DEAR ABBY: During my visitations at my dad's, I share a room with my stepsisters. They have made it clear they resent having to share their room with me, even though I have no choice about it.
They play the choking game with some of their friends. When I refuse to participate, they put me down and call me chicken, but I'm not about to do something so dangerous.
They have told me I'd better "mind my own business" and not say anything to their mom about it. I'm afraid if I do — and I get them into trouble — they'll resent me more and make things even more difficult for me.
On the other hand, I'd feel really guilty if I stay silent and something terrible happened to one or both of them. Should I tell their mom, even if it causes problems for me?
— SEATTLE STEPSISTER
DEAR STEPSISTER: I think you should tell your mother, and let her tell your father and his wife. The "choking game" isn't a game; it's extremely dangerous. It destroys brain cells and has been known to kill people. The practice can also be addictive, and when people do it alone and lose consciousness for the last time, the deaths are sometimes mistaken as suicides.
DEAR ABBY: My oldest sister has just married a very nice man. (It's her second marriage.) My only problem is that "Norman" is a taxidermist. Going to their home frightens my daughter and makes me feel, frankly, a bit nauseous. I have avoided going there since the first time, but have been getting questions from family about why I keep turning down invitations.
How do I answer these questions without hurting my sister's feelings? She's a great sister, and I really like Norman. But their house gives me and my animal-loving daughter nightmares. Please help.
— CREEPED OUT IN ARIZONA
DEAR CREEPED OUT: Be honest, but be gentle. Tell your sister that you love her and think her new husband is terrific, but the stuffed animals (etc.) make you uncomfortable. Make sure she knows that when she's having a barbecue or a swimming party (thank God you live in a state with a mild climate), you'd love to come over. But you're not up to another trip through the gallery of the living dead because it gave your daughter nightmares.
DEAR ABBY: I married a caring, thoughtful man who is also a loving father. My problem is my father-in-law, who constantly "reminds" me that I'm the best thing that ever happened to his son and that there is no way my husband would be successful if it weren't for my influence in his life.
While I'm happy to have my father-in-law's approval, it makes me uncomfortable, and it's hurtful to my husband. My husband was not a wild child in his youth, so I don't know why Dad feels my husband would be a failure if not for me. My husband is a wonderful man on his OWN merits, not mine, and the implication is insulting. How can I help my father-in-law see this?
— MARRIED TO A GREAT GUY
DEAR MARRIED: The next time your father-in-law "compliments" you by insulting your husband, look him in the eye and nail him. One way to do that would be to say, "Exactly what do you mean by that, Dad, because I find the implication insulting." I predict he will squirm. And when he's done hemming and hawing, tell him his son is the ideal man for you, you feel lucky to have him, and you don't appreciate it when someone who is supposed to love him doesn't give him credit for all that he has accomplished.
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.