The family’s dismissive ‘joke’ about careers is getting old.

By Abigail Van Buren

Dear Abby: I graduated from college with a degree in a specific field. In my graduating class of nearly 7,000, there were only four of us with that particular degree. Now my career is in the field in which I have mastered. I love what I do and take pride in it. The problem is with my family. For whatever reason, my parents and siblings don’t want to remember what I do. When people back home ask what I’m doing, they give vague or dismissive answers.

When they tell me about it later, they think it’s funny. I could laugh at it the first few times, but it’s been going on for years. Their one-way running has gotten old. I don’t care if they’re not interested in what I do, but when they reject it in front of other people, I feel humiliated and hurt. It happened again a few days ago, when I was out with my family at an event. A family member intentionally messed up my workplace name several times while talking to a volunteer (even after I corrected it). Although I managed to step in, it still weighs on me. I have tried many times to explain what I do. It is not ambiguous. I’ve also suggested that they use broader alternatives (I’d be very happy if they said I was an environmentalist). Nothing has changed. I’m left wondering if it’s deeper than a joke and they don’t actually take me seriously. Need I be more blunt? Should I tell them that this has crossed the line from funny to painful? Or am I blowing this out of proportion?

Dear Hurt: You may be putting more energy into it than it deserves. You know the importance of your work. Maybe your relatives are jealous of your achievements or are too mentally retarded to remember the word “environmentalist”. If you were there when this happened, feel free to correct the mistake as you did, but do it with humor.

Dear Abby: Please share some thoughts on answering the phone on speaker. My lifelong friend does. Sometimes I find that 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 his car, I assumed he was by himself. We continued our personal conversation (I was talking) until she reached her destination. Then he told me that they had arrived! I didn’t realize there was anyone else in the car. Am I upset that she allowed me to do all the talking while her husband listened without my knowledge? She could have easily switched from speaker to private call given the nature of the discussion.

— Mad in Missouri

Dear Crazy: You are not wrong to be worried. I will be too. If your friend thinks this should have been a confidential conversation, she should have told you she wasn’t alone or ended the call. Tell him that he has offended you and, if you intend to continue your relationship with him, set some ground rules for future phone conversations.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jane Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at