DEAR ABBY: I am not a hugger. In fact, I pretty much always hate it. But people think I’m rude when I don’t open my arms to hug after they’ve opened theirs. And they also think I’m rude when I tell them I’m not really a hugger. It happens with friends, fellow church congregants and audience members (I’m an entertainer) all the time. Although I let the hugs happen, I’m usually holding my breath the whole time.
Once I’ve "Hey girl’d" someone and offered my warmest smile, what more can I do? I don’t want people I like to think I don’t like them, or I’m not happy to see them. But I’m fed up with faking it and participating in this ritual that makes me so uncomfortable. If there’s a polite, clear way to convey this to people without seeming cold or unappreciative, please let me know what it is. — BRACING FOR THE EMBRACE
DEAR BRACING: You are not alone in feeling the way you do. Not everyone is comfortable with being hugged. I think you should simply be honest about your feelings and tell the huggers that you become claustrophobic when people hug you, and to please understand that your reluctance isn’t personal. If you make it about you rather than them, it shouldn’t come across as rejection.
DEAR ABBY: My son and daughter-in-law are splitting up. I’m devastated for them and my two young grandchildren, with whom I’m very close.
They live in another state, so I stay with them when I go visit. Although we’ve always had a great relationship, I’m terrified that my daughter-in-law will not want me to visit her after the divorce. I’m heartsick and don’t know how to proceed.
What can I do to maintain a good relationship with her, while staying on good terms with my son? My grandchildren mean the world to me. — HEARTSICK IN THE WEST
DEAR HEARTSICK: The last thing you want or need is to get caught in the middle of the divorce. Try your level best not to take sides and be sure to give your almost-ex-daughter-in-law her space.
Assure her that you care about her and that you deeply regret that the marriage with your son didn’t work out. (It’s true.) Tell her you have grown to love her as a daughter and hope that, in spite of the divorce, you will always be close. Do NOT discuss any intimate details or assign blame, if you can possibly avoid it, and try to keep your visits upbeat while concentrating on your grandchildren.
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I will soon attend a weekend wedding. We will be meeting a large number of people for the first time.
My problem is I have a hard time remembering people’s names. I suggested to my wife that I carry a pocket-size notebook and write down names followed by a brief description. She thinks it’s a great idea as long as no one catches me doing it. I think, in addition to being practical, it will provide a bit of humor to the occasion. What say you? — SENSIBLE IN SEATTLE
DEAR SENSIBLE: I agree with your wife. Be discreet, if you can. Rather than carry a notebook, it might be less obvious if you enter or dictate the information in the notes section of your phone.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.