DEAR ABBY: A new co-worker seemed to be a nice person and potential friend when she was hired. However, after a few months, she began making comments to me or about me in front of others. Sometimes they are good-natured, but more often they are insulting – although presented as a “joke.” I feel this is inappropriate, especially in the workplace.

I have heard that this is a type of bullying where, if the victim objects, then the perpetrator belittles him or her as being “oversensitive,” thus adding salt to the wound.

I have noticed that people who play this little mind game on others can dish it out but can’t take it when someone retaliates. I’ve seen this happen in families where one sibling is scapegoated and picked on.

I don’t want to waste energy playing games, but I don’t want to be a victim, either, so I have decided to ignore the comments and/or interrupt her by changing the subject or making an excuse to leave the room. Have you any other suggestions? – NOT A VICTIM

DEAR NOT A VICTIM: When someone is ridiculed in the workplace, it usually isn’t intended to be a joke, nor is it funny. It is intended to make the person appear less effective. I do have another suggestion. Report it to your supervisor or office manager, and explain she is making you uncomfortable. If her “witticisms” fall under a protected category (gender, religion, race, sexual orientation), she could be creating a hostile work environment and management needs to be made aware of it.

DEAR ABBY: I have been divorced for two years and am now dating a lady I’ll call Heidi. I have tickets to a rock concert in Las Vegas. I work and earn a modest income. Heidi works and also makes a modest income. Heidi thinks I should pay for her airline ticket or not go to the concert.

I want to go, and I want her blessing, but I can’t afford her airfare. Is she being jealous and controlling? Are there any single women out there who would like to go and pay for their own airline ticket? Help! – STUCK IN VIRGINIA

DEAR STUCK: The answers to your questions are yes and yes. However, if another woman accompanies you to that concert, you will no longer have to concern yourself with whether Heidi is jealous or controlling – because I predict she will be history.

DEAR ABBY: I am the youngest of four children. My eldest brother died when he was an infant. But in our family it is like he never existed. My father always describes us as his three children, but my mother will talk about him a little.

Is it something I can mention when asked, “Do you have any siblings?” Can I mention my invisible brother? Should I say I am the youngest of four and leave it at that, or should I go with what my parents have always said – the youngest of three? – UNSURE IN BREMERTON, WASH.

DEAR UNSURE: It would be less confusing if you were to reply the way your parents do – that you are the youngest of three children. When you get to know people better, to the point that you get to know their family history, you can then discuss the tragedy your parents faced when they lost their first child.

P.S. I am guessing that your parents do not discuss their firstborn because the subject is still painful.

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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