DEAR ABBY: I hope you can help with an etiquette question. With same-sex marriage becoming more commonplace, how should I address a letter to a same-sex couple?
Example: Now that Ellen DeGeneres has married Portia de Rossi, would I write to "Mrs. and Mrs. Ellen DeGeneres"? "The Ellen DeGeneres Family"? or "Ellen and Portia DeGeneres"? None of the manners books that I have checked has been able to provide an answer, and I have not seen the issue in print. What do you think?
— STRAIGHT, NOT NARROW IN GLENDALE, ARIZ.
DEAR STRAIGHT, NOT NARROW: Because this topic is so new, there isn't one hard-and-fast answer to your question. Some couples keep or change their individual names, some join their names together with a hyphen, others select a name together and adopt it.
If you have a question about how a particular couple would prefer their mail to be addressed, my advice is to ask them.
DEAR ABBY: While I was visiting with a relative recently, she informed me that my late husband, "John," who died several years ago, had been having an affair. I was so shocked, I did not respond.
John and I married young and experienced good times and bad, but we were happy together — or so I thought. I live in a small town with many friends and relatives. Needless to say, my heart is broken. I don't know how to respond, or if I should. Why would someone be so hurtful?
— HEARTBROKEN IN OKLAHOMA DEAR HEARTBROKEN: Your relative is either malicious or a thoughtless motormouth, and what she said may not be true. Respond by treating her as if she has a contagious disease, because in a sense she does. The disease she spreads is misery.
If YOU think you and John had a happy life together, then you did. If John may have lapsed once along the way, forgive him because, in the final analysis, you two made it to the finish line together. Many couples do not.
DEAR ABBY: After 30 years as an automotive transmission rebuilder, I retired. I am blessed with a loving wife, three grown kids, beautiful 10-year-old twin granddaughters, a sugar-sweet beagle, three ungrateful, sassy cats and two time-consuming hobbies. Sounds perfect, doesn't it?
The downside is that eight out of 10 nights, I dream about my previous job. I drift around in the clouds rebuilding transmissions, putting a spring here, a valve there. I'd rather be dreaming about more interesting things — hunting, fishing and women — not necessarily in that order.
Can you tell me how to redirect my dreams and enjoy my sleep? Do other tradesmen such as butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers relive their old trades in dreamland?
— ONCE A MECHANIC ... IN ARIZONA
DEAR ONCE A MECHANIC: Your letter shows you can take a mechanic out of the trade, but you can't necessarily take the trade out of the mechanic, butcher, baker, candlestick-maker — or advice columnist, for that matter. If someone has performed a job long enough, it becomes part of him or her. Of one thing I am certain: The harder one tries NOT to dream about something, the more he or she will.
We cannot control our subconscious — but we can redirect it. An hour before bedtime, try leafing through magazines about hunting and fishing, or photo albums with pictures of your granddaughters. This may guide your thoughts in a more desirable direction as you drift off to dreamland. And should you find yourself once more at your workbench after nodding off, try this: Tell yourself, "OK, it's time to change the channel." It has worked for me.
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.