DEAR ABBY: How does one convey a message to one’s dentist and his assistants that you would prefer they not discuss personal matters with each other while working on me?

I recognize that they may be so well-trained that they can converse and do these procedures at the same time. But talking over the patient gives the impression that they aren’t fully concentrating on the business at hand.

Sitting in the dentist’s chair with your mouth propped wide open, it’s impossible to say a word. How can this be conveyed in a respectful way? – DENTALLY DISTRESSED IN MILWAUKEE

One way to get your message across would be to wait until the procedure is finished, then tell your dentist that you feel being treated like a nonentity is rude and insensitive, and you would prefer it not happen when you’re in the chair. If you don’t have the courage to say it directly, then tell it to his office manager.

An alternative would be to take your business to another dentist because this one needs to practice better chair-side manners. If that’s not acceptable, consider bringing an iPod and listening to it to drown out their voices.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 14-year-old girl. Over the past couple of years, I have grown very close to my 28-year-old cousin, “Amanda.” She lives halfway across the country, but we have kept in touch by e-mail and had fun hanging out together last summer.

I recently heard from relatives that Amanda is planning to get married in a few months. She has not known the man very long, and he has not yet been formally introduced to our family. Amanda doesn’t have much money, so they’ve decided on a small ceremony with only their parents attending.

I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to go. I’m also afraid that Amanda and I won’t be as close as we have been, since being married is a huge commitment and her priorities may shift.

I have tried talking to her about this, but she hasn’t answered my e-mails. I miss the closeness we had, and I feel guilty that I’m not as excited as I should be about this big event in Amanda’s life. What should I do? – SAD COUSIN IN CALIFORNIA

Your special relationship with your cousin is not over, but it has been moved to the back burner because right now she’s distracted by her whirlwind romance and planning for her wedding. Once she comes back down to earth, I’m sure you will hear from her.

Send her a token gift and a sweet card wishing her happiness. Try to forgive her for not answering your e-mails and accept the fact that she may be distracted for a while. And rather than allowing yourself time to brood, fill your time with activities and friends you enjoy. These things have a way of working themselves out in time. Trust me.

DEAR ABBY: If you divorce your husband and then start dating him again, what’s the appropriate way to introduce him to associates? I say “friend”; he says “wife.”

Oh, by the way, I kept my married name, so we still have the same last name. – TIFFANY IN COLORADO

Smile and say, “I’d like you to meet ‘John.”‘ If the person asks his last name, volunteer it, and when the eyebrows go up, tell the truth – that he’s your ex-husband, not your brother.

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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