DEAR ABBY: When my husband and I married, I thought I had hit the jackpot in mothers-in-law. We were becoming friends, going shopping together, etc. Boy, was I wrong. Now, five years later, I can't stand her. Just 15 minutes with her sends me over the edge. She's rude, judgmental, and gossips like a teenager about everyone.
She put together a cookbook for me filled with my husband's favorite recipes. Guess what? After trying half a dozen of them and failing at every one, I realized she had changed and added or omitted certain ingredients in every single one. When I asked about it, she told me she just wanted her son to prefer her cooking over mine.
Then there was the time she was baby-sitting and took our son to see Santa Claus for the very first time without asking or telling us. That's an event parents want to be part of. I found out about it months later when I looked through her scrapbook.
I'm not sure of her motives, but she has something against me. My husband is on my side 100 percent when it comes to his mother. He can't stand to be around her either. What is the appropriate way to handle her? She makes us want to move away. -- READY TO PACK IN OHIO
DEAR READY TO PACK: It isn't necessary to move away to distance yourselves from people like your mother-in-law. Limit the time you spend with her. When you must see her, be careful not to say anything negative about anyone or give her sensitive information you don't want shared. If you want to prepare a special food for your husband, go online and find recipes that haven't been "doctored." You'll find plenty of them. Then let him rave about your cooking.
As for the incident with Santa, remember that your son was so young he probably has no memory of it. Many little children are frightened by big strangers in red suits, which is why smart parents don't force the exposure. And now that you know what poor judgment your mother-in-law has, make other arrangements for a sitter when you need one.
But don't cut her off. However she managed it, she created the wonderful husband with whom you are blessed.
DEAR ABBY: I am a divorced father of two children, one in college and the other in high school. I have reached a point in life where I can take trips and make time for me. I am well-educated and earn an above-average income. I'm in decent shape and considered a "catch" by many of the single women I encounter. But most of the women in my age bracket (mid-40s) or slightly younger no longer take care of themselves.
I'm looking for a very attractive woman to accompany me through life. Most single men I know also put a premium on a woman's appearance. Why don't women understand this? Where would you suggest finding a suitable partner for someone in my situation? -- MR. PARTICULAR IN TUCSON
DEAR MR. PARTICULAR: Start at the nearest gym. If that doesn't net you what you're trolling for, another place to look would be the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. Hef throws large parties there, many of which are charity fundraisers. Who knows? For a generous donation you might meet a woman who meets your high standards -- providing you have enough assets of your own to merit her interest.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com 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 $7 (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.)