DEAR ABBY: I have a smartphone, and I love its convenience. I check my email, texts and voicemail three or four times a day and always try to respond promptly. But I do not carry my phone with me every moment of the day.
Some family members insist that the polite thing to do is to return a text message or voicemail IMMEDIATELY. They carry their phones with them and constantly interrupt whatever they are involved with to answer the phone, send a text, etc.
For my birthday, one relative gave me a little pouch on a string so I could wear my phone around my neck wherever I went because she texted me one day early in the afternoon saying she wanted to drop by, but I didn't see or respond to it until dinner time. Is making oneself available every moment of the day and night now required for good manners? — NOT A PHONE ADDICT
DEAR NOT AN ADDICT: Of course not! A cellphone is not supposed to be a leash. Your relative has become hooked on the concept of instant gratification, which isn't healthy for either of you. If you humor her, your cellphone will become an annoying and unending inconvenience for you. Do not take the bait.
DEAR ABBY: My father recently purchased a truck for our farm. It's old and in poor shape, but it was worth the $2,000 he paid for it.
The truck was fine until my father used it to pick me and my siblings up from school. When the other kids saw the bumperless truck, they began calling my little brother "Farmer Boy" and made cow noises at us. My mother isn't OK with it either. He picked her up from work in it, which embarrassed her in front of her co-workers.
It's not like we don't have other vehicles. Both my parents have nice, functional cars. Abby, please help me figure out a way to tell my dad without hurting his feelings. — FREAKED OUT IN FRANKFORT, KY.
DEAR FREAKED OUT: People should not be judged because of the clothes they wear or the vehicles they drive, but sometimes they are by shallow people who should know better. I think you could get your message across by telling your father how your brother's classmates reacted when they saw him pick up your brother. What they did was cruel. Leave it up to your mother to tell him she felt embarrassed in front of her co-workers. I'm sure she can get the message across.
DEAR ABBY: My wife was sexually active with a classmate in high school. Their relationship lasted until shortly before we were married, 54 years ago. I have often wondered what he did to make her so willing to come to his bed. Perhaps if I knew, I could enhance her pleasure in our lovemaking. However, such information might be injurious to our relationship. What is your take on this? I think about this several times each day. — OBSESSED IN THE WEST
DEAR OBSESSED: You have, I hope, been happily married for more than half a century. Has it never occurred to you that her high school romance failed because the sex wasn't that great? If you want to ask your wife at this late date if there is anything you can do to enhance her enjoyment of your lovemaking, by all means do. But do not frame it the way you did to me.
DEAR ABBY: I am a college freshman. I have decided I want to get a job so I can support myself and pay half the rent in the apartment my mom resides in.
I have always been shy because I don't really know how to talk to people. Every interview I go on, I never get a callback. How do I get connected at school and manage a job? How can I have more confidence in myself for job interviews? — CLUELESS IN ILLINOIS
DEAR CLUELESS: People convey confidence by looking others in the eye when they talk to them and being conscious of good posture. When you apply for your next job — one you think you would be suited for — write down and memorize five reasons why the company would be lucky to have you. Recite them for the interviewer, and this, too, will convey confidence.
If you are not hired, rather than blame yourself, accept that there's a lot of competition out there, so don't beat yourself up if you don't receive an offer from every company you apply to. Ask interviewers who don't hire you what you can do better. Practice makes perfect. Each interview should get easier.
As to getting connected at school, join special interest groups that you have time for between your study and work schedule. Your time may be limited, but these groups offer an opportunity to meet new people with whom you have a common interest.
DEAR ABBY: One of the things I taught my children was to write thank-you notes or, at least, verbally thank someone for a gift or nicety. My 30-year-old son calls to thank us when we send him gifts and when we provide meals or lodging when they stay with us. His soon-to-be fiancee, however, has never once uttered or written the word "thank you" for anything we have done for her. Perhaps she was raised by wolves.
I like the girl, but this really irritates me. How can I get the idea across to her without causing a rift? Should I talk to my son about it? I'm about at the point where I will no longer send her any gifts. Maybe I should send her your booklet about how to write letters. — UNTHANKED IN FLORIDA
DEAR UNTHANKED: Your son's fiancee-to-be may not have been raised by wolves as much as brought up by parents who were possibly ignorant of the social graces. Because this bothers you to the degree it does, discuss your feelings with your son rather than confront her. And please, rethink your idea of sending her my Letters booklet because, under the circumstances, it would be mean-spirited and likely not well-received.
DEAR ABBY: My sister-in-law is obsessed with dieting and working out. She and her husband often talk about other people's looks (whether they need to lose weight or not).
I had a baby four months ago and have about 15 pounds to lose before I'll be back to my pre-pregnancy weight. She has told me several times now that I need to work out. I don't know what to say because her comments are hurtful. We are fairly close, so I'd prefer to confront her myself instead of asking my husband to do it. What should I say the next time she says this? — BABY WEIGHT IN THE SOUTH