DEAR ABBY: "Charlotte" and I have been friends for 16 years, ever since we met in college. She lives several states away, so we see each other only once a year when she and her family come to town for a long weekend. Beyond this annual get-together, we never chat on the phone, and communication is pretty much limited to social media.
I have known Charlotte's (now) husband for 16 years as well and never cared for him. When they became engaged, none of our friends thought she would actually marry him. He seems to get worse every time I see him, and it has reached the point that I can barely stand to be in the same room with him.
Unfortunately, Charlotte's kids take after their dad. They are spoiled, nasty, mean children and a bad influence on my young son. Charlotte and her family were in town for their annual visit recently. Afterward I told my husband I didn't enjoy it and dread the next one.
Charlotte's husband has now suggested they tag along on our next family vacation! Abby, it would ruin our trip. I don't want to go on vacation if they come with us. Charlotte is still as sweet and lovely as ever, but I do not want to see her husband or children again. What should I do? — HANGING ON FOR NOW
DEAR HANGING ON: Ignore the "suggestion" Charlotte's husband made. Because the two of you talk so infrequently, the subject may not come up again. A solution to your problem might be as simple as suggesting to Charlotte that the two of you have a "girls weekend" together rather than a family vacation. Then cross your fingers that she's receptive.
DEAR ABBY: Men know that when shaking another man's hand, the grip should be firm. A firm handshake is polite and — let's be honest — a point of masculine pride. But when I shake a woman's hand, I'm never sure what kind of grip to use.
When I'm shaking a woman's hand, I use a grip that is less firm than I would use with a man. Is this sexist? Sometimes I worry that even my lighter-than-normal grip is too firm, especially if she is older. On the other hand, I'm embarrassed if her grip is firm and mine is not. Sometimes I need to adjust my grip midway through the handshake to match the woman's, but then I feel silly doing it. Can you offer any guidance? — HANDING IT OFF IN TENNESSEE
DEAR HANDING: I'll try. The first thing to remember is that a handshake is not a litmus test for masculinity — at least not with women. While a limp handshake from either sex is a turnoff, one that is too strong can be painful — particularly if the fingers being squeezed happen to have rings on them. It isn't silly to offer a lady a "medium" handshake and adjust the firmness if she has a firm grip. It's sensible, not sexist.
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.