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Dear Abby: Wheelchair inquiries are unwelcome

Dear Abby: I am in my 70s and partly disabled. Because of arthritis in my spine and hip, I’m able to stand for only a few minutes and walk only 20 to 30 feet. When I know I am going to be someplace that requires more walking or standing, I use my wheelchair.

My question is: How do I reply to strangers who ask me, “Why are you in a wheelchair?” One lady said, “Oh, is it your knees?” I feel that the questions are rude and that I shouldn’t have to explain my medical status to people I don’t know. I try to mumble something about not being able to stand for long periods, such as waiting in line. But I’d really like to respond with a funnier, more flippant reply if I could think of one. Any suggestions?

– Traveling by Wheelchair

Dear Traveling: Try one of these “flippant” possibilities: “It’s nothing I usually discuss in public, but it’s contagious!” Or “I broke my tailbone dancing at the Bolshoi.” Or “Just lazy, I guess.”

However, joking about a medical condition isn’t funny. So perhaps you should reconsider and just be honest.

Party for twin causes hurt

Dear Abby: I recently was invited to a surprise 50th-birthday party for my twin sister. Her husband had a family dinner that included all my siblings.

When my brother-in-law invited me, he said that my sister didn’t want a big party but that he wanted to celebrate our birthdays with this special dinner. However, I must admit I was a little hurt when the celebration turned out to be strictly for my sister. My name wasn’t on the cake, and only she blew out the candles and opened gifts. (However, I did receive two cards.)

As her twin, I felt awkward and ignored. Am I being overly sensitive, or were they just rude?

– Troubled Twin

Dear Troubled Twin: Oh, my. I don’t think your brother-in-law was being rude. But given that you and your sister were together in the womb, you were treated with incredible insensitivity.

Dad’s repulsive table manners

Dear Abby: I’m in a sticky situation. My husband, “Chester,” can’t stand to eat meals with my dad. It has never bothered me, but Dad sometimes “smacks” or talks with food in his mouth. It drives Chester crazy. We visit them every week, and meals are always involved. What do I do? Should my husband just get used to it?

– In a Pickle in Texas

Dear in a Pickle: Have your mother talk to Dad and “suggest” that their son-in-law is used to more formal table etiquette and that Dad please make an effort to not chew with his mouth open when the two of you are visiting.

I can’t promise it will do the trick, but it may make your father more conscious about what he’s doing.