DEAR ABBY: My daughter is 40 years old and a lousy conversationalist. She will answer questions, but her conversation always turns to herself and her narrow, specific interests. She never asks me (or others) about ourselves, and when she starts talking about herself, there's no stopping her. She seems to need to dominate every conversation.
She has always been this way, and I think it's partly because she's anxious. She was bullied as a child, and I think that contributes as well. When she was little, her dad and I talked about it, but he's very hands-off and didn't want to address it. Because of that, her style never changed, and I now think we made a mistake. Can you suggest a way I could help her, even now, to become better at conversation? — SMOOTH TALKER IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR TALKER: You are well-meaning, but there is little you can do to turn your daughter into a better conversationalist. From your description, she may be deeply insecure. However, until she realizes that her coping mechanism is driving others away, your suggestions will be met with denial and ignored. The most helpful thing you could say, if she asks for advice, would be that she needs unbiased guidance, which she can find by scheduling some time with a licensed mental health professional.
DEAR ABBY: Will you please ask your readers NOT to open doors for toddlers? Since I became a parent and my son has learned to walk, I have been amazed at how many people will open the door in a store or supermarket to let him outside. I guarantee you, my son is safer inside the store than alone and unsupervised outside. While he may stand at the door wanting to go outside, he does not know what is best for him, and chances are I'm still inside the store.
Abby, please remind your readers that although a child may be standing alone at the door, the parents are typically no more than 10 or 15 feet away. If they wanted him to go outside, they would open the door for him. Thanks! — CONCERNED PARENT OF A TODDLER
DEAR PARENT: As requested, I'm printing your letter. However, when parents take small children shopping, they should be extra careful about keeping them close and in their line of sight. Another concern is, toddlers have been known to destroy displays of cans, bottles and boxes, and get underfoot, which creates a hazard for other shoppers.
It isn't always a "helpful" shopper who allows the little ones to exit. Sometimes the doors swing open automatically. It might be safer for all concerned if the little ones are kept securely fastened in the cart or a stroller.
DEAR ABBY: My husband of many years has an offensive eating habit. When finishing his meal, he takes the plate or bowl, puts it to his mouth as one would a drinking glass, and shovels the remains into his mouth. As he does it he makes little sucking movements with his lips like an animal lapping food from a bowl. I find it revolting, but how can I address it without offending him? — ANNOYED IN ALBUQUERQUE
DEAR ANNOYED: Offending HIM? Try this: Say it in PLAIN ENGLISH! (Or just feed him sandwiches.)
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $14 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)