DEAR ABBY: Last week I was out with my family of 13 for dinner. My sister-in-law was sitting relaxed in her chair, stretching her back and extending her stomach. The waiter came over and, trying to make small talk, asked her, "What's the occasion? Are you pregnant?" My sister-in-law isn't pregnant, but her posture may have suggested it.
Well, my brother, her husband, went off on the man, calling him names, swearing, and causing a loud, uncomfortable scene. We all agreed the waiter was stupid to ask the question, but wasn't my brother wrong here? He embarrassed all of us, and I don't think there was any malicious intent on the part of the waiter. My brother stands behind his outburst and insists he wasn't wrong.
This has happened before, and I'm sure it will happen in the future. What's your suggestion for a better way to handle a situation like this, so maybe I can get through to my brother? -- LOST MY APPETITE IN GEORGIA
DEAR LOST: The waiter should have quit winners after he asked if your party of 13 was celebrating a special occasion. To have asked whether your SIL was pregnant was a blunder, which I am betting was reflected in his tip. While I appreciate your brother's desire to "protect" his wife, he accomplished nothing positive by creating a scene and embarrassing the family.
Because you mentioned that this has happened before and may happen in the future, it's time for "the family" to suggest he get professional help for his anger issues. If this is how he behaves in public, I shudder to imagine what he's like in private.
DEAR ABBY: When my son was 9 he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He is now a college grad. Because I couldn't fix his diabetes, I have tried to fix everything else in his life, and it hasn't been pretty.
He was home for a visit the day his graduate school application was due. I bulldozed him into taking some punctuation advice on his letter of intent that turned out to be wrong. A few months later a rejection letter arrived, and I'm afraid my grammatical error caused it. I'm afraid his dreams were dashed because he trusted me. He doesn't think the mistake had anything to do with the rejection, but I suspect he's trying to protect my feelings because he's such a nice person.
How important is perfect grammar on a grad school letter of intent? If my son has an above-average GPA, research experience, above-average GRE scores, but a grammatical error in his essay, could that one error put him out of contention? -- TRYING TO MEDDLE NO MORE
DEAR TRYING: I seriously doubt that a misplaced comma would cause your son to be rejected from graduate school if he had all the other necessary qualifications. Listen to what he's telling you, stop flogging yourself and, from now on, quit trying to bulldoze him and let him fly on his own. There is nothing to feel guilty about. With practice, you'll get the hang of it.
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 $8 (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.)