergasted. It's a custom-designed angora sweater, a gift for a cherished friend.
I mumbled something about being "busy as a bee" with projects to complete, and since that day I have gone out of my way to avoid any contact with Betty Jo. I've even managed to find an office with a door that locks in which to take my breaks.
First, am I behind the times or is requesting money on an invitation a new trend? Second, why would this rude and clueless woman request such an elaborate gift from someone she barely knows? Third, how do I handle future interactions with her at the office? Please don't reveal my name, city or state. -- BOTHERED AND BEWILDERED
DEAR BOTHERED: You are not behind the times. To request a gift of money (cash, yet!) is still regarded by most people as bad manners. Your co-worker asked you for the sweater you were knitting because she either has a lot of nerve, or doesn't know any better.
Please stop trying to hide from her. You don't have to feel defensive for not attending her renewal ceremony or giving her a gift. Just maintain a polite and consistent distance, and continue to socialize with others as you always have.
DEAR ABBY: I am 50 and about to re-enter the dating scene. I'm financially stable and look forward to a nice retirement in the future. I hope to find a woman for a lasting relationship. However, I would like her to also be financially stable and building her own retirement fund.
When is it appropriate to ask questions about someone's financial security and retirement funds/goals? -- SECURE TEXAN
DEAR SECURE TEXAN: Good question. I don't think it would be appropriate to ask on a first date, so consider raising the subject right around the time you start talking about sex and politics.
Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $14 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)