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Dear Abby 8/9
Teacher treated as doormat must learn to take control
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    DEAR ABBY: I am a high school teacher who has been encountering some problems with my students.
    I admit my personality is rather bland. My favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla; my favorite color is beige — you get the picture. I am also aware that I speak in a monotone. My students won't let me hear the end of it.
    I know I should enforce discipline, but I don't seem to have any control over my students. They blatantly ridicule my clothing and my voice. Sometimes I even feel bullied. I try to ignore it, but it doesn't seem to end. The entire class participates and finds it hilarious. What can I do to control my students? -- TRYING HARD IN TENNESSEE
    DEAR TRYING HARD: The first thing to do is talk with the other educators in your school about your inability to enforce discipline. They may be able to offer some valuable suggestions. You should also explore whether the school district offers any classes in assertiveness training. If it doesn't, then please give serious consideration to changing careers, because you are not only shortchanging yourself but also the students you have allowed to turn you into a doormat.
    DEAR ABBY: I am a 23-year-old gay man. Five years ago, when I was 18, I became involved with "Jeff," an older married man. My mother worked second shift in a hospital, so I was almost always alone after school. Jeff would spend an hour or two with me three times a week while I was in high school, and spent more time in my apartment when I was in college. He also contributed $6,000 toward my college education.
    Now that I have graduated and am working, Jeff has offered me $20,000 as a down payment on a house three doors down from his. He says it's a gift, not a loan. I know there would be no legal obligation to repay him.
    I love Jeff, but in five years, when his youngest child is in college, if he doesn't leave his wife, I'll be ready to move on. Would I be ethically obligated to repay him if I left?
    Jeff is a very successful businessman. He can well afford to send all five of his children to college, even after having given me this gift. He has told me repeatedly that the last five years with me have been the best years of his life. If I spend another five years with him, he will have had the best 10 years of his life for a $26,000 investment (or about $50 a week). Am I being selfish or smart? -- CLOSETED IN INDIANA
    DEAR CLOSETED: Neither. In five years, unless you want to look at yourself in the mirror and see someone who sold himself for $50 a week, do not accept the money and move in practically next door. I will offer the same advice to you that I would to a woman in your position. There is little dignity in being someone's secret lover. And the chances of your being hurt if you accept the money are greater than the payoff you're hoping for.
    DEAR ABBY: My husband sometimes does not say goodbye when he ends a conversation on the phone. I feel it is extremely rude, but when I say so, he just jokes about it, which I also consider rude.
    What can I do to make my husband realize that he needs to say "goodbye" when ending a phone conversation? -- MIFFED IN NEW JERSEY
    DEAR MIFFED: OK, your husband isn't perfect. However, it's important to carefully pick your battles in a marriage. If this is your husband's worst flaw, you are lucky. Let it go. I'm sure his finer qualities overshadow this lapse in phone etiquette.
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