DEAR ABBY: I have acquired two teenage stepsons. They are good young men, mature, responsible, active in community service and good in school and sports.
My challenge is their table manners. They were never taught any! They use their utensils like shop tools, lifting food using fork and knife together to transfer huge bites from plate to mouth. They use a bread knife to cut a pancake as if it were a tough steak. They slouch over the table to get their faces as near the plate as possible, while leaning on the table with one or both elbows. They don't know where to place cutlery when setting the table, and have their napkins in their lap only if a restaurant server discreetly places it there.
Their mother shows no concern about their uncouth manners. I'm worried that when they eventually go out into the world, they'll be perceived as having no class when they are actually nice young men. Their ignorance of table manners could cost them relationships, jobs and promotions. What to do? -- SAN ANTONIO STEPDAD
DEAR STEPDAD: Your wife may have felt she was teaching her sons more important lessons than table manners; things like character and responsibility. However, you have a point. People do make negative judgments about people who have poor table manners -- and it could be detrimental to them in the future.
That's why you should discuss this with their mother, if you haven't already, and enlist her help in talking to the boys in a nonconfrontational way and explaining your concern. In the interest of your relationship with them, this must not seem like you are critical of them, nor should it turn into an adversarial situation or it could have a negative impact on your marriage. If it is to succeed, there must be cooperation from everyone.
DEAR ABBY: I am almost 30, and when we have family get-togethers several times a year, it seems like they make a point to leave me out of pictures. My mom and sister lost quite a bit of weight recently, and my brothers and cousin are attractive people. It seems like they're trying to keep the "fat one" out of the photo, and it hurts my feelings.
Recently, a cousin came into town and made copies of two excellent pictures of my mom and sister and posted them online. Again, I was not included. What should I do? I am depressive anyway, and these obvious oversights are upsetting me. -- LEFT OUT IN TENNESSEE
DEAR LEFT OUT: Talk with your mother and sister to confirm if what you suspect is happening is true. It's possible your mother and sister are so proud of their weight loss they want to show it off. (There are ways to pose family members in photographs so their weight isn't apparent.) As to the visiting cousin, there may be such a marked change in their appearance that he/she thought it was worth posting on the Internet.
A problem with depression is that quietly brooding solves nothing, and it often causes people to overeat. Because your depression is chronic, please consider discussing it with your health care provider because interventions are available.
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.
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