DEAR ABBY: My 8-year-old granddaughter has posed a question that stumped me, and I hope you can help with an answer: Why be neat and well-groomed?

She doesn’t care what people think of how she looks. She sees no problem wearing clothes that are torn, etc. I am concerned that by the time she reaches adolescence she won’t care how she looks when she leaves the house.

Her hair is extremely curly. It can’t be combed or it gets wilder and frizzier, which adds to her unkempt appearance. Her hair may improve as she gets older if she’s motivated to spend the extra time.

I am challenged by her question. How can I answer her? — LOST FOR WORDS IN FLORIDA

DEAR LOST FOR WORDS: Please stop trying to have an adult conversation with an 8-year-old. Where is this child’s mother? Why is she permitted to go around in “torn, etc.” clothing? It’s time to talk to your son or daughter about helping their child with her grooming. The way your granddaughter looks is not only a reflection on herself, but also the adults whose responsibility it is to care for her. While she may not care how she looks, her parents should.

DEAR ABBY:; I’m a college freshman, majoring in French but taking other languages as well. I don’t know what I want to do with my life, but I know that I love learning languages.

My friend, “Lacey,” has offered me the chance to stay with her family in France during our next summer break. Her family suggested it, and Lacey is urging me to go. I want to go to France, but I was planning on studying abroad through my university in a couple of years.

Lacey thinks I should stay with her family for a month or two in order to appreciate the culture. She says I could do some baby-sitting or chores to earn my keep, but I have two concerns: I feel it would be an inconvenience for her family to take me in as a houseguest for the whole summer. And I don’t know what I would do with myself.

Lacey won’t be there, and I’d be living in a suburban area. I have no idea how I’d learn the culture without the structure only a school can provide. Lacey says school isn’t a true experience, and I should just show up in France and decide as I go. We have reached an impasse, and I’d like to know what you would do in my shoes. — TRES TROUBLEE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

DEAR TRES TROUBLEE: Are you kidding? If I was offered a once-in-a-lifetime experience like this one, I’d take Lacey up on it in two seconds flat. And I’d keep a journal.

DEAR ABBY: I work in a candy store where things are pretty fast-paced and always busy. Please tell me how I should handle customers at the register — mothers and daughters, couples, friends — who fight over who should pay for the order. Two people will wave their cash at me and tell me not to let the other one pay. They actually expect me to choose!

From whom should I take the money in these pairs of people? If the store wasn’t constantly so busy, I’d let them squabble among themselves, but that’s not the case. I need to get the line moving in order to help other customers. Please advise. — GIRL WITH A “SWEET” DILEMMA

DEAR GIRL: Handle it this way: Smile and say, “While you two are trying to decide, I’ll help the next customer!”

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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