DR. WALLACE: I'm 15 and have been pen pals with a 16-year-old boy from Ontario, Canada, for the past year and a half. We write to each other once a week — faithfully. It has been a wonderful experience and I look forward to receiving his letters and answering them the same day. Tim lives in Catherine and it sounds like a super place to live. I've learned a lot about things like ice-skating, ice hockey and ice fishing on Lake Ontario.
I informed him about living in the beautiful San Joaquin Valley of California. Lately, he has been writing that he thinks he loves me and that he would like us to go steady, even though we have never seen each other. He says that he is coming to visit me when he graduates from high school in two years. We have traded photographs so we know what the other person looks like, and he did call me for Valentine's Day.
I honestly admit that I sort of like Tim in a romantic sort of way, even though we haven't yet met. And the thought of going steady with a pen pal is intriguing.
But I still haven't decided, and that's why I'm writing to you. I'd like your opinion. — Pen Pal Deluxe, Visalia, California
PEN PAL: I think that having a pen pal is wonderful, and I can understand how a touch of romance can creep into long-distance correspondence, but I see no value in going steady across the miles with a boy who will not be around you 99.9 percent of the time. Relationships are built upon shared, in-person experiences. Why eliminate the opportunity of dating because you are going steady with someone you have never met in person and wouldn't see for at least two years?
Wait until you have spent time together before making that decision. It would be a huge waste of time to go steady for two years and then discover, when you meet face-to-face, that why you like each other — the "magnetic" attraction — is missing. Remain good pen pals for now, and let the future take its course gradually with this friend.
I'M BOBBY, BOB AND ROBERT
DR. WALLACE: My name is Robert, and I want to be called Robert. Last week, I got a part-time job at a paint company. I'm what you would call a handyman. I do a little of everything, from mixing paint to sweeping floors. I like the job, and I like getting paid. But I don't like being referred to as Bob. I put down "Robert" on my job application, but when I went for my interview with the owner, he said, "Hello, Bob." I cringed, but I didn't correct him, for obvious reasons. When he introduced me to the other workers after I was hired, he introduced me as Bob.
Now, everybody calls me Bob. I hate the name Bob. Should I tell the workers to call me Robert? I hope you say yes, because I'll start as soon as you me give the word. I will photocopy your columns and hand them out to my coworkers, including the owner. — Robert, El Paso, Texas
ROBERT: There's no need to make that much of an issue of it. When someone addresses you as Bob, smile and say simply, "Actually, I prefer Robert." Your boss was just being friendly by using the shorter, more familiar form of your name. He likely did not mean to make you feel uncomfortable at all. Just let him know your preference the next time you see him, and be sure to mention this with a smile and a relaxed tone of voice. Everyone deserves to be called by the form of their name that they prefer!
I'm in a similar situation myself, and I'm a Robert, too, so I'm familiar with all of the usual nicknames! My parents called me Bobby when I was growing up, my friends call me Bob and I am Robert professionally. I respond to all three names, and it doesn't matter to me which name is used, as I don't really mind any of them. I'm just happy to be called! I even have a full set of nicknames that friends threw my way when I was in the Navy, high school and college. So, for the record, here are a few other nicknames I've been called over my lifetime: "Wally Gator," "Wally Boo," "Waldo," "Gypsy" and "Dr. Bob."
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.