DEAR ABBY: I'm 15 and my brother is 19. He still lives at home and recently acquired a water cooler -- the kind you see in doctors' offices. He has it sitting in the dining room and, frankly, I hate it! It's unsightly and unnecessary.
My parents allow it to stay there. They have never cared much about how their house looks. I do most of the cleaning. Is there any way I can convince them to remove the water cooler? It's not the kind you see in home magazines. -- WANTS A NORMAL HOUSE
DEAR WANTS A NORMAL HOUSE: Ideally, a water cooler would be placed in a kitchen. However, if there isn't room for it in your parents' kitchen, and meals are shared in the dining room, that's the logical place for it. I can't see why the water cooler would embarrass you. Most people's homes don't resemble the layouts you see in magazines. They are an "ideal" folks aim for until reality compels them to organize their living space in a way that conforms to their needs and budgets, rather than their desires.
DEAR ABBY: I have been dating my boyfriend for three years. We get along well, but he has the most annoying habit of gnawing his fingernails. It is constant, and he hardly has any left. I find it repulsive and embarrassing when we're out in public.
I have asked him repeatedly to stop. He says he has done it all his life and I should stop nagging. If it were the other way around and I knew something I did bothered him, I'd try my best not to do it because I loved him. I know most people have habits, and this is more of an addiction. What can I say to make him stop? -- BITING OFF TOO MUCH IN S. CAROLINA
DEAR BITING: Nail-biting is typically related to stress and anxiety. There are ways to stop, and he should talk about it with his doctor. Beyond suggesting that he make an appointment, nothing you can say will "make" your boyfriend change his behavior. Because you find the habit repulsive and embarrassing, the question it's time to ask yourself is whether it's a deal-breaker, and no one can answer that but you.
DEAR ABBY: I am 20 years old and have been in a relationship since I was 15. I never had a childhood. At 14 I became an adult and never got to experience any teenage freedom. I realize now that I'm not ready to settle down with anyone, but I know he is. I am unhappy, but I'm afraid of hurting him.
I am the type of person who would hurt myself before I hurt anyone else. I think I'm ready to experience life as a separate individual, but I don't know how to tell him. He always said this would happen, but I denied it. Now I realize he was right. I don't know how to start the conversation. Please help me. -- NOT READY TO SETTLE DOWN
DEAR NOT READY: You are the type of person who would hurt yourself before you hurt anyone else? While that is altruistic to the max, it is a dangerous way to live your life. In a case like this, better he should cry for a short time than you should cry for the next decade or so.
A way to start the conversation would be to say: "We need to talk, and I need to be honest with you. You were right when you said this wouldn't last -- and I was immature and inexperienced when I said you were wrong."
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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