DEAR ABBY: I have been dating a man I’ll call Joe for 2½ years. We usually take turns paying for dinner and other outings. This arrangement works well, except when it’s Joe’s turn to pay for a meal. He leaves embarrassingly paltry tips. He normally leaves 10 percent or less – but I have seen him leave nothing when we have had reasonably good service.

I have asked Joe why he does this. He says I have no right to question him, since it’s his prerogative. But, Abby, there are restaurants I’d like to return to, and I don’t feel comfortable doing so because of the bad impression I am sure we left.

At a rather pricey restaurant recently, when Joe chose not to tip the waiter, I casually pulled a bill from my purse and left it on the table. Joe blew up and called it an insult. What do I do? – NEEDS A “TIP” IN HOUSTON

DEAR NEEDS: If I were you, I’d be more concerned about the fact that your boyfriend feels you “have no right to question him” than the fact that he’s cheap when it comes to leaving gratuities. People who handle disagreements the way he does make poor life partners. “What you should do” is make a list of your boyfriend’s good points and his bad ones, see how they balance out and whether the benefit is worth the cost emotionally, and act accordingly.

DEAR ABBY: I’m in my early 20s. I work nearly full time, attend college full time, am in a serious relationship, and my behavior is very professional. However, I look quite young. Most people say I look between 14 and 16.

I work at a school where many people mistake me for a student, and my professionalism and ability are often overlooked. Even when I go to the store, people younger than I am call me “Sweetie,” or some other childish name. What can I do to appear my age? I don’t want to look older than I am, just to look my age and appear mature. Please help. – NO LONGER A FRESHMAN

DEAR NO LONGER: The time may be here for a “makeover.” Make an appointment with a hairdresser and makeup artist to see how they can give you a more businesslike and sophisticated persona. If it isn’t already, your attire at work should be conservative, no-nonsense and businesslike.

Because you say your professionalism and ability are not appreciated, please consider assertiveness training. Lower the tone of your voice, speak louder, and if you feel you have been “overlooked,” say, “Excuse me …” and repeat what’s on your mind.

DEAR ABBY: I was molested by my father when I was 8. I am now 28, and I thought I’d gotten over it. I have had no contact with my father since I was 14.

I recently heard that he was living like a bum on the streets, and was treated for an overdose of someone else’s prescription for psych meds. He is now in a home, and my brother, who lives near him, does what he can. My thought is, how dare he expect any of his children to care at all about him?

On the other hand, it’s medically documented that he is “mental.” Are we supposed to have compassion for the mentally ill? – DAUGHTER OF A CRAZY, AVON, IND.

DEAR DAUGHTER: Compassion, yes. Amnesia, no. Much would depend upon whether your father was delusional when he molested you. But no one – including me – would blame you if you kept your distance under the circumstances.

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.

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