If you don't want to clean, better clean up your act

DEAR ABBY: I am an unemployed (and looking) 24-year-old male who is the oldest of four. My three sisters are a 20-year-old who has a part-time job and goes to college, a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old. We all live at home with our physician parents.

Our longtime cleaning lady recently quit, and my parents seemingly have no interest in hiring a replacement. My sisters and my father don't help with the chores because they are seen as either too young or too busy. At most, they will unload groceries or assist in cooking a meal. My mother encourages this and does a fair amount of the work herself, but she has a job, so I'm frequently told to handle the dishes, cooking, pickups and drop-offs for after-school activities, garbage and recycling, groceries, miscellaneous errands (usually picking up things at the pharmacy) and occasional child care.

I get no sympathy or help. My sisters don't even bother to rinse their plates properly. They just leave them piled in the sink for someone else, and my mother recently yelled at me for "giving her attitude" when I hadn't said a word.

This situation is making it harder for me to get a job because I'm tired all the time, and my parents don't listen to a word I say. I'm not unaware of the fact that as the oldest, more is expected of me, but I think this is well past the point of what's expected. What should I do?

- Overworked in New York

DEAR OVERWORKED: Start reviewing your options. The first thing you need to do is understand why you are unemployed. If there are no openings in your field, start considering other kinds of jobs you may be suited for.

If you want to be something more than an unpaid domestic worker, you may have to figure out what it will take for you to live on your own - perhaps with a roommate or two. Even if you don't find the ideal job, employment will solve your problem because you will be too busy working to do the things you're being required to do now.

Dodging gossip

among coworkers

DEAR ABBY: I am getting married soon, and I'm thrilled to have found love. I have ex-co-workers I want to be there. I also have longtime friends who still work with me. The problem is they gossip at work all the time. I know if they attend my wedding, there will be trouble in my work life and friendships.

How can I tell them not to gossip at work about who was at my wedding or who I excluded? How can I tell them this is my day and I should be able to have the pleasure of being surrounded by friends and loved ones without worrying about attendees being mean? Please help.

- Tired of gossip

DEAR TIRED: You are focusing on the wrong thing. Concentrate on enjoying your special day. You can't control what other people will or will not do. If you are asked after the wedding why someone was absent, respond that budgetary limitations prevented you from including everyone you would have liked to invite. If you do, it will appear to be less of a popularity contest.