Dear Abby: College student is tested trying to reason with mom

DEAR ABBY: I am a freshman at a Midwestern university, and I love it. I finished my first semester with straight A's, and my second semester has been strong. I have a great group of friends and have already made plenty of memories. My problem is I have been having a disagreement with my mom. I would like to rush a sorority in the fall, and while my dad is fine with it, my mother won't even entertain the topic. 

I've never shared a lot with her regarding my social life because she has always been very strict (for instance, my dad knows I enjoy tailgating and partying as long as my grades are good). I am very responsible and always take care of everything that needs to be completed before I let myself have fun. Dad knows this and trusts me. However, I couldn't fathom telling my mom about it. 

I think part of the problem is she grew up abroad, and when she came to the U.S. for college in the 1990s, she faced a severe culture shock. We have always been very different people. Contrary to what she may think, my main reason for joining a sorority is not "to party." It's an attractive option for off-campus housing, and I think it would be an effective way to meet more people (especially at such a big school). If I don't like how rush pans out for me, I have no issue with dropping out, but I think it would be worth a try. 

I want to have an open conversation with Mom, but she is very close-minded. I don't want to go behind her back, because I think that would only do more harm than good. How should I navigate this conversation?


DEAR GOING: As much as you dread it, you must have a sit-down, comprehensive conversation with your mother about this. Emphasize the benefits of being in a sorority. She may be concerned because in some Greek organizations there have been severe abuses of the pledges, some of which were so dangerous that students lost their lives. You may also want to research the compliance history of the Greek organizations on your campus before addressing the subject with your mother, so you can allay any concerns she has.

DEAR ABBY: My 27-year-old daughter has issues due to a bitter divorce between her father and me. She treats us poorly, blames her problems on us and feels she is justified. How do I handle this? I don't think she respects either of us much. As for our relationship, we get along as long as things are going OK for her. But if she's having a difficult day, I get the blame. Advice?


DEAR COLD-SHOULDERED: Tolerating your daughter's behavior isn't healthy for either of you. Encourage her to seek professional help for her "issues," and when she starts the blame game or being disrespectful, shorten the visit, end the phone call or otherwise distance yourself. 

DEAR ABBY: My husband's job brings him a great deal of unhappiness, but he doesn't want to quit. He has been a high school Spanish teacher for 13 years. It's the only career he's ever known. There have always been ups and downs, but the problems over the past few years seem to be that the majority of kids at his school, and the school environment in general, has become increasingly apathetic, dysfunctional and lacking in civility. 

He hesitates because he knows that if he left, he would lose interaction with the few kids who make his workdays worthwhile, plus he'd be giving up his pension. He is afraid that another job, if there is even one that he's qualified for, would only make him unhappy in a different way. He comes home seriously downtrodden more days than he comes home feeling OK, let alone happy, and I feel so helpless. What should I do?


DEAR WIFE: Remind your husband how important the work he's doing is, and that his efforts are appreciated by at least some of the students he is trying to teach. He is performing a service that will help those kids who pay attention for the rest of their lives. I speak from experience. 

When I was in high school, like many teens who hadn't been exposed to international travel, I thought the whole world spoke English. My heroic Spanish teacher, Sr Ruben Beltran, somehow managed to force a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish grammar and vocabulary into my shrunken head. I have used what he taught me so many times, because Spanish has become increasingly prevalent in the southwestern part of the U.S., where I live. 

In years to come, students who make the effort will remember your husband with respect and gratitude. Please tell him I said so, and not to take the dysfunction personally. In recent years, I have often thought group therapy should be offered in the teachers' lounge. 

P.S. If he continues to be unhappy, he might benefit from talking to his financial adviser and possibly a career counselor about his options. He should also keep his eye open for other jobs while he's still employed at the school.

DEAR ABBY: I started dating a guy two months ago. It's going really well. I believe we are both on the same page on how invested we are in the relationship. My brother and sister-in-law are having an informal wedding reception next month here in my town, because they had a shotgun wedding originally. It's supposed to be very casual. This guy met my sister-in-law, and right in front of him, she mentioned I can bring a guest. 

I kind of laughed it off at the time. It's not that I don't want him there, I just wonder if it's too early to invite him to an event where my whole family will be and if it would seem like I am rushing the relationship. Should I tell him he's welcome to come, or is it too soon?


DEAR UNCERTAIN: Because this person knows about the party, why not ask if he would be "interested" in going? I hardly think that telling someone he is welcome would come across as pushy.

About Dear Abby

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.