DEAR ABBY: Every year around the holidays, well-intentioned strangers wish me and my family "Merry Christmas!" Even though we are Jewish, I have always regarded it to be a kind gesture to spread good cheer. I smile and return the greeting.
My children have asked me why I don't tell people we're Jewish and that we don't celebrate Christmas. I don't feel I need to educate strangers when they're just trying to be friendly, but my kids don't agree. We've had several discussions about being friendly and polite, but still they ask if being Jewish is something to keep secret or be embarrassed about.
I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but I do want to give my kids the message that we are proud of who we are. How do you recommend I handle this situation, because it happens a lot?
- Jill in Santa Rosa, Calif.
DEAR JILL: Explain to your children that you return the greeting to be polite, not because you feel being Jewish is anything to be ashamed of. The strangers who do this are saying something nice, and you are returning the greeting.
However, the response to people to whom you are closer and with whom there will be a deeper relationship should be different. To them, your children should explain that they are Jewish and that you celebrate Hanukkah rather than Christmas. When you're with them, if they feel the need to assert their Jewish identity, they should go right ahead and do it.
DEAR ABBY: I have been with my boyfriend for 16 years. Last year I found out he was married before I met him and still is married to her. He never told me he was married when I met him -- or at all. If he had, we wouldn't be together.
His wife got ahold of me on Facebook because she was looking for him. I was in disbelief. We almost got married in 2007, which would have been bigamy. I have stayed with him for the sake of our kids, but I'm miserable.
I recently reconnected with a male friend from high school. We have been talking, but not romantically. He knows my situation. The problem is, he said that he had a crush on me back in school and still does. I have feelings for him, too -- more than just friendship. What do I do?
- Emotionally Lost in Maryland
DEAR LOST: I can only imagine the extent to which your trust has been shaken. What you need to do right now is recognize how vulnerable you are feeling. What you shouldn't do is rebound from one relationship into another.
Because you are no longer happy with your boyfriend, consult an attorney to ensure your children's father lives up to his financial obligations to them. If you don't have a job, start looking for one to supplement the child support income.
Once you have established economic independence, you will be in a better position to judge whether or not your old high school friend is your knight in shining armor.