Dear Abby: I’m insulted when my family members forget my profession, misrepresent it

DEAR ABBY: I graduated from college with a degree in a niche field. In my class of nearly 7,000 graduates, there were only four of us with this specific degree. I now have a career in the field in which I specialized. I love what I do and I’m proud of it. The problem is my family. For some reason my parents and siblings don’t seem to want to remember what I do. When people at home ask me what I do, they come up with vague or dismissive answers.

When they tell me about it later, they seem to find it funny. The first few times I could laugh about it too, but it’s been going on for years. Their unilateral running gag has aged. I don’t care if they don’t care about what I do, but I feel humiliated and hurt when they act with such disdain towards others.

It happened again a few days ago when I was with my family at an event. A family member intentionally messed up my workplace name multiple times (even after I corrected it) while talking to a volunteer. Even if I managed to intervene, it still weighs on me.

I have tried to explain what I am doing several times. It’s not confusing. I even suggested they use broader alternatives (if they said I’m an environmentalist, I’d be thrilled). Nothing has changed.

I wonder if this is more than a joke and if they don’t really take me seriously. Should I be more frank? Should I tell them that this crossed the line from funny to hurtful? Or am I blowing out of proportion? — INJURED IN THE WEST

DEAR INJURED: You may be putting more energy into it than it deserves. You know the importance of the work you do. Your loved ones may be jealous of your accomplishments or so intellectually limited that they can’t remember the word “environmentalist.” If you are present when this happens, feel free to correct the mistake as you did, but do so with humor.

DEAR ABBY: Please share some thoughts on answering the phone on speakerphone. My lifelong friend does this. Sometimes I know her husband is in the room. Recently, however, we were on speakerphone when she told me she was going to the beauty salon. When the call connected to her vehicle, I assumed she was alone. We continued our VERY personal conversation (I was speaking) until she got to her destination. That’s when she told me THEY had arrived! I didn’t realize someone else was in the car.

Am I wrong to be upset that she allowed me to talk while her husband was listening without my knowledge? She could have easily gone from a speakerphone to a private call, given the nature of the discussion. — CRAZY IN MISSOURI

DEAR FOOL: You’re not wrong to get upset. I would be too. If your friend understood that this was a confidential conversation, she should have told you that she was not alone or ended the call. Tell her that it made you feel invaded and, if you plan to continue your relationship with her, set some ground rules for future phone conversations.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or PO Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Good advice for everyone – from teenagers to the elderly – can be found in “The anger in all of us and how to deal with it”. To order, send your name and mailing address, along with an $8 check or money order (US funds), to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, PO Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling charges are included in the price.)

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