DEAR ABBY: My stepson, "George," will be 14 soon. He wants to wear T-shirts with what he considers funny sayings on them. He bought one that reads: "You're just like your girl, easy to score on." His dad and I find it offensive and don't want him to wear it in public. I offered to return it, but George refused and is offended that we don't agree with his choice. He says his friends think it's funny. He argues that it's the shirt giving the message, not him.
George's father and I think the message is sexist and reflects on us if he wears such a shirt.
Should we allow him to do what he wants with the shirt, or should we replace it with one we consider acceptable? -- OFFENDED STEPMOM
DEAR OFFENDED: Your stepson is asserting his independence, which is normal for his age. However, you and his father are the parents, and the decision rests with you.
No need to replace the shirt -- just insist that he put it away until he's an adult and self-sufficient. He may not agree with your decision, but when he matures, he will understand why you made it.
DEAR ABBY: My good friend who is being married soon chose the color of the bridesmaids' dresses and shoes. She even told us to wear our hair in an up-do. I don't mind wearing the dress and shoes she has chosen, or having my hair up -- but now she wants me to color my light brown hair darker. I don't know why she would ask me to do a thing like that. Should I? -- PUZZLED BRIDESMAID IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR BRIDESMAID: The bride has gone overboard in her need to control how everything looks at her wedding. She may want all of her bridesmaids to "blend together" so that she will be the focus of all the attention on her big day. From my perspective, she has gone a little far -- but the decision is yours to make.
DEAR ABBY: I would like to share my mother's method of handling an obscene phone call. She became feeble and hard-of-hearing several years before she died. The telephone was one of her main luxuries and necessities. We live in a rural area, and obscene calls were unusual.
I returned from work one afternoon and went to check on her. With a gleeful voice, she announced, "I got an obscene phone call last night." Shocked, I asked, "Mama, what did you do?" She said it took her a few minutes to realize what the young man was saying. Then she started preaching -- book, chapter and verse.
Mama was a saintly soul with a great working knowledge of the Bible. After several minutes, the man yelled at her, "Hey, lady, you're supposed to shut up and let me do the talking!" She retorted, "No, boy, I have a lot of things to say that you need to hear!"
In a disappointed tone she added, "... and then he hung up on me." To my knowledge, she never received another obscene phone call. -- MISSING MAMA IN LOUISIANA
DEAR MISSING: This is a topic that seems to have taken on a life of its own. I hope your dear mama's preaching put the caller on the right path. At least it made him think again before dialing her number.
DEAR ABBY: I was a single mother throughout my only child's early years. I had no financial or moral support from the child's father. Luckily, I had a good job that enabled me to take good care of my daughter. I did not believe in giving my child a stepfather, so I remained single. My daughter had a good religious education, loving home, a dedicated and adoring mother, vacations, the best schools, health care, etc. We enjoyed a wonderful and loving relationship.
However, as soon as my daughter became a teen-ager, she decided to stop calling me "Mother." She insisted on addressing me by my first name because I was her "friend." For years, we have had numerous discussions on that subject -- me explaining my unhappiness, she insisting on using my first name and ignoring my hurt feelings. I never wanted to be referred to as one of her many friends. I wanted to be called "Mother."
At 49 years old and married (no children), she has lived out-of-town for many years and her attitude is cold and distant. Her friends are the center of her life. How do you explain such treatment?
I now have the opportunity to become a foster mother to a child. I would insist that this child call me "Mother." Unfortunately, I fear that my desire to be called "Mother" is based only on the longing to be called that by my own child. Under such circumstances, should I go ahead and bring this young child into my home, maybe making her unhappy and leaving myself vulnerable for another disappointment in life? -- DISAPPOINTED MOTHER IN FLORIDA
DEAR DISAPPOINTED MOTHER: I don't know what happened between you and your daughter, but it seems you and she have very different perspectives on her childhood and the nature of your relationship. Perhaps it's time for you to suggest to her that you both sit down and have a heart-to-heart conversation about those perspectives.
Under no circumstances should you take a child into your home for the reasons you have stated. It would be grossly unfair to the child.
DEAR ABBY: I recently overheard a conversation between two young women in their 20s. They were lamenting the fact that they smile too much because of cultural and social conditioning. They seemed to feel they must be "tougher" to succeed in the business world.
Abby, I have had a varied career as a museum manager, an office coordinator for a law firm and a property manager for a 33-story building. I was a competent, intelligent student in school, but by no means at the top of my class. I have a fine arts degree and reasonable computer skills.
A short time ago, I walked out of a new job because I didn't like the way my employer screamed at people. Within three days, I had three job offers. (I hadn't even begun to look for new employment.) The reason? I smile.
When someone walks into my office, I smile and greet the person pleasantly. Whether that someone is my boss, a client, co-worker, vendor or cleaning lady, I smile and am pleasant. I say please, thank you, and apologize for my mistakes. One employer said, "It's easier to train a smiler to use Excel than to teach a computer-literate sourpuss to smile. In the final analysis, it comes down to choosing whom I want to spend my day with." -- SONYA IN SEATTLE
DEAR SONYA: I agree. A smile is definitely an asset not only in the business world, but in social situations as well. The young ladies you overheard have a lot to learn about interpersonal relationships if they think smiles are to be used sparingly. Smiles make people feel good and open many doors.
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