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

At first there was some humor in parents and siblings misunderstanding their loved one’s occupation, but now it just seems hurtful.

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

When they tell me about it later, they seem to think it’s funny. The first few times I could laugh about it too, but this has been going on for years. Their one-sided running gag has grown old. I don’t care that they’re not interested in what I do, but I feel humiliated and hurt when they act so dismissive of it to other people.

It happened again a few days ago, while I was out with my family at an event. A family member intentionally messed up the name of my workplace multiple times (even after I had corrected him) while talking to a volunteer. Although I managed to step in, it’s still weighing on me.

I have tried explaining what I do numerous times. It’s not confusing. I have even suggested they use broader alternatives (if they would say I’m an ecologist, I would be thrilled). Nothing has changed.

I’m left wondering if this runs deeper than a joke and they don’t actually take me seriously. Do I need to be more blunt? Should I tell them this has crossed the line from funny to hurtful? Or am I blowing this out of proportion? — HURT IN THE WEST

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

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

Am I wrong to be upset that she allowed me to do all the talking while her husband listened in without my knowledge? She could have easily switched from a speaker to a private call, considering the nature of the discussion. — MAD IN MISSOURI

DEAR MAD: You’re not wrong to be upset. I would be, too. If your friend understood that it was supposed to be a confidential conversation, she should have told you she wasn’t alone or ended the call. Tell her this 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 P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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