DEAR ABBY: I am agoraphobic. Although I have managed to make accommodations for special occasions like birthday parties and dinners with my family, I am not comfortable at extremely large gatherings.
My parents understand this, but my sister and brother-in-law think that if I'd just "try harder," everything would work out. Abby, I must take a mild tranquilizer to go to small gatherings, and I have told them this. Would people tell someone who is allergic to something to just "try harder"? How can I explain this better?
- Afraid in Taylorsville, Utah
DEAR AFRAID: I'm sorry to say this, but individuals have been known to give people with severe food allergies items containing their "trigger foods" because they are convinced "just a little" won't hurt them - or worse, that the problem is imaginary.
Your sister and brother-in-law do not understand phobias. A medical professional might be able to explain it to them, but until they're ready to consult one and really listen, it would be healthier for you to ignore them and limit your time with them.
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I disagree about when and where it is acceptable to yawn. I believe that a public yawn during dinner or conversation is not appropriate. She sees no reason why a natural human trait such as yawning should be stifled.
Again, my assertion is that yawning denotes boredom or lack of interest in what people are conversing about or doing. What are your thoughts?
- Not a Yawner in Flagstaff, Ariz.
DEAR NOT A YAWNER: My thoughts are similar to an observation made by English writer G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), who said, "A yawn is a silent shout." I have never seen anyone who is intensely interested in something yawn, and to do it in the presence of others implies that the yawner is tired, bored or otherwise not fully engaged.