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Dear Abby 11/03

Persistent co-worker won't take the hint to back off

    DEAR ABBY: I have a co-worker I'll call "Gloria" who invades a very personal place in my life. I don't know what to say to her without offending her, so I'm seeking your help.
    My son and daughter-in-law live in a large city in a nearby state. Gloria's son and his wife happen to live in the same city, and she visits them about three times a year. When she heard that my son was moving there, she became very excited at the idea of the two of us riding together periodically to see our respective kids.
    My son is a very private person and is involved in starting up a new business. He had plainly told me and my husband — and all of the other relatives — that we can visit only when an invitation is extended. That message was pretty clear to me and my husband, and we have honored his wishes.
    Gloria, with whom I have worked for years, is constantly after me about going to visit our sons. "Any invitations yet?" she's always asking loudly.
    When I tell her "No," she bellows, "Well, I think that's preposterous!" Then she goes on to spout her opinion of my son. If I did this to her, World War III would erupt right there in the office.
    Gloria has never even met my son, yet she has endless opinions about him. This is really rubbing me the wrong way.
    This woman fails to recognize that this is a touchy issue with me and doesn't get the hint. I have tried, "Well, that's a very personal question," to no avail. What can I politely say to get her to back off without causing strain in the office? — KAY IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
    DEAR KAY: The problem with dropping "hints" to insensitive people is they usually don't take the hint. And you are compounding the problem by not addressing it directly.
    If you want Gloria to stop her obnoxious behavior, have a chat with her in private. Tell her that you do not have the same "open-door" policy in your family that she seems to, and her questions and opinions about your son are making you uncomfortable. Tell her she should go ahead and see her son on her own and forget about you.
    When you do receive an invitation to visit your son and daughter-in-law, do not utter a word about it to this woman, or she will start up again.

    DEAR ABBY: I'm 13 years old, and — I know this sounds kind of stupid — I was cleaning out my fish tank and accidentally poured one of my fish down the sink. Now I'm feeling extremely guilty. Can you give me any advice on how to feel less guilty? — MISSING MY FISH IN BELLINGHAM, WASH.
    DEAR MISSING: If it makes you feel any less guilty, I am sure you are not the only fish owner this has happened to. To lessen your guilt, say a farewell prayer to your fish over the drain, then make a vow to be more careful in the future. Also, from now on, transfer your fish to another container when you're cleaning the tank.
    DEAR READERS: Daylight-saving time ends at 2:00 Sunday morning, so don't forget to turn your clocks back one hour tonight when you go to bed.

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