Abby: She fights to free mom from culture of sacrifice

Dear Abby
Jeanne Phillips

Dear Abby: I’m 22 and my mom is probably my best friend. She’s from Lebanon and grew up during a time of war. Her culture taught her to sacrifice — to put the needs of others before her own. She has a good job and earns an excellent salary.

My father is retired. Their marriage is not a good one, and Mom is in sort of a rut. She dresses sloppy and buys only “bargains.” Her hair is always a mess. Every time we go shopping, it’s a fight because I want her to buy the nice clothes she can afford. I want her to be presentable. But she’s stubborn and always makes an excuse for why she “doesn’t need them” or “can’t get them.” How should I handle this situation?

Caring Daughter

in Encino, Calif.

Dear Caring Daughter: Where is the money your mother earns going? Is she saving or investing it? Does she give it to your father? She may present herself the way she does because she’s depressed about her marriage or something else. Before trying again to give your mother an image reboot, talk with her. Tell her you love her, are concerned, and ask why she doesn’t take better care of herself. Then listen. Your mom may come from another culture, but she has much to teach you.

Dear Abby: Up to this point in my academic career, I have always been known for being a smart, diligent student. I graduated from high school with academic accolades and one of the highest GPAs in the graduating class.

However, since starting college this semester, I have become apathetic toward school, as if to say, “I have worked this hard already; why bother working anymore?” Because of this, I’m failing most of my classes — as only a freshman, mind you. Although I recognize my attitude is terrible, I haven’t been able to get rid of it and get to work again.

I’m confused about where this apathy came from, and I don’t want it to get any worse. Would you have any ideas as to why I might feel this way, and possible suggestions about how to get myself back on track?

Unmotivated in Maryland

Dear Unmotivated: Not knowing you and your circumstances, I can’t be sure why you’re feeling the way you do. That’s why I’m advising you to head for the student counseling center RIGHT AWAY, and talk to someone about these feelings of “apathy.” You may be depressed, or need a break from your studies before you can go full speed ahead. The college environment can be overwhelming because it is so different from what you have been used to. But you won’t know what is causing this unless you ask.

Dear Abby: Is there any hope for a man who refuses to turn off the TV during dinner? He gobbles his food and doesn’t close his mouth. Food drops out of the side of his mouth, and it’s disgusting to see. Have you any suggestions?

Over It in Stockton, Calif.

Dear Over It: Your husband’s behavior is passive-aggressive, and I can’t help but wonder what he’s punishing you for. It’s sad that he has such atrocious table manners and such little consideration for your feelings. I “suggest” you stop trying to serve him a hot meal, let him get his own food from the kitchen and eat it in front of the television when he’s hungry, while you eat separately — preferably out with friends.

Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.