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Dear Abby: I'm a woman who was honorably discharged from the military recently and am now in an electrical construction apprenticeship. I'm starting a great career in a field I love that can give me a comfortable living without having to rely on a second job.

My problem is my family. Most of them are convinced that I hate men or I wish I was one. The rest are sure that I will emasculate anyone I would start dating.

I'm not a lesbian, and I like being female. I have no problem with anyone who follows different life paths than mine. My family is basing these opinions purely on what I have chosen to do for work. In their opinion, because I chose to work in what is considered nontraditional employment for "nice young ladies," as they put it, and can work on my house and car without extra assistance, it must be true.

I have tried repeatedly to explain that what I have chosen for a living has no bearing on my gender identity or my sexual orientation. They are completely ignoring anything I have to say about my life and life choices. Sometimes I wonder how I'm even related to these people. If I were asked to deploy back to the war zone, I'd happily leave tomorrow, because it would be easier than dealing with the small-minded, narrow viewpoints I'm encountering here at home.

-- How Can I Make Them Listen?

Dear How: It is beyond sad that you would find returning to a war zone more appealing than dealing with the pressure you're receiving because of your career choice. But please try not to blame your family for their outdated thinking. Many people are unaware that women are now being trained -- and succeeding in -- high-paying jobs once held only by men.

Because your relatives refuse to believe that you're heterosexual, stop wasting your time trying to convince them otherwise. Live your life in an authentic way, and if you meet a nice man and decide to settle down with him, eventually they'll realize they were mistaken.

Protocol rules

Dear Abby: I am in my late 40s and live in New York City. I was taught to hold doors open for women and to allow women to exit the elevator first. Problem is, in our lobby there are two separate glass doors that must be opened to walk outside the building. If I let a woman neighbor leave the elevator first, she will then have to open and hold both doors for me. But I always feel awkward if I don't allow them out first, and I sometimes worry they think I'm rude for walking ahead. Sometimes I even want to explain my actions. I just figure holding and opening two heavy glass doors is more polite than allowing someone to exit the elevator first. What's the proper protocol in a situation like this?

-- A Gentleman in New York

Dear New York Gentleman: While it is polite for a man to hold a door open for a woman, it would also be considered good manners if she returns the favor if she's the first to reach the lobby door. As to the rule of etiquette for elevators, the person at the front of the elevator should exit first, if the elevator is crowded.

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For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

Dear Abby is written by Jeanne Phillips for Universal Press Syndicate. Write to Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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