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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My sister and I recently found out (through the internet) that my mother and stepfather have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. A few months ago, Mom approached my sister (who's an attorney) asking about the effects of bankruptcy "for a friend."

My sister and I are now struggling with this information because my mom and stepdad promote a direct sales business where they advertise their multiple cars and lavish lifestyle as a result of the business profits. Should we let them know that we know about the bankruptcy and, if so, how should we handle this situation? Thanks for your advice. -- STRUGGLING SISTERS

DEAR STRUGGLING: You and your sister the attorney should go to your mother and stepdad and tell them the cat's out of the bag. They may need help extricating themselves from the company they have been promoting. Many people have been caught up in shady direct sales schemes and wound up with garages filled with product they couldn't sell. Whether your mother and stepdad are victims or perpetrators remains to be seen.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Money

Thoughtless Question Ruins Gym Experience

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend and I have a joint membership at our local gym. Today the gym owner asked him if I was his mother. It upset me to the point of tears. I don't look any older than he does. We are not the same race. He is fit; I'm not, but we are both in our early 30s.

Why do people ask rude questions when a simple check of paperwork would satisfy their curiosity? I feel I should say something to her like, "Mind your own business." How do I get over this because I still would like to attend her gym? -- WORKING OUT IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR WORKING OUT: That gym owner ain't no rocket scientist. She could have lost TWO clients by asking that ill-advised question. Because you would like to continue patronizing the establishment, refrain from telling her to mind her own business.

P.S. It's possible that she was hitting on your fella, so ask him what he hoped to accomplish by repeating something so hurtful.

Neighborhood Gossip Spreads Hurtful Rumors

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have lived in our home for 25 years, raised our children here and imagined living on this beautiful cul-de-sac forever. A woman who moved close by a few years ago has turned out to be the neighborhood gossip, spreading hateful rumors and expressing opinions that sadden us, based, we believe, on her own failed marriage and personal unhappiness.

It would be nice to dismiss her comments and believe that our friends will ignore her, but it's still hurtful and embarrassing. I have read that gossiping is related to low self-esteem and an effort to elevate oneself above others. What is your advice? -- KEEPING IT POSITIVE

DEAR KEEPING: My advice is to live your lives as you always have, and see your friends as you always have. By doing this, you will demonstrate that whatever the new neighborhood gossip is saying is fiction.

Read more in: Friends & Neighbors

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