DEAR ABBY: I have always been a curious and motivated person. Because of it, I pursued higher education and became a college professor. Most of my siblings have also gone to college. However, their significant others have varying levels of education.
I like to think of myself as a nice person, but my siblings have let me know that when I converse with their partners, I often come across as patronizing. Do these partners need to be less sensitive, or do I need to be more so?
— THE GOOD PROFESSOR
DEAR PROF: If only one of your siblings had told you that you often come across as patronizing, I'd say his or her partner might be overly sensitive. However, because more than one has said it, it's time for a self-check. Book smarts are an undeniable asset, but sensitivity to others can be even more important. If you talk down to people, no matter how "smart" you are, eventually they will run away from you.
Do you feel compelled to "correct" those whom you know to have less education than you? Do you speak in polysyllables when a few simple words will do? If the answers to these questions are affirmative, you need to be more socially sensitive when you're with your family — and possibly when you're in the classroom as well.
DEAR ABBY: My parents divorced when my older brother and I were small. Mom remarried, and I was adopted by the wonderful man who raised me as his beloved daughter. I had limited contact with my biological father, "Nate," which seemed to please everyone.
After my adopted dad passed, Nate came back into my life. I have not seen much of him but he was present at my second marriage five years ago, traveling across country to be there.
Last month he called to tell me he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has named me as his heir since my older brother is deceased.
As a birthday gift, I presented him with a box from a company that does genome sequencing. It allows people to see their DNA and learn about their ancestry as well as any health-related issues. I enjoyed learning about genetics and thought Nate would, too.
Imagine how stunned I was when I learned that Nate is NOT my father. The company has assured me there is little chance the test is wrong, and they are certain we are not related.
I am close to my mother and horrified that she kept this secret from me for more than 50 years. I don't want anyone to be hurt, but I need the truth. What do I do?
— QUESTIONING MY DNA IN S.F.
DEAR QUESTIONING: Have a calm, private conversation with your mother and tell her what you have learned. If she denies it, have the test repeated. When you receive the results, either apologize to your mother or raise the subject again. She may know who your father was, or you may have been the result of an opening shot in the sexual revolution, a chapter your mother may not care to revisit.
Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.