I have lived next door to the "Smiths" for 18 years. They're nice people. When problems have arisen, they have helped me out, and I have done the same for them. We're good neighbors and friends.
I have known the Smiths' children their whole lives. Their daughter is now 17. Their son was born a year later.
My question: Is it normal for a 16-year-old boy to walk around the house naked, in plain view of family members? No one seems to notice or care. There are no looks or comments.
In the morning he gets up around 6:45. He walks into the kitchen and fixes a bowl of cereal. Then he stands at the counter, watching the morning sports shows while eating his breakfast in the nude. There is absolutely no evidence of arousal of any kind. When the bathroom becomes available, he goes in for a shower.
I have never seen any of the other family members naked. This boy has no compunctions about being seen by his father, mother, sister or next-door neighbor. He's been nude in my presence dozens of times. I know it's common for little boys to run around without clothes on sometimes, but, Abby, he's not a little boy anymore.
- Clothes-minded in Wisconsin
DEAR CLOTHES-MINDED: Standards regarding nudity vary from family to family, and obviously the Smiths are casual and open-minded on the subject. It's possible that you have been their neighbor so long that the young man considers you part of the family.
Because he has matured sufficiently that his nudity now makes you uncomfortable, you should hang curtains on your windows that face the Smiths' kitchen - and before dropping over there, call to ask whether he's presentable. If he's not, then don't go over.
DEAR ABBY: My mother has been a single parent for the last seven years. She doesn't have any really close friends - there are two women she goes out with occasionally, but all she does is complain about them. She seems to have forgotten what makes her happy and who she is.
I may be biased, but I think Mom is an amazing person. I'm in college now, but whenever I'm home I always try to spend lots of time with her and make her happy.
How can my mother make new friends or start a new relationship? How can she figure out what she likes and be a happier person?
- Wants to Help Mom in Philly
DEAR WANTS TO HELP MOM: You are a loving and caring daughter, but you can't "make her happy." Only she can do that.
It is possible that losing your father (through death or divorce) has caused your mother to withdraw and go into a depression. Most depression is treatable if the person is willing to discuss the problem with a mental health professional. However, this is a step that you cannot make for her.
Your mother needs to look beyond herself, volunteer some of her free time to the community, and allow herself less time to wallow in her discontent. In that way she will meet new friends and perhaps find a new relationship. But none of this can happen until she herself decides to reach out.
CONFIDENTIAL TO MY READERS: If you are partying tonight to celebrate the arrival of the new year, please don't drink and drive. Make sure you have a designated driver.
I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2008! *
- Love, Abby
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable - and most frequently requested - poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby - Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)