DEAR ABBY: I am having to part ways with someone I have known for 15 years. This person has done many good things for me. On the other hand, he has also thrown more insults at me than anyone else in my lifetime. At the snap of a finger, this normally good-hearted person has insulted me, insisted I was wrong (when I wasn't) or dumped cold water on something I was enthusiastic about.
A week ago, I approached him calmly and told him I was uncomfortable with his put-downs. Well, he threw an over-the-top temper tantrum the likes of which I have never seen, accused me of being "weak-kneed" and stomped away. I have finally had it.
I mentioned it to a friend who is a psychologist and he said this person has all the character traits of a raging narcissist. I'm now convinced this person will never change and I cannot understand the pettiness he reverts to. Can you comment? -- BREAKING AWAY IN MIAMI
DEAR BREAKING AWAY: If you feel it is better for you to distance yourself from this "friend," then that's what you should do. He may be a jackass; however, it is unwise to label someone who hasn't been formally diagnosed as having a personality disorder.
DEAR ABBY: A year ago we had a house fire. While insurance put us up in housing, it took a while to find a place. That first month I didn't know if I was coming or going. Dealing with insurance, contractors, family and a job was almost more than I could handle. The last thing I needed to hear was, "What's for dinner?"
If I have one piece of advice to offer to people who want to help friends, it would be, "Give them gift cards from local restaurants." I know how much I hated to speak up and say I needed help, so don't ask, just do if you see something needs to be done.
This idea also works well in lieu of flowers or home-cooked meals when someone dies. We gave a friend several gift cards for area restaurants when her husband died. When out-of-town company came in for the funeral, she said they came in handy for her. -- HOPEFULLY HELPFUL
DEAR HOPEFULLY HELPFUL: People are often at a loss about how to help during a crisis, and this isn't something that usually comes to mind. Your suggestion is a good one. Thank you for writing.
DEAR ABBY: Is there a proper way for a man to introduce himself to an attractive woman in a public place like a store or a museum? -- DAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
DEAR DAN: It's not difficult. If you're in a store, ask for her advice about a product. If you're in a museum, strike up a conversation about an artist or a painting, sculpture, etc. Then introduce yourself and keep talking. If she's receptive, she'll give you her name.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)