Dear Abby: Christmas is coming, and I dread it. I have only my brother, his wife and their kids. I'm on Social Security disability and I barely make it each month. They buy me gifts, but I feel embarrassed to accept them because I can't buy anything for them. It makes me feel small.
Even though I have nothing to offer my nieces, my brother and sister-in-law persuade me to go anyway. They are financially much better off than I am.
I lost my wife a year ago. I see everyone else having someone in their lives and I feel alone. There's just me and my dog now. The holidays hurt. What can I do? – Miserable in Massachusetts
Dear Miserable: You have something to give to your relatives. It's the gift of your PRESENCE. If you have a talent, share it with them.
Because this is your first Christmas without your wife, it's no wonder you feel alone. At this time of year, many people do. A way to lessen the sense of isolation would be to do something for someone else. If you're able, volunteer at a food bank, a homeless shelter, a senior center. It will give you less time to brood, and you will feel welcome and needed.
Dear Abby: I recently went on a first (and last) date with a "gentleman." He ordered himself a beer and a prime rib dinner. He never asked me if I wanted anything to eat or drink.
As flabbergasted as I was, I have a theory: Men today ARE different from those of the past, and my guess it's because the pierced and tattooed gals today speak and act like sailors, therefore ruining it for the rest of us. Am I right? – Puzzled in Florida
Dear Puzzled: No. You need to speak up! The RULES OF DATING have changed over the last decades. Many women expect -- and prefer -- to pay for their own meal and drinks on a first date. It has nothing to do with whether they are tattooed or use four-letter words. They like their independence, and sometimes earn more than their dates do.
Dear Abby: After 25 years of marriage, my wife no longer wants to shave her legs. She is starting to look like a gorilla. I think it's a slap in the face. She says it has nothing to do with me. I don't know if I should move to another zoo or buy her some bananas. – Peeved in Poughkeepsie
Dear Peeved: This may be your wife's way of rebelling, just as some retired men forgo shaving because they no longer "have" to. Or, the winters in Poughkeepsie may be so cold she feels she needs the insulation. Stay in the zoo you're used to -- after all, it's home. (If it's causing problems in your marital relations, close your eyes and pretend it's cashmere.)
Dear Abby: Would it be a breach of etiquette to enclose a self-addressed, stamped (blank) thank-you note with gifts I plan to send to my grandchildren, since they do not respond when I mail them gifts or cards? – Grandma in Marshfield, Mo.
Dear Grandma: I think it's a great idea as a last resort – and no, it would not be a breach of etiquette to do so.
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.