DEAR ABBY: My sister-in-law, "Carol," doesn't wash her hands after changing diapers. I find it repulsive, and I can't help but cringe. I have also noticed that her kids don't wash their hands after using the bathroom — or any other time, for that matter — unless instructed to do so and closely watched. Even then, they don't use soap.
Carol wonders why her family is always sick. If I say anything to her, I'm sure she'll become defensive or dismiss it as the cause of their illness. Is there a polite, yet firm, way to say something?
— INCREASINGLY GERMOPHOBIC, KENOSHA, WIS.
DEAR GERMOPHOBIC: The idea that Carol would change a diaper and then prepare meals for the family is, frankly, nauseating.
Sometimes there is no polite way to say something, so my advice is to be direct. There is a reason why hospitals constantly impress upon their staff the importance of washing their hands. Years ago, my mother described a poster she saw in the halls of a major hospital. It depicted a silhouette of two outstretched hands, fingers apart. The caption read, "The 10 most frequent causes of disease. Remember to wash your hands." Repeat this to your sister-in-law, and maybe she'll get the message.
DEAR ABBY: I'm the unofficial event planner in my office. I am the one who makes sure people's birthdays are celebrated and comes up with occasional fun events like potlucks. Sometimes I buy everyone pizza (on the company) to keep morale up. I am not management, but I think doing this is important.
Last week my birthday came and went. Abby, not one person remembered! A co-worker from another department got me a card, but no one in my area even mentioned it. I am so bummed.
I remember everyone's birthday and make a big deal out of it with cakes and candles. I'm hurt that they forgot mine. It makes me want to stop being the party planner and do away with birthday celebrations altogether. Is this childish? Or should I just get over it and keep on keeping on?
— CRUSHED IN OHIO
DEAR CRUSHED: You wouldn't be human if being overlooked didn't "smart." However, it's possible that because you have assumed the responsibility of arranging the birthday recognition, that everyone depends on you to let them know when one is coming up.
Because this can be awkward when the birthday being celebrated is your own, in the future, why not post a monthly calendar in your office with the various birthdays written in — including yours? Also, because you were forgotten this year, tell someone besides me! Guilt can work miracles.
DEAR ABBY: My husband has a checking account with his daughter-in-law. I have told him that I don't like it and feel that it is disrespectful, but he refuses to change it. We do not have a joint account. How should I take this?
— MISTREATED IN MICHIGAN
DEAR MISTREATED: This is hardly a vote of confidence in your fiscal responsibility. I'm sorry you didn't elaborate further on the financial arrangements in your marriage. I, too, wonder why he would want his daughter-in-law to have access to his money while keeping it out of your reach.
However, because you signed your letter "Mistreated," it appears you have more problems in your relationship than money, and perhaps if you work those out, the money issue will resolve itself.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.