After having been out of the U.S. for many years, I noticed upon returning that people here seem to be much fatter. I went to a family gathering, and virtually every formerly slim member of my family had also gotten bigger.

I quietly mentioned it to one of my sisters, and word got around that I had "no manners." My other sister, "Niki," who has a degree in psychology, told me in no uncertain terms that people never talk about such things with each other.

I explained to her that mentioning it once, or discussing the ballooning of America, can be appropriate. I believe our country has fattened up because of a lazy attitude toward exercise and calories. Niki vehemently opposes my discussing it.

I learned later that she neglected to invite me to her son's wedding for fear I would say something about you-know-what to her in-laws. I admit, I don't have a silver tongue - but I'm disappointed my favorite psychologist has blackballed me and cut off communication. It's sad to lose a sister this way. Please advise, Abby.

- Brother Black Sheep

DEAR BROTHER BLACK SHEEP: Why do I think there's more to this story than you have written? Obesity has become an epidemic in this country, and the reasons for it are more complicated than a lazy attitude.

You don't need a "silver tongue" to apologize to your sisters for having offended them. Perhaps your "favorite psychologist" would have invited you to her son's wedding if you had been willing to apologize.

People who have weight issues know they are fat. They don't need to debate it. And they don't need you to remind them or imply they are lazy.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 45-year-old male reader. I have been friends with "Oscar" for 20 years. He asked me to be the godparent of his new baby girl. As you can imagine, I was overwhelmed when he asked. I have never been a godparent. We discussed it at length, and I told him I needed to think it over to be sure of my decision.

After a few days I was still indecisive. Part of me wanted to do it and part of me didn't. I told Oscar that it was an honor but that I felt unsure and not fully committed. I knew if I were to accept and then reconsider, it wouldn't be cool. So I bowed out to give him time to find someone else.

Oscar's reaction told me he was deeply angry and hurt. That night I hardly slept. I kept thinking how much I had disappointed my friend, his wife and their entire family. I feel terribly guilty. It's clear that Oscar was expecting me to say yes. Is it wrong to say no when someone asks you to be a godparent?

- True Friend in Wisconsin

DEAR TRUE FRIEND: No, it's not wrong if the person who is asked does not feel able to fulfill the obligations that go with that honor. Your friend may feel less hurt if you explain to him your reasons for not accepting and the fact that you wouldn't want to agree if you couldn't do everything that would be expected of you. Saying no sometimes requires tact, but I'll give you credit for being honest about your feelings.

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

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby - Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)