DEAR ABBY: A few months ago, my friend and neighbor, “Jill,” told me how much she enjoyed an online mothers group she participated in, so I joined. Last week, Jill announced on the Web site that she’s pregnant with her second child. I congratulated her online, then congratulated her husband in person when I ran into him in the neighborhood later that day. He was flabbergasted. Apparently, Jill hadn’t told him about the baby!
Jill is now furious with me because I “spoiled her surprise” by revealing something that was supposed to be a secret. How could I have possibly known her pregnancy was secret? She posted it on the Internet! Jill claims any information exchanged in the online community should be confidential as it is never mentioned in the “real world.” I think she should have told her husband before telling her online friends.
How was I supposed to know this “rule” about privacy when it’s never discussed? And how do I fix our friendship? I don’t think I did anything wrong. Jill thinks I hurt her on purpose. — ONLINE MOMMY IN THE NORTHWEST
DEAR ONLINE MOMMY: An online chat group is not a 12- step meeting where members guard their anonymity as girls do their chastity. Unless a privacy warning was clearly posted on the site, there is no way you — or anyone else — could have known that the discussions were confidential. One apology should be enough. Jill’s feelings of persecution may be hormonal and connected to her pregnancy — so try not to take this too personally.

DEAR ABBY: My colleague, “Allison,” is a nice person, but she’s also a major hypochondriac. Every day she complains about her latest ailment — or a family member’s — and the intensive treatment it requires. Headaches, bathroom issues, rashes, aches, sinusitis, strange diseases, you name it. Still, she rarely exhibits any obvious symptoms and almost never misses an entire day of work.
Many of our co-workers pamper her and give her the attention she obviously wants. Because I tend to downplay her ailments I am considered insensitive and cruel. I am frustrated because I simply no longer care to listen to her made-up maladies. She also tries to convince everyone else in the office that their minor sniffles, fatigue and pulled muscles are symptoms of serious ailments.
Ironically, we are health-care workers, and talking about health issues is part of our job. I’m sick and tired of Allison the Hypochondriac. Have you any ideas on how to handle this woman? — HEARD IT ALL IN N.Y.
DEAR HEARD IT ALL: Allison does have an illness, but it is not of a physical nature. Until the poor woman is ready to accept and deal with it — or your supervisor or human resources person is ready to urge her to — there is nothing you can do to “fix” her. Because her constant complaints are stressing you out, my advice is to move out of earshot as soon as she starts another chorus of her daily “organ recital.”

DEAR ABBY: Can you tell me the proper way to place your knife and fork after you finish eating? I was taught to turn my fork over at the 4 o’clock position and the knife just to the left of the fork. I fold my napkin and place it to the left when dinner has been completed.
Am I old-fashioned? — GERRY IN SUGAR LAND, TEXAS
DEAR GERRY: No. You’re practicing proper table etiquette. According to “Emily Post’s Etiquette,” at the end of the course the knife and fork should be “laid diagonally across the plate” in the position you have described, and “the knife blade faces inward, but the fork tines can be either up or down.”

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.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: “Abby’s Favorite Recipes” and “More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby.” Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby — Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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