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DEAR ABBY: My mother committed suicide when I was a child. She was severely depressed, and although she sought professional help, the worst happened.
When conversing with acquaintances, the subject often turns to family, and I will say that my mother "passed away" when I was young. Most of the time they proceed to ask me how she died.
Abby, this is a personal family matter. I do not wish to reveal what really happened. I usually reply that she was very ill, but some nosy people persist in pressing for more information. How should I respond without being rude?
- Loyal Ohio reader
DEAR READER: You're under no obligation to reveal personal information that makes you uncomfortable. Simply say, "That's a very personal question, and I'd rather not discuss it." Then change the subject.
DEAR ABBY: Since when has it been considered OK for women to be in men's dressing rooms in department stores? I have seen a lot of this during the last year.
I'm not a prude, and I understand that most men change in private booths, shielded from view of strangers. Still, I am disturbed when I come out of the smaller booth and find women hanging around in the dressing room.
In many cases, I have heard women actually IN the booths with men who are getting dressed, giggling - or, even more annoying, shouting out orders about sizes, styles, etc. Men are not allowed in women's dressing rooms.
When I have expressed my concern to salesclerks, they look at me like I'm crazy. Am I the only one who thinks women do not belong in men's dressing rooms?
- Civilized shopper
DEAR SHOPPER: I don't know how long it has been between shopping trips for you, but your thinking is outdated. Today some stores have unisex dressing rooms, and men's and women's departments employ both male and female sales associates. It is not unusual for couples to shop together - and if something doesn't fit, for the spouse to go and find something in the correct size.
While you may not be the only one who thinks women don't belong in men's dressing rooms, I believe you are in the minority.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 46-year-old female cancer survivor. My hair used to be long, thick and naturally wavy. Because of the high-dose chemotherapy and radiation to treat my lymphoma, I lost all my hair. It has grown back, but it's thin, spotty and ugly. I have tried everything on the market, including foams, sprays, expensive hair clubs, etc., but nothing has worked.
Recently I started wearing a wig. It is natural-looking and stylish, and I feel confident again. I get lots of compliments on the cut and color.
My question is, when people ask who my stylist is, I'm not sure how to answer. I have been referring them to a friend who is a stylist, but I feel dishonest. However, I don't want to reveal my secret. What would you do?
- Under the rug in California
DEAR UNDER THE RUG: Talk to the person who styles your wig for you and explain that you are receiving many compliments. Ask if you can refer other clients - but express that if you do, you would like the fact that you wear a wig kept strictly confidential. That's how I'd handle it. Hairdressers are privy to secrets of all kinds, and they're very good at keeping them (with rare exceptions).
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.