DEAR ABBY: I am a 29-year-old registered nurse who has never been married. Recently I bought a home, and soon after, an old boyfriend, "Gary," started coming around. I was happy about it at first, but he's been staying here at my place for two months now and hasn't paid any rent.
Gary buys his own beer and has brought home a few grocery items from time to time, but nothing to speak of. He had the electricity turned off at his place so his expenses are minimal. He also brought along his cat, but never cleans out her litter box.
He does no housework and comes and goes as he pleases. I do not want him sharing my home without contributing anything. Is there a way to tell him without wrecking our relationship?
— CANADIAN JOAN
DEAR JOAN: It appears that not only is the heat off at Gary's house, the temperature at yours is cooling fast. Tell him that if he can't help you with the rent, household chores, groceries and the litter box, it's time to turn up the heat at his place. And please don't feel guilty about it. It's called being assertive.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a freshman in high school who has trouble making friends. My grades are good. I'm learning how to play a musical instrument, and I think I'm a nice guy.
My problem is so many of my schoolmates judge others by their possessions — cell phones, iPod, laptop, etc. It matters what brand of clothing you wear and how much money you have. If you don't have those things or your parents aren't rich, you're treated as an outcast. Character or talent doesn't matter, apparently — only money. This has started affecting my self-esteem. What do you advise?
— JUST A NICE GUY IN ARIZONA
DEAR NICE GUY: You will be better off, and lead a happier life, if you stop looking for acceptance from shallow, immature kids who belong to tight, judgmental little cliques. Join activities where you will meet others with values more like your own. Some places to start would be special interest clubs at school, scouting, a sport, your church youth group, or volunteering if you have some free time. There is nothing "wrong" with you. Many people develop their social skills and blossom after high school.
DEAR ABBY: My wife has been criticizing my table manners ever since our wedding. When we're having dinner, if we're having meatloaf, broccoli and mashed potatoes, I eat all of my meatloaf and then all of my broccoli before starting on the mashed potatoes.
My wife claims it is proper etiquette to rotate one bite of each different food rather than consume all of any one of them before moving on to the next. I have never heard of this rule and neither has anyone else I have asked.
Am I violating a rule of etiquette, or is this something else my wife has "cooked up"?
— RUMINATING IN RIO RANCHO, N.M.
DEAR RUMINATING: I have never heard of such a rule either, nor is it mentioned in "Emily Post's Etiquette (16th Edition)." Your wife may have cooked it up, but that doesn't mean you have to swallow it.
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.