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DEAR ABBY: I have been divorced for almost 15 years. In that time, my ex-husband has been self-employed and works out of his home. He rarely leaves his house, and I think he is depressed.
At a school honors event for our daughter for which most of the attendees dressed for the occasion, he arrived in dirty shorts and a T-shirt. I sat next to him to be polite, until I realized he also smelled awful. When I tried to excuse myself saying I needed a "better seat for my camera," he got up, too! It was an unpleasant two hours.
I have tried to suggest that he may suffer from depression in the past, but he denies it. Is there anything I can say that won't be resented (with him possibly showing up even more disheveled the next time just out of spite)?
- Unpleasant situation, Gettysburg, Pa.
DEAR UNPLEASANT SITUATION: While you may have ended your marriage 15 years ago, it doesn't appear you have truly divorced yourself from your ex. Rather than having pussy-footed around the reason you wanted to change your seat, you should have told him it was because he smelled like a goat and showed he lacked enough respect for those around him and his daughter to shower and put on clean clothes.
He may - or may not - suffer from depression. Because he denies it, there is no way you can force him into treatment. You are no longer responsible for his attire or his welfare. Because you're concerned that he may show up looking more disheveled "out of spite," you have my permission to distance yourself if it happens. And if your daughter is embarrassed by his attire, she has every right to talk to her father about it.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a small-business owner. I have an educational supply and toy store. Business has been pretty good, even through the hard times.
My problem is my customers' children. They are out of control. They climb on shelving, open products, tear things apart and throw screaming tantrums. Their parents let them run through the store like it's a playground. I have signs posted around the store reminding parents to attend to their children.
We have lost a lot of inventory due to these brats, and my time is consumed trying to keep them in line instead of working with my customers. I don't go to their homes and wreck them. I wish they'd show the same respect for my business. Thanks for any advice you can offer.
- Had it with overindulged kids
DEAR HAD IT: If possible, designate a small area of your store where kids can play while their parents shop. Also, post a sign at the cash register that reads: "Customers will be charged for broken or damaged items."
The problem you are experiencing is one that is shared by many other retailers. If any of them are reading this column, I'd love to know how they resolved this problem.
DEAR ABBY: Since my mother passed away, I feel awkward when my parents' anniversary comes up. I don't want to ignore this important date for my father, but I don't feel saying "Happy Anniversary" is appropriate either. What do you suggest?
- Remembering in Orange County, Calif.
DEAR REMEMBERING: Your father already knows what the date means. Pick up the phone, say, "Dad, I'm thinking about you and I love you," and if he lives close by, invite him to dinner if he doesn't have plans.